Stewardship Talk by Sarah Catherine Gutierriez
October 21, 2018

Tomorrow it will be 7 years since Jorge and I walked down the aisle and got married. After the service, we remarked in the car that we were done. We could skip the reception. Our wedding dreams had come true. The team at Christ Church worked with us for countless hours on the evening candlelit wedding, including translating every word into Spanish. The Compline choir sang the entire service. We had three priests officiating, switching between English and Spanish.

It was the happiest and most beautiful day of our lives, and every week I get to come back here and get glimpses back of the memories of us newly dating and sitting together at the 6 pm services, memories of us walking down the aisle, memories of our hilariously dressed babies getting baptized.

Christ Church did all this for us.

And now, each week two sleep deprived, strung out parents with more kids they can count barely dressed in soccer uniforms get to have an hour to themselves, hearing a message that reminds us that there is a bigger picture, all the while the sweet women in the nursery take care of the kids. Those same parents can be found after the service huddled around the coffee maker taking shots in rapid succession while one designated church member or another keeps our 2 year old from running out the door.

This is our home. You are our family. Our energy gets refueled every week here. Maybe I am biased but I personally believe we have the most incredible, profound, inspired sermons out there. That’s why I was thrilled to get a chance to talk about giving.

As a financial planner, I deal in money every day. My particular interest is in how people spend it. It doesn’t surprise me anymore to have a week where someone making $40,000 with no savings believes that if he made just a little bit more that he could start saving. Two days later a woman making $400,000 with little savings believes the answer is just to make a little more money. I have compassion for both of them because I have lived that way, and we are so harsh on ourselves when we do.

The truth is that the majority of us out here probably behave like humans, meaning we adapt perfectly to our situations, for better or for worse, including what’s in our bank account. We spend everything and then periodically wonder how we go through $3K per month/$5K per month/$20K per month with very little to show for it.

Paper money is meaningless, but money has an energy. We all know the negative energy. Adaptive spending is mindless. Credit card spending is stressful. Secretive spending is harmful. But could money bring happiness? I believe it can. In fact, I have witnessed it bring peace, happiness and intention. I would like to share how.

Let’s start with peace. Saving for retirement and into an emergency will bring you peace. We live longer but can’t necessarily work longer, so unlike the generations of the past we have to save for that period. So call up HR tomorrow morning and ask for them to withhold 10% into your retirement plan. Don’t think about it. Remember, we humans adapt to any situation. You will barely notice it the first month when your paycheck goes down, but deep down you will sleep better at night knowing one day you might get to stop working on your own terms.

Still going with peace, open a new savings account, call it an emergency fund. Figure out a goal amount that would also help you sleep better at night and then make monthly deposits toward that goal. Imagine a world where getting new tires or a new roof is not a catastrophe.

Now happiness. The happy energy of money is life experiences. Travel is shown to bring statistical happiness. Furthermore, did you know that you will have 30% more fun on a trip if you take it with savings rather than a credit card? So fund it first. Set up another savings account. Call it travel. And put a monthly deposit in there. Every month that deposit is made is another month you are closer to that trip. The very act of that deposit can elicit happiness. Do the same with gifts or date nights. Open those savings accounts. Protect your happy money every month by putting your next dollar into those savings accounts.

Finally, intention. Who are we? What do we believe? What’s important? How we spend our time and money will often tell us this. When my clients come into the office, they start with 6 months of expenses. Pages of pages of a bewildering array of point in time transactions. At the time they brought small comfort from a starbucks latte, a burst of dopamine with that new sweater, or maybe annoyance from refueling of the car again. But 6 months later they are meaningless. They are a blur as the pages turn. Imagine our life in a stack of papers. When we go to review it what would we want it to say?

Just as we can pay ourselves first, we can also pay our values and morals first. For Jorge and me we believe it is in the form of our donations to Christ Church for the important reasons we described earlier. What would life look like if we didn’t have our spiritual home and family? Jorge and I are desperate to raise children with integrity and a strong moral code. We believe our experience at Christ Church is how we will do that.

Imagine a cash flow system as simple as this. Each month before we spend anything, we send money toward retirement, toward an emergency fund, toward our next trip and to our deepest values, which might be Christ Church for many of us. Then we spend the rest. We can truly adapt to the amount of money leftover in our checking account.

So at the end of my life as I flip through the pages of expenses I would have long since forgotten, perhaps I will be proud of saving for my future, smiling as I reflect on those fun and carefree family trips and deeply satisfied that I contributed to what I valued most.


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