Challenging today's culture that more is better
September 13, 2018Building Your Future
We often hear that “more is better” but what if that idea just simply isn’t enough? Living a life based on “enough-ism” means that you can decide how much is enough for you and your family. Establishing this type of relationship with money can provide you with confidence over your finances and allow you the freedom to give and live a life you love.
Below is the complete transcript from a recent interview with FaithLife Financial’s CEO, Karen Bjerland, and Drew Marshall. If you would like to hear the complete interview please visit: https://soundcloud.com/drewmarshall/karen-c-bjerland
Drew: Karen, do you realize how important you are to the company? I’ve heard nothing but positive things about you. Why do you think that is?
Karen: That’s a rather an astounding question. What’s really important about our company is the members that we serve and we have incredible people who make that happen and I just happen to be one of those individuals.
Drew: Who has been your big leadership guru for you? Have you ever read John Maxwell?
Karen: I still read John Maxwell everyday.
Drew: Do you really?
Karen: I subscribe to his leadership equip devotional everyday. I’ve probably read most of his books. What I like about him is his just down to earth basic approach to the everyday problems we all face as leaders, especially in business. So he’s able to bring faith and business together without a lot of very deep analysis and theological, overtone.
Drew: Yeah he’s pretty straightforward isn’t he?
Karen: Yes, I really enjoy his work.
Drew: When it comes to the world of finances I, for some reason, have a phobia about talking about money.
Karen: That’s not unusual.
Drew: Oh it’s not?
Karen: No, not unusual. Because most of us don’t have what I call a healthy relationship with money.
Drew’s Producer: Really?
Karen: Yes. We live in a society where more is the goal, whether or not we recognize that. So when you’re in that environment of ‘more-ism’ – that’s just what you expect every day. A different approach that gives you relief from that, is what I considered to be ‘enough-ism’.
Drew: Hold on, hold on, hold on.
Drew: That’s a massive phrase. Have you used that before? Did you come up with that? I’m using enough-ism for the rest of my life. That’s an incredible word.
Karen: Well, all of us, if we just listen to the noise around us, the consumer messaging is about “get this”, “get that”, “do what your neighbours do” and all those kinds of things. You get trapped into thinking that that is what creates happiness, but we know that’s not true. All of us know that’s not true because every time we’ve tried to get that one little extra piece of whatever it is that we’re pursuing, we discover that it doesn’t fulfill us.
Drew: It doesn’t satisfy us. No.
Karen: However, when you begin to understand that you can decide how much is enough for you and your family, the freedom that that brings in your ability to sit down and think about your relationship with money is something that gives you confidence – the wherewithal and the diligence and discipline to plan, and with that, the freedom to give.
Drew: Okay. So, what’s the disconnect, because I think most of us really understand that getting has never really felt good. Giving has always felt good and yet we still are more focused on getting than giving. So, what’s the disconnect? Why do we not get this?
Karen: Well, I think it starts with thinking that we are the ones who own the skills and abilities that make it possible for us to get anything, right?
Drew: Good call.
Karen: But when you realize that we don’t own those skills, they’re skills that we’ve been gifted through God’s grace, then all of a sudden it’s using those to bless and honor Him that make all the difference and you start to celebrate all of the little things – they don’t have to be big things. Then you sit down and you consider your relationship with money and you realize that it doesn’t have to be the be all and end all. When you start to think about money as a tool rather than a goal, miraculous things happen, because suddenly your view goes from that of a consumer to that of a steward. You begin to realize how richly you’ve been blessed and that if God’s the owner, he’s going to give you the kind of direction that will make use of that money. Something that’s going to make a difference for others, for you and your family, and huge freedom comes with it.
Drew: Okay. “FaithLife Financial”, people have heard the name of your organization, time and time and time again. You guys have been around for 632 years, is that right?
Karen: Almost. A little over a hundred.
Drew: No, but seriously, 100 years! Okay, so what I’m assuming is that FaithLife Financial comes with a level of integrity when it comes to money management. Whereas many other financial organizations, it’s all about the bottom line, bottom line, bottom line, bottom line. Now you guys obviously have a bottom line, but you have an ethic behind how you do things. Is that the bottom line for you guys? There is a difference between FaithLife Financial and other financial institutions.
Karen: Absolutely. Well, there’s an interesting verse in the Bible that talks about using your money to do good. This is from 1 Timothy 6, “to be rich in good works and to give generously to those in need. Always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them”. So that is the foundation of how we look at money. It’s a gift, something that we’ve used to serve others. So then from that we have a value proposition that allows us to be the kind of financial services organization that helps people blend faith and finances to be wise with money and to live generously.
Drew: See, I still get a little shivery when it comes to faith and finances. You know, why, because I have an allergy to those people in the faith world that have put finances right at the top of the list. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t think you guys, wait, am I going to get into trouble here? How do I say this?
Karen: Honestly. FaithLife Financial’s not about any kind of theology that focuses on prosperity. What we’re all about is an organization that has thought leadership in the area of how to be wise with money and that doesn’t necessarily mean accumulated for the purpose of accumulating it, but understanding what your relationship is with money so that you can live generously and you can serve God, family and communities and it just doesn’t get any better than that. When you put those priorities in the right direction and it’s freedom giving, it’s just amazing.
Drew: I’ve had numerous financial organizations approach me and say they’d like to partner with me. I can’t sign off on a lot of the stuff I see out there. Either they’re too pushy or they’re too preachy or they’re, I’m sorry, but they’re theologically whack. So, when you guys came along and I looked into you guys I went, hold on a second, this is the balance I’ve been looking for.
Karen: We are not a church. We’re not a social services organization, we’re a financial services organization that looks at helping people be wise with money to live generously through the lens of the Bible, but only in those two areas. We don’t purport to have expertise in any of those areas. There are lots of other people who do evangelism and you know, preach and teach in other areas. What we’re really good at is simply sitting down with people, helping them think through what it is that matters to them first and foremost, and then we help them to think about being wise with debt. You know, not overspending, doing those simple things, protecting themselves against setbacks and, setting a short term plan and a long-term plan.
Karen: Also, and this is where we’re really different – planning to be generous. Thinking through how they can use their time, talent, and treasure to really make a difference to build a better world because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all about. We don’t do that corporately, we do that through our members because when you buy a FaithLife Financial policy, you become a member and there are only benefits, no obligations. We help our members take advantage of things like action teams. It’s a new initiative where we give them seed money to do a fundraiser or to do something in their community to help others. They bring family and friends together. It’s simple, it’s not complicated, but it’s building that community that matters so much.
Drew: President and CEO of FaithLife Financial. Faithlifefinancial.ca, that’s who we’re chatting with. We’ve mentioned this phrase numerous times – financial planning. Here’s my financial planning, tell me what’s wrong with it. Ready?
Drew: I financial plan the way I play chess. This is how I play chess, I try to kill every other person, every other man, player on the board, and then I go after the king. I have no strategy. I can’t think three steps ahead. I’m not looking to see who is attacking me from behind. I just kill whoever’s in front of me so I can get to the king. That’s it. My financial planning is, I try not to have debt.
Karen: That’s a good start.
Drew: But that’s it.
Karen: Yes. You could have some surprises along the way for sure that you probably won’t enjoy if that’s the total focus of your plan. Don’t feel that you’re very different than most. Most people, because they’re busy, because they could just get caught up in day to day life, whatever it is, don’t understand that it’s really not as intimidating as it may sound. Just like anything that is a little bit challenging often if you have a coach, a financial advisor that you trust, it’s a whole lot easier to do and it’s a matter of figuring out what it is that’s important to you and your family, looking at your finances. You know, how much debt you have, how are you going to manage that, how well you’re budgeting or not, addressing those issues, making sure that if you were to die today or if you became sick or disabled, that you’ve got protection plans in place, life insurance, disability, critical illness. All those kinds of things, and then decide how much it is you need for retirement and start a plan to save toward that because a financial advisor will help you to understand the time value of money, how much you have to set away, set aside, and also help you figure out, from a stewardship point of view, from-
Drew: Wait hold on, that’s a key word that a lot of people don’t get. From a stewardship point of view, what does that mean?
Karen: I manage what God gives me.
Karen: You can look at what God has given you – you’ve got this plan. You begin to see, you know what? You don’t have to spend it all on yourself and your family. You can spend it on the causes that you really care about, where you really want to make a difference and then you go out and do it.
Drew: Man, I don’t have money enough to buy the things I want to buy. I certainly don’t have money to put towards causes. I quoted-unquoted that one cause I would never say something like that.
Drew: Here’s the other pushback for financial planning. I don’t have enough finances to plan. I’m just getting by, I’m just paying the bills, so why do I need a financial planner if I don’t have extra?
Karen: Most of us can usually find some extra and maybe it’s not dollars. Maybe it’s your time, maybe it’s your talent. Those are as important to the whole concept of stewardship and giving back as the dollars are. There’s something important too about the worry that we can release when you put a plan together. That is huge because, as much as we think that we don’t have that many choices, if we don’t sit down and really think about that, that could be a fallacy. And as a consequence, we end up worrying and with that worry comes a lot of consumerism, you know, focus on having more and more right?
Drew: Oh my goodness. What are you a shrink? This is perfect.
Karen: I’m a person of experience. I’ve been there, done it.
Drew: What is your story actually? Why are you in this game, this business?
Karen: Well, I became a rather reluctant financial advisor over 25 years ago. I had been in marketing, moved to Kitchener/Waterloo, was looking for a job and this representative came to call on my husband who had a policy with this organization and he tried to recruit me. I said, are you kidding? I don’t want to be involved in sales, I’m a marketer, I’m not a salesperson. But he persisted and I learned more about the organization and the values of the organization just meshed with mine. I have found the perfect blending of cause for community and meeting my personal vocational goals in this company. It’s been fabulous.
Drew: In our world these days, you’ve been in the game long enough to have seen trends and mega trends. Our consumerism – it just continues to climb, our narcissism continues to climb. Our consumption, consumption, consumption, or do you see this tapering off or relaxing a little bit? Do you see any difference in our culture period these days?
Karen: I certainly see it among a lot of millennials.
Drew: Oh, I knew you were going to bring up the m word.
Karen: They’re very concerned about what is happening in their world around them. They want to make a difference. At the same time, they also want to experience that world in a very real and meaningful way and from my view, that’s what a good steward does. It’s not a matter of just doling out money or being the good person at the church or whatever it is, it’s about really being with people and experiencing what they experience to understand how they live and what their needs are. That gives me great hope.
Drew: My assistant’s name is Maggie. I was in her office when we first hired her, and doing some training and I looked behind her in the office and on the shelves I saw this FaithLife Financial stuff. I said, what’s going on with that? Why do you have that? And the reason I asked is because she and her husband are atheists and they have all this FaithLife Financial stuff behind them and their broker said, this is the best stuff for you guys – this is it. Don’t worry about the name. How does that make you feel?
Karen: Wonderful, because a lot of our members aren’t necessarily Christian, but they embrace our values about being wise with money and living generously and as a Christian, isn’t it all about being inclusive and not exclusive? I think that’s what Jesus told us to do.
Drew: What is the giving back thing? Let’s really hone in on this.
Karen: There’s two levels – certainly helping our members think about how they can give back, and then corporately, FaithLife Financial offers things like Will and Power of Attorney benefits to our members.
Drew: Whoa say that again?
Karen: We offer a rebate of $100. So if you get your will or power of attorney done, and you’re a member, send in the invoice and we’ll send you a $100 cheque. That planning that we talked about before is so important and drawing up a will or power of attorney-
Drew: You’re sending your members $100 cheques?
Karen: Yes, every five years. So we encourage them to make sure-
Drew: What? Every five years you send them $100 check?
Karen: Yes, if they send us an invoice for their will or power of attorney benefit done by a lawyer, yes. So that’s part of it. The biggest aspect of it though is what our members do as they reach out to the community that they live in and their church and beyond. Over the last forty-seven years, our members, when you combine their time, talent and the impact of all their work, the contribution adds up to over $50 million to the communities that they live in.
Drew: I don’t want to get ranty again, but this is amazing stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like this. So let’s bring it down into practical terms again, right? I become a FaithLife Financial member, I like how you call them members and we’re part of the gang there now and I say I want to take advantage of this whole, “help something in my community” plan that you’ve got. What’s it called again?
Karen: Action Teams.
Drew: Action Teams, I like that. Okay. So, I want to get involved and want to, let’s see… there’s a family down the street and their kid is sick and I want to raise money for this family.
Drew: Are you going to help me?
Karen: Yes. So you go to our website and you let us know, what it is that you want to do and we’ll send you $150 seed money to get the plan together. You gather your friends and family. We’ll send you some t-shirts, a banner, you go do your thing, celebrate when it’s done. Let us know how it all came together and-
Drew: So $150 that you guys actually give your members is to be used in what way?
Karen: Any way that they feel is necessary to get the initiative off the ground.
Drew’s Producer: And you don’t have to pay it back, right?
Drew’s Producer: No, okay. That’s important.
Drew: How are you guys making any money? You keep giving away all this money.
Karen: Well, we share our profits. So we’re not all about the bottom line. As you mentioned before, certainly we’re a for-profit organization and we need to make money to help others and to pay the claims and everything else that we’re in the business to do. But at the end of the day, we share a portion of our profits every year with our members.
Drew: We need to get you back in, two things. One, we went overtime, that went so fast. Two, there’s so much more to talk about. Would love to have you come back in.
Karen: I’d love that too.
Drew: Faithlifefinancial.ca – I would encourage you to check them out for two reasons. One, this give back thing is blowing me away and secondly, living generously. Hello? Makes sense to me.
FaithLife Financial takes no responsibility for the statements and opinions expressed by the radio show hosts or by participants on the program not representing FaithLife Financial. Statements or show topics are solely their own views and beliefs, and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of FaithLife Financial. This radio show is made available by FaithLife Financial for educational purposes, as well as to give general information and a general understanding of insurance, not to provide specific financial advice. The radio show content should not be used as a substitute for competent financial advice from a licensed insurance professional.
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