In 1987, I earned my MBA from Wharton and began working for a large brokerage firm in Philadelphia. It was exciting to get up each morning, stride past Independence Hall, where the Constitution was adopted, and arrive at my stately corporate office. But disillusionment came quickly. Like all commission-based firms, the firm I worked for expected me to sell products and investments—helping clients was secondary. I began to dream of partnering with my clients to help them make big financial decisions and use their money in the most beneficial ways. I wanted to feel completely free to help them without any conflicts of interest.
Then came the conflagration. It was the worst commercial fire in Philadelphia’s history. It not only destroyed much of the building, it totaled my computer and all my client files, yet it was the necessary catalyst for me to create a financial firm like no other. I set up an office in the sunroom of my home and began to identify the necessary ingredients for delivering the best returns and financial advice. I discovered that the key to success is keeping emotion out of the equation. The best way to manage emotion is to create structures, such as the Abacus Sustainable Portfolio (an ultra-diversified, rigorous investment program), which protects my clients from making emotion-based investment, business, gifting and spending decisions.
I had to acknowledge that my Ivy League MBA didn’t help me forecast the markets, so I stopped trying. (Many academic studies confirmed what I knew—that your odds of winning a lottery are better than your odds of predicting the markets consistently. The vast majority of professionals trail the brainless indices.)
People made big changes in their lives as a result of our work. Their time was freed up to take epic vacations with their family. They retired earlier or worked less. They gave more to philanthropy and transferred gifts to family members sooner rather than later. I helped clients transition wealth to the next generation, and helped those who were heavily invested in real estate to diversify. I helped others, who had the bulk of their assets in one company, to create a portfolio that would minimize risk. And I wrote The Cure for Money Madness so that I could share my secrets of financial success including how well-managed emotions lead to wiser business and financial decisions.
From operating as one person, to now working with over 70 Abacus team members, I look back on that fire and see that I was reborn on the ash heap of those client files to help people align their financial resources with their deepest values and aspirations, and to leave a legacy that inspires their community.
How I’m expanding what’s possible with money
My book, The Cure for Money Madness, was the springboard to help as many as possible relate to finances in a new and healthy way. I work with advisors, clients, and participants in my workshops and classes to identify their unproductive money patterns, as well as their fear and confusion, and create new behaviors around spending, saving, giving, and earning. I want each of us to use our money in the most impactful ways; each year, I give 10% of my income to charities focusing on world peace and reversing climate change.
Outside of work, my passions include
Silent Meditation Retreats–it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve done. Teaching Mindfulness, especially to those new to meditation. Running at Baker Beach and Ragle Park. Backpacking in Desolation Wilderness. Swing and Salsa dancing.