The Rich Life Blog

This Year, Resolve to Exercise Generosity 

Posted by James Lenhoff

January 26, 2018

If you’re new around here, you’re just in time.

For the last month, we’ve been highlighting the rewards of generosity, how giving has opened up new levels of happiness for our team and our clients. Last time, we emphasized that people really are wired to give, but that power cuts out when one of a series of circuit breakers flips. We become entitled, self-made, and eager to hoard resources that we see as scarce. When these breakers flip, we cannot give.

Here’s the good news:  The switches are not broken. You can flip them back. Let’s look at a way to spark generosity that’s as tangible and practical as flipping a breaker. We call it the abundance fund.

Step One:  Answer This Question

If you really want to experience the joy of giving again, ask yourself this one question:  
How much money could you intentionally put towards being generous each month and still meet all of your current financial obligations, while saving enough for your future? 
For some people, that number will be fifty dollars a month. Others can afford five thousand dollars a month. No matter what the number is, be honest with yourself. We’re looking for a well-reasoned goal that you can attain with a moderate amount of challenge.

Step Two:  Establish Your Family’s Abundance Fund

Now, open up a bank account and begin depositing this amount every month. If you really want to amplify the flow of generosity in your life, insist on an actual bank account, not a line in the family budget. Every time you deposit into this account, you strengthen your understanding of the fact that you already have more than enough. The balance in that account is the proof that you have an abundance that you can share from.

When families haven’t discovered the real number that they can afford to share each month, they see opportunities to give and they hesitate. They have no proof that they can afford to be generous. The Scarcity/Abundance breaker snaps to the off position and the ability to give goes cold.

You can almost hear that switch snap back on when families practice depositing every month into their abundance fund. The next time they recognize an opportunity to make a real difference, they jump on it. They’ve been preparing for this moment for months. The decision to give has been made and all that’s left is the fun part.

Step Three:  Reap the Benefits with Your Children

Recently, a friend of ours has been undergoing treatment for cancer. Our family has watched this young mother face adversity with ferocious strength. In the summer, our kids realized that her kids wouldn’t be coming to camp. Since our kids knew about our abundance fund, they asked if we could pay for our friend’s children to go to camp with them. This was a perfect opportunity to help our friends, made even more perfect because our kids recognized it.

Your kids haven’t seen their circuit breakers to generosity switched off yet.  Getting them involved in sharing the family’s abundance is critical to protecting them from that fate. It is also a key to helping you flip your breakers back on.

Step Four:  Notice the Narrative Changing

Once you open an abundance fund and start seizing opportunities to give, you may start seeing your own story in a different light. Where you used to see all the ways that you succeeded through your own blood, sweat, and tears, you now see the number of people who have lifted you along the way:  The mentors, the teachers, the openhearted strangers the good fortune that had nothing to do with good intentions or hard work on your part. 

If you’re looking for happiness, start with gratitude. Many people worry that if they give, they will create a dependent relationship. My advice:  Let your gratitude and your joy spread. When people catch your sense of good fortune, they want to experience it as well. Make it clear that you’re not giving because you’re a self-made success. You’re not giving because you’re any better than anyone else. You’re giving because you’ve received so much and you want to keep the lights of gratitude on in your own life. Trust me. That light will spread to those who receive from you.

The Beginning

In some ways, it’s too bad that the traditional season of giving falls at the end of the year. You may be walking into 2018 exhausted by the holidays and all of the time and resources you gave. If you want new energy, new happiness, and new gratitude, resolve to make generosity part of your family’s life throughout this year. Giving should not be an afterthought that you squeeze in just in time for a tax break at the end of the year. When you’ve already set the resources aside, you will be ready to impact the lives of those around you, no matter what time of the year the opportunity presents itself. An abundance fund is the beginning of a rich life. 

See what I did there? As it turns out, Living a Rich Life is the title of my new book, which you can now find on Amazon

Next time, we’ll zoom in on the lifestyle cap, which is crucial to keeping the generosity breakers on. I can’t wait to share that with you. Be sure to subscribe for free so that you keep yourself in the loop.

James Lenhoff is the president of Wealthquest, a Cincinnati-based financial planning and wealth management firm that offers a full range of financial services under one roof, for one simple fee.

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