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“The surest place to move me from surplus is there,” he said. “I look around and say, ‘I’m CEO of a Fortune 300 company, and so why do I get only two weeks a year? Why don’t I own one of these beautiful vacation homes?’ ”
Thrivent isn’t trying to argue that income has nothing to do with what Hewitt called the “journey to surplus.”
The median household income of people on the lowest rungs of Thrivent’s ladder of financial well-being, what it calls subsistence, struggling and stable, was about $56,000. For those who were classified as secure or in surplus, the median household income was $75,000.
But what people do with the money they have has more to do with how confident they feel about their financial situation.
In one particularly telling example, the company found that 28 percent of people who rate themselves as subsistence or struggling have a home worth at least five times their annual household income. Only 3 percent of people who rate themselves as surplus do.
Much of this research and thinking about how to get clients to move into surplus has been integrated into the company’s work in the Rocky Mountain region and will be rolled out to advisers in the rest of the company over the next two or three years.
The basics of doing financial planning and selling insurance packages and plans to accumulate savings haven’t changed. What changes is the goal.
“All have heard it,” Hewitt said, of the company’s advisers. “Most believe it.”
Hewitt thinks one key for a client to make the surplus goal is getting a good coach or adviser, although Hewitt said it doesn’t necessarily have to be one of his. Such advisers coach people to the best opportunities to volunteer or donate some money, along with helping to execute a financial plan.
Hewitt has an adviser, although he doesn’t appear to need anyone to teach him the value of volunteering.
One place he helps out is at work sites run by Urban Homeworks, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that renovates houses, teaches skills in construction and runs programs to help people make connections with each other in a neighborhood.
When Hewitt shows up, he’s immediately classified as unskilled. Not long ago, a site manager gave the unskilled guys the task of emptying the construction dumpster of garbage tossed in overnight by the neighbors, including some soiled and wet mattresses.
Hewitt said it’s never occurred to him, when driving away from a volunteer job like fishing mattresses out of a dumpster, that what he really needed to do was go buy a new boat.
“One of my pet peeves is that people say I need to go to north Minneapolis because those people need my help,” he said. “It’s just the opposite. I need to go work in north Minneapolis in order for me to get help. It actually changes me. It changes my attitude.”
“I all of a sudden have the chance to be in surplus.”
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