Making the Most of All They’ve Been Given

Colorado software developers see money as a tool for themselves and to help others

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By Donna Hein ● Photo by From the Hip Photo

Terry and Chris Etl grew up in hard-working families that didn’t have a lot of extra money, but they always had what they needed. Their growing up years, the Thrivent clients with membership from Fort Collins, Colorado, say, formed their belief that money is a blessing, a gift, and not something to be idolized.

A quote by St. Augustine epitomizes their lives: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

Today the Etls own a software business they originally founded in 2001 focused on court reporting firms. Chris primarily develops software, and Terry manages the sales and training of what they develop. They also own a tanning salon. Married for 27 years, they have two adult sons, both married, who are following in their parents’ computer technology footsteps.

What’s your first memory of money?

Terry: I remember mowing lawn for Grandma for a nickel. I couldn’t buy anything for a nickel, but it was huge for her. I saved them and then could buy something. I learned that if you want it, you earn it.

How do you live a life of meaning?

Chris: God has given each of us talents. I’ve been given the talent of being a software developer. I may not be out ministering to people, but that doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful. My talent still can be used for a greater purpose.

How did you learn about Thrivent?

Terry: I was working at a software company between businesses and a coworker invited [Thrivent financial consultant] Andrew Flanscha in for a lunchtime financial talk. This was common, and most were about handing out their business cards. Andrew was different. He was Christian-based and knowledgeable. He provided information, said he’d love to help, but left it up to us to contact him. Chris and I appreciated that low-key approach. We signed on with him after our first meeting. It was all about trust and keeping the focus on the right thing.

What’s the best piece of financial advice that you’ve received?

Chris: Max out your 401(k) contribution, putting as much as you can in it. Save six months of income. And, finally, try not to go into debt. We do have home debt and a car loan. But we’ve never taken out a loan for our software business. We put things on credit cards but pay them off monthly.

Terry: Remember that it’s first from God. Also understand the value of planning. I’ve had to work hard for my money, so it’s harder to throw around because I understand the value of it.

What’s your favorite volunteer activity?

Chris: I like doing behind-the-scene activities—organizing, administrative work and using my talents to help others, like helping evaluate software for our church.

Terry: For me, it’s the different parts of working with high school youth and young adults. It was never my comfort zone to lead, but I love mentoring and teaching. Mission trips have always been a favorite. You get to know the youth at a level you otherwise wouldn’t.

How do you demonstrate gratitude?

Chris: I think of that as how you give back. You can give time, talent or treasure—or any combination. It ebbs and flows in life. When blessed with money, I like to focus on the treasure.

Terry: It’s appreciation for the gifts you have, the money you get, and knowing where it came from. Gratitude is knowing it was never mine to begin with. I can work hard on the business. But ultimately, it’s God who makes it profitable.