J.D. Bruce, CPA, PFS

Chief of Innovation
JD Bruce

My Story

My father was a hippie, so naturally I became a CPA. Being a hippie criminal defense attorney, my father fought “the man” and defended the wrongly accused. He was a defender of the Constitution and an enthusiastic revolutionary. He also didn’t like following rules, like the tax code.

When I was 18, studying theater at the local community college, my father had an unfortunate misunderstanding with the IRS. We ended up losing our 4,000-square-foot house by the beach and moving to a much smaller home where privacy was hard to find and secrets were difficult to keep. That’s when I started to see through the cracks and learned about how your relationship to money can hurt you.

When I was 20, still a theater student, I steeled myself and asked my father if he had filed his taxes that year. “I’ll get to it” he said, which I knew meant, “I won’t get to it anytime soon, if at all.” So, being a computer geek, I drove to the local CompUSA and looked for a box that had the word tax on it. I sat my father down, armed with my shiny copy of TurboTax, and filed my first tax return.

The next day, my best friend said, “Wait, you can do taxes…?” That day, I became a financial advisor, but didn’t yet know that was what it was called.

The path from there to Abacus was filled with twists. It pulled out from UCLA and made a switchback from theater to accounting. It passed through Price Waterhouse with a ponytail. It went up the mountains of IPOs and down the valleys of liquidation. It made a stop in advertising and did the express train through consulting. It never stayed in one place long. Then it pulled into a station that felt like home.

The first thing I remember learning about Abacus is that a condition of employment was a willingness to explore the shadow places, both inside myself, and in my relationships with others. Here was a place that cared as much or more about people than profit. When I told people that I was joining Abacus, I said, “I’m starting the last job I’ll ever have.”

Now, my mission is to make every Abacus client say out loud at some point in the future, “Abacus saved my life.”

Recently, I was interviewed by The New York Times about how Abacus uses technology to further our mission to help as many people as possible. Read the article!

How I’m expanding what’s possible with money

I mentor many RIA entrepreneurs by facilitating study groups. I help them open their minds and build confidence to charge appropriate fees, help more people, and grow their firms by adding staff. That effort has magnified the impact I could personally have, or that Abacus could provide, and allows the underserved to become served by the right kind of financial advisor.

Outside of work, my passions include

Now that my kids are old enough to care for themselves, my wife and I have upped our travel budget and go wandering further afield. I am also passionate about coffee, Dungeons and Dragons, and am a volunteer docent for the Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica mountains.

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