Steven Michael Lear lives the good life, though perhaps not in the way that you might think. “I have a luxury at this point in my career that not everyone has. I have been around for 30 years, the kids are almost off my payroll, I started saving when I was 25, and I have a lovely wife who is not very materially high maintenance,” he says, with a chuckle. “That combination allows me to do all sorts of other things.” All those other things are numerous philanthropic projects, some of which, in turn, encourage philanthropy in others. He spends forty hours a month on philanthropy, he says.
In fact, Lear seems always to be starting a new project. Today, he is working to launch the PCU Institute, a non-profit group that would help planners improve their ability to talk to clients about their goals. In 2007, he founded The Generational Generosity Planning Company, which helps individuals design a personalized charitable giving legacy. In 2005, he founded The PhilanthropicWill Company, which offers financial advisors free tools they can use to encourage philanthropy in their clients. And in 1993, he founded Nechama, the Hebrew word for comfort, and an organization that provides disaster relief to communities throughout the United States. Earlier that same year, he went to Des Moines, Iowa, where several friends lived, to help the community rebuild after a major flood. It was his first experience with disaster relief and he was hooked. He has since been involved in 40 cleanup efforts.
Lear also teaches financial literacy to high school students in Minnesota and since 2002, has given over 120 presentations for a group called “Understanding the Middle East Project,” which aims to work on resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Lear got off to a rough start in the financial advisory business but he had a good mentor. Four months in and not getting anywhere, he asked the guy who hired him, Doug Lennick, then district manager at IDS, “Do you think I'm trying too hard?” Lenoch told him to try having a little more fun with the business. He did. The strategy worked.
Just two weeks ago, Lear decided to let his firm take direct control of his client accounts, because he can afford to and because he wanted more time to devote to his philanthropy. “My dad never had the luxury of being a philanthropist,” he says. “I do it for selfish reasons. I get as much out of it if not more than the person who is receiving.”
Firm: Affiance Financial / Financial Network Investment Corp.
City: St. Louis Park, MN
Years as a rep: 30
Years with current firm: 17
Production: $1.3 million
AUM: $242 million
Product mix: stocks, 37.5%; managed accounts, 62%; insurance, 0.5%.
Specialty: financial planning, investment and insurance planning, estate planning, asset allocation, and retirement planning for individuals and small businesses.
Designations, licenses: 63, 65, 7, 24, ChFC, CLU.