Practically speaking… Coping with sudden wealth

Doesn’t the sound of sudden wealth sound amazing? Have you ever speculated about a large inheritance or winning the lottery—what you would do with the money and how wonderfully generous you would be?

Since trillions of dollars are expected to transfer to the next generation, let me provide some perspective on issues we wrestle through with people who find themselves on the receiving end of this equation. While sudden wealth can be a blessing, without the proper framework it has the potential to do as much harm as good.


Lots of ‘friends’

If this windfall is a known event, the first things you may notice is that you have new-found friends and maybe even some long-lost relatives! This blessing can alter the dynamics of close friendships. Consider keeping this news private if appropriate. If not possible, prepare to set some boundaries.

If you choose to be generous with family and friends, do so in unconditional ways. Using money as a means of control can be manipulative and ultimately damage relationships.


Don’t expect instant and endless contentment

We are warned throughout Scripture that wealth is fleeting. While wealth can certainly provide its privileges, it’s no guarantee of happiness. The same temptations that affect all of us—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life—are amplified at this level. It is said that John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest Americans ever, was asked, “How much is enough?” His response? “One more dollar.” In other words, you will never have enough money to make you content.


Do I really deserve this?

We’ve seen some come into large sums of money with a sense of guilt. Ultimately it is God’s blessing that is being received. Thank Him for the gift and remember that you are God’s chosen steward for this resource. Acknowledge His ownership and then consider how best to handle it in ways that honor Him.

Remember the story of the woman who poured perfume on Jesus in Mark 14? His disciples accused her of wasting it. Jesus, however, received the gift gratefully and said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” In fact, He memorialized that act when He said, “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”


What do I do with the money?

The answer to this question is unique for everyone. Start by postponing any major impulsive decisions while you consider your long-term plans first. Surround yourself with a team of advisers, including a financial planner, estate planning attorney and accountant who, if possible, share your same worldview. As requests come from people who want to share in your blessings, prepare to answer them with something like “I need to run this by my spouse and/or financial adviser.” This provides some margin to prayerfully consider next steps.


Giving back

It is clear that as financial stewards we are to give back a portion of the blessing that God gives to us. It is important to address this first as Proverbs 3:9 tells us we should give “first fruits.” The most common form of giving is the tithe, which literally means “tenth.” This is a great starting point to evaluate giving.

I find it interesting that when making $100,000 a year people can manage to tithe $10,000. When they receive $2 million, however, all of a sudden they “can’t afford” to give at least $200,000.

Purposeful giving is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy perspective on wealth. When you decide to go beyond the tithe and give generously to needs that touch your heart, it takes the focus off yourself and onto your calling from God.

Take the time to explore the many efficient ways to maximize your giving, using tools such as trusts, foundations and donor-advised funds. Generous living and giving is a great way to turn this blessing into valuable teaching moments with the next generation.

If you’re one of those who has been entrusted with sudden wealth, thank God for this wonderful blessing knowing that true “wealth” is in your relationship with God. And during this beautiful season of Thanksgiving may we all remember to…

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)

Janice Thompson

— by Janice Thompson

Thompson is a certified financial planner, and co-founder and CEO of One Degree Advisors, Inc. She speaks on financial topics and is a mentor for financial professionals, she also serves on the board of directors for Kingdom Advisors. Learn more at Advisory services offered through One Degree Advisors, Inc. Securities offered through Securities America, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. One Degree Advisors and Securities America are separate companies.

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