Friday, November 29, 2013

My Career Choice

I wanted to spend today’s post sharing about my career track. For just about six years now I have spent my career working in back and middle office operations for a couple of large and internationally known financial firms. Before my recent transition to my current employer, which took place a month ago, I weighed my options of embracing my passion for personal finance and considered a track to becoming a financial advisor.

I feel that I spent the better part of six months doing informational and formal interviews, networking and reading articles, all in order to get a proper gauge on what a career as a professional financial advisor would entail. Through this part of the process I met with some great people at Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Fifth Third Bank and ING Financial.

And in taking the time to learn about the career path, I learned that it was not an avenue that I wanted to pursue with the backing of medium to large sized institution. Now please don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great people and advisors at the aforementioned firms that take care of their clients and approach with the heart of a teacher rather than the heart of a salesman.

But when I dug into the details I found that this career path with a larger sized firm was not for me. Without fingers pointing or names named, all I will say is that the “formal” system around breeding financial advisors focuses on generating sales rather than taking a holistic approach with helping clients. The general idea that I walked away with was that the advisor’s focus at larger sized firms is to generate new clients and grow the assets under management through volume rather than working with clients to improve their personal financial situations.

For me personal financial advising should have a holistic approach. As an advisor I would want my focus to be on helping clients see the importance of having an emergency fund, paying off all of their debt to open up monthly cash flow, consistently saving for retirement through 401ks and IRAs and having the right kinds of insurances in place, rather than moving from client to client just to beef up my reported assets under management and let a cookie cutter and “conventional” investing approach speak on my behalf.

In truth I do see working as a financial advisor in the near future. I do however I see myself opening up my own boutique firm once our household investments reach the pinnacle point in which said investments earn more annually than we make annually, which in truth is a long term goal for us that will be a decade or so in the making. This way I can run the show the way I want under my terms with a focus on improving the financial households of clients rather than building a client rolodex. 

For now I thoroughly enjoy what I do completing middle office support for traders and portfolio managers for my current employer. From my point of view I am a part of a larger team that is handling God’s money. After all the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The money being managed by my employer, which in name is legally owned by large institutions namely for pensions, from my perspective, belongs to God. We are collectively preserving and growing God’s money so that when it is funneled to retirees, that money is used to help seniors meet their financial needs in retirement, make donations for charitable organizations, pay for college for future generations and even more things beyond what I have mentioned here! And each and every morning as I hop off my bus and make my way to my office in the loop, I pray that God guides my heart, spirit and mind to make sound decisions as I handle His money and resources to the best of my abilities.

It’s kind of an interesting place to be. I enjoy my team and the work that I am currently doing every day and I am also excited for the future to see what life will look like after we reach the pinnacle point. It is an incredible blessing to be at this point in life and my career and with Thanksgiving being this past week, that is something I am certainly thankful for this year.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Return

Greetings my friends! I would certainly agree with you that it has been far too long since my last post but be rest assured that much has taken place and I’ve been one busy little bee! So let’s get caught up.

The Move
My wife and I decided to move from the Lincoln Park neighborhood, which has been home to us for the last 5 years and move a few neighborhoods north to Edgewater. Previously in Lincoln Park we were living in a cozy 1 bedroom that was priced several hundred dollars below market in the area, mainly because it was on the first floor of the apartment building. Which apparently has some kind of stigma with it, but I loved it because were in a sizeable unit in a nice neighborhood for well under $1,000 a month and never had security issues.

But now we’ve reached a point in our lives where we wanted a bit more adventure, a little more elbow room and of course a nice lake view. The search was long, strenuous and frustrating at times. But when we finally came back from Europe we came across the unit that we are in now, and I must say that I instantly fell in love with it. There’s killer views of Lake Michigan from our living and bed rooms, parking in building (even though we still don’t have a car, the option still is nice to have!), there’s a party patio on the roof deck, a doorman 24/7 and we are quite literally steps away from the beach. And it was literally only $200 more in rent from our Lincoln Park digs.

And the apartment unit itself, man, all I can say is that our landlord (an individual condo owner) did a great job renovating and knew exactly what he was doing. So we have a little bit more elbow room, a newly renovated place and are in a more family friendly neighborhood where I am no longer one of the oldest guys on the block. Which I have come to appreciate as 30 is creeping up on the horizon.

Even better is the fact that our landlord ran a full “credit check” which included reviewing our credit reports and employment history. So I, having lived without credit for 4 years am able to rent a great apartment in Chicago, so take that credit myth monsters! No headaches, no hiccups, no defending of my debt free lifestyle was even needed during the process. So now we are settling into the new apartment and learning a whole new part of the city, which leads me to.

The Job Change
I had spent 5 years with my previous employer in what honestly was my first “real job” out of college. And although I did not see myself being a part of the changes that my particular division was going through, I appreciated my time spent there and certainly have a flood of great memories and met some amazing people there and for that I am forever grateful. But most of all, I used those paychecks to become debt free, plant a solid financial foundation and of course cash flow my wedding.

So when an opportunity presented itself to continue doing the same line of work for a new employer, I weighed my options and had a few months worth of interviews to go through in which I met with the entire team that I would eventually be joining. And yes I will brag that I am completely debt free and having a 0 credit score had absolutely no impact as I applied for and currently work for a global financial services company. So please, please oh please don’t let anyone EVER tell you that you need a credit score to find employment. It’s just not true and you can point to me as an example, I’ll gladly take the heat for you! And if an employer does weigh your credit worthiness as a factor on whether they will bring you onto their team, trust me, you wouldn’t want to work for someone that stupid (Although bankruptcy and being behind on payments is an entirely different story, I’m speaking entirely on an employer basing their decision on hiring you on your credit score). And after prayerful consideration and weighing several competing offers, I happily agreed to join my employer and have now been a happy team member for almost a month now.

Although we are still in the honeymoon phase, I genuinely feel happy to go to work each and every day. Now please don’t get me wrong. Every place has its own ups and downs and I have been working in finance long enough to not be na├»ve enough to believe that everything will be peaches and cream each and every day forever. But I am taking a different approach with this role. Each and every morning before stepping one foot into the office building, I pray to God that he brings clarity to my mind, guides and helps me build knowledge and helps me perform at the best of my abilities as I handle His money every day.

And I think the approach that I am handling God’s money has made monumental difference in how I approach work. I feel more eager to take on extra tasks outside of my daily responsibilities, I am not as easily frustrated when work volumes tick up and I have found myself not groaning when our team is faced with being shorthanded during the work week. The best example I can give is on Fridays. The typical verbiage (and I have found this to be “typical” in most work environments) at the end of the work week is to hear colleagues say out loud, “Thank God it’s Friday,” or something along those lines. But for me this role has re-energized me and I am actually pretty happy to come to work and even stay late. I am enjoying what I am doing day in and day out and have found myself the last few Fridays telling my wife, “Man, I seriously can do that for another 5 days in a row.’

Which certainly has made things very interesting for me the last month or so. I love waking up and coming home to our sweet new apartment and I love going to work every week day. I’ve seriously taken a few step backs almost every few days and have been amazed at how much change has taken place and how happy I am in life.

My wife and I are firing on all cylinders, our monthly disposable income has been more than anticipated and we have seamlessly been on the same page regarding how to allocate that money (I’ll give you a hint, we’re saving some of it, spending some of it and investing some of it!), work is great, the home life is great and I honestly don’t know what we want to set as goals next. We are in cruise control to pay cash for our first home within 5 years and have a few travel trips planned, and I’m becoming inspired to find new ways to creatively give. But I think 2014 will be a time for me to re-examine my goals, hopes and dreams. And I’ll be happy to share these with you and so much more in future posts.

So for now thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with each and every one of you.