Erin Botsford, 4word board member, was recognized by Barron’s magazine as a Top 100 Women Financial Advisors for 2015. Erin is Founder and CEO of Botsford Financial Group and author of The Big Retirement Risk: Running out of Money Before Your Run out of Time. Today, I asked her to share the story about how she learned to be generous. As we prepare for 4word Giving Day on Thursday, September 17, I know Erin’s candid story of how God worked in her heart to appreciate the practice of giving will be a blessing to those of you considering giving to 4word on Thursday, as well as affirming your decision to support 4word throughout the year.
I hope the person giving my eulogy one day will say, “She was generous.”
I believe generosity is a trait great people have. I feel very fortunate to have come from abject poverty to living the lifestyle of my dreams. My job now is helping our clients secure a wonderful and fulfilling retirement. In doing so, I am able to give generously, since my own financial needs are met. I think women, especially, have the natural tendency to be great givers. Part of the reason I’m so passionate about 4word is I want females in the workplace to be financially secure and live balanced lives so they can be generous givers.
I didn’t always understand the concept of generosity, though. My husband, Bob, and I were both raised in a religious background where the concept of giving was not taught or emphasized. Putting $5 in the plate on Sunday was just a task. About seven years after we were married, Bob, an Air Force pilot, was assigned to Bitburg Air Base in Germany. Our son, Kevin, was two. There was virtually no way for me to work in the local economy, so I stayed home and raised our son and worked on finishing my undergraduate degree, going to night school four nights a week. Money was tight…very tight. I paid the bills, and each month, we seemed to run out of money long before we ran out of month.
Soon after we arrived in Bitburg, we joined a group called “Officers Christian Fellowship.” One evening, Bob and I confided in our group leaders, Dave and Sally, that we were really struggling to make ends meet. Dave asked us a simple question, “Do you tithe?” Truthfully, neither one of us had ever heard the term before.
Dave explained that tithing was an Old Testament concept when people gave God back the “first fruits” of their crops. In particular, he pointed to Malachi 3:10, which says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
Of course with bills piling up and money short, I thought the lesson was fascinating, but I also thought Dave and Sally were a little bit off their rockers. After all, we had just confided in them that we were running out of money and they told us to start giving 10% of our money away! To me, the idea was ludicrous. I quickly dropped the subject.
When we got home, Bob very directly told me he wanted us to start tithing. I hate to admit it, but we got into a very heated discussion over the subject as I ranted and raved about how, if we did this, it would drive us into bankruptcy. Still, my husband persisted and gave me a challenge. He said, “Let’s just try it for six months and see if God makes good on His promises. If not, we’ll stop.” I was still very reluctant, but I gave in and we started giving away 10% off the top of our income. I wish I could tell you that I had a good attitude about it back in October, 1986, but I didn’t.
About the same time, I was getting antsy staying at home with our 3 year old. Prior to moving to Germany, I had spent about 8 years working in the title insurance business, so I knew a lot about real estate. I was particularly adept in the knowledge of how a military person could use their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits to buy a home. I found myself constantly coaching military families who were getting ready to rotate back to the states.
At the suggestion of my friend, Donna, I went to the office of Morale, Welfare and Recreation, where continuing education classes were taught, and asked the program director if I could teach a class on real estate. She said, “Great…we take $5 per person for advertising in the catalog. So you will get $20 for each attendee.” The class was to be taught on January 29, 1987, and I was both excited and afraid. I had never spoken in public, and now I was going to be giving an eight-hour class to a bunch of strangers, assuming anyone showed up.
Meanwhile, early in January, Bob came home and announced to me that he had been selected for a short deployment back to the United States. He was asked to go to the Washington, DC area for about two weeks. He said, “Hon, I know you have really missed being in the States. How would you like to come back with me, and we can spend a week in the D.C. area, shopping at the malls and eating Mexican food?”
“How in the world could we ever afford for me to go back to the states with you? After all, you’re giving all of our money away,” I responded. Hurt, he asked, “How much would you want to have to spend to make it worth your while to come back with me?” I said, “At least $400. It wouldn’t be worth going back with less than that.” I have no idea where I came up with that figure, but that’s what I said. We didn’t discuss it any further. I knew there was no way he could come up with $400, so I put the entire subject to rest.
The morning of my first real estate class, I was as nervous as a cat. What if bunches of people show up? What if no one shows up? Bob came with me to open up the classroom and help me with last minute preparations. At five minutes to starting time, there was nobody there. I was devastated, but Bob kept encouraging me. He said, “It’s January, the roads are slick…It’s a Saturday and people have slept in.” Finally, people started walking in, and they kept on coming. My little classroom wouldn’t hold more than about 30 people, and it was quickly filling up.
I will never forget the next moments as long as I live. Bob started walking up to the front of the classroom, presumably to wish me luck and leave. I noticed a quirky smile on his face. He looked at me, straight in the eyes and asked, “Have you counted how many people are here?
He repeated, “Have you counted how many people are here?”
His next words would change my life…forever. He said, “There are 22 people here. You make $20 off of each person and 22 times $20 equals $440.00. So, God gets his $40 and you get $400. We are going back to the states!”
I couldn’t believe it. God had been faithful to us. He had clearly waved a big red flag in front of my face so I didn’t miss it! In fact, it was so obvious, from that day forward, my faith in the concept of tithing has never wavered, not even once. I base my entire life on the concept of generosity because, as I studied further, I found out it is not just about giving ten percent. It is about giving generously.
Erin’s incredible testimony of God proving His promise to provide for His children when they trust in Him is one that I cling to as we prepare for 4word Giving Day. This once-a-year event makes it possible for our 4word family members to give back to the organization that has helped support them in their personal, professional, and spiritual lives.
On September 17, please visit the 4word Giving Day profile to make your online, tax-deductible donation to 4word. Donations received during this one-day event will go to further 4word programs and platforms, like 4word: Local Groups, the 4word: Mentor Program, and the 4word digital platform.
Donations of $50 or more will be matched 1:1 (plus some!) and those who donate will be recognized on one of 4word’s digital properties. If you donate $100 or more, we will send you a copy of my book, Work, Love, Pray, as a token of our appreciation for your generosity.
I’m excited to see how God will advance His vision for 4word through your donations. I speak for everyone on the 4word team when I say we truly appreciate your support and cannot wait to continue our mission to impact professional Christian women around the world.