My Career Evolution and Financial Understanding
Updated: Jan 20
Over the past few months, I have been listening and learning under the tutelage of a man I call a friend and mentor. He teaches financial professionals to discover their 'why' and articulate it as a way to answer the question: "What do you do for a living?".
And I thought I knew my 'why'. I had a lot of the math and philosophy down, but I never really knew my why... until yesterday.
Yesterday, I was reading up on a prominent democratic candidate for president's tax plan. I was quite disturbed by what I read, so I began to write a couple of blog posts on what he was talking about doing, if he would be elected to the highest office in the free world.
And then... I wrote this:
I help my clients to challenge any political administration's right to tax everything you do successfully so that YOU are the primary beneficiary of your life's work, not the banks, financial institutions, Wall Street, and the Internal Revenue Service.
It almost SHOCKED me that that was what I am all about! I certainly didn't think directly in that way before.
But for fun, let's go back to my history and how I evolved myself in this profession of financial services.
Late 1990's to Early 2000's:
At this time of my life, I had various jobs that weren't in financial services at all. I was working at Boston Market (a quick service restaurant) as a shift supervisor and later at an Italian Restaurant. I also served an LDS mission in Tennessee from 1999 - 2001.
At this time, I had also discovered a financial author by the name of John Cummuta. John Cummuta wrote a financial course called "Debt Free & Prosperous Living" and was selling these courses, books, and software through a network marketing company called FINL or Financial Independence Network Limited. The course outlined how to pay off all your debt - including your mortgage - in 5 to 7 years and build retirement wealth. I was really excited about it, but I never really got it off the ground. But I would have LOVED to help people build enough financial assets so they can have the financial security and retirement they wanted. This was what I had envisioned for a consulting career to be all about.
But let's think back to this time: The stock market was strong and mortgage rates were moderate. The overall advice given in this course was "buy no-load funds, buy term insurance, and save in the stock market". Back then, that was acceptable advice for the times were were living in.
Of course, in 2000 - 2002, the stock market was on a steady decline over those three years. As the stock market declined, so did mortgage rates.
In 2001, I worked at Wells Fargo Bank as a personal banker and later a service manager.
Now, I was hoping that I would be in a position to give advice, and since I was barely 23 years old at the time, to encourage people to invest in the markets since the markets were going down. (I shake my head today at what I thought I knew.) Of course, being a personal banker is far more about selling bank products than giving sound advice. I did okay with it, but it certainly wasn't the career I really wanted. In 2004, I left the bank and looked for other opportunities. I went to an employment office and checked out what they had. An opportunity to become a financial advisor with American Express Financial Advisors (today known as Ameriprise) was very appealing to me. I had heard that "you can make a lot of money if you have a Series 7". As I learned more about the career and studying for licenses (insurance, Series 7 & Series 66), I learned a lot about the potential for myself - which was in-line with what I thought this career would be all about. I didn't stay with that firm, but went to a Credit Union in mid-2000's.
Why didn't I stay? Looking back, I really should have, but I didn't. Some of these guys sounded like clowns and "wannabe's" because they were more excited about selling than taking this career seriously. Maybe I misinterpreted it, but I left because I also believed that "birds of a feather... flock together" and I didn't want to pick up any bad habits or attitudes.
I went to a credit union and was an assistant to a financial advisor, and later a junior broker to a different advisor. I learned a LOT more about investment management - primarily mutual fund statistical analysis, variable annuity income guarantees, and institutional money management platforms. Also, during this time, I took full advantage of their educational reimbursement program and pursued my ChFC advanced financial planning designation - one of the best things I did for my career.
I was in a great place with great teams. I really felt "at home" here. However, I didn't know enough about life insurance. I just didn't know. I knew we should be selling it to our credit union members, but I didn't know how to go about it, why someone would want it, how to position it... nothing. And with some other changes coming down the pike, I chose to leave. I went to a large "mother mutual" insurance agency.
I knew that every legitimate financial product in existence today, has a legitimate strategy, has a proper place, has a purpose, and has a proper market for it. I wanted to learn what that was for life insurance, so I could become far more "well-rounded" as a financial professional. I had all my required licenses and I had completed my ChFC designation studies by this time, so I was an ideal candidate for any insurance firm.
I had NO IDEA what I would learn much later (2008 - present).
My training wasn't that great, and I didn't do so well in that agency. However, it set me on a course of learning that I can never "undo". I can't ever see financial services, financial planning, or financial advice in the same way ever again.
Over time (many, many years), I had finally learned the difference between Internal Rate of Return... and External Rate of Return.
Life insurance has a horrible internal rate of return as we look at it within itself. It doesn't grow much. It has quite a few expenses in order to pay for the death benefit it is securing. Generally, after 10 years, with a properly funded policy, you'll generally equal in cash values what you had paid in premiums. That's a 0% return. By itself... it doesn't look like a good deal.
It was in 2010 when I heard Thomas Love speak, today a mentor and a friend, for the first time. He wouldn't remember this, but I do. I remember his presentation on an old school overhead projector with transparencies. He shared how he was looking at retirement cash flow and the various factors that impact one's NET income, all because of WHERE the assets are and how the tax code affects it. (And he did it all in just 45 minutes! *MIND BLOWN*)
As my understanding continued to evolve about the external erosion on our wealth through increasing taxes, fees, inflation, and lost opportunity costs... and the plight of our government's inability to curb its spending, I began to see the haven that life insurance really is!
In fact, I've discovered how SUPERIOR it is for financial and retirement planning! You never could have convinced me over 10 years ago, that I'd see life insurance in this way. But as I study the tax code, tax proposals, and how it would affect traditional planning vs the work *I* do... I almost cannot believe it, but it's true and it's real!
I evolved my understanding to now know that chasing rates of returns is futile with all the wealth eroding factors in play. I certainly didn't begin my career studies thinking I would have these views, but the math doesn't lie.
This is my why: To ensure that YOU are the primary beneficiary of your life's work and of the financial and retirement planning you have done. Most people's financial planning doesn't allow for that to happen. If your resources are elsewhere, you may be paid 6th in line for the withdrawals you make in your retirement years. If that bothers you... we should talk about how to fix it - USING the tax code - so that you can be the primary beneficiary of your financial plan and do so in a way that you don't even have to file a tax return in retirement!