By David Tulis
People who follow national news sometimes come to love the idea of local economy as a premise to act upon. As they see the mounting catastrophe rising from the debt bubble, they ask themselves how to prepare for it.
Their interest turns to liquidity. Liquidity, as I sketched it last week in a drawing called the “liquidity pyramid,” shows which assets are most fluid, most easily used in the marketplace, and which are least.
Investments in debt instruments and contracts, a rental unit, house or business are generally illiquid. That means you can’t go out this afternoon and sell the asset for check or cash. It takes time to sell such assets, time, trouble, arrangements, terms, delayed payments and the like.
Liquidity is a vital element of preparation discussed by Chuck Bentley, a Christian giver of financial ideas, in his book The Salt Plan[;] How to Prepare for an Economic Crisis of Biblical Proportions.
What is liquidity?
“Liquidity is the ultimate attribute in preparedness,” he says. “Too often, we are trapped by events because our assets and our lives are invested in ways that are not liquid. Or, our hearts are so attached to our possessions that we cannot leave them behind as the need arises” (p. 114). Len M. Allen, the author of a book on unemployment, pursued such a course with his wife, liquidating innumerable personal possessions that had immobilized the pair.
The concept of owning liquid assets is spiritual as well as physical. “In biblical terms *** we often see that liquidity is simply being available, unhindered and mobile to answer God’s calling.” He’s cites God’s directive that Abram quit his homeland for a land that He will show him. Liquidity allowed Abram to be mobile in leaving Ur, and also fleeing to Egypt amid a famine. Mr. Bentley devotes a fair amount of space describing circumstances that put liquidity in a good light, including persecution and crime. Liquidity includes such elements as renting vs. owning a house, shifting assets toward “better marketability,” having a passport and knowing another language. ‡
“We see then that keeping our lives liquid is the opposite of having a ‘bunker mentality.’ It’s difficult to move when you’re underground, worried only about your own survival” (p. 117)
The Salt plan is summarized as Savings, Asset Allocation, Liquidity and Truth. Savings involves buying used goods vs. new, doing without, cutting entertainment expenses, bundling trips, using the cash envelope system and being cautious about banks. Essential in a savings program is the paying off of debt. Asset allocation lets Mr. Bentley delve into the benefits of stocking food, having a water filter if utilities are cut, having a garden. Do you have several can openers? How about a camp stove, water, a flashlight?
This section also offers a nonchalant chat about investments, and includes a silly diagram about investment options such as “energy stocks,” “emerging markets,” “growth equity” and “core equity.” The chart is saved from being laughable by the inclusion of precious metals, i.e., real money, as an investment option. (Gold and silver coins are not an investment, but a form of liquid savings.)
The great spiritual duty comes in view
What does a sovereign God expect of His children during famines? Wars? Economic immobilization when the overpressured boilers in the paper money factory explode? I save the spiritual dimension for last not because I tack it on at the end of human necessity, but because you are familiar with the argument. I have made it at Nooganomics, and Mr. Bentley makes it in Salt Plan.
The great temptation for individuals and for government dealing with explosions and dearth is self-reliance. Self-reliance of individuals ignores the claim of Christian community. The self-reliance of collectivism won’t work. “Politicians embrace everything from Keynesian profligate spending to extreme austerity— from a ‘millionaire’s tax’ to a national sales tax, to a flat tax or a VAT tax. My prediction is that all of these will be futile if we continue to suffer from spiritual amnesia. Revival must precede any hope of a long-term recovery. We must once again learn to trust God” (p. 72).
Quoting from John’s description of Christ’s washing the disciples’ feet, Mr. Bentley says the church spread rapidly because Christ’s followers “obeyed His commandment and put others before self. This willingness to show love and generosity caused these Christ followers to sand in bold contrast to a culture marked by greed and self-reliance. This, in turn, drew others in to hear the saving message of the Gospel, and so it spread” (p. 69). The rescue package of Gentile converts to Christians in Jerusalem is an example of such mercy.
Is this book worth reading?
The book is helpful for a Christian wanting suggestions about how to face the progressive meltdown of the U.S. financial system. A strength of the book is its review of four famines in the Scriptures, starting with the that of Egypt for which the Lord gave Joseph an accurate economic forecast. One fault is that Mr. Bentley leaves hazy the underlying problem of our having a paper money “standard” for value. Because he doesn’t include discussion of the fraud of central bank notes being passed off as money, his book lacks vigor and fails to impart an essential point about basic economics. This failing also allows him to imagine deflation will be a problem; deflation will not happen because inflation is the sole remedy the establishment owns. Because the hard money perspective eludes Mr. Bentley, he understates the dangers, and effectively gives the federal government a pass. But that’s not too serious, because the book is not so much about our trying to fix Uncle Sam as how to glorify God in his dotage. Another gap is that Salt Plan says very little about the local church, making its case for service and preservation largely in the context of family.
These faults diminish only a little the practical advice Mr. Bentley gives for the earnest Christian. I suggest you obtain a copy.
‡ I pointed the value of a foreign language as a liquid asset to a reluctant French student, my 16 year old son who doubts the negotiability of being able to live in Switzerland and make his way in one of that confederation’s official languages.
Source: Chuck Bentley, The Salt Plan[;]How to Prepare for an Economic Crisis of Biblical Proportions (Crown Financial Ministries, 2011)