Updated: Apr 6, 2021
A few years ago my world changed both rapidly and radically. A successful investment firm I had devoted half of my life to unexpectedly closed and at the beginning of 2018 I found myself jobless, with no income and with limited employment prospects despite having 2 decades of experience. My prospects were limited mostly by not having a “book of business” (i.e. revenues to offer a potential employer as an inducement to hire me). I had hoped my investment management experience would help me stand out, but I soon found that I was mistaken. The path I thought I was on all but vanished before my eyes, becoming foggy and uncertain. I found myself professionally lost.
I aggressively “worked my network,” setting up countless meetings with other professionals, hoping to find the right introduction, job offer or breakthrough moment that would put me back on the path. But as weeks turned into months it became increasingly clear that I was making minimal progress.
One day, in a moment of clarity (and necessity), something dawned on me: “I can do this. I’ll just start my own company doing what I know.” Believing this to be my path, I stopped spending so much time scheduling meetings and instead devoted my energy towards getting proper regulatory approval, a business license, a state registration and ultimately forming my own registered investment advisory firm (RIA). With the support of some incredible and generous friends and family (whom I will forever be indebted to), Old Ivy Asset Management was formed in October 2018. Path found?
Side note: I remember joking with some of my prospects that, given the long bull market we had been in since the depths of the Great Financial Crisis that I would probably end up launching my business right into the teeth of a bear market. I got my “wish” almost immediately with the markets falling 20% in rapid fashion in the waning months of 2018.
As 2019 got going (with strong encouragement from some people in whom I have a high degree of trust), I decided to pursue the CFP® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) designation so I could broaden my knowledge base in order to be a greater source of value to my clients, extending well beyond just managing their investments. This was no small task. While I had fulfilled certain requirements needed to get the certification (my experience finally mattered!), there was a ton of work still to be done and it would take a significant investment of time, energy and money to reach my goal.
I spent all of 2019 taking a comprehensive financial planning course through the University of Georgia. This was the major remaining pre-requisite I would need to pass before being eligible to sit for the CFP® exam (which I hoped to take in early 2020 following a crash-course review program). I managed to do all of this while still running a small business.
Then COVID-19 hit in early 2020. The exam I was supposed to take in March was cancelled. The review class I had paid to take was in disarray since it was intended to coincide with the exam for maximum impact. To top it all off, with both of my kids (9 and 12 at the time) now in “virtual” school and my incredibly supportive wife back at work, I now shared the responsibility of helping her manage their school work (something I admit I was not very good at). With the future as murky as ever and the world entering the Great Pause (Great Reset, or whatever “Great” you want to call it because people like to do that…), I did the only thing I knew how to do--focus on what was in my control: do the best I could for my clients and keep studying my tail off for the CFP® exam, whenever it might be (it was initially rescheduled for July, then cancelled again and finally scheduled for late September). I studied almost every day for hours at a time, often overdoing it to the point of frying my brain, feeling like I was forgetting more than I was retaining and needing to take a few days off to regain my composure. The live review course finally happened in early September. I could not have been more relieved (and admittedly surprised) when I received a passing grade on the 6-hour/140 question exam—it was so cathartic.
Great, now what (perhaps The Great Now What?) Despite all that I had learned, I was and have been reluctant to jump head-first into financial planning for a number of reasons (lack of real world planning experience, investments in software, lack of bandwidth, fear of doing it completely alone…). The path I had been creating for myself had seemingly hit a wall.
That is until recently.
Several weeks ago, an exciting and completely unexpected opportunity fell into my lap (or rather found me through my phone). A top-notch Atlanta planning firm with a lengthy 30-year track record was looking to bring on a financial advisor and through some solid references, happened upon my name. After meeting with members of the management team and learning more about the firm, I quickly grew excited about this opportunity and the benefits I believed it would afford my clients as well as myself. I finally feel like I can see the path again--and it is much clearer than ever.
Looking back, the darkness, uncertainty and lack of visibility I had 3 years ago now looks much less so with the benefit of hindsight. Through all of the challenges and difficulties of the last few years, many things that were difficult to appreciate at the time have revealed themselves as priceless opportunities that I was able to take advantage of and enjoy. I built a successful business from scratch, I broadened my skillset tremendously, I enjoyed newfound freedom and independence…I grew more professionally in the last 3 years than I grew in the previous 15. I even discovered my passion and creative/therapeutic outlet that is woodturning. But perhaps most importantly I got to spend more quality time with my family “thanks to” the global quarantine. What often felt like a curse at the outset was actually a blessing (or many blessings) in disguise.
As a friend recently remarked to me, “Sometimes you think you have things figured out and then God laughs at you.” Growth does not come without challenges. I could not be more excited for what’s next. Stay tuned…