Matthew Chope, a planner and partner with the Center for Financial Planning in Southfield, Michigan, is a guy who collected mutual fund prospectuses as a teenager, and as an adult reads works of philosophy for fun. He says he spends most of his "waking hours working on developing ideas for creating positive systemic change for humanity." Among his ideas was one he entered in American Express's Members Project contest.
"The winning idea resulted in $2 million being given to provide clean water in Africa, which is a wonderful idea, but the idea I had would have given water to every person in the world, if that's how they chose to use the dollars," he enthuses. Chope's idea was to have American Express members donate 10% of their earned rewards to charity. "What they'd be giving up is just more consumption, because they've already consumed a bunch of stuff to get the rewards in the first place, and we could have literally hundreds of millions of dollars every year, rather than just a $2 million gift from American Express."
Although he's an unabashed fan of capitalism, Chope feels that one of its negative effects is rampant consumption and self-absorption. "Right now we have a 'me' system rather than a 'we' system."
As an example of how one individual can help change the world by interacting with just one other person, Chope uses his conversations with clients to expose them to some of the ideas he's come across in his own studies. "It's just helping them understand things that they may not have had time to put together," he says. "A lot of people get carried away and so focused on their career, or their family, or some segment of their life that they never really take the time to put it all together. I try to explain some of that to folks, so they can understand their part in the world and how the decisions that they make have an impact. One of the most important powerful tools that each of us has is the point of decision."