Mention the name Phil Lenahan in certain Catholic circles, and you’re sure to strike up a conversation about finances. An accountant by training, Lenahan has been promoting financial planning from a Catholic perspective since the early 1990s, and he tours the country delivering seminars on financial planning for Catholics.

Lenahan, president of California-based Veritas Financial Ministries, in 2007 he released a book titled 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Guide to Managing Money. While the text, workbook and affiliated materials have helped many correct financial troubles, Lenahan points out that his program is not only for those experiencing money problems, but is a chance to understand how finances fit into faith.

“This spiritual approach is a beautiful one,” he says.

The Catholic Catechism in section 2404 calls Catholics to be “stewards of providence” and use resources not just for their own good.

About the spiritual implications of debt, Lenahan quotes Proverbs 22:7 — “The borrower is the slave of the lender.” He says there is a sense of bondage for those in debt.

But, he explains, there is bad debt and good debt.

Productive debt would be used to purchase an appreciating asset, like a house. Unproductive debt would be used to purchase a depreciating asset like day to day items bought on a credit card.

“They’re not focused on the debt; they’re focused on the minimum payment,” Lenahan says.
Finances, he explains, are like one spoke in the wheel of life. If one spoke is busted, the whole wheel wobbles.

“In their proper place, finances are really a relatively small part of who we are,” he says. “Our relationships with the Lord, our relationships with our families and communities are much more important. But when the finances are not good, they overwhelm the rest of those relationships, hence the bondage.

The first step to financial freedom, Lenahan says, is recognizing that God has a role when it comes to money, and that we have a role given to us by God.

“The basic concept is that all the universe belongs to God, and he is the creator and owner of all that exists,” Lenahan says. “Our role is defined pretty well in the Catechism as being that steward of providence. We are entrusted with resources.”

Lenahan says very few people have a plan and they need one.

Another step to freedom is to have an emergency savings because bad things happen.
This material appeared first in the Colorado Catholic Herald.