Seeds for Sowing

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by Grant Sims

As we look back on life there are memories of difficult times, chapters of progress, and defining moments that tell a story of how we became who we are. We recognize that skipping any hard part or successful achievement could have led us somewhere different. Knowing the journey was worth it, we reflect with a feeling of adventure, satisfaction, and joy for where it has brought us.

This is exactly where we find Mike and Cindy Stein. They are looking back over the years since they got married and are amazed at the journey that brought them to their present joy! Twenty-five years ago they had no emergency fund, no savings plan, and were not sure how they would ever retire.

It was their desire for Cindy to be a stay-at-home mom that drove them to live as frugally as possible. In order to live off just Mike’s salary, they reduced their expenses and eliminated their debt (other than house and car payments). Cindy said, “We were able to live, but there was nothing to save.” 

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While living in Chicago, they attended a Crown Financial Study at their church and learned more about the importance of prioritizing savings and giving back to God first. This was the first time the order in which you give back really jumped out at Mike. Most people he knew made money and spent most, or all of it, before thinking about giving. In the meantime, Cindy already had a generous heart but she was waiting and praying for years that Mike would gain the same perspective in this area of their finances. Wishing they would have gone through a course like this long before, they felt a strong conviction to make serious changes to their finances.

First, they made the decision to move to a city with a lower cost of living, then started implementing the steps from their financial class by establishing an emergency fund and utilizing the retirement plan at Mike’s new job.

Not long after that Mike and Cindy attended an event for his work where the speaker, an extremely generous giver, shared his story of increasing his giving by 1% every year and the impact it had on his and his wife’s perspective on life and money. This story encouraged Mike and Cindy to take this same step of faith and start to increase their giving 1% each year going forward, starting at the 10% they were already committed to.

Years later, Mike and Cindy decided to pursue a business venture that would help supplement their income.  They like to joke that even though this particular business venture was Mike’s idea, Cindy was the one that ultimately ended up running it.

After years of managing the business and significantly increasing its value, Cindy was tired and ready to sell.

When they approached Munn Wealth about the tax ramifications of selling their business, knowing both their story and their hearts for generosity, it was clear they could benefit from utilizing a Donor Advised Fund (DAF).

In simple terms, a DAF is a giving account that allows donors to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction and then recommend grants from the fund over time. A DAF can be funded with cash, securities, or other appreciated assets.  It is an easy sell when you have the opportunity to increase your giving by 15-25% or pay that percentage to Uncle Sam.

Upon hearing of this opportunity, Mike and Cindy were excited about the potential to save thousands of tax dollars on the sale of their business and designate additional money for future giving.

Remember that promise to increase giving by 1% each year? Well that was 15 years ago and they have been faithful to give 12 . . . 18 . . . 21 . . . and now 25% of their income. When it came time to decide how much they wanted to give, they did not base it off tax savings or how much they needed to keep so they could retire right away, they wanted to honor their promise and continue their current giving level – 25% of all their sale proceeds.

Most people would have a terribly hard time giving away 25% of their income or the proceeds of a business they worked so hard on, but as Mike and Cindy shared their story they could not have been more excited about the impact these dollars will have on the charities they support or the new ones they will now be able to help fund.

Mike and Cindy recognized their decision to grow in generosity had an amazing impact on their lives and wanted to share that in a special way with their children. What better way to teach generosity than to provide your children with the opportunity to be generous, especially if they don’t have the financial means to do so?

They called a family meeting. Their daughters were skeptical; “Are mom and dad moving to Mexico? Taking a trip around the world? What is going on?”  They shared their story of generosity and faithfulness, followed by telling their daughters that when they opened and funded their own DAF they decided to open and fund one for each of their daughter’s families too. It was a gift--not cash to be spent, but to be given away. Their desire was for each family to identify causes they were passionate about and find nonprofits to support that are focused on that specific cause.    

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That night and the following days were full of conversations about how they wanted to use the money. One family feels very passionate about underprivileged kids and schooling, and the other about international missionary work. They are now in the exciting phase of selecting  which nonprofits will best use their money and how much to give each.

 “This whole thing was so fun,” Mike and Cindy agreed.

For their own DAF, which they named, “Seeds for Sowing”, Mike and Cindy have chosen to focus their giving on helping nonprofits improve their donor management and engagement, as this is closely tied to the work Mike does. They believe there is a great opportunity to impact organizations through the development of better systems and fundraising plans.

It’s a pleasure to be a part of Mike and Cindy’s story and observe their joy and gratitude for what has happened, and their enthusiasm and excitement for the impact their generosity will have.