One of the great things about being a Vocations Director and working on the GGWB website and podcast is that I get to answer questions to help set people up for success as they discern their call on how to serve the Church. I am sharing this one (anonymized, of course) because the “reply” function to the e-mail bounced my reply back to me and I don’t have an e-mail address for the asker. As with all such things, YMMV and you should augment any advice you get from me (or any internet “sage”) with advice from your priest, bishop, and other trusted advisors (building up a good council of advisors is an awesome thing for everyone to do). – Fr. Anthony Perkins (email@example.com)
I’m currently in the process of discerning my call to the priesthood and will be visiting [a specific seminary] this spring … to get a better idea … and if it includes that. I’m doing a lot of prep work to get ready. I [engage in several parish ministries, to include altar service, charity work, and lay leadership].
My biggest concern right now is finances. I have an investment and retirement account. But I am still in debt from earning my Undergraduate and Master’s degrees. Do you have good recommendations for budgeting to get out of debt, but also keep up a good savings?
And are there other things I can be doing in regards to preparing for the possibility of the priesthood?
God bless you [name]!
What an exciting time for you.
I use Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” for this kind of thing. He has seven steps, I’ll share the first 4 (zero doesn’t count):
0. Stop borrowing (for him, borrowing for house is fine; many add education, within reason) and start tithing
1. Put away $1000 in emergency savings (for emergencies only; this is breathing space)
2. Debt Snowball: pay off debt, smallest debt to biggest debt (it’s about momentum, not numbers).
3. Increase the emergency fund to three (or more) months of expenses)
4. Start saving for retirement (15% of salary)
As for financial advice for seminary: borrow as little as you can and plan on working hard after you graduate (and until you enroll!) to get out of debt. If you can make good money now, it may be worth waiting a couple of years to get out of student debt. This is especially this case since you are doing great “On the Job Training” at the parish (this is wonderful and a fantastic indicator of seriousness). I guarantee you Orthodoxy will save a place for you to serve until you get out! I’m joking a bit, but what I mean is that there is not a real hurry, especially if hurrying will put you behind the eight ball (which is what debt does; remember that priests don’t make much and that don’t get much in the way of pay raises).
It really is awesome that you are getting it done in the parish. That really is the best way to prepare (along with the personal stuff, like prayer, fostering a peaceful spirit, etc.). Go into sponge mode (and help mode, of course) when you are around your priest (and other priests).
Please let me know if you have any questions about the above or if I can be of further assistance; this really is a blessed journey that you are on!
Yours in Christ,