I Learned the Hard Way: Good Stewardship is More than Saving

David DeWolf

Wealth seems to be a sensitive topic. Some people don’t mind parading the wealth they’ve created.

I would argue that the main problem with wealth in America is that people parade around a perception of wealth that they do not have. We live in a society that wants to keep up with the Joneses. At the same time, it’s a taboo topic.  One that’s hard to address.

People pursue wealth for various reasons but few desire to talk about their philosophy of wealth. Some to hoard and become wealthy. Some to spoil themselves with the conveniences of the world.  Still others seek to use it for greater good. They long to give it away – perhaps for recognition; perhaps as an authentic gift.

I have been blessed.  Blessed with success that has afforded financial resources, that, as a one-income family, I never dreamed we would have. Growing up in a middle-class family, one that struggled from time to time when I was young, I have always had a conservative bent. My tendency is to save; to some extent, you could say that I was afraid of wealth when I began my career.

There is one big lesson that I’ve had to learn over the years.  That lesson is how to be a good steward of my financial resources in a way that provides for my family based upon the unique needs of our situation in life. And stewardship is about more than just saving.

You see, early on in my career, I was what you might consider frugal. I was timid to take more than a single vacation or spend on the “souped-up” stroller my wife wanted for the kids. I was very careful not to spend on things that I saw as extravagant.

As I became more and more “successful,” I had to learn to use our resources for the benefit of my family. Some fathers are given jobs where they can afford to spend all but 8 hours a day with their wife and children. I have not. I have been given and have developed talents that have pulled me into a demanding career. I don’t get a ton of quantity time, but I can afford quality time. I learned several years ago that one of the ways I can bless my family and be a good steward of my financial resources is to not get caught up in spending too much on experiences that will bring us together.

Here are a few examples:

  • I’ve learned that a few weekend trips sprinkled throughout the year can be a fabulous blessing for the family. We are able to spend dedicated time together that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to if we were to stay at home in the midst of everyday life.
  • One of my pet peeves early on in our marriage was eating out. I quickly learned that because I’m not always around to help out, it was very taxing on Teresa to not only run the kids around but make a home-cooked meal every night. I’ve come to enjoy eating out as a family a lot more often than I was originally comfortable with in order to give Teresa the break she deserves.
  • I recently built a batting cage in our backyard. A lot of people might see that as “over the top,” and frankly, I was afraid of that perception when I first built it.  But you know what? I have already had more than enough quality time with my kids in that cage to make it worth it. Not just my baseball lover, but several of my kids love to go back and have me pitch to them. We genuinely enjoy those moments together and it builds our relationship.

These are all things that I would have considered “being spoiled” and “over the top” ten years ago. The reality is that, for me, they are not. I have been blessed with resources that allow me to bless my family with experiences that enrich our lives.

I am confident that so long as I remain generous in my giving to others, do not become addicted to the worldly things I can afford, and that my “investments” remain about accomplishing my mission as a husband and father as opposed to status or sensuality, then I am using the resources I’ve been blessed with appropriately. I have gone from arguing with Teresa about things that don’t matter because I wanted the safety of a large nest egg (holy sinner!) to learning to leverage our resources not only for providing safety and being generous with others, but also for being generous with my own family.

Some people hoard, some people spoil. Some people give away. Very few people are stewards of their wealth and really leverage their resources for their entire integrated life.

What unique ways are you using the resources you’ve been given? Do you struggle to find the right balance of using the resources you’ve been given and not being extravagant? Do you spend more time worrying about perception or studying your finances?