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Advice through the generations

Klawitter family spends time together
Thrivent life insurance has made a difference for four generations of the Klawitter family. Pictured left to right: Cora, Sophia, Ezekiel, Joyce, Carla, Wylie and Angela.
Thomas Strand

Two multigenerational families share how Thrivent is helping provide guidance, protection, comfort and impact.

What’s most important to you? What are your goals, your dreams? What legacy will you leave to the next generations?

“These can be tough questions, but your answers may help you find clarity and develop an actual game plan that can take you in the direction you want to go,” says Stephanie Shields, Thrivent wealth advisor in Costa Mesa, California. “It’s important to have these conversations and build your financial strategy before there’s a crisis.”

With a history that spans 120 years, Thrivent is passionate about providing personalized financial advice that reflects your goals, faith and values—and that lasts through the generations.

Advice is about protecting your valuable assets (including your income) and saving for retirement, education and other important needs. It’s also about helping you create a lifetime income source from what you’ve saved and establishing in advance how your estate assets could be distributed. Finally, it’s using tax-efficient financial strategies to manage your tax liability—today and for
future generations.

Read on to learn how advice from Thrivent has made a difference for two multigenerational families.

Protecting lives with insurance

Angela Fischer-Sussner knows the value of having a financial strategy. When her husband, Joe Fischer, died in an accident in 2005, the couple had three children: Emmett, 4; Thor, 3; and Sophia, 10 months. And Angela didn’t know it, but she was pregnant with Cora.

“I was able to stay home and raise our family because of the life insurance Joe had and the financial planning he had done,” says Angela, of Marshall, Minnesota. After Cora was born, she purchased additional life insurance from Thrivent for herself and policies for each of their children. She also had a will created.

“Joe’s death was a really big learning curve for me,” Angela says. “Twenty-somethings think they are invincible, that nothing will happen to them. Well, at 34, I hadn’t yet thought about what someday would look like if something happened. All of a sudden, I found out there’s a whole other part of life, and that’s called death. And if you don’t have a plan, you can get sucked under so fast.”

Angela, along with siblings Ross, Wylie and Reese are third-generation Thrivent clients who received the gift of life insurance from their parents, Carla and Keith Klawitter, of Morgan, Minnesota.

“I knew that buying life insurance was important because my mom and dad had done it for me,” Carla says. “It was affordable to get the kids started, and they would have policies like we did.”

Carla’s parents, Joyce and the late Delwood Wolff, started the Thrivent legacy in 1956 when they purchased life insurance from a financial advisor at their church. They were farmers, and they wanted to plan for their future. This included purchasing life insurance for their children.

For Carla and Keith, their permanent life insurance policies helped their family’s finances through the years. “We’ve borrowed from it, always paying it back,” she says. “It helped pay for college for our kids.”

Angela’s sister Wylie never thought much about her life insurance until she had children. Her son Ezekiel is 11, and her daughter Hazel died in 2017, three months after birth, from a diaphragmatic hernia. As an eligible client with membership, Wylie received a grant from Thrivent as part of its support package for grieving parents.

It was shortly after Hazel’s birth that Wylie learned she had thyroid cancer. Hazel died Feb. 22, and Wylie had her thyroid removed March 13.

“I didn’t need radiation, but my vocal cord was nicked,” she says. “I don’t have life insurance through work, so my Thrivent policy gives me a little sense of comfort.” Wylie’s cancer diagnosis could affect her ability to buy future life insurance, so she is especially grateful to have her policy in place.

1.7 billion
Life and health insurance benefits paid, protecting clients and their families.*
The year that Thrivent’s oldest active contract was purchased.
The number of life contracts active today that were purchased 1928-1933.

In addition to life insurance, Carla and Keith value the financial advice they receive from Nancy Hansen, Thrivent financial advisor in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, especially with retirement planning. Keith retired from teaching in 2010 and Carla from the Southwestern Minnesota Synod Office of the ELCA in 2019.

“Keith knows that if something happens to me, Nancy needs to be his first call,” Carla says. “Her team will take care of him.”

Hansen and her team serve many multigenerational families, and the team itself is multigenerational. Her sons, Jacob and Jed, both have joined her team. “It’s important that we match our clients with the right financial advisor to meet their needs and goals,” she says.

“It’s just really interesting when you can see values around money transferring from one generation down to the next,” Hansen says. “There’s pride in Carla’s mom’s voice when she talks about protecting their farmland years before and making sure the kids inherit something. Basically, it’s what they worked their entire life for, and she wants to know she’s passing something down. And the Bible tells us to take care of future generations. That’s what this is.”

It’s just really interesting when you can see values around money transferring from one generation down to the next. ...And the Bible tells us to take care of future generations. That’s what this is.
Nancy Hansen, Thrivent financial advisor

While times have changed since this family’s first policy was issued in 1956, the value and importance of the advice they chose to follow from the Thrivent financial advisors who have served them through the years hasn’t changed.

“We’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” Angela says. “People can’t think they are going to live to 95 and have the world by the tail. Accidents. Cancer. They happen. If you don’t have a plan, you’re going to fall on your tail. Joe’s death opened my eyes so much to what I used to take for granted.”

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Advice Through the Generations

Creating a legacy

A medical mission trip in July 2013 gave Duane and Juliet Saikami the chance to make a difference in Honduras, and it also opened the door to leaving a legacy that exceeded their expectations.

It was the second trip the Saikamis, from Irvine, California, had taken through Christ Lutheran Church in Costa Mesa. Also on this mission was Thrivent Wealth Advisor Stephanie Shields. The Saikamis and Shields formed a fast friendship that grew when they returned.

“When you’re in another country and out of your comfort zone, you tend to have much deeper conversations,” Shields says. “While there, I learned about Duane’s business plans. We also talked about the family’s desire to be generous, and that’s where we really connected.”

Duane, a Doctor of Pharmacy, was co-owner of 27 pharmacies in communities throughout California. Juliet, a registered nurse, stayed at home while their children, Kelsey and Daniel, were young. “Quitting my job to raise our children was the best decision we ever made,” Juliet says. “Duane was consulting at that time, so it was a leap of faith to go to one income.”

When the couple met Shields, they knew retirement was coming and had an exit strategy for the business, but no date. Neither of their children were interested in the business.

They worked together to develop financial strategies that took into account their faith and values, as well as their dreams for their children, church and other family members. Through Shields' referrals, the Saikamis selected an attorney to help them transfer business assets to their children in the most protected way.

“There are limitations on how much you can generationally give to your children, but there are ways to maximize it,” Duane says.

Kelsey and Daniel were actively involved in all the discussions, and also trust Shields for their financial questions.

“Investing can be intimidating for our generation,” says Kelsey, 32, who lives in Austin, Texas. “We didn’t learn about stocks and diversification in school. Being able to talk to Stephanie helps me understand the process. It makes it less intimidating and more strategic. And it’s made it fun.”

One of the most important things my dad taught me is that people matter. It doesn’t matter how much you have. It’s your character, how you treat people and the relationships you form that matter. If you have the means to give, you should.
Kelsey Saikami, a second-generation Thrivent member in Austin, Texas

With a desire to include charitable giving in their financial strategy, the Saikamis, using funds from the sale of the business, worked with Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing® (Thrivent Charitable) to create the Saikami Family Fund. By using some of the assets to establish the fund, the family was able to deduct taxes in the year the gift was given. Then, during a family retreat in 2021, which included Shields, they developed their vision and mission for how and to whom they would distribute funds now and into the future.

“Basically, our vision is to use the funds to share God’s love with those who know him and those who don’t,” Duane says. “We’re stewards of whatever we have. It is not ours; it’s from God.”

Duane, Juliet, Kelsey and Daniel meet annually to discuss and choose the organizations they want to support. Each has their own area of interest, from local churches and homeless shelters to environmental and health care organizations.

“It gives us the opportunity to talk about the organizations we want to support and why they are meaningful to us,” Kelsey says.

They plan to distribute 10% of the fund each calendar year, and ultimately the goal is to give away all the funds during their children’s lifetime.

“One of the most important things my dad taught me is that people matter,” Kelsey says. “It doesn’t matter how much you have. It’s your character, how you treat people and the relationships you form that matter. If you have the means to give, you should.”

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How Thrivent can help

Thrivent financial advisors take a purpose-based approach that focuses on money as a tool that can help you get where you want to be. Through collaboration, they can:

  • Understand where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow.
  • Strategize based on your unique situation.
  • Implement action items that reflect your priorities.
  • Adapt your plan for life changes and celebrate progress.
  • Work with future generations to see your legacy continued.

Reach out to your Thrivent financial advisor or find one near you. Or if you have a question, want to purchase a contract or make a change to an existing contract, reach out to Thrivent’s Virtual Advice Team at 855-303-7402.

*As of December 31, 2022.

Thrivent and its financial advisors and professionals do not provide legal, accounting or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional.

Loans and surrenders will decrease the death proceeds and the value available to pay insurance costs, which may cause the contract to terminate without value. Surrenders may generate an income tax liability and charges may apply. A significant taxable event can occur if a contract terminates with outstanding debt. Contact your tax advisor for further details. Loaned values may accumulate at a lower rate than unloaned values.

Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing® is a public charity that serves individuals, organizations and the community through charitable planning, donor-advised funds and endowments. Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing works collaboratively with Thrivent and its financial advisors. It is a separate legal entity from Thrivent, the marketing name for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.