How Much Do We Need to Keep?

By Rick Laymon, CFP®

I must confess that I struggle with this whole issue of contentment. I grew up in poverty, raised by a single mother on disability with lots of other challenges besides. We lived in Section 8 housing and survived on a free block of cheese once a month and food stamps. I excelled in high school athletics, worked a part-time job starting at 14, got decent grades and dreamed from an early age of building a better life for myself.

God has been extraordinarily good to me! Despite my many bad decisions and wrong turns in life, I have been blessed to build a great business over 20 years, am driven by a keen sense of purpose, and enjoy the love of my beautiful wife and three children. Not to mention material blessings, experiences and opportunities that most folks in the world will never know. I also have enjoyed more “success” than I ever dreamed of. And yet, like the writer of Ecclesiastes and perhaps some of you, I sometimes struggle:

“Whoever loves money never has enough;

Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.

This too is meaningless.”

~ Ecclesiastes 5:10

We live in a nice, comfortable home and yet when we are out on the lake I find myself wishing I owned one of those bigger, fancier homes. I really have to check my heart! Same with cars. There are lots of shiny ones on the road I would absolutely love to own. I wish we were accumulating bigger balances in our retirement and college accounts, too. Sound familiar?

I have learned over the years there is a fine line between contentment and complacency. It is both a biological and a spiritual truth that if you are not growing, you are dying. This is especially true in business and finances! And so, we strive to do our very best to grow in these areas. Yet, pride and idolatry lurk around every corner.

The antidote to this condition is, of course, giving. Giving creates a mindset of abundance like nothing else. Cassie and I have been reading a book called God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School. In this fascinating study, the authors challenge us to ask a better question: “How much do we really need to keep for ourselves?” rather than the traditional paradigm, “How much are we going to give?” By setting an appropriate Finish Line for wealth accumulation (net worth) and similarly capping our current income at a fixed level (lifestyle), we become free to grow in generosity and service to others.

So, we live in this tension (which I think is a healthy one) between providing a reasonable life for our young family (1 Timothy 5:8) and discerning God’s purpose in blessing us beyond our actual need. This requires much prayer (How much is enough? And what are we going to do with the surplus? How can we best use our resources for the Kingdom?) and careful financial planning. We are still working that out… It is going to be an exciting journey!


Financial Planning & Investment Advisory services offered through Beacon Wealth Consultants, Inc.