Without a (Financial) Vision …

Without a (Financial) Vision …

I was challenged at the 2020 Kingdom Advisors Conference! One of the highlights for me was the idea of having a vision, particularly as it relates to finances. Dr. Henry Cloud spoke about vision and pruning toward that vision. He talked of “pruning the good” in order for the best to be possible. Upon first hearing this, my thought was “I’m happy when my life bears good fruit, (rather than bad)” but the truth is that good is often the enemy of best. We must prune the good to allow the nourishment to be directed to the best.

As financial advisors, helping people accumulate money is certainly the norm and represents what is good. Clients desire to save tax efficiently and utilize TFSA’s or RRSP’s for short term or long term goals. When you meet with your financial advisor, particularly this time of year, the conversation usually goes toward saving enough to maintain the desired lifestyle for the rest of your life. That’s good, but is it the best?

Have you ever considered what your vision is for your finances? What is the ultimate purpose for the funds accumulated? Until my thinking was challenged, I never realized that a vision for finances was even worth my consideration.

We’ve probably all heard this proverb that references vision: “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained …” Or “Without revelation people run wild, but one who follows divine instruction will be happy” Prov. 29:18 CSB. It is often quoted from the KJV where it declares that “without vision, the people perish.”

The Hebrew word paw-rah’ means “to perish”. Paw-rah’ was the word used in a biblical proverb where a woman’s hair was let flow out of its covering (hairband). Unconstrained in the wind her hair is directionless and blown in all directions.

The word means “to let loose” or “to ignore, reject” and in another sense “to let slip through the fingers.” If you make the connection to your finances, you begin to realize how important a vision is because without it, the discipline to manage finances is lacking. In other words “where there is no vision (revelation from God), ‘the people are undisciplined/get out of hand’.”

When the purpose for your wealth lacks vision, it becomes directionless and ends up going everywhere (like the example of hair in the wind). If you don’t have a vision for retirement, you won’t save in RRSP’s and money can slip through your fingers. On the other hand, when you want to make a major purchase (like a house), you begin to set aside funds for a down-payment, simply because you have a vision.

The natural thinking around money is that what you earn is for you and your family. In other words, you earn to provide for your family, which includes pleasure and enjoyment (vacation). I’m sure you would agree that this is good because your funds are being directed to align with your vision. However, is there a greater vision? Dr. Cloud challenged me deeply and now a year later, I’m still considering how I should “prune the good” so nourishment can flow to the best.

In Randy Alcorn’s book Money, Possessions & Eternity he tells this story:

At the end of the movie Shindler’s List, there’s a heart-wrenching scene in which Oskar Schindler – who bought from the Nazis the lives of many Jews – looks at his car and his gold pin and regrets that he didn’t give more of his money and possessions to save more lives. Schindler had used his opportunity far better than most. But in the end, he longed for a chance to go back and make better choices. This life is our opportunity.

Perhaps this is as good a time as any to take the advice of the Old Testament prophet:

Write down the vision and inscribe it clearly … so that the one who reads it may run. (Habakkuk 2:2 NASB)

Have you ever thought about the consequences of not having a financial vision?

Stewardship Defined

Do we even understand what the word stewardship means? After all, it can have such a vast meaning. The dictionary defines a steward as “a person who looks after someone on a ship, aircraft or train.” It is also defined as an official who supervises a public event, or one who manages or looks after another’s property.

The final definition seems to be the most accurate. Think about it for a moment – what exactly does this mean for each of us? For many, the immediate thought is that we need to be better stewards over the earth. In other words, we must care for the environment.

Let’s make it even more personal than that. Think about what we have all been given daily to manage.

What We Are Given in Equal Measure – Time

We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours in every day. How well are we managing our use of time? If we are completely honest, we must admit that we are at times less productive than we could be because we have not invested our time as well as we would like.

What We Are Given in an Unequal Measure – Talent

I am amazed when I see the different interests and gifts in so many people. For some, the ability seems to be natural and God-given and can often be improved when developed further, like the gift of music, singing or dance. Sadly, rather than develop their talents, some people bury them, believing it’s really nothing special or unique.

What is Buried – Treasure

If you combine what we are given in equal measure (time) and use it to invest in what we have in unequal measure (talent), we will discover what is often buried (treasure or what we are meant to do).  There is a quote that comes to mind about finding something you love to do and then you will never work a day in your life. The key is to “find something you love to do,” then your work won’t feel as much like work, but instead, it becomes your passion.

The Heart of a Steward

If the definition of a steward is managing another’s property, then the heart of a steward must be to know who the owner is and what that owner desires. For followers of Christ, God is the owner and life is about managing what we are entrusted with. Think about your life: aren’t you most fulfilled when you give your time to someone else? Isn’t your greatest pleasure felt when your talent is used for the benefit of another, when others are moved as a result of how you used your gifts?

If all we do is use our time and talent for ourselves, we are really missing what it means to be a steward. Time can be wasted, spent or invested. The same can be said for talent and treasure.  If you invest it well, the owner is pleased and we are paid or rewarded for our use of each of these.

Our Mistake …

…is thinking that what we possess is ours to do with as we please. If you ask most Christians, “Does God own everything,” most will quickly agree, yet living this out proves to be more of a challenge.

The time we have been given needs to be managed well and the talent should be developed and utilized. When we use our time and talent to invest in others, we will discover true treasure. To invest in others, it also means you actually have to take some time for yourself. Your personal growth and development results in a greater ability to serve. Remember, we are managers, not owners, so things like time, talent and treasure are to be used for the interest of the owner (which benefits others). We make a mistake when we simply spend money, time or use our gifts without considering what the owner desires.

How well are you using the time each day? Do you feel your talent is under-utilized and is there a place that you could use your talent more? When you receive your paycheque, do you view it as your own to do with it as you please, or do you consult the owner before you make spending decisions? 

The Family Meeting After 30 Years

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetThis past month, Cathy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. Over the years, we have gathered the family together for a specific purpose but in October, we had a meeting that focused on inheritance. This idea came from a book by Thomas Deans called Willing Wisdom, where he suggested a family should have this type of meeting every year. I saw this intentional time as an opportunity to pass wisdom to my heirs before the time of any type of wealth transfer.

It felt a little awkward at first and I figured that my kids would just see this as another of Dad’s crazy ideas. I have heard it said it is inevitable that there will be a family meeting where your financial affairs are discussed. However, it is up to you whether you will be alive to attend. I have determined to be there; the discussion time is valuable and the conversation will deepen if this happens yearly.

To begin, everyone was asked to share a word to describe our family and then an example of why that word was chosen. The answers received are a testament of our family dynamic: fun-loving, unique (in family discussions), accepting (it is ok if we disagree), supportive (of each other), in tune (connected to each other) and confident. Hearing these words was encouraging and a result of our investing in the lives of our children. It was like a reward for 30 years of marriage but we are not done yet. We must continue the family communication in order to finish well what we have started.

Keith Costello, president and CEO of the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning (CIFP) recently wrote about the great wealth transfer. He stated, “Baby boomers will inherit $750 billion over the next several years in the largest-ever transfer of wealth in Canada, estimates a recent report from Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). Specifically, the report suggests that 2.5 million Canadians over the age of 75 have a total net worth of $900 billion or more — and the beneficiaries of this wealth will be Canadians aged between 50 and 75 years old.”

The most common approach for wealth transfer is to divide the inheritance equally among heirs but the challenge is to also ensure an appropriate distribution of wisdom to equip our heirs to properly manage this wealth. I recently spoke to some friends about my children having grown and matured. With sarcasm, I stated, “They grew up to have their own opinions that are not the same as mine.” The reality about our children is they will likely have different priorities than their parents, which is the reason family meetings are so important. Finishing well involves successful transfer of wisdom before any wealth transfer.

As a steward of all that has been entrusted to me, I feel responsible to prepare the next stewards to manage anything I may leave them. An annual family meeting where probing questions are posed can help the next generation connect with the values and plans that guide financial decisions.

Some examples of questions that will create discussion and reveal values are:

-What are your dreams? How would receiving an inheritance impact your dreams?

-What did you learn from your parents about money and generosity?

-How should each child be treated: equally or uniquely?

 

Leaving An Inheritance

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As my wife and I went for a walk last evening, we spoke of our grandparents (all now deceased) and then our great-grandparents. In particular, we spoke of how little we know beyond two generations. We then talked about our grandchildren (not yet born) and great-grandchildren, wondering how much impact we will have on them.

Proverbs says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.”

On this subject, Larry Burkett wrote this: “If I had to identify the area of Christian finances that is least understood, it would be inheritance. Not only do people wreck their lives by hoarding, but they also wreck the lives of their children and grandchildren with abundant inheritance.”

In ancient times, an inheritance was often necessary for survival. Land being passed down was essential to provide food for the family. Today, an inheritance can be like winning the lottery or a windfall because, in many cases, children are making more money than their parents ever did and are often financially independent.

Ron Blue said, “Wealth never creates wisdom. Wisdom may create wealth. If you pass wisdom to your children, you probably can pass wealth to them. If they have enough wisdom, then they may not need your wealth.”

When we think about inheritance, we usually think wealth. In considering wealth and wisdom, which offers the most value? And which is most difficult to pass to the next generation? Since wisdom can create wealth, it seems logical that it is more valuable than wealth itself. Since wealth without wisdom has the ability to wreck the lives of our heirs, we must consider how best to pass on wisdom prior to passing on wealth.

All of our adult children are planning to be home for the Thanksgiving weekend. They will enjoy Mom’s home cooked meals and endure my Dad jokes while we play games, have a bike ride and go for a beautiful fall walk through the park. I cherish these times together, not just to make fond memories, but I am realizing these times are occasions for discussions where wisdom can be shared. So I am going to be deliberate and intentional about a family meeting in order to learn more about the basis of our values.

Having worked in the financial industry for 25 years, I know the conversation about finances is personal and private, yet these dialogues are so essential. I have some specific questions to ask that will probe deep into the hearts and minds of all of us. I plan to share these questions and the importance of a family meeting in my next blog.

Will you spend this long weekend with your family? What important discussions will you have with those you love?