Investing for the Future

Monday, February 25, 2019

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas to attend the Annual Ascend Conference, organized by Kestra Financial. It’s a three-day jam-packed event with many guest speakers and several continuing education sessions designed to improve your business practices; including but not limited to asset allocation, income producing assets, and a host of many other trending investment topics.

As always, it was a great event, and I would highly recommend attending in the future. This year, eight of our financial advisors participated in the conference. It was fantastic to see many on our team spending their time, money and focus to invest in their future, and our clients’ future by attending this top-notch conference this year.

Perhaps the highlight of the conference was when our firm was awarded “The Outstanding Practice of the Year.” While we could not be more grateful for the acknowledgment and recognition of our firm’s efforts by Kestra Financial, we have to admit, one of the most exciting parts of winning this award was the charity of our choice would receive a $5,000.00 donation from Kestra Financial.

Immediately after receiving this fantastic news, we could not wait to announce the charity of choice – It’s a non-profit, whose mission is very near and dear to our firm’s heart - Junior Achievement of Southwest Michigan. When I was asked why we chose Junior Achievement as our charity, all I could think about was the charismatic 5th graders in my volunteer classroom at Moorsbridge Elementary School. Currently, I’m in the middle of my volunteering session, where I can get to know these students every week by taking a little time out of my schedule to introduce a few different financial topics to these enthusiastic 5th graders.

The mission of Junior Achievement (JA) is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy by empowering young people to own their economic success. Think about that mission statement for just a minute…. JA’s Mission Statement is almost the exact opposite of the messaging many of our young people hear from today's elected officials and aspiring presidential candidates. The idea of being responsible for your economic future, while at the same time having politicians float the idea of a basic universal income, guaranteed by our government, whether your work or not… can be incredibly confusing for these young students to digest based on the hear-say of our media. Which of those two concepts of the future should we invest in?

Every JA program from Kindergarten to a High School focuses on three educational themes called the “Pillars of Student Success.” One of those three pillars is Financial Literacy. Over 60% of teens do not know the difference between cash, credit cards, and checks. Student loan debt overall is now more significant than the credit card debt in the United States. I have the privilege to go into a classroom and explain what a mortgage is, to tell what debt is, to show a child on how to write a check, etc. Please believe me when I say the public schools are not teaching these essential life skills.

The second pillar taught in JA is The Entrepreneurship Pillar. Over 67% of teens would like to own their own business someday – How amazing is that? However, risk and the possibility of failure were identified as a deterrent by over 74% of teens as the reason why they would not attempt to start their own business someday. As a volunteer and a small business owner, I have the honor to be in the classroom to share my experiences when it comes to meeting payroll, the expenses of running a business, and the rewards of owning a business. I can only hope that by having the opportunity to explain how these real-life experiences will plant a seed in one of those 5th graders minds that he or she could have the next great idea. An idea that could someday change how we all live, and with the right preparation, it’s always worth exploring.

The third pillar of student success taught in JA is The Work Readiness pillar. A vast majority of students identified connecting education to the workplace, job shadowing opportunities and programs that introduce you on how to work well with others, as one of the top three things schools can do to help students prepare for a successful career. In my corner of Southwest Michigan, the number one challenge employers are facing is finding workers with the skills that are needed to be employable in today’s ever-changing workforce.

Outside of Junior Achievement’s impressive curriculum, what is unique about this organization is that it does not receive any federal dollars. As a functioning non-profit, Junior Achievement entirely depends on volunteers from the business community, donating their time and experience, and yes, sometimes dollars to help invest in the future of our young children and teenagers.

From my own experience, volunteering with Junior Achievement has been one of the most worthwhile ways I have been able to impact our next generation of students in our local community.

As I slowly step off my Junior Achievement soap-box, I hope you would consider how unique and worthwhile it is to support this outstanding local organization. There are numerous and simple ways you can help support JA if you are interested in getting more involved:

  • You can volunteer in a local classroom;
  • You can adopt your own child’s school by donating to help cover the cost of the program materials for a class; or
  • You can help The Wiser Financial Group continue to support JA for the JA Bowlathon that is taking place on March 8th!  See our team!

In all areas of my life, I feel blessed to be able to help individuals feel confident of how understanding finances can change your life and the lives of others. In our community, Junior Achievement can be investing in the future of our next generation by inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. In my day today, as a financial advisor, our team can help clients invest in their financial security in the future.

From all of us, at The Wiser Financial Group, we could not be more grateful that by focusing on being the best firm we can be, for our clients and team, our efforts can help fuel the next wave of financial literacy. Thank you, Kestra Financial for the award and opportunity to pay it forward to Junior Achievement of Southwest Michigan!


Wesley Lentz Wesley Lentz

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