The checkbook and the calendar don’t lie. I can truly tell what’s most important to clients by looking at where they spend their time and money. When something is important enough, they will make room in the schedule and budget.
Over the last 11 years, my monthly schedule regularly includes volunteer hours with Junior Achievement of Chicago. I have volunteered in dozens of classes through bringing lessons in entrepreneurship, work readiness, financial literacy and general economics to children from Kindergarten through Grade 12. I do this for a number of reasons:
- Giving Back to the Community. I enjoy finding opportunities to get involved where I live and work. Every volunteer opportunity provides a chance to make our community a little closer, a little stronger, a little friendlier by giving of our time and talents.
- Keeping it Simple. Albert Einstein said “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really know it yourself.” Explaining monetary concepts to children keeps me looking for elegantly simple ways to explain similar financial ideas to adult clients and prospects.
- Appreciating the Teachers. Respect for the preparation and training teachers have in maintaining order, while opening minds expands exponentially after spending a morning keeping a classroom of 2nd graders enthusiastically engaged. I challenge you to try it yourself.
- Networking with other like-minded professionals. Junior Achievement is a not-for-profit organization that is funded by corporate and personal donations. The classes are all presented by volunteers from the community. I have made connections to numerous similar professionals taking time to make a difference in developing today's youth.
- Providing an opportunity to learn. Many times we find that the teachers and parents of the children we lead don’t have the time or skill set to present the keys to building a secure financial future for the classroom children. Sharing concepts like profit and loss, free markets, marketing branding and advertising, understanding skill sets and interests, finding financing, saving and investing, classifying resources, and having a business plan are not topics that many families talk about around the dinner table. If not presented through JA, they likely would not be considered until college. Time is a "frenemy". Getting an early start with strong financial decision making can help provide a lifetime of financial security. Waiting too long, or making early mistakes can lead to a lifetime of financial stress as time passes.
- Enjoy being a treasured guest and role model. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou Spending time in the classroom as a professional from the community can be the inspiration for children to stay in school and strive to become the future-self they envision. We can take the time to be helpful, approachable, funny, and empathetic. The heartfelt “thank you” from the students and faculty is always a bright spot in my day and keeps me coming back.
As we approach the season of giving, or you consider making a New Year’s Resolution, I challenge you to find a local organization that may need benefit from receiving freely of even a few hours of your time. There are plenty of worthy organizations that would welcome your time and talents with open arms. Consider making a year end charitable gift to a not for profit organization that aligns with your values and goals.
In a country that seems ever more divided, take a moment to follow the advice of Mahatma Ghandi and “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”