What Is Wealth Stewardship?

By Mark Barnicutt on March 15th, 2018

“Looking back, it feels like we made endless sacrifices for 30 years to create our wealth, and now we worry about preserving what we’ve built for ourselves, our children & our grandchildren.”

            Family Client of Mark Barnicutt

The challenge for many affluent families is that family wealth is not self-perpetuating. Without proper advice and planning, family wealth is often eroded within 2-3 generations. The Irish proverb, clogs to clogs in three generations is a global phenomenon that appears in every culture.

It’s for this reason that the proper stewardship of family wealth is a key best practice that affluent families should adopt if they desire to make their wealth sustainable.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘Stewardship’ as: “The activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something.”

The concept of stewardship is an ancient one. Specifically, the Greek word for ‘Stewardship’ is ‘Oikonomos’ which means ‘Ruler of the House’. In the ancient world, stewardship was not a religious term but a key component of commerce. Almost every business concern had a steward who served like an ancient Chief Operating Officer, running the daily affairs of the master of the house.

Given the role of a steward, there are four key principles that have always applied; principles that I believe continue to apply today to anyone who is placed in a position of trust to oversee the business affairs for the benefit of others.

Four Key Principles of Wealth Stewardship

  1. Ownership: A steward doesn’t own; they hold in trust and use what’s been given for the benefit of the one who owns.
  2. Responsibility: A steward is responsible for the care and development of what’s been entrusted to them.
  3. Accountability: A steward needs to provide account to the owner of how well they’ve managed what’s been entrusted to them.
  4. Compensation: A steward is entitled to compensation for a job well-done.

With the growing level of affluence in our society, these Stewardship Principles are prudent and sound yardsticks by which both the mindset and actions of all wealth advisors (i.e. financial stewards) should be measured, to ensure that clients’ hard-earned wealth is protected.