The reason I got into the profession
My route to becoming a financial planner was not direct. Growing up the son of a journalist, I was obsessed with politics from an early age. Straight out of college, I worked on Capitol Hill and then later as the Director of Field Operations for a Congresswoman’s re-election campaign. I was happy. That was the life for me.
Around that time, I met my wife. She also made me happy. She was, above all, the life for me. And when she was accepted into law school in Berkeley, a distant and mysterious place to a New Yorker, I followed her West.
Political jobs in the Bay Area are scarce. So, I became a stockbroker. A constant flow of information, storytelling, a sense of mission and purpose: I loved it. That, too, was the life for me. And I was doing great, at least according to the monthly report showing me as consistently number one or two in my national class of recruits as measured in new assets. And yet I was scraping by financially. What gives?
I knocked on the door of a top broker. He had a spacious office with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the San Francisco Bay. He gave me the skinny. “Son, the stuff you are selling has a 1% commission. Annuities, they can be 10 even 15%.” “Is that good for the client?” I asked. He shrugged. I quit.
No worries! There were opportunities galore in technology. It was interesting enough. It paid well. And no one got hurt. But what I chiefly looked forward to each day were the opportunities to be an informal financial advisor to my colleagues. When colleagues earned a big commission, I would seat myself across their desk and explain how time and discipline could make their money grow. I became obsessed with personal finance. Then I discovered fee-only financial planners, with their fiduciary obligation to act in the client’s best interest. I began the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ classes pretty much immediately after that. And this, it turns out, has absolutely been the life for me.
Outside of work my passions include
After a long day, I love to unwind with a chef’s knife in my hand. Mincing onions puts me into a Zen frame of mind. Thinking about meals for the week ahead, about what will stay fresh, what each family member likes, what can be made quickly—that is my Sunday crossword puzzle. Shopping at my favorite farm stand to incorporate local, seasonal food is my retail therapy. There is always a cookbook on my bedside table. And cooking for others—that is my love language.
Outside of that obsession, I love to watch my daughters’ sports, try to watch pretty much every SF Giants game (because they lose when I don’t), read historical fiction (lately anyway) and exercise, exercise, exercise (to work off the food, of course).
One goal I am saving for
We haven’t given away enough of our money in the past. That’s not really saving, is it? But we have set a goal to step up our giving by 1% each year until we are donating 10% of our pretax earnings. One incremental percent per year has not hurt yet. And slowly, but surely, we are getting there.
The primary way I am advancing my career knowledge
When my brain cycles are not on food or financial planning, I am often thinking about how to raise children in a privileged environment. I want to provide my kids with every opportunity, but I don’t want to rob them of the opportunity to face and overcome challenges. It is an issue about which many of my clients and I are concerned. Three of the books that have shaped my thinking are: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., Silver Spoon Kids by Eileen and Jon Gallo and The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. I try to put their wisdom into practice. I also devise my own methods for teaching my kids about the nuts and bolts of how money works. Lately, I have been blogging about those experiences.