Devin D. Thorpe:  Championing Social Good

Devin D. Thorpe brings a broad perspective to LDS financial planning, having owned and operated an investment-banking firm, which included an investment advisory business, a mortgage brokerage and having served in a variety of corporate finance positions.

Presently, Devin serves as a business professor at South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, China on behalf of Brigham Young University’s Kennedy Center China Teachers program. Previously, he served as the Chief Financial Officer for the multinational company MonaVie, listed in Inc. Magazine’s 2009 Inc. 500 as the 18th fastest growing company in America and, at $834 million in revenue, the third largest company on the list. Prior experience includes two years working on the staff of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee during Utah Senator Jake Garn’s tenure. He also served briefly in Utah State Government, working at USTAR under Governor Jon Huntsman.

He earned an MBA with focus in Finance and Accounting from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. He completed his undergraduate degree in finance at the University of Utah, where he later worked as an adjunct professor of finance. In 2006, Devin was recognized by the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah as a Distinguished Alum.

In the Church, Devin presently serves on the high council in the Salt Lake Liberty Stake. Previously, he served as a seminary teacher along with his wife, Gail. He also served as a counselor in a stake presidency, a counselor in a bishopric, ward executive secretary, young men’s president, assistant scout master, three times as an assistant ward clerk, and in more elders quorum presidencies than he can count.

Devin ran his first marathon in 2011, finishing in 4:35.

You can reach Devin via email at devin@devinthorpe.com.

Prospering in the Lord’s Way

Over the years since I first began to make my way in the world, I have been interested in the repeated references in the Book of Mormon to prospering. Some form of the word prosper occurs 89 times in the Book of Mormon, most commonly in the context of the oft repeated promise, a form of which first appears in 1 Nephi 2:20,

"And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; year, even a land of promise…"


Prosperity in the Book of Mormon often led to pride, which would lead in turn to wickedness and being cut off from the Lord’s presence. Often, war would ensue with great and terrible losses. The humbled people would then repent and keep the commandments. The people would then prosper and the cycle would continue. The full cycle typically seems to take about a generous to develop, but at times it takes only a few years.

Today, we are at the same risk of being cut off when we as Latter-day Saints fail to live up to our covenants. 

Alma summarized the obligations associated with baptism as follows (Mosiah 18:8-9):

"…and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in, even until death…"

It is interesting to note that the enumeration of our duties is primarily to help, love and serve one another and to stand as a witness.

If we connect the ideas of prosperity to our baptismal covenant it seems to suggest that our obligation is to use our resources to care for the needy.

Of course, Jacob makes this point clear in his popular statement: 

But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ, ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

Jacob leaves little doubt about what we are to do with our promised prosperity. Giving directly to the poor and needy is no substitute for our tithes and offerings to the Church—many of which serve to feed the hungry and clothe the naked—but Jacob seems to leave little doubt that our obligation to give to the poor exceeds (but does not supersede) our obligations to the Church. In other words, it is not enough to pay our tithes and offerings, we must in addition seek out the hungry and cold and administer relief to the sick and afflicted.

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Self Reliance Presentation

Can you imagine giving a talk on self reliance to a group of homeless people and millionaires?

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to give a presentation in the 4th Ward of the Salt Lake Liberty Stake (the ward was among the original 29 wards organized in Salt Lake in 1849). 

The ward is interesting because it includes such a wide range of people. The Road Home homeless shelter is in the ward boundaries and as a result, there were about a dozen people living in the shelter in attendance as were a number of seniors in the ward who retired quite comfortably in urban condos located within walking distance of the Salt Lake Temple.

Despite the challenge of speaking to such a diverse group, I felt I was able to connect with the combined priesthood and relief society group that totaled about 80 people. 

After class, I had the opportunity to visit with some of the homeless men who had attended. They were enthused and gushed about their plans to become financially independent. 

Afterward, several of the wealthy members also praised the class, noting (of course) that it would have been better if more of the younger members had been in attendance.

The Bishop of the ward encouraged the priesthood and relief society leaders to continue the discussion of financial self reliance again this week.

Below you can review the slide presentation I used for the class.


What do you think? What should I have covered that I didn’t?
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How do I find a trustworthy financial advisor?

Finding someone you can trust in any field can be a challenge. Think about the person who does your hair; how long have you been going to the same person? What would happen if she suddenly left town? You want to have an even higher level of trust and confidence in a financial advisor.

Here are some tips to help you find someone you trust:

  1. There are lots of different types of financial advisors—you’ll need more than oneYou may already have an insurance agent for property and casualty, a separate agent for life insurance, an accountant who prepares your tax return, a stock broker who helps with your investments.
  2. Check for self-interested responsesAsk all of your financial advisors a basic question, like, how much should I be saving every month for retirement.

This article was first published at FamilyHow.com; to read the entire article, click here.  It is also included in my latest book 925 Ideas to Help You Save Money, Get Out of Debt and Retire A Millionaire So You Can Leave Your Mark on the Worldavailable for free at Smashwords or for $0.99 at Amazon.

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I just got a 10% raise; What should I do with the money?

Knowing what to do with a raise may determine whether or not it even mattered. If all you do with a raise is to spend more money on eating out and entertainment, it won’t matter much to your family in the long run that you even got the raise. Being strategic with the money can have a big impact on your family’s lifestyle in the long run.

Consider which of these circumstances best describes your situation and follow the guidance to get the most out of your raise.

  1. Awash in debtif you can barely make ends meet each month because you’re over extended, with credit card debt, car loans and maybe even a payday loan or two that are eating away at every penny you bring home. Put the money from the raise toward the smallest debts—probably the payday loans—to quickly reduce the monthly outflow for debt payments.

This article was first published at FamilyHow.com; to read the entire article, click here.  It is also included in my latest book 925 Ideas to Help You Save Money, Get Out of Debt and Retire A Millionaire So You Can Leave Your Mark on the Worldavailable for free at Smashwords or for $0.99 at Amazon.

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Newlyweds: 9 early decisions that will affect your financial future

Ideally, even before you get married you and your (future) spouse will sit down and talk about your vision of the future together. A centerpiece of that vision of the future should be related to financial things. Even things you may not consider “financial” have deep financial implications. Use this article as a guide to help you harmonize your view of the future now to keep your relationship strong over the next 50 years.

  1. Will you own a home?Take time to describe the type of home you’d like to have. Discuss the city and even the neighborhood where you’d like it to be. Talk about how much you’ll spend on your home.
  2. How many children will you have?This decision may have been made already, but be sure to confirm with each other what you plan to do. Don’t let financial considerations determine how many children you have: let the number of children you plan to have guide your financial planning. There is always a way.

This article was first published at FamilyHow.com; to read the entire article, click here.  It is also included in my latest book, 925 Ideas to Help You Save Money, Get Out of Debt and Retire A Millionaire So You Can Leave Your Mark on the World, available for free at Smashwords.

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Should we buy a home or keep renting?

After the real estate collapse of 2008-2010, it would be easy to conclude that owning a home is a risk not worth taking. That may be the wrong lesson to take away from the Great Recession.

A home is not a great investment. It won’t make you rich. If you hate yard work as much as I do, you’ll curse your home on the weekend. But, over the long haul, owning a home provides some key advantages over renting that are not entirely financial in nature.

1. Stability Some homeowners may move around frequently, but statistics show that approximately 33 percent of renters move every year compared with about 9 percent of homeowners. So, renters move almost four times as often as homeowners.

This article was first published at FamilyHow.com; to read the entire article, click here.  It is also included in my latest book 925 Ideas to Help You Save Money, Get Out of Debt and Retire A Millionaire So You Can Leave Your Mark on the World available for free at Smashwords.

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Balancing Entrepreneurship and Family; 9 Tips for Success


In America, we revere successful entrepreneurs (entrepreneurs are respected elsewhere but not quite like they are in America). We Latter-day Saints, who believe fiercely in self-reliance, sometimes inappropriately add another level of admiration for entrepreneurs, believing that their success may be evidence of worthiness.

 

Those cultural influences, together with a passion for a technology or other business idea often lead people to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are responsible for much of the economic growth in the world. Thank heaven for those who are willing to take the risks required to do so.

 

There are some challenges with entrepreneurship that we who believe family is sacred should remember. Consider the following a checklist to help you think about entrepreneurship—ideally before you start your business:

 

  1. Talk to your spouse. The first thing to do when you want to launch a business is to talk to your spouse about all of the painful realities of it—not just the piles of money you hope to make if you’re successful. Be sure your spouse understands the risk of failure (be sure you do, too—more on that below). Be sure your spouse is prepared to take up the slack as your focus shifts increasingly to your work. Talk openly and frankly about how you’ll manage money. Many successful entrepreneurs have noted that the most valuable thing their spouse did to support them was to work so they didn’t have to take (as much) money out of the business in the early days.
  2. Measure the risk. Most businesses fail. Your business will probably fail. The reason it may make sense to pursue it anyway is that if it succeeds, it may provide multiples of what you could otherwise earn. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that your business idea is guaranteed to succeed. I can’t think of a successful entrepreneur who couldn’t attribute much of his or her success to luck.

This article was published originally at Meridian Magazine; to read the rest of the article, click here.
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925 Ideas to Help You Save Money, Get Out of Debt and Retire A Millionaire So You Can Leave Your Mark on the World

925 Ideas to Help You Save Money, Get Out of Debt and Retire A Millionaire So You Can Leave Your Mark on the World from the author of the highly acclaimed book, Your Mark on the World, is a collection of articles about family financial planning that originally appeared at FamilyHow.com.

925 Ideas… is an easy and readable guide to help your family find financial peace.  Author Devin D. Thorpe explains: 

1) how you and your spouse can find agreement on money matters, 

2) how to teach your kids about money, 

3) how to pay for your children’s college education, 

4) how to live like a millionaire

5) how to come up with $25,000 in a crisis

6) how to make ends meet on one income

7) how to get out of debt and stay out of debt

8) why home ownership should be your family’s top financial priority

9) how to ask your boss for a raise

10) how to use your finances to do more good in the world.

And much more!

The book is available for FREE at Smwashwords.

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The Empowerment of Self Reliance

Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, offered this counsel  in January 2010, “We become self-reliant through obtaining sufficient knowledge, education, and literacy; by managing money and resources wisely, being spiritually strong, preparing for emergencies and eventualities; and by having physical health and social and emotional well-being.”


Service to others: 

By becoming self-reliant, we put ourselves in a much stronger position to serve others. While being able to provide substantial financial support when called upon would be nice, and those who have the financial means to do so certainly should, self-reliance empowers people to give generously of their time. Those whose work requires 80 hours or more per week will certainly struggle to offer the same level of service in the church, in the community and even to their family as someone with only a forty-hour work week.


Putting yourself in a position to serve a mission in retirement is a challenge for many members. It is financially difficult. If your home still has a mortgage as you transition to retirement, even if you and your family members are healthy, serving a mission will be more financially challenging. By liberating yourself from debt completely before retirement, you enable yourself to serve more effectively.


Agency: 


As a Latter-day Saint, you understand the plan of salvation offers us all the agency to make decisions for ourselves. Agency is as central to the gospel plan as the atonement, which is only necessary because we have agency. Anything that limits our agency impairs our ability to prepare to return to our heavenly father. We certainly see that concept in the Word of Wisdom, which discourages the use of habit forming substances from fatty foods to tobacco and alcohol.


Debt provides the same kind of limitation on our agency that tobacco does. Once we are in debt, it can take many years to extract ourselves from it. Dutiful payments made each month are often largely absorbed by the incessant encroach of interest, leaving pitiful progress in our effort to free ourselves from debt.


Debt alters our decisions in large and small ways. Once in debt, saving becomes more difficult and additional debt ironically becomes more tempting, ultimately becoming habitual and overwhelming. Almost all of us know a close friend or family member who has been through the cycle of accumulating debt to the point of bankruptcy more than once. The effects on the family are tragic. In the hour of experiencing the consequences of having too much debt, a family’s options are painfully limited—agency is restricted severely by the earlier exercise of agency.


Consider a hypothetical example. Imagine two families, one of which is deeply in debt, though with adequate income to support it and the other with no debt at all—even the mortgage has been repaid. How might their responses to an Apostle differ if called upon to serve as mission presidents? Though they might be equally righteous in every measure, the debt laden family might well have to decline the opportunity to serve while the other would have the flexibility to accept the call.


Keys to self-reliance: 


Following Sister Beck’s outline, the following are some keys for becoming self-reliant:

This article first appeared in Meridian Magazine.  Click here to read the entire article.

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Stock Picking For Fun

For some, stock picking is a fun way to stay connected to their long term financial goals; for others a chore.

Stock picking can be fun for those who have an interest in it. To others it sounds like the worse possible homework assignment. This article is really for those who think it sounds fun.

Skip it if you like: For those that find stock picking a painful or fearful idea, the good news is that you have no need to do it. By investing in mutual funds or ETF’s you can give the assignment to someone who likes it, is good at it and as far you’re concerned, works cheap. Everyone should have some exposure to stocks or equities, as they’re sometimes called, simply because they tend to generate higher returns than other financial investments. Perhaps the most efficient way to get broad exposure to stocks is by buying one of the broad market index funds that track the major indexes, like the Dow Industrial Average or the S&P 500. These funds usually have low expenses and few funds beat them consistently.

Now, for those who are interested in stock picking, a word or two of caution: Realistically, you cannot beat the market by choosing stocks well. You are only likely to beat the market consistently if you take more risk than the general market (which individual investors are prone to do, if only by accident). Many individual investors manage to lose money in upward trending markets and do no better when the markets turn down.

This article originally appeared in Meridian Magazine.  You can read the full article here.

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