We have a special guest today, Tim Meisenheimer of Streamline Financial Services in Chicago.
How to Be Generous
Streamline tackles investments for people heading into retirement. We strive for this idea of: it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have- it’s what you do with what you have. People walk into a wealth management firm thinking that they want a higher return or they want to build more wealth; what they’re really searching for is fulfillment. They want to find joy that lasts with what they have to manage.
That is such a fascinating statement because ultimately, that is what they’re asking for, they just don’t know how to ask it.
That is why you and I don’t compete, James. We are in that small segment of wealth management advisors trying to walk clients through those challenging but more meaningful conversations.
In 7th grade, I started mowing lawns with my brother for some cash, and my mom sat me down and explained to me that a portion of what I made would be given away to others. When I got my first real paycheck as a high school teacher, that desire to give was just a part of me. My wife and I were two teachers living on a teacher’s salary, and it wasn’t much, but our joy increased anytime we gave to things we cared about. How much you have or how much you don’t have in your bank account isn’t the thing that brings you joy, and if it does, it’s so fleeting.
Giving with that much intention and obligation requires discipline. Some clients recoil at that because it feels rigid or forced, but that does not mean it’s not beautiful. There is a reason why that discipline is asked of us – it moves us to a place where we can connect to people’s pain and fix problems that resonate in our hearts. The word ‘miser’ has the same root word as ‘miserable’. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Choosing the other path, choosing to be generous, leads to a kind of fulfillment that you can’t manufacture.
The Gift of Wealth Management
A few years ago, I realized that I could grow in my generosity, my wife and I can lead our kids in that direction and set them up to see themselves as this vessel for good; then I thought about being in a position like James where I would influence the lives of multiple families in how they manage their finances. I could unlock that joy for others. Using that influence directly in wealth management to impact others was a turning point.
As a firm, we decided to be about generosity, directing people towards giving money away. We set a goal of 22 million by 2022, but it is about so much more than hitting that number. It’s about how many conversations we need to have to get there and how one conversation sparks the next. It changed the way we exist with our clients and the environment of those meetings. Suddenly, there is a bigger purpose that exists there. Our culture shifted from “build as much as possible to make our lives easier for our children” to “how could we teach them to be generous right now while we’re present and they can be held accountable?” If you leave 10% of your inheritance to a charitable organization, that’s great. I just don’t know if that’s really being generous because it didn’t cost you anything.
Take a Second Look at That Estate Plan
I just had this conversation with a client yesterday. We were looking over their estate plan, and they have this huge gift set aside with the intention being: at that point, I will not need it anymore. I think our role is to wake them up to what they’re missing out on. There’s a fullness that comes with seeing a problem that you’re charged about actually get solved or seeing someone’s entire life change and heal, even if it is just one person. If your generosity is rooted in “I might need it”, that’s not really generous.
There is a middle ground somewhere. I like to say sometimes that we almost trick people into giving when we decide a client to start a Donor Advised Fund. Find something to give away, and just do it. It doesn’t have to be huge, but I think it’s important to consider how much is coming in and just sitting idle when you decide how much to give. What does your estate plan look like and how can you add generosity into the picture? Once you’re involved, you can invest more than your money. You can invest your talents and your time, too.
Tell me about how you’re calling clients to this. Is there a community aspect to it? Does that motivate clients?
It does, but I haven’t unlocked that as much as I would have liked. Right now, we have three clients on deck to share their stories in that setting. We do these monthly video newsletters, and we had a client we haven’t spoken to about this yet reach out and say they want to be involved. Change happens in the middle of those conversations. How many conversations do we need to have to give this mission the light it deserves? That’s the thing about something close to your heart – if you give it light, people notice it.
At the end of the day, clients hire us because they see something that feels like a movement. You have different conversations with clients, intentionally moving in directions that this industry is afraid to move in because it’s still stuck in the default setting of charts and graphs and data.
You and I are culture creators. Culture is not bad, but as a culture creator, sometimes we need to push back on those defaults.
When clients are in that movement with us, they bring others in, and it adds a layer of purpose beyond having better conversations. It creates something outside the walls of the firm, and it starts changing people’s hearts. I am inspired by the idea of actually getting that community to team up in your effort of generosity. You just want them to hold things loosely and open-handedly. That call for your clients is so unique in this industry.