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Staying in control

After her husband’s diagnosis, a Thrivent client learns the importance of understanding family finances.

Debi Espe
Committee Films

When Debi Espe’s late husband, Garry, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor in October of 2012, the couple from Woodbury, Minnesota, met with their lawyer to make sure they had a plan.

“We knew we had most things in order, but Garry was my financial planner,” Debi says. “We didn’t meet with a professional outside our home; he took care of all our finances.

Their lawyer suggested they meet with someone to help them prepare financially. They went to Thrivent Financial Advisor Nick Rasmussen in Willernie, Minnesota. At the time, Debi was still working as a flight attendant, and planning for her retirement was among the financial moves they needed to discuss. “This was all new to me,” Debi says.

That first meeting was over a decade ago, and Debi is grateful. Though Garry died in March of 2014, she feels financially secure, enjoys volunteering and spends as much time as she can with the couple’s four children, their spouses and their four grandchildren.

Knowing that Debi was charitably minded, one of the questions Rasmussen asked her in their meetings was how she’d like to pay it forward in her future. About three years ago, with the help of Thrivent, Debi decided the time was right and established a donor-advised fund. Together the family annually determines who the recipient of that year’s funds should be.

“The first year it was the American Brain Tumor Association because of Garry’s brain tumor,” she says. “It’s a teachable moment to my kids. They’ve all come away hoping they someday can do something similar.”

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Taking the Reins | Debi’s Story | Follow Your Heart with Thrivent

Debi has set up 529 education savings plans for her grandchildren. She’s also gifted education savings plans to two children in a family she knows from church.

“It’s such a sweet feeling knowing that I’ve been able to help them in a little way,” she says. “Coming from my meager background, I never would have thought I would be able to pay it forward and give as I’ve been able to.”

Now Debi knows that even though Garry managed the couple’s finances, she should have been more in the loop. Even simply knowing where to find the passwords for financial accounts. “He had brain surgery, and he also had a stroke,” she says. “His thinking was limited post-surgery; he couldn’t come up with them." 

Debi was physically tired from caring for his needs, she says, and mentally tired, too, as she already was grieving the loss of the life they had together.

In the first years after he died, and even now, she has a strong message for women she meets about taking their finances seriously, even in the supporting role.

“You don’t need to be involved if you don’t want to, but just know where everything is. Have a cheat sheet,” Debi says. “You never know when you’ll need it. You never believe it’s going to happen to you. And then it does.”

The client’s experience may or may not be the same as other clients and does not indicate future performance or success.

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.

Offered through a brokerage arrangement with Thrivent Investment Management Inc. 529 college savings plans are not guaranteed or insured by the FDIC and may lose value. Consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses associated before investing. Read the issuers official statement carefully for additional information before investing. Investigate possible state tax benefits that may be available based on the state sponsor of the plan, the residency of the account owner and the account beneficiary. Consult with a tax professional to analyze all tax implications prior to investing.