STEVEN SCHMITT & PAUL BELLAFF
Steven Schmitt was born with congenital talipes equinovarus, where both feet are turned inwards. This had a profound effect on his life, not only in how he physically moved through the world, but also how he perceived the world. As a child, Steven had physical limitations that impacted the relationships he formed and the interests he was and wasn’t able to pursue. These were painful times, physically and emotionally. But they would lead him, ultimately, to discovering his life’s true purpose.
Steven was initially treated at the non-profit Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. Their mission is to provide specialty care for children, regardless of the family’s ability to pay. The Shriner’s Hospital was Steven’s first realization that organizations with a higher purpose exist. The simple offer of compassion and care, without any expectation in return, was an awakening for him. Here was a whole community of people who just wanted to help. Steven felt more accepted, more connected and was inspired to carry this generosity forward.
While studying meteorology at Penn State, Steven started day-trading. His passion for analysis and a new-found interest in the markets, led him to transition to a degree in finance. He even found a first job that combined finance and weather by working as an energy analyst with Virginia Power. Shortly after, he joined Merrill Lynch, and began working with retail clients. One day he happened to read an article about the lack of financial planning for the LGBTQ community. He knew this was his chance to support a population that really needed it. This would serve as the seed for the Schmitt-Young Group (SYG) which would go on to be a world leader in financial management specifically catered to the LGBTQ community as well as become social justice leaders and philanthropists.
Throughout his career, Steven has amassed an impressive list of educational credentials. He holds the CFP® and CRPS® designations and was instrumental in the creation of the ADPA® program. After earning his B.S. degree in Finance at Penn State, Steven obtained his M.B.A. from William Paterson University. Steven’s enduring interest and passion for meteorology provides a distinct perspective on environmental conditions that he often incorporates into his investment strategies.
Steven’s husband, Paul Bellaff, shares his partner’s passion for social justice. The maternal side of Paul’s family lived in Poland where they owned a successful cloth factory in Lodz. They had a comfortable home and went to private school. During World War II, the family was rounded up and shipped to various concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald. A great majority were murdered. For the ones who survived, returning to Lodz wasn’t an option. They had lost everything, and nearly everyone, and needed fresh starts. The survivors scattered across the globe.
His forbearers’ story of incredible suffering left an indelible mark on Paul. It made him sensitive to the importance of community and deeply appreciative of those communities that welcome refugees with open arms, like the United States had welcomed his family after World War 2.
Being both gay and Jewish meant Paul straddled two often-marginalized groups. He found comfort in providing support to others, particularly the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a non-profit volunteer-based AIDS service organization in New York City. One of his fondest memories is sponsoring a successful dance-a-thon. Paul raised over $10,000, which was a significant feat at the time, and danced for over six hours. He continues to support various charities and organizations to promote equality and justice across America.
It is with Beth Chayim Chadashim that Paul has found a community that openly and joyously celebrates all sides of himself. It is a community that brings together people from disparate backgrounds and welcomes a multitude of life experiences. And it is a community who understands his and Steven’s personal truths, that one’s physical and emotional scars can translate into a deeper, spiritual understanding of the world.
KYLE YOUNG & STEVEN SALTON
Kyle Young grew up in a single-parent family with little (and at times, no) means. He saw his mother struggle financially her entire life, often times being forced into decisions that otherwise might have been made differently. Kyle’s mother fostered nearly 60 children, almost all medically fragile, over the course of his childhood. He had a front row seat to her selflessness and sacrifice. That perspective engrained in him an understanding of people and a strong sense of empathy for others. It also gave him a drive and discipline to better his own life, in large part, so he could better the lives of those around him and, like his mother, those who might need it most.
Kyle’s career path has led to a very different place from where it began, as a chemistry and education major at a small private school in his home state of New Jersey. Despite loving both areas of focus, neither truly fulfilled him. Like so many Americans, he was working to pay his way through schooling. He realized that the school he was attending was going to financially ruin him before his adult life had even begun. He also realized that the insular community he was living in was preventing him from coming out of the closet and becoming his full self.
Kyle made the difficult decision to wipe the slate clean. He began to study economics at Rutgers University, a school of 40,000+ students, in an urban setting with more culture and openness to people with differing backgrounds and importantly, a much more manageable price tag. The transition also allowed him to live openly and freely as a gay man. It was one of the best decisions of his life.
During his senior year at Rutgers, Kyle was invited to interview for an internship position with Steven Schmitt, who was building his wealth management practice. He was surprised and excited to hear Steven talk about the work he was doing with the LGBTQ community. Kyle describes it as “intoxicating.” The idea never occurred to him that he could work in a field that he was passionate about and also directly change the lives of those in his own community. When that interview ended, Kyle stayed and began what would become Day One of his new career. He spent the first 18 months in an administrative role, learning about the engine that keeps any successful wealth management practice moving. In 2006, Kyle shifted into an advisory role and officially started his partnership with Steven. And thus, The Schmitt Young Group was born.
In 2015, Kyle met Steven Salton while vacationing on Fire Island. They would marry in 2020. Steven was born and raised in upstate New York. His brother Bryan was born with Down syndrome and his sister Melissa with congenital talipes equinovarus. And his mother, of blessed memory, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was in high school. Watching those he loved most battle lifelong challenges taught him gratitude and patience and inspired him to seek a life of service to others.
Steven graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Ithaca College. Throughout school, he volunteered at local assisted living and nursing facilities, including those for special needs children. Following graduation, he joined AmeriCorps and spent a year working with the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the Housing Authorities in D.C. & Philadelphia, Reading & Youth Programs and Urban & Environmental revitalization throughout the Eastern US coastline.
Upon completion of his AmeriCorps service, Steven moved to New York City, leading to a 16-year career at Saks Fifth Avenue & Hudson’s Bay Company. Steven has volunteered for and supported a number of local organizations including God’s Love We Deliver, NY Cares, and Ali Forney. As Vice President of Event Marketing at Saks Fifth Avenue, he led charitable initiative programs from 2014-2018 raising an average of $1.5M in annual donations for hundreds of charities across the United States. His efforts supported causes ranging from the arts, children, education, environment, health, LGBTQ and women.
In addition to the philanthropic work through The Schmitt Young Group, Kyle and Steven are longtime fundraisers for the Human Rights Campaign and more recently for Feeding America in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They also support research for Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that Steven’s mother passed away from at the age of 62 after a heroic 20-year battle.