It all makes sense if you think about it—how I ended up being a financial planner that is.
I grew up in Waterford, Connecticut, the son of a truck driver and office worker. Money was tight, but so was the family. One Christmas in the mid 1950s, the family got together and made more than 500 wreaths.
Grandpa sold them from his front yard, and the rest of the family (mom, dad, sister Janice, and Aunt Barbara) hauled greens out of the woods and made the wreaths. My specialty was scurrying up the pine trees to get the pine cones that became the finishing touch on each wreath. An activity born out of necessity (we needed the money) turned into a family bonding experience, not to mention it generated enough money for a very nice Christmas. My first entrepreneurial experience was in the bank.
In the summer of 1958 at the age of 12, I began caddying at a golf course in town and got my next taste of working and getting paid. Carrying one and sometimes two bags around that 18-hole course one, two, and occasionally three times a day was real work. And I liked most of the people I caddied for, especially the two older gentlemen who wanted me there every Sunday morning at 6 AM.
None of the other caddies would do it. The gents weren’t very good golfers, but they were nice to me and getting back in by 11 AM with $5 in my pocket was pretty nice. Mom helped me keep track, and by the end of the summer I had made more than $600 (big money back then). I don’t recall what I did with the money or whether I paid taxes on it. Don’t tell the IRS. The second entrepreneurial experience was deposited.
But that was summer work and my new paper route was year-round. The best time of year was Christmas, when people gave me tips. One customer didn’t have money for a tip but gave me an old shortwave radio that didn’t work anymore. My dad helped me get the radio repaired, and I started listening to what came through that speaker. A whole new world opened up for me, especially when I learned that what I was hearing were other people transmitting their own signals and talking to people all over the world from their own homes. I was hooked and started learning all I could about Amateur Radio with a passion that surprised my parents. Part of what I learned was that you had to have a license from the government (FCC) to do this. In June 1960 I got my first license, built my own radio, and got on the air. There was a group of kids that met every day after school on the radio kind of like kids do now with their iPhones. Friendships were forged, some of which last to this day. The result of this third entrepreneurial experience paid big dividends.
That experience, coupled with an aptitude for math, caused my teachers to recommend engineering as a possible career path. The idea of designing circuits like those inside my Amateur Radio set was exciting. And a new passion was born. So it was off to Northeastern University for a degree in electrical engineering, which I completed in 1969, having worked my way through college on the coop program. A short stint at Texas Instruments (picking up an MSEE along the way) and some great circuit design experience prepared me for my dream job at Hewlett Packard (HP), where I helped design and manufacture medical equipment. What better use of an engineering degree than building equipment to save or prolong lives? During this time, I developed an algorithm used to display pulses from pacemakers that helped doctors get the pacemaker implanted in the patient properly. I may be the only financial planner around that has been granted a patent. I was good enough at this job to keep getting promotions to project manager, section manager, quality manager, and lab manager. So this brings us to the mid-1990s. Success in higher and higher levels of management meant learning and knowing how to maneuver politically and diplomatically within complex corporate structures, something I was not passionate nor frankly very good at. Change was coming, but little did I know how dramatic it would be.
By this time, I was married to Sharon, whom I met while cooping at General Dynamics in college, and we had three boys, Rich, Russell, and Tom. The family’s fondest memories are going to the beachfront rental in Rhode Island that Sharon’s parents rented when she was young. Sharon was a stay-at-home mom when the kids were growing up. She became very active in the church and recently was able to see one of her Sunday School students become the minister of the church. She taught a whale of a class!
It was well past time for me to think about and put in place a financial plan for my family. I didn’t want to mess it up, so I enrolled in the Financial Planning program at BU, going evenings while still at HP. The courses were the right mix of problem solving, math, and working with people. The seed for becoming a financial planner was planted. And yes, the passion was strong!
So in January 1998, I left HP and became a financial planner. I went from a nice six-figure salary to nothing overnight! Sharon wondered if I’d done the right thing (so did I), but my promise to the family was that their lifestyle would not change. So dipping into savings was necessary for a couple of years. And it was also time to make withdrawals from the entrepreneurial savings account that went back so many years. It was back to the old caddying days: if you work hard you (may) get paid. I was paid a little at first but more as time went on. Fortunately, I was able to team up with and learn from some excellent role models, including Stan Steinberg who shares the same passion for the work. Along the way, there were a couple of radio shows in the Boston area (talking into a microphone was no problem, after all) and some great client relationships resulted. So in 2003, Stan and I established our own company. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Today, I’m focused on growing the business and passing down the recently purchased cottage (yes the one on the beach) to the family.
Now that you know a little about me, I’d like to learn about you. Let’s get together and get acquainted!