Fish were made for the water. You were made to be a giver.
The theology is rich, but to summarize, you and I were made in the image of God, the most generous Giver. Our identity and purpose for living is therefore rooted in the profound reality that we bear the image of our Creator. To the extent we are connected to Him, living out who we truly are, our lives will be clearly marked by God’s radical spirit of generosity, flowing in and through us. On the other hand, when we allow ourselves to be sucked into the cultural tide of greed, materialism, power, and prestige, we’re like a fish attempting to live out the water. It’s a counterfeit life. A misplaced identity. A misunderstood purpose. Blessings flow to us, but unless they flow through us, a stingy stench is left in our wake. Instead of promised peace, joy, and contentment, we experience frustration, envy, and bitterness. Which experience would you prefer?
Now that we’ve established the foundational truth that a generous life is the True Abundant Life we are called to enjoy, let me now share a common problem we see when working with clients. We know that generosity encompasses far more than money, but financial generosity is certainly a huge part of experiencing life as God intended it. As financial advisors, we work with all different types of clients. Some are naturally more generous than others. Part of our vision as a firm is to cultivate generous hearts as we help people develop a financial plan that aligns with their life purpose. The problem we often see is generous people who are giving now, but who have no plan to ensure they can continue giving later in life.
Giving time and money brings great satisfaction to many folks. This gets back to the identity discussion above. Families that know their identity and have articulated a life purpose that flows from that identity, have financial goals that usually include giving back. Many of our clients like to give part of their current income to their church and other nonprofit organizations they care about. This routine giving is a defined goal in their financial plan, which we affirm.
Yet, there comes a point when employment income stops, so income must then come from other sources such as retirement investments. A family would typically conclude that retirement savings goals have been met if there’s enough money built up in retirement accounts to be able to replace at least enough employment income as would be needed to meet that family’s ongoing living expenses during retirement. However, let’s say expected living expenses in retirement total $60,000 per year, but the client family is accustomed to making $100,000 per year from employment, paying taxes of $20,000, and giving $10,000 to charities each year. In this case, the retirement portfolio was built to be able to continue this family’s “standard of living,” but fails to allow this family to continue its “standard of giving.” The family must adjust its living expenses and giving in retirement to fit within a $60,000 total annual retirement income.
Had their retirement savings goals been established to target a retirement nest egg that could fully replace the $100,000 per year income they were making while working, then the family could continue to enjoy living and giving at the level they were used to before retirement. This, of course, is great not only for the family’s sense of purpose and fulfillment in retirement, but also for the charities they support! As we know, a nonprofit’s success depends largely on the consistency of their donors’ giving. How wonderful would it be for donors to be able to communicate to their favorite nonprofit organizations that part of their retirement plan has been set up to build sufficient assets that will allow them to continue, at the same or higher level, supporting the good work done by the charity on into the future?
So, what about your family? Do you know your identity and purpose? Do you sometimes feel like a fish out of water when it comes to your life experience? Do you have a financial plan that aligns with who you are and what you’re here for? Are you a generous giver? Is your retirement savings plan on track to be able to continue living and giving at a desirable level? The answers to these questions are important to consider. Our hope for you is that you’ll Plan well financially, Live life abundantly, and Give lavishly of yourself and your resources. Let us know how we can help!