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Business Shining Lights

Spending shift

One young couple’s journey to generosity

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Katherine Tsay’s father, an avid stock market investor, drilled into her the power of saving, of investing, of compound interest. Her mother, on the other hand, adored beautiful things. Between the two, Katherine developed a love for fashion and the arts—and an understanding that to spend money, you had to earn it and invest it.

What her family did not talk about was giving their money away.

The concept of generosity changed Katherine’s view of money when she attended her first Journey of Generosity retreat in 2014—or, as it’s become known in circles familiar with the organization Generous Giving, a “JOG.”

Before that, Katherine worked in investment banking. “I didn’t love it,” she said at a Generous Giving conference. Generous Giving is a group designed to help high-capacity givers be generous with their wealth.  “And because I’d worked such long, hard hours, I thought that every dollar I made I deserve to spend as I saw fit.”

But the JOG served as the catalyst for a mindset and lifestyle shift. She watched videos of men and women who had oriented their lives around being financially generous. She and her girlfriends dug into Scripture, prayed together and wrestled through how God wanted them to respond. “I realized that all the things I thought I had earned for myself were actually a gift from God, including the career that I had worked so hard for.”

Katherine began to see her money not so much as a means to eat at fancy restaurants or save for vacations, but as a means to help someone else.

Around that same time, she decided on a career switch and was accepted into Kellogg School of Management in Chicago for the fall of 2015. A few months before starting, her father had a stroke and passed away. It was at this point, when “dating was the last thing on my mind,” that she met Eugene at a church event. “I told my girlfriend, I think I just met my husband.”

“Only complication was, he seemed to be into really nice things,” she said. “I didn’t know if he would be into the idea of generosity.”

A few dates into their relationship, she didn’t mince words. “I told him that if we were going to get married, generosity would have to be part of our lives,” she said. “I think he was still trying to court me at the time, so he seemed interested enough in the idea.”

Seven months after they met, they got engaged. Before they married, they attended a JOG together. It was then that Eugene decided to give away part of his equity. “Living in Silicon Valley, your equity is a measure of your self worth,” Katherine said. “So the idea of him even thinking about giving it away was more than I could have hoped for.”

The couple married in March 2017 and now live in San Francisco. Katherine is senior manager of business development at LinkedIn, and Eugene works as head of channel partnerships and partner development at Square, the payment processing company. They’re both in the tech world, which places a high value on equity and success.

Per the couple’s commitment, they put half of each of their equities—dispensed quarterly over the course of four years—into a Donor-Advised Fund. In the beginning, it wasn’t much. But it increased by three times in the first year and a half since they started the practice.

While Katherine was in business school, she says they weren’t able to give in big ways. But the “small” ways were rewarding. Instead of a traditional wedding registry, they opted for a giving fund. They gave half the funds—they raised somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000, she said—to a New York City nonprofit and the other half to an organization that supports refugees.

The reaction from friends and family were “mixed,” but “we were excited to ground our marriage in something outside of ourselves,” Katherine said in an updated testimony for Generous Giving. “I have this belief that God has blessed us so abundantly. Excessively. And that if God has given us a lot, he also expects a lot in return.”

Katherine and Eugene focus most of their giving hyper local. In June, they organized a fundraiser for a San Francisco-based nonprofit Open Door Legal that provides free legal aid for the poor.

Their goal was to match donations up to $10,000. In the end, they raised $35,000, including their $10,000 match.

Another way the couple has chosen to live generously is through hospitality. They view the dinner table in their 1,000-square-foot condo as a place to foster community. “Some people have a knack for making people feel known—this idea that I’m being recognized by you,” Eugene said. “I think our dinner table and our home, hopefully, is an avenue for that. That you feel heard.”

Katherine and Eugene both admit to being natural spenders. Sitting down for weekly budget meetings is a must as they discipline themselves out of the habit of spending mindlessly. “All the resources and opportunities and support networks that [God’s] given us are for a reason, and it wasn’t just for our own comfort,” Katherine said. “It was for something greater. Ultimately, I hope, for his kingdom.”

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Christina Darnell

Christina Darnell is a freelance writer who has contributed to WORLD, The Charlotte Observer, and other publications.