7 struggles of the wealthy and how to face them with faith

7 struggles of the wealthy and how to face them with faith

We offer comprehensive wealth management for a wide variety of clients at Sound Stewardship, and some of them have levels of wealth that they’d never be able to consume during their lifetime. Does it surprise you that they too have questions and struggles with their abundance? It’s human to have a hard time facing finances with faith, no matter how much you have.  

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to define “wealthy” as someone having so much money that they’d have to try very, very hard (and disregard all of the Sound Stewardship principles) to spend it during their lifetime. Once you’ve determined you’re in that camp, you need to proactively decide what to do with it during your lifetime. 

The questions wealthy people have are unique to their specific situation, but the answers are tied to time-tested wisdom that can build financial contentment and confidence in us all. 

Here are the most common questions our wealthiest clients ask:

1. I feel guilty that I have so much. What do I do?

The real heart of this question is wrestling with how to steward such a large amount of resources well. Some of our clients feel overwhelmed by the responsibility. There’s a common phrase in financial therapy called money avoidance: Financial stress, even if it comes from having too much, causes some people to push it away. Instead of avoiding the topic of money altogether, we encourage our clients to brainstorm how to turn their “rich person problem” into a solution for someone else. In other words, lean into Principle #7: Give Generously. Practice active, thoughtful generosity instead of stewing in the guilt!

2. What do I give away now and what do I save to give at the end of my life?

Once you’ve chosen to be generous, then you need to find the right balance between stewarding your resources for future growth and giving, sharing with your loved ones wisely, and giving strategically to charity. This triangle, based on Principle 6: Think Beyond Yourself, is going to look different for every wealthy person. It’s important to discuss estate planning and present-day giving with your wealth advisors and your spouse (if you have one).

We encourage our clients to give without strings attached. Is that something you can do right now, or will you be tempted to micromanage how your gifts are used? Maybe the balance shifts toward leaving a larger legacy in your will. Do you get great joy from seeing the good that comes from your generosity? Then maybe the scales tip toward giving more away during your lifetime. The important thing is that you’re thinking through these questions and making proactive decisions.

3. How do I give without causing more problems? 

We’ve all seen how wealth can harm instead of bless. Either out of good intentions or in a money-avoidance rush to get rid of financial guilt, wealthy people can give too much all at once and end up burdening those they meant to help. Maybe a gift to a loved one who isn’t ready to handle a large sum of money leads to chaos. Or a donor enters into an overly dependent relationship with a charity that can’t function without their large gifts. Again, the solution is thoughtful, strategic giving. If you’re feeling the stress of financial responsibility, don’t offload that onto someone else. Think through how to be a blessing, not a curse. When it comes to charitable giving, you can always use a Donor Advised Fund to give anonymously, too!

4. My children (or other loved ones) are very different; how do I treat them fairly when it comes to sharing the wealth? 

A wise advisor once told me, “Love them equally, but treat them uniquely.” Again, the “right” solution is going to vary, but we do tell our clients they can give differently and still be fair. Personality, readiness, current needs — all those factors play into how to share wealth with loved ones in ways that will help, not hurt.

5. What do we leave behind for those who are going to be fine on their own?

Often, our wealthiest clients have children, or other heirs, who are also very financially secure. In this situation, as Jonathan has written about before, we tell them to think about adding “a child called charity” to their estate plan. In other words, split the estate between children/heirs and a charity or collection of charities. You can discuss this plan with your heirs ahead of time if you wish, and get their input on where they’d like to make a collective impact and/or get involved as a family.

6. I don’t know where to give! 

The first step is to simply ask. Most nonprofits (and individuals!) can tell you exactly how much financial assistance they might need and what they would use it for. Secondly, choose a cause or issue you are passionate about and find out who is doing good work in that area. Get involved; see how the charity is run. Are they making a real impact? There are firms who will do this philanthropic vetting work for you, but this kind of “homework” can actually be fun!

7. I don’t trust the economy to hold up, or [fill in your future financial worry here].

Yes, wealthy people sometimes fear the future, too. As with all our clients, we assure them that if they follow the Sound Stewardship principles, especially Principle #5: Be Diversified, they will be fine. The difference with our wealthiest clients is that they are most often afraid of losing the ability to give, not losing their own security. If you truly have enough to cover all your needs, and your families’ needs, we tell clients to not fear another downturn — just give now.

Are you struggling with the responsibility of stewarding your resources well? Have you been prone to money avoidance? Set up time to talk with one of our financial advisors today.

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