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Making Noise to Tackle the Financial Education Problem

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Listen To The Podcast


We talked with Stoy about:

  • The need for financial education and how that conversation empowers people
  • What a modern family office provides and what people really want in a financial planner
  • How to get involved to educate the public on financial literacy and education

About Stoy Hall:

Stoy Hall founded Black Mammoth in 2020 with a mission: end financial illiteracy in the general population. Drawing from personal experiences and insights gained while working at the Boys and Girls Club, he established a modern family office to guide clients in financial planning and understanding the emotional aspects of money. Stoy urges us to amplify the conversation around financial education, advocating for increased engagement, teaching, and support to collectively address the financial education gap. 

Featured Resources & Shoutouts

Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:05):
Thanks for joining us.

Stoy (00:07):
Well, thank you. It's always great to have another Drake alum to speak to.

Lauren (00:11):
Yes, I know when we started going back and forth, I'm like, holy smokes, we’re both in financial services. And I was like, wait, you went to Drake too? So it's a really small world. It's good stuff. Always.

Stoy (00:26):
Representing, always.

Lauren (00:27):
Yes, that's right. It's a great place. So I'm thankful for the opportunity to chat with you today and also share that space in financial services but also your interest in financial literacy. So before we get going, let's just start with you. How did you get into those worlds? Where did you get to where you are today? Tell us a little bit more.

Stoy (00:47):
For sure. I'm born and raised from Omaha, Nebraska, and from a split family. I grew up realizing money was a factor, not only for my own family but everyone around me. Money always seemed to be a stressor and an issue, and growing up my mom always gave me gifts. That was great but we never were getting ahead it seemed like to me. And so growing up I knew, hey, the only way out for me was sports. I was a baseball player first but ended up being better at football and that's how I ended up going to Drake—to play football. And so I knew, hey, I want to get involved with money. And everyone starts with accounting. I don't know why we all do that way. My first accounting exam with Professor Hillman, Accounting 40, there's a blank piece of paper and I froze like you're supposed to do balance sheets and income statements, and I'm like this is blank. I need something. Give me a guideline somewhere.

I ended up getting a 40% on my first accounting exam. So I said I’m no longer going to go the accounting route. I want to get into more of the financial side of things. And so I did and got my degree in finance focused on the personal side of things, and then my minor in business law and insurance. And so I worked off-campus four and a half years at the Boys and Girls Club as well. And that's where it started to hone into me that we don't have financial literacy, what I call education nowadays, but we lack it from a very big global perspective. It was not in schools back then. And no one really talked about it. We didn't have a lot of resources or information. And so I knew I wanted to help start my career in insurance but like a lot of us do, quickly realized insurance sales is not for me. I'm more of a holistic financial planner, like a big picture thinker. And so in 2017 I left there, joined a firm that's out of Houston, helped them grow the firm up here in Iowa. And then in 2020 I launched my own firm, Black Mammoth. And the reason for that is I started to hone in on what I wanted to do. And that is more of a modern family office, because a lot of people 1) don't have the education, and that’s probably what we're going to speak a lot about, and 2) they want to have a team and someone they can just trust. They don't really care about investments. That's something driven from us in the media.

Stoy (03:14):
They just want to know, am I good? That's it. Am I good? Am I good to do this?

Lauren (03:18):
But peace of mind, right?

Stoy (03:20):
Yep. Peace of mind. That's really as simple as it is. And so that's what Black Mammoth is. We're a modern family office. We could do tip to tail—everything for you—or as little as nothing for you but ultimately we're here to be a part of your team and kind of guide you through life, through the journey of wealth building. And so that's kind of me. My background, I have multiple other firms too. We do estate planning. I used to have a commercial real estate business. So I've got a lot of experience in doing a lot of different things.

That's where my skill comes from is knowing things other people don't think about. And it's kind of a really cool little, I guess skill. I don't know. I think I've always had it right in football. I always had a high IQ figuring out what's going to happen or reading defenses or offenses. And in life now with financials it's the same way. I can see things others don't see and that's really what my clients love the most.

Lauren (04:15):
Yeah, I always hear the term thrown around in the space of an advisor being your financial quarterback but you've had the opportunity to tap into these different sides of it, not just sort of tease it but just kind of explore it. To actually be a part of, like you said, insurance and these other sides, I could see where that gives you a wider lens to be able to lean in and support further. So I'm really curious to talk about the idea of a modern family office—maybe we'll swing back to that—but I do want to hit on this idea of financial literacy, financial education. And where did that spark for you? Was it the work at the Boys and Girls Club? Was it just all along the way? What are you doing and how have you identified that as really a core focus area for you?

Stoy (05:02):
Yeah, it really hit when I was at the Boys and Girls Club; I always knew there was something but when I started to work with the teenagers, my title was Professional Teen Development Officer. I was a babysitter for the teenagers. But I started to understand they don't know about money and then their parents don't know about money and their parents don't talk about it. We have this huge, huge cycle heavy in the minority side of things as well with it. And so I started to recognize we have an issue and that issue is people just don't talk about it.

And we had curriculum at the Boys and Girls Club, we had curriculum with my insurance company and I spoke to every school department and head of things I possibly could to try to get curriculum into schools. And they wouldn't budge. They wouldn't do it. They didn't want to spend the time to have their teachers learn the curriculum to teach it. They didn't think it was important. And all these things kept spinning. And I realized that in our society, that's the issue. Not necessarily saying everyone should be fully educated in all the knowledge we have but a baseline of something.

Lauren (06:14):
Would be great for all of us.

Stoy (06:16):
Right? Money is the one thing we all deal with every day. I don't dissect frogs and sharks anymore. I did that in high school but that was part of science. I deal with money every day now at my job but we all do it. So that's really where it started and kind of grew from there and recognizing the fact that there weren't many options back then. Now that's only 12 years ago that I started. We've come a long way since then though; it is in schools a lot more.

Lauren (06:44):
I've seen that, which I'm like, yes, extremely pleasantly surprised, but keep going.

Stoy (06:52):
That means we're progressing. Everyone always asks, when do you know when you've reached the goal or whatever? We'll never reach that goal. I'll never reach the goal of ridding the world of financial illiteracy. However, these cool steps are happening. One step is it's in schools. Second step is even with my own content, people are wanting to have an open dialog and conversations. Regardless if I never reach the other goal, if this happens I’m going on a month's vacation and I’m just smiling for a month.

Ideally it would be math, science, history, English and financial education or whatever they want to call it. If it's part of our core understanding and learning of life then I know we’ve done something very well in our industry.

Lauren (07:43):
When you talk about that, are you talking about the high school level? 

Stoy (07:46):
I'm talking about everywhere, pre-K through normal living life adulthood. So from regular school to college it should be required within our employer stuff and learning. It should be a lifelong education system because it's a lifelong journey within wealth, and it's something you'll never reach the end of because when you die, it just passes on for a legacy plan. So you need to understand it's a lifestyle and it is also something that takes your entire life to accomplish.

Lauren (08:19):
And on a day-to-day, are there things you're personally leaning into to help see that come to fruition? I know you have podcast content as well, and having conversations, are you still involved with the Boys and Girls Club or other organizations? What kind of things are you doing to lobby these efforts, for lack of a better word, to be able to really push this agenda? I mean, it takes a force, right?

Stoy (08:49):
I used to, for about a decade; I stopped about two years ago. I would be actually lobbying and would be speaking to the governor. I would be part of different nonprofits and starting nonprofits and really trying to push the direction from more of the political side of things because that's what they tell you is the way to do it. Since then, I realized it's not my lane. I don't like it. I'm not comfortable. I don't like it. It's just not fun for me. What's fun for me and what my passion is is having the podcast and having open conversations and hard conversations

Lauren (09:22):

Stoy (09:22):
Literally anyone but a lot more so on social media. Everyone loves going to the comments. I love going to the comments and having an actual conversation regardless because people are watching. And that's something we as advisors, planners, and everyone in our industry need to understand as people are watching us more so than they're commenting. That's true. And so when they hear us repeat the same things they're learning, that's our job. That is our duty in this profession is to be involved and to be heard out there. 

Lauren (09:54):
Yes, I feel like because I've got the marketing lens on, and I feel like folks don't always realize that too. It's like I'm putting stuff out there but I've got just five folks who are engaged and I'm like but so many people are watching and they're not watching just that. They're watching the comments, they're watching the other things that have come in and people are right. It's part of the process and that's why it's so valuable. So I appreciate that you're not just sitting on the sidelines but actually engaging with what's going on. So we did an article in Advisor Perspectives around social listening and just all of that. So kind of fun to hear you say it from that perspective and the role you feel you play to be able to really make that change and be a change agent here.

So tell us a little bit more. Are you seeing that there's any particular challenges that need to be addressed in this space? I know you talked about it being in schools, other places. Are you seeing it from a top to bottom side of things? Does that need to be in, for example, in even your role day to day and how we engage with folks or on the banking side of things or offerings? I'd love to hear more about how we can reach more people and educate more people. And if the vein is just through school or if there's other opportunities to be able to reach folks.

Stoy (11:19):
It's really all of us collectively. I talk about this all the time. There is no competition when it comes to being a planner or an advisor. Why? Because there's millions and millions of prospective clients out there, and there's only 20,000 CFP®s. So the numbers are skewed drastically. The other way, just why don't they have one? Because they're not being heard. They're not being seen. Our industry has been really, really cool at providing investments in ROI and focusing just on people with money to make more money when that's not what financial education or financial planning is about.

It is about the core and that core is that person. If we don't start talking more about the emotional side of money and decisions and really understanding our clients, then this whole thing will fail.

Lauren (12:09):

Stoy (12:09):
Ultimately. And so it starts from the top, it starts from all of us involved in speaking more to the person and relating to them and understanding who truly they are. Then we can take that step and involve the numbers because numbers are numbers, one plus one's two, whatever your numbers are, we know we can do something. It’s facts. That's a number. However, that doesn't go into what you’re doing and how you feel about what's happening. And I use this knowledge all the time. It's like when we all go on the diet fads, whatever that diet fat is, we have a goal of losing weight and thinking it'll change our life. And it might in a very short period of time, a year or whatever. Once you get bored of it, guess what, you go right back and put on that weight. It's the same thing with your wealth building. And by the way, wealth does not equal money. I'll get to that in a little bit but it's the same thing, your wealth journey, it’s a lifestyle change. And if you don't understand who you are, what trauma you've been through and the emotions that come up when you make decisions, then whenever we do a financial plan or a budget or whatever it is, it's just a fad.

You can understand and tie who you are to the plan, then it's a lifestyle and that's when you actually see massive change and success in people.

Lauren (13:31):
Okay. Go back to what you were saying before. Wealth does not equal money.

Stoy (13:34):
Yes, wealth does not equal money. Okay. That's true. Wealth, money, and being rich are the same. So rich equals money. Money doesn't equal happiness but happiness equals wealth. And so everyone uses the terms of wealthy people, and I even do it. Wealthy people are actually the people who care more about themselves, their families, and are able to give back, not the billionaires or trillionaires who have all the money. And that is a difference in people.

Lauren (14:10):
Different mindset.

Stoy (14:11):
What really hit me was actually at Drake in May 2011 when we went to Tanzania and spent two weeks there. When we first got off the plane, first of all, they gave us the greatest opening and arrival thing ever. But as we're driving through the village, I just notice all the women are sweeping their mud floors, mud floors, to realize they're sweeping mud floors. You even sweep your own floor all the time. No, and we have really nice floors but they were so happy and so humble throughout that trip. And I recognized at that point in time, that's what wealthy means. Wealthy means you're happy, you're good with whatever you have, and you're able and wanting to give back to others regardless. That is being wealthy.

The Tanzanians I met are way more wealthy than almost any American I've ever met in my life, and that's because they understand that core value part of it. They don't have money. They're not rich but they are wealthy.

Lauren (15:12):
So well said. I appreciate you sharing that story. So in your day-to-day practice for what you're doing, you talked about this idea earlier of this modern family office. What does that mean for you and how are you helping to have those conversations around that rich versus wealthy, if you will, or even just being able to help educate folks or even to help those conversations domino throughout generations to you? Is there any specific methodology or anything you're doing that you feel like is kind of that modern bend to your approach to working with your clients?

Stoy (15:47):
Yeah. First, when we start I always ask everyone the same question, what's your first money memory, right? We've got to figure out where it all started and what you think of money. So all my clients, that's the first thing we do. We spend about an hour, hour and a half, on just like, what's money mean to you? If you have trauma in life, how were you raised? We get a baseline of why they're making decisions in what they're doing in today's world. So that's first and foremost. But the term modern family office, and most people don't know what an actual family office is but it is taking that traditional sense of family office, being able to take care of your legal stuff, the lending stuff, pay your bills, travel, so that way you can focus on your family in whatever money making thing there is for you. We modernize that because usually you have to have $25 million or more, and it's a big ordeal. I've recognized you can whittle that down to a business owner who can basically gross about $300, $400,000.

When you whittle down that concept, we're able to still do the same things and outsource it. So a prime example, I had a client, she's older, got in a car accident, called me a couple days later, and I was like, well, first of all, are you okay? Yes, thanks for telling me, but are you good? And she was completely fine, but the car was  totaled and she was dealing with the insurance side, and was like, I need a vehicle. I have a business to run. I need a car now. And I was like, okay, what do you want? She told me what kind of car she wanted. I called dealerships; I got a test drive scheduled. I called the lender, got the lending done, and I said, if you love that car, you can leave today with it or at least pick it up tomorrow. She spent a day figuring it out, did the test drive the next day, went and picked it up. Lending was done. All she had to do was sign a piece of paper. So that's the family office side of things. That's us taking more of that quarterback role and saying, I understand where you're at, the situation. I'm going to get everything done for you. All I need you to do is show up and see if you like or love it. And that's what we really want as people. We want to make sure, 1) am I good? And 2), do I have someone behind me who can support me if things don't go right? And that's our job. That is our duty as financial planners, in my opinion, to do that. And for me, that's more of a modern family office feel, aside from just focusing on investments or creating a financial plan, handing it to 'em and saying, good luck. It takes way more intuitiveness and way more being deeper in their lives. And that's why I've deemed it modern family office.

Lauren (18:25):
I love that. Also, just this idea of just taking care of people and reducing all the friction. So it's just everything's smooth and taken care of. I mean, that's service.

Stoy (18:36):
Yeah, for sure.

Lauren (18:38):
Well, goodness, I appreciate you sharing such an exciting, inspirational conversation. We are wrapping up here quickly though. So is there anything you think would be helpful to share if there's others who want to get involved or want to be able to give back, especially on the side of things, are there ways you would recommend either through specific nonprofits or just in day-to-day or what have you? I'd love to hear how others can help carry this mission forward.

Stoy (19:07):
There's a countless list of things you can do but I always have one big ask for everyone, and that is to help us all be louder. And what does that entail? That means sharing, that means engaging, that means being on podcasts and speaking what we want to speak in and be your real self by doing that. If we can get all 20,000 CFP®s, for example, how loud would that be? That'd be a lot louder than anything Schwab or Fidelity could throw out in the media. And for us to come together that way and be loud, that is the change I would love to see. So if you want to be involved, you can contact me. Go right ahead and do that. I've got a list of everyone I want you to be loud about and just keep being louder. That's my one big ask that I ask all the time.

Lauren (19:54):
I appreciate that. That's such a good message too. And when you say loud too, like you said, it sounds like louder talking with clients, being able to educate them. I know we mentioned earlier just online, right? Participating in the chatter in the conversation. I'm assuming even the lobbying side, if that's people's writing articles, other ways people can be loud to podcast, and we talked about that. I guess giving back through nonprofits, things of that sort.

Stoy (20:23):
Yeah, it's ultimately just doing what you like to do and taking that step forward and doing it. I know a lot of professionals in this industry who are just scared, whether it's compliance or who knows, but they won't take that step. And we need you. We as the professionals, and then we as clients need everyone to take that step for us to move this whole thing forward.

Lauren (20:49):
Yep. Well said. Well, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for the work you do and for sharing a little bit more about your approach and also your involvement with the community and really furthering this mission around financial education and what have you. So thank you again, and I'm looking forward to being in touch and just continuing to follow your journey.

Stoy (21:10):
Absolutely. Go Bulldogs.

Lauren (21:12):
That's right. Go Bulldogs.