True Wealth: A Case for Generosity

By Geoff Schaefer

Geoff is a Wealth Advisor with Intergy Private Wealth. He writes for The Steadfast Fiduciary to help people live with an abundant heart, open mind, and boundless generosity.

November 15, 2023

Think of the most generous people you know.  Are they the wealthiest? Are they all retired? Have you seen them go through life without any struggles? Are they happy?

Perhaps their are some common traits. Once I’d suggest is that there is something that matters to these givers more than money. I know the answer could vary, but after sitting with hundreds of families in a financial planning setting, I can confidently say, accumulation of money is hardly ever the point.

That begs the follow up question of, then what is the point?

Money allows us to do a lot of things, to have experiences, to buy things, but at the root of everything we do, money is the tool that facilitates it, not the reason for it.  I’d suggest something that matters more than money is the ability to make decisions without having money being the primary driver.  To live with boundless generosity toward our family and community.  Do we all want more money or more time with our families?  Do we want more money, or the ability to help others? Is money the answer or something that it unlocks?  Perhaps the goal of planning and saving is not the accumulation of dollars, but the process of stewarding those dollars in a generous manner. Generosity is not a trait some of people have and others simply miss out on. It is an act and lifestyle that must be practiced and perfected over time. It’s a selfless practice of doing something for someone else without any expectation of reciprocity.

There are many types of generosity and I believe we can all demonstrate them no matter the life stage we find ourselves in. Here’s a few:

Generosity of time.  Are we interruptible?  Are our schedules so full that between work and dinner out and basketball practice and the next social event that we have no ability to be interrupted.  No matter where we are in life, someone can benefit from our time spent. Date night with a spouse, Breakfast with someone young in the same career field as you, volunteering at a nonprofit that supports single moms, fundraising for medical research, an out of the blue phone call from an old friend that simply needs your support, and the list goes on.  Have we set up our lifestyles to allow us to be generous with our time?

Some people want simple lives, others want to grow massive businesses. Some people enjoy exciting hobbies while others prefer books and coffee. When we say, life live to the fullest, we often interpret it as going all out- something extreme.  But fullest is a relative term.  Is it the “most full”, compared to what?  Compared to a prior measurement of being full. The fullest is being in a place where we can be generous, where we can give more than we receive. As Americans, we are often addicted to the grind, the hustle, the business.  While that may be appropriate from time to time, an unhurried calendar facilitates the generosity of our time.

Generosity of knowledge.  Do we withhold information from people? Do you work in a job where you are an expert? Are you the one person on your block that is handy with vehicles?  Are you an empty nester after having poured your life into raising children?  Any of these questions being answered with a “yes” means we have something to give. We have wisdom and experience that you learned over years and mistakes.  What is withholding us from pouring that into others? In a world where information is a cheap commodity, we should make knowledge and wisdom valuable. And what is better to give than something of value? Be open minded and willing to share what you know.

Generosity of Resources.  Resources can mean a couple different things, but I am primarily talking about money.  First Lady Barbara Bush said, “Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.” We can all empathize or attempt to understand other’s needs, but until we put action behind it by turning over our own possessions, we don’t really get it. For the parents out there, have you ever offered your child a $10 bill or a $10 toy?  9 times out of ten, the kid chooses the toy.  Why?  Because they find the toy more valuable than the money.  They value the experience of play over what is seemingly just paper to them. They choose what they value.  All of us (the parents) have then told our children at some point “It’s just a toy, it is replaceable” when that $10 toy inevitably breaks or if we suggest they give it away.   So, as adults and humans, what do we value and how do we respond if it is suggested that we “just give it away?”  It’s just a car, it’s replaceable. Or It’s just $1,500, you’ll make more.  At that point, are we motivated by generosity or are we exactly like our five-year-old children? Giving of our resources requires action and a difficult one at that.

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chic-Fil-A once said, “Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else- our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”  We can live in a way that the value we assign to money goes beyond its purchasing power and extends to the impact it can have on others. In a world where selfishness is the default, can we demonstrate generosity so deliberate and intentional that it becomes nearly ordinary to those around us? Can we redefine value from what money can buy to what impact money can have on those around us?

So now, how do we become generous?  I’m still working on this one myself and I think it’s a lifetime process, but here are some thoughts:

  1. If a generous thought comes to mind, do not let it pass.  In our house, we have an unofficial rule:  If the idea of giving something or reaching out to someone pops in your mind, you need no further validation than that to act.  That idea itself was a gift. There should be no hesitation in sharing that. We have no idea what our words, time, and resources can mean to other people.  If something comes to your heart, follow through. Find opportunities to be generous.
  2. Leave time on your calendar to be interruptible. John Bunyan is quoted, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”  That is quite the charge.  Having every hour of the day packed with meetings, activities and responsibilities leaves little time for doing something for someone else.  Maybe it’s serving with your time at your child’s school, paying for the groceries for the person in front of you, taking an acquaintance to lunch, I don’t know! While the John Bunyan quote is extravagant and powerful, your generous act might feel simple. What is extravagant is the abundant place your act came from.
  3. Give money (actual money) away every month.  Start small and plan it out.  Maybe it is to a charity that is close to your heart, maybe your local church, a foodbank, a medical cause that hits close to home, find something. Tax deductions are nice, but that is not the point of this.  The point is, give to something larger than yourself. You never reach a point in life that it is now ok to give.  The founder of Hobby Lobby and prolific philanthropist, David Green wrote in his book, “’Business owners say to me, my situation is different, my industry is struggling and I’m barely hanging on. I can’t afford to give.” My (Green’s) reply is, “This is exactly the time to start giving!”  Money doesn’t make people jerks; it just makes jerks more jerk- like.  Likewise, having more money won’t make you more generous, but a generous person with more money can really impact people. Like anything, being generous takes practice and prioritization. Start now.

Make financial plans and be prudent savers.  Be intentional with the money you earn and spend responsibly.  In all of that, do not forget to give back. By giving, we surrender our resources to a belief and mindset of abundance.  I truly believe that over the years more joy will be found in abundantly giving your time and resources to others than could ever be found in a portfolio of stocks and bonds and real estate.  Perhaps the true wealth we create lies not in the money we accumulate, but in how abundantly we share it with others.


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