Financial planning. That’s a term that I never heard growing up. My dad sold life insurance. That wasn’t a glamorous profession but he worked hard to make sure that families had enough life insurance to make sure their families would be financially okay if the primary breadwinner passed away unexpectedly. After the wife of one of his clients was killed in a tragic car accident, he also came to understand that stay-at-home wives provided a lot of valuable services that were now costly to replace by a bewildered single father grieving for his wife.
My dad took loved getting to know people and a sales career gave my dad a good deal of flexibility with his schedule. While he was often in his home office making phone calls for at least an hour or so each night, he almost never missed a game or performance that his kids were involved in. We also took Tuesday day trips to a local lake. My friends and I loved those days where we were one of the few people out boating and skiing. Dad was smart. By offering to take a group of kids to the lake, he knew our friends. He was able to talk to us about the choices we make with work. The value (and risks) of a sales profession. How important it was to save for a “rainy” day and the joys of being able to spend time with family and friends. Who would’ve thought that those lessons helped lead me to my career in financial planning? I didn’t go to college, graduate and start working as a financial planner. Early in my career, I worked as a Manager at Ernst & Young in their municipal finance consulting practice. It was as boring as that sounds. It took a couple of wrong turns, but eventually I discovered financial planning and I knew that it would be my career.
I generally work with two types of clients, individual financial planning clients and participants in a workplace retirement plan. The individual clients usually seek me out because they are going through some type of transition: death of a spouse, retirement, divorce, new business owner or the idea of continuing as a “do it yourselfer” loses its appeal. Most of my clients would be considered “millionaire next door” types. They’ve worked hard for most of their lives, they live relatively modestly and are close to their families. Their concerns are primarily centered around health care, having enough money to maintain their lifestyle and being able to help out their kids and grandkids financially. For those who have lost a spouse, our work is more delicate. We have to help them re-orient themselves to a new way of life that is neither welcome nor wanted. In those cases, we acknowledge their grief, anger, loneliness and a myriad of other feelings and try very hard to limit the decisions that must be made immediately. Having cash from life insurance sit for 6 months in a bank account while a widow decides her next steps is not a bad thing. Yes, it might earn more if it were invested, but at what cost to the person?
Many of the articles I read talk about the niche that you serve. I’ve given this a great deal of thought over the past year. The common themes among my clients are these: single women primarily through widowhood, but some through divorce; happily married couples where the husband wants his wife to more fully participate in the family’s finances and investments; and finally, gay and lesbian couples.
The other “clients” we see are those that we help because of our role as advisors to their employer’s retirement plan. We are leading meetings to educate them on basic financial topics and the advantages to saving at work. In a few cases, employers engage us to meet 1 on 1 with their employees to help them more broadly with budgeting, credit management, goal setting, estate planning and utilizing of other employer provided benefit programs (employee stock plans, flex spending accounts, disability programs, etc.). For many of these employees, we are their first and maybe only interaction with a financial planner. If we can get them on the right track early, we can change the financial trajectory of their family for the better. That’s just cool!
After working as a financial planner for almost 25 years, I’ve learned a few things. People’s relationship with money is often rooted in childhood experiences. For those that grew up with parents that catered to their every whim, saving for the future is difficult. At some point, we realize that we internalize so many of the lessons that our parents taught us either explicitly or through example. Losing my mom to cancer when I was just 21 and she was only 46 had a profound impact on me. I realized at that moment, that while saving for the future and working hard were important – so were those that I loved and spending time with them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big saver, but we’ve gone on so many amazing trips with our kids and have truly learned to appreciate giving back to our community through service and monetary support.
We’ve named our new firm Envision Financial Planning. The dictionary defines Envision as “to imagine as a future possibility.” I’ve now realized my future possibility with the founding of our firm. I’m beyond excited to help you Envision your future!