My career path to becoming a Financial Advisor has been a little unorthodox. Before joining Ashford Advisors, I was a Firefighter EMT, serving the City of Alpharetta, Georgia within one of the most highly rated, professional, highly trained Fire Departments in the State of Georgia. My time there was full of excitement and the experience of being in Public Safety is one I will always cherish and never forget, along with the relationships I built with incredible men and women.
Often during an initial meeting with a client, I am asked about my career path, the Fire Department inevitably comes up, and people are curious as to how I made the jump to Financial Services because the two seem like completely different careers. I will save that story for another day, however what I do want to discuss is one of the many similarities in the two careers I have just come to realize on my 10-year anniversary at Ashford Advisors: The role of the Financial Advisor, much like the role of the Firefighter, and the value they provide, is not what you might expect.
When I left the Fire Department in 2008, I took with me a 3” binder full of credentials and certificates. For almost 7 years I took every class I could get my hands on around Firefighting, Technical Rope Rescue, Emergency Medical Technician, Hazardous Materials, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Fire Apparatus Operator, Fire Inspections, Water Hydraulics, Vehicle Extrication, and Special Events/Operations. I was a highly trained professional as best prepared as I could be, ready for anything that happened to be on the end of the call to 911. In the Fire Service, I was considered an experienced professional.
10 years into being a Financial Advisor, if I left tomorrow to do something else, I would have another 3” binder full of credentials and certificates in a completely different industry. For the past decade, I have obtained licenses in Life and Health Insurance, a Series 7 and a Series 66 for Investments, Variable Annuity License, studied tax, estate planning and obtained both my Charted Financial Consultant (ChFC®) and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP®) designations. In the Financial Services industry, I could also be considered an experienced professional.
There is no debate that having a highly trained Fire Department, like the City of Alpharetta, full of expert Firefighters ready to meet the challenges they face in any community is valuable. And there is no question that an individual can find value in a Financial Advisor highly trained in investments, insurance, and tax. However, there is a huge irony in my experience in both industries where highly trained professionals tend to show their value by helping with simple tasks.
In the fire service, the simple tasks may be picking someone up off the floor after a fall, helping them into an ambulance in the middle of the night because they don’t have someone present to get them to the hospital, or simply rolling up in the fire truck to someone’s home after a scare, with the mere presence of the fire truck on the scene bringing a calming effect to the family and circumstance. Simple, yet a huge impact on the people being served.
In Financial Services, the simple tasks may be helping someone get a systematic savings plan in place, explaining how their group benefits work or nudging them to consider purchasing some life insurance to help protect their family. Simple, yet a huge impact.
With that said, I suppose at one time I could have come from triaging a scene of a MARTA bus accident, involved with a flaming overturned tanker trunk, under the Haynes Bridge Road underpass on GA 400 to putting together an Estate Plan for someone incorporating proper risk metrics in their investments account…It would be a heck of a day, exciting, make a great story, and have a huge impact, but that is not the norm. And I would say if that remarkable scene did happen, it would not be the value that defined the Advisor or the Firefighter over the length of their career from an impact standpoint. It simply doesn’t happen often enough, or ever. What does happen daily for Advisors and Firefighters alike is the day in day out guidance of simple tasks.
For most people, building a balance sheet that gives them the chance at financial independence takes time and the discipline over their accumulation phase to consistently do the things they already know they should be doing. A Financial Advisor can help with this long game strategy, reinforce the behavior, and help measure its impact. The order often starts with clients mastering the simple, and then getting help with the complex over time through the same expert advisor.
As we all embark on 2019 and think through what is most impactful and what will help move the needle with finances, I would recommend scheduling some time with your Advisor to determine what simple tasks they can help with and hold you accountable. Leverage their coaching knowledge this year instead of their financial knowledge. My bet is it could lead to your best year yet. Oh, and next time you see a Firefighter, please thank them for making themselves available to help with the simple things and for working hard to become a highly trained professional in just about anything else you could possibly need.
Happy New Year!