Christian retirement

Defining a problem and developing a consensus

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Have you ever noticed that sometimes there is a solution looking for a problem to solve?  Usually, it is the other way around and there are lots of problems looking for solutions.

The problem with problems is that they are “squishy." They are hard to grab, challenging to get your arms around, and definitely slippery rascals. Just when you think you’ve “got it” they slip away, morph into something different, or disappear entirely.

At least one wise person must have said, “If you can’t define your problem, you don’t have one.” That may be correct in a strict sense. However, instead of not having one, you may have a host of them masquerading under the cover of darkness.

A reasonable question to ask when a problem arrives on your plate is, “What problem are you trying to solve?” I’ve noticed that when asked that way, the problem messenger often stutters and spends considerable time and effort trying to describe it. They feel the pain of an issue but cannot detail its cause. They are convinced that a major challenge exists but do not understand it well enough to then proffer a solution.

A long time ago, an individual - I can’t remember who to give the credit to - opined that most problems are just symptoms. Symptoms that are masking the real issues creating conflict, pain, suffering or just confusion.

I remember deciding to live for a week using that perspective in virtually all conversations and interrelationships. Any action, activity, or observation I experienced, I mentally conformed it into a symptom and looked, probed, or investigated the issue searching for the real problem. What an amazing experience. I learned so much about myself, others, and the world we live in.

When you assume that everything has a root cause, the world explodes exponentially.

When told that someone could not make an appointment, it prompted the question, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Typically, the actual reason for the cancellation emerged.

When a staff member asked me to speak with a client, I asked, “Give me the background that leads to your request." Often there was an unstated problem that needed solving or a lack of knowledge that our training programs had not addressed.

Try it. Assume that the next issue facing you is a symptom and dig for the real issues before you even begin to address the surface symptom. I’d love to hear your stories.

Here is the bottom line on problems: If you can’t state them accurately or clearly, the proposed solution won’t solve the problem.

There is an interesting reverse issue. You develop a way to do something, a solution to a problem without knowing exactly what the problem is. Then you start casting around for the issue you can solve, and you find there is no clear problem available. Confusing and disconcerting, isn’t it?

Here is an example: 12 plus years ago I figured out a way to set up a retirement plan for workers outside the United States. Quite simple in some respects because all you have to do is set up an off-shore investment account and then record-keep the information according to a pre-agreed upon plan or formula. Easy, right?

Here was the problem: first of all, I could not find anyone to do the recordkeeping. Even more frustrating was that I could not find a consensus among any groups that desired or indicated they needed such a service.

Twelve years pass and I remember the solution conceived so many years before. Interestingly, I now have the answer to the record keeping part of the issue. Has anything changed about the issue of need?

On a recent speaking engagement in Greece, a mission organization leader asked, almost out of the blue, “Could you put together a retirement plan for the Foreign Nationals affiliated with our Mission?” Voila! The need surfaced and I already had the outline of a great answer. The problem slid into the solution, rather than the solution surrounding the problem.

Now the challenge is to determine if any other mission organizations have a similar need. In preparation for another missions conference, I contacted a number of mission leaders and posed the question. I then asked them to gather at the conference for a quick review of the topic and input from many into the subject.

Initially, the response was that there was very little need for such a program although it would be nice for the few people that would use it. What happened next was interesting. The group grasped the solution and began to dig into the pieces that made up the problem.

Should US mission organizations be responsible for funding the retirement plan for Foreign Nationals? Quite a spirited debate took place and out of it came the consensus that no, they were not responsible but that they would still be held accountable for the moral liability.

The dialogue then morphed into an understanding that there was the obligation to make sure the issue of long-term funding was understood and addressed by the non-US entities and their leadership. Along with that understanding came the realization that bringing an issue to the forefront of conversations creates the responsibility to provide, at the very least, a workable solution. Problem identification without solution leads to blame for the problem identifier.

We are in the process of now building a consensus around a newly recognized and understood problem using an operational solution 12 years in the making.

I thought you’d enjoy this somewhat unusual perspective about problems, their solutions, and building consensus together.

If you have input or further insight into this issue or anything related, please do not keep your light under a barrel. Comment below.

Bruce

Our future is a matter of heart.

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As Envoy continues to grow, serving more churches and ministries across the country and the world, we know planning for a future of service is not easy. It is made even harder when the financial services' industry insists on using green lines and toppling walls to encourage the masses to change the way they look at retirement.

Here is the bottom line: “How to" never motivated anyone to change behavior or revamp priorities.

The only time I've noticed effervescent joy from following a “how-to” is when the assembly instruction is finally deciphered for a child's toy and the toy actually works. Upon reflection, maybe the joy is just the release of adrenaline, or relief, or the amazement of our spouse and in- laws. It is worth noting that such a task takes both heart and perseverance to conquer. It may also be so embarrassing to fail, that literally fighting through to victory is the only legitimate option.

After the discovery, pain, fear, and prayers of the last month because of Judy's calcified heart valves, I feel so much closer to issues of the heart now than I did before the discovery. This heart-rending event almost crushed my heart, while binding our hearts closer together at the same time.

Isn't it strange how pain leads to strength and how matters of the heart changes course our lives?

Change Your Heart. Change Your Retirement.

Can we agree that when our heart, our emotional core, is impacted we chart new courses and learn lessons? At Envoy, we noticed over the years that most people, faith-based or otherwise, don't save for retirement consistently. As leaders of our respective organizations, we do know that not only is this bad for the individual and related family members, it negatively impacts our organization and hurts our ministries. So is there something we can do? Can we change their future and our organizations too? Sure we can!

  1. Watch this video of Dan, a lifelong missionary, and hear how Future-Funded Ministry has impacted his life. Leadership suggests forward movement with wisdom and energy! To accelerate this movement it requires an understanding of Future Funded Ministry and then challenging our staff to understand and embrace it too.

  2. Download the eBook, Live with Meaning: Understanding the Power of Future-Funded Ministry. Read it yourself, then recommend it to your senior leadership and staff.

Making this heartening and faith-based perspective part of your organization's DNA will impact lives. And isn't that what leaders are called to do?

Have matters of the heart changed your perspective on life? People? Retirement? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

We continue our journey with Trusted Advice Along The Way.
Bruce

We can be better than this

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Is this the best we can be?

There are times when we are challenged as a nation—a people—to look beyond our own individual self-interests. I am reflecting on this point as the “gun control” conversation swirls around us.

During my lifetime, these moments of reflection have come as the result of someone dying. The deaths of Franklin RooseveltJohn KennedyBobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King are points in time that have become permanent fixtures in my mind.

There are times when we are challenged as families to look beyond ourselves. These too often come as the result of a death. I think of the passing of my mother, father, and brother, as well as uncles, aunts, and cousins.

During the shock, pain, and sadness, I (maybe all of us) allow my mind to drift towards the meaning of these lives. Not only the meaning but also the guiding principles for the future that their lives suggest. Roosevelt's, the Kennedy's, and Martin Luther King’s prompt personal courage in the face of major challenges. Examples closer to home include my mother’s admonition to ‘love and forgive,’ and my Dad’s creative energy and unrelenting commitment to ‘make it better.’ My brother’s life (he died of AIDS) prompted a deeper understanding of the need to persevere.

The more recent shooting deaths across our country prompt reflections that involve social issues and questions that start with “How could … ?”

When Obama stated “We can be better than this,” I echo “Right on.”

Regardless of what you think of his politics, you cannot doubt the value of this very human question each of us must reflect and ask: “Am I contributing to the better?" “Am I sitting on the sidelines?” Or maybe “Am I part of the problem?” President Kennedy’s inaugural challenge to all of us is part of our National heritage: “Ask not … but what you can do for your country!

It seems—after 7 decades of life—that a key question posed by Martin Luther King is very relevant. He said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’”

These penetrating questions about life are independent of politics and cut to the very heart of “Being Human.”

As followers of Jesus, we are challenged to be “better” and to be thankful. When we are not thankful, and our “humanness” takes over, Grace is sufficient. We see this desire to be “better” played out in one of life’s great learning laboratories, developing a Future Funded Ministry. In this laboratory, we have the challenge of a lifetime: creating a financial base from which we can truly experience a Lifetime of Service. A Lifetime of Service that allows us to decide how much better we can be, and to whom we are going to minister, to serve. The Future Funded Retirement Plan provides the freedom to “be better” by doing better.

One of our Plan Sponsors recently asked me, “What is the most important reason for having a retirement plan?” My answer? “We demonstrate our love for God by preparing for—and then choosing to—serve others for a lifetime. That is the heart of Future Funded Ministry.”

We can all be better. Here is one formula: A good plan. A little help. Persistent effort. And a lot of prayer. Join me in the endeavor?

Let me know your thoughts and comments. Our dialogue continues.

Living with Trusted Advice together,

Bruce