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The Gift of Generosity

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One of the sure markers of a steward is generosity. Not crazy, give-it-away-willy-nilly generosity, but the quiet assurance of capacity and a compassionate commitment to the greater good. 

Though Bruce Ensrud, a certified financial planner, describes his work as a wealth advisor, he’s not necessarily talking only about those in the upper one percent. He has a unique perspective that can benefit us as stewardship leaders. Growing individuals’ identity as “stewards” will inspire generosity, but there is groundwork to be done, which he highlights through the lens of retirement planning.


Catherine Malotky, Center for Stewardship Leaders

From Scarcity to Generosity

By Bruce Ensrud, CFP®

“Am I going to be OK?”

Whether stated in those words or otherwise implied, this is the question we hear most often from our clients. I see financial planning as helping people move across a continuum from scarcity (“I’m afraid I’m not going to make it.”) to sufficiency (“There’s going to be enough!”) to, eventually, generosity (“There’s more than enough, and I’m called to share it!”).

Over the past 20+ years working alongside clients as a wealth advisor, I’ve learned two things about generosity: 

  • Generosity increases with financial confidence 
  • Generosity increases with intentionality 

Among the many activities and events that can be financially unsettling, planning for retirement can be especially stressful. A generation ago, “the company” took care of employees in the form of pension programs, health care plans and even pension departments to help with retirement decisions. Today, we have a generation retiring without these benefits and instead, they face lump sums in alphabet and numeric soup: 401(k), 403(b) and IRAs. 

If worries about big issues like the economy, job security, and retirement finances aren’t sufficiently troubling, we’re also bombarded daily by thousands of media messages telling us we need more, bigger, better, and newer “stuff.” This can quickly leave us feeling financially inadequate. 

So, how can we find confidence in this ever-changing mix of pressures?

Step 1: Reflect 

Now is the perfect moment to pause. Take a step back and consider what’s truly meaningful in your life. 

Step 2: Take Inventory

A thorough inventory of personal values and goals laid beside current expenses can provide a helpful perspective: is your money is serving the things you most value, like faith and family, OR material, temporary things, like big screen TVs? Use your values as a compass as you navigate decisions.

Step 3: Dream

Next, dream about your future. From the perspective of your values and what you believe is important, what do you want to have happen? Who are you spending time with? What do you want to do with your time and talent? And finally — are you on the path to making all this happen?

Step 4: Plan

A financial plan helps provides a format for important conversations as you continually prioritize your goals. It also helps you address the “Am I going to be OK?” concern. A few changes might be needed. Or maybe, there’s more than enough. Either way, having a financial plan will help address any underlying unease. It can even create a financial permission to share with people and causes that are in your heart.  “I am going to be ok … and I want to make sure others are as well!”  

Along the journey of building financial confidence, intentionality is another factor we see influence the degree of generosity. More than income, tax bracket or age, we see a correlation between intentionality and generosity. When individuals start seeing wealth as being multi-faceted, it goes from something to be measured, to a gift to be shared. The most generous givers are ones who are intentional with five expressions of wealth: their attitude, time, relationships, abilities and finances. They are more planful, more engaged and more committed to inviting others into the cause.

About the Author

Bruce Ensrud is a Founding Partner and Wealth Advisor with Colonnade Group, an independent practice of Thrivent Financial. Their calling is to change the story of wealth to one of hope and contentment that will enliven the mission of others.

Colonnade Group is an independent practice of Thrivent Financial. THRIVENT IS THE MARKETING NAME FOR THRIVENT FINANCIAL FOR LUTHERANS. Insurance products issued by Thrivent. Not available in all states. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Thrivent Investment Management Inc., a registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC, and a subsidiary of Thrivent. Licensed agent/producer of Thrivent. Registered representative of Thrivent Investment Management, Inc.  Advisory services available through investment adviser representatives only.

Image credit: Photo by  Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash

About the Center

Center for Stewardship Leaders

The Center for Stewardship Leaders seeks to shape a faithful, multidimensional culture of stewardship in congregations, households, and society. The center strives to consider the full spectrum of stewardship practice and theology, including financial stewardship, holistic stewardship, and leadership. See all posts from CSL.

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