One of the things Andrew can do now is to walk his son to school.
I co ordinate the schedules of volunteers at the high school where I work, and Andrew is one of those volunteers. Please read his story of financial freedom.
What messages about money, either spoken or unspoken, would you say you absorbed as you grew up?
I grew up in a middle-class home. My dad was a professional engineer and my mother was a stay at home mom. I don’t recall ever having explicit conversations about money, but it was clear that my parents “knew the value of a dollar”. We always had what we needed, but we certainly didn’t grow up in an environment of excessive consumption. Clothes were worn until they didn’t fit anymore; holes in jeans were patched – not pitched out; toys were limited in number and we got new stuff on birthdays and Christmas – period; we rarely went to the movies – we played outside with our friends.
My parents had no problem telling us “no you can’t have that” when we wanted something unnecessary or too expensive.
So, I guess I’d say that my messages about money were learned over time and mainly through “observational osmosis”.
What was it that made you decide you wanted to scale back in your career as a chartered accountant?
I was tired.
Working ridiculously long hours during periods in the year (particularly in the winter/spring months) I realized that I wasn’t having fun at work anymore. I was too busy, taking on a lot of projects that I really didn’t enjoy, and at the same time taking care of clients and trying to have a life outside of the office.
Out of balance, for sure.
How old were you when you resigned? What did you have in place to allow you to make this move?
I jumped off the hamster wheel at 43, and took a lot of time to think and reflect on what I felt was important in life. I started spending much more time at home with my wife and kids, and doing simple, yet rewarding things that I had not made time for in the past. Walking our son to school in the mornings, community volunteer work, learning to downhill ski and getting back into the kitchen to cook, to name a few.
I came to realize that the most valuable commodity in the world is time. Our time is not unlimited, and we all have the power to choose how we are going to use the time that we have. So now I don’t roll the way most people roll. I don’t do things simply because everybody else does. I work at keeping balance in my life – work, family, health, friends, community.
When it comes to personal finance, I think it is important for people to realize that sound financial health allows us to enjoy a level of control over our lives that doesn’t exist when our financial life is upside down. And to be clear, it’s not about the absolute amount of money/wealth that we have – it’s about having enough money to support the life that we want to live, now and in the future. The answer is different for everyone.
Please describe your working life as it is now.
I work out of my home office as a fee-only/advice-only financial planner.
At the most basic level, I help people understand their money and help them get control over their finances.
As a fee-only/advice-only financial planner, I don’t sell any financial products (think mutual funds, insurance, stocks, bonds etc.). The tremendous advantage for my clients is that they are guaranteed objective planning advice. I don’t receive any form of compensation from anybody other than my client who pays me for my planning expertise (feel free to check out my website at www.misenerplanning.ca).
Part of my role is that of educator for my clients. Most people don’t have a good understanding of personal finance and how everything fits together, whether it’s understanding debt, investments, insurance, household cash flows or the like. I love my work. Helping clients understand and succeed in their financial lives is tremendously satisfying to me.
What would you say are the most significant differences between your overall life as it is now compared to how it was in your last few years of full-time work?
I am much happier and contented in my life now, because my life is in balance and it’s simpler.
I’ve organized my planning practice in such a way that I limit the number of clients that I will take on at any given time. In this way, my clients will be assured of my dedicated attention to their needs, my family will get my dedicated attention, and if I feel like playing golf or going for a bike ride on a sunny day then that’s what I do.
What drew you to volunteer work at our high school?
I love mentoring and teaching people.
When I was an accountant in public practice, part of my time was spent mentoring and coaching a younger generation of accountants and CA students and I got great satisfaction in watching their knowledge and skills improve. I also love numbers and math. So, I took the opportunity to volunteer in a high school math class. I figured that it would be fun – and it was! I’ve been helping a great teacher for 3 years now, and we have a lot of fun working with the kids.
Jesse, the math teacher with whom you volunteer, said about you, “He is like my financial psychiatrist!” Why do you think he said that?
Being a financial planner is a bit like being a psychiatrist I suppose. Quite often people feel that they have a problem, or something isn’t quite right financially, and they just need to get the ball rolling by talking through their concerns. Everyone has a different relationship with their money, and what percolates to the top of the financial “issues list” for one person, may be near the bottom for another. Part of my role is to understand what issues are most important to my clients from a financial perspective, and help them see the big picture of how a well-designed financial plan can give them peace of mind, and help them meet their objectives.
What do you find is the most common financial advice that you give to people?
Live within your means and avoid getting into trouble with debt.
Another very common issue that I see is that most people have no idea what their investments are invested in, and don’t realize how much they are paying in fees for poor return performance. I work with people a lot on that one.
Financial planning isn’t rocket science. Just get the process started.
Your comments are welcome : )