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Steve’s Story

Steve’s Story

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Steve's Story

For Steve Gilbertson, CFP®, working with pro bono clients reaffirms a fundamental truth: “Humans are humans regardless of how many zeros are in their bank account.” A long-time volunteer with over a decade of pro bono experience, Steve notes that advisors can help anyone, no matter their financial position.

“The vast majority of people get into financial planning because they want to help people,” he says.  While there are many ways for advisors to serve those in need, the most meaningful way for Steve to contribute is by leveraging his financial planning skills: “I feel like I have a heart for helping people and the highest and best usage is pro bono rather than other paths.”

In 2007, Steve was invited to volunteer at FFP grantee Prepare + Prosper (formerly called Accountability Minnesota), whose mission is to help low to moderate-income clients reach financial well-being through various programs. In 2015, Steve worked with them to pilot Money Mentors. He has found the most enjoyment and fulfillment in a program, which pairs clients with a financial coach to work towards specific goals and create positive long-term financial habits.

“What I really love about Money Mentors is that it’s not just a one and done session. You work with people over time, coming up with action steps together and working with them to achieve them.” At Prepare + Prosper, Steve has engaged with 10 clients over 8 years in both long-term and short-term engagements, including helping clients to reduce credit card debt, build their credit score, save for college, and buy a home.

Steve’s personal connection with clients, and his ability to help them achieve their financial goals, are the most rewarding aspects of his pro bono work. One of his clients, Sarah Batz, first engaged with Prepare + Prosper as a client working with Steve and has since become the organization’s Financial Empowerment Manager (to read Sarah’s story, click here). Steve’s enthusiasm resonates as he shares the joy of assisting Sarah envision and achieve the life she aspired to create: “She had a vision to the kind of life she wanted to see happen—she was so eager, motivated, and clear on what her goals were.” To Steve, Sarah’s journey wasn’t just about financial strategies; it was about making her dreams a reality and empowering her to navigate their financial landscapes.

Over his many years of volunteer service, Steve has learned the value of collaborating with clients to find their own solutions: “I never know what’s going to come up in a session, but I always want my clients to feel empowered afterwards, and the best way to do that is by not having all the answers, but having a conversation about what answers might look like for them.”

Steve encourages other advisors to recognize that pro bono financial planning is about giving agency to clients on their unique journeys and guiding them to a place where they can achieve their goals. Pro bono clients learn to navigate incredibly challenging circumstances in their lives with determination and grace; he sees his role as “drawing out from people the insight they have within themselves” and developing action steps that help them to get to a better place. Steve says, “we are all human beings, we all want the same things, and there is no reason we can’t show up for each other.”

Published on March 4, 2024

“We are all human beings, we all want the same things, and there is no reason we can’t show up for each other.”
–Steve

OUTCOMES

Planner has helped clients to:

  • Achieve specific financial goals, such has buying a home and reducing credit card debt.
  • Create positive long-term financial habits.
  • Feel empowered to find the financial answers that work for them.