Last year, I met with a financial independence coach who has been helping individuals with their finances for over three decades! I’ve had the notes tucked away but I decided to share it today because it’s so full of little nuggets and takeaways I think you will get a lot of value from it if you’ve ever wanted to help people with their finances.
I met with Greg Kesten who is a financial coach. He wrote a book called “Financial Freedom” and lives a life of simplicity and purpose really helping other people.
Check out our interview!
Do you know other financial coaches?
I have never found anybody, yet, and I’ve been looking and I’ve kept my eyes open to who really does financial coaching. And the main thing is because they haven’t figured out a way to make a living. It can be done, but it has to be done with the right combination.
What value do you feel you bring to your customers versus a financial advisor?
One distinction you might be interested in is a financial advisor is a financial salesman, a financial coach is a financial educator and counselor, very different. One gets paid by commissions, AUM, or fees. As a coach, I get paid for doing sessions. Just like if someone were to come to me for personal development. So, the value I create is a lifelong value of helping someone from where they’re at to where they want to go as long as I’m going to live.
I’ve got an old ROTC buddy who I’ve known for 42 years. And he’s been a client ever since he got out of the air force and started flying for American Airlines since 86. So that’s probably my longest client right now. I’ve outlived all my clients who started out with me back in 1982. But what happens is now I get 4 or 5 referrals a year. Then I’ll have 3 or 4 or 5 people pass away. Or will disappear. So I’m not trying to grow my practice. I just keep going along and I have 45 clients. And they’re the best people in the world. I know more about them than even their spouses because I work with them on a very personal basis. And that’s very fulfilling.
As a coach, I go way deep. Where financial advisors or salesman go very wide. They’re just trying to get money to manage and sell stuff. We don’t have a relationship like that. The relationship is with a counselor over the decades. A lot of people have been with me 20 years plus. I’m like part of their family. And that’s very fulfilling but you have to have the right personality and you have to be very open on how you can stay in business. The main thing on personality is the value, I really create the value of being a counselor to them. Like an outside third party, totally objective person in their lives. Which no one else is. That creates a lot of value. A lot of times in my hour sessions, we’ll spend 50 minutes of that hour session talking about personal development, family relationships, health issues, family issues, and 10 minutes on how their money is doing. I have to be flexible with that. I am also a certified coach with 7 habits of highly successful people. Which is a Steven Covey book, a great book.
I coach that and I am big on personal development and people sense that. People sense when you can create value in their lives as opposed to what do you got to sell me. Big difference. Long answer, short question.
How have you been able to sustain this business for such a long time and provide a living for you and your family?
A couple of ways. One. I am always looking for opportunities to coach. I’ve gotten several clients when I go on a cruise, when I travel on an airplane. People say, “what do you do?” “I am a financial coach and educator.” They pause and you can see the wheels turning … “Is that like an advisor?” “No actually an advisor is a salesman and they sell life insurance, mutual funds, and annuities, those are salespeople. But I actually educate, coach and tutor my clients on how their money works.” “Oh really, tell me more about that.”
So I’m a product of the product. I walk the walk and I talk the talk. I never ask clients to stretch financially in ways that I haven’t stretched. I’m a living breathing example of what I teach. So they will sense, as a salesman you can get away with being a hypocrite because you’re just a salesman. As a coach, you’ve got to really dive into what’s in their heart and in their mind. And the way that they will let you into their heart is when they can trust that you are not trying to sell them something and you’re sincerely interested in what’s going on with them, and you’re a been there done that kind of guy.
So for instance, you will be able to build your practice with people in your generation. Someone like myself who is 64 years old, my generation won’t allow you to coach them because you are the age of their grandchildren. And I discovered that. I started in this business when I was 28 years old fresh out of the air force. And when I told people who were in their 40’s and 50’s that I was in this to stay and this was my professional calling to be a financial educator, some of them literally rolled their eyes. It’s like, “ah yeah, ok kid, what are you selling?” But I stuck with it, and I’ve been doing this for 36 years.
So you have a passion, you have an objective, you don’t let anything discourage you from that passion and you build your practice and you just maintain it.
And that’s where I’m at right now. Now, I haven’t found anyone to take my practice when I die. Now, I’ll be working my practice until I die. Because there is no reason to give up my goose laying the golden egg or the cow giving the bucket of milk every day. As long as I have my mental capacities I will be working with my clients until I am 90 years old. And that’s extremely unique because most people will say, “when are you going to retire?” “Oh, I’m going to retire when I am 60.” “What are you going to do when you’re 60?” “Oh I’ll just sell my practice.” Because, it’s about me, not about my clients. Where for me it’s about my clients not about me.
However, what I do is I have narrowed down my clients over the years to where I am much more discreet to who I spend my time with. Because there are clients that I just absolutely love like a brother and sister, and then there are clients that I don’t want to walk away from but they’re not the easiest people to coach.
How often do you normally meet with your clients?
Once we get them up to cruising altitude (35,000 ft), which typically takes about 12 one hour sessions. Then we do a maintenance session once every 3 months. And every quarter, every three months, boom, we got a financial plan in place. They send me the updates to their financial plan, we talk about it, we go over their macroeconomics, microeconomics and how it affects their plan, what their investments have been doing, cash reserves, liabilities, financial risk, cash flow management, financial vision statement.
I do something that I don’t know of anyone else who does it or the way it could be done and that’s a financial vision statement. If you were to ask 100 people on the street, “what does your hard copy financial vision statement say?” They would say, “I have no idea,” right? Which is not an indictment against people, it’s just the way it works. I carry my financial vision statements with me. I have a statement for my own life, my marriage, my family, being a son in my family, business, being a teacher, being a financial coach. My financial vision statement which is my wife and I: “We enjoy the abundant life and are generous in sharing our money with others. We are financially secure, independent, and free. We contribute to the lives of others giving them greater hope and faith in the Lord.” And also my health vision statement. That’s what we do with our money and that is what we’re about. And that’s why we don’t live in a 5000 square foot home and pay $5,000 a year in property taxes.
“You live simple, and you simply love life.”
We live a life of quiet inspiration. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, most people live a life of quiet desperation. It doesn’t have to be that way. But most people don’t have an interest in learning about the gospel, and most people don’t know if they did, where to find it. So they’re the fate of life. The people I coach, there is a fate in their life that brought us together. If people stay with me, they become millionaires, financially, plus they get their life together. And if they don’t they had every opportunity for me to give some observations and suggestions.
What do you think of the industry of financial coaching in the future?
Financial coaching is not going to grow. Because the financial services industry does not want it to grow. The financial services industry is inherently corrupt. It’s all based on what they can sell people for commissions. American Express, Merrill Lynch, UBS, on and on and on, the money flows to the top. And Fidelity, Vanguard. It’s about being able to build their buildings, and whether their customers make money or not is not important. Now they don’t advertise it that way. But the financial services industry really is corrupt, therefore, why would it change its way? It’s worked out very well. They make billions of billions of dollars a year by charging people fees that the people don’t even know they’re getting charged (hidden fees).
The financial coaching industry will always be a very thin market. 30 years ago I would have said only a fraction of the people out there want to be coached. 30 years to today, it’s exactly the same statistic. 20 – 30 years it’s only going to be a fraction of a fraction. The way that I have been able to make this a full-time job, which people cannot figure out, is I have a unique personality to be a financial coach. I am very engaging. And I am very empathetic and sympathetic, and I have compassion for where people are at in their lives. Salesman don’t. They can come across as being that way, but after being around salesman for a while you go, that guy’s a salesman.
The financial coaching industry will be jealousy talked about, and it’s been attempted in many cases, and I’ve coached for other companies, but they are inherently corrupt. The money goes to the top and they can’t keep good coaches.
Out of all the coaches that I have hired over the years. There is only one who comes close to what I do. And he makes a living as a financial salesman, good guy, sells life insurance, mutual funds, annuities. 56 years old. I can’t think of one other person besides myself and him who understands financial coaching, and I’ve been in this for 36 years. I know a lot of the players.
So does that make me better than anyone else? No. It’s just a very vertical niche. Just like someone who represents multimillionaire performers. If you were to say to the agent of Steve Young, “hey I want to be like you, how do I do it?” However, with the young people that come here and talk to me about what I do, they have good hearts, but it will take a lot of work to find their niche to coach.
You’re doing exactly what you should do, and that is being a financial counselor at the U, if you could even stay on with them after you graduate and make a decent living, something, you have to pay your dues. You gotta pay your dues. Then you graduate to a company that needs you to be a junior planner for them. Where you can start to see how they manage money, and how they work with their clients, etc. And you spend X amount of years there. And then you start relationships, and then you can imitate what I do and say, you know folks, I’m sorry this didn’t work out, would you still like me to be of service?
Are you a part of any communities or organizations?
There is no organization that does what I do. There are planner organizations, sales organizations, but there is no viable financial coaching organization. So I resigned all of my licenses, I was a CFP, I had my 63, 22 and 7, then life and health, I had all those licenses and I resigned them because I decided I don’t need them. So I am a boutique guy. And my overhead is $10 a month for my website. So I can do a lot of great things for people.
I want to live my life in quiet inspiration, and I do. I’m not looking for fame or status or title or notoriety, or any of that stuff. Because I’m living the way that most people want to live, but they haven’t figured out how to. I don’t say that bragging, I say that as I’ve learned that vicariously from multi-millionaire people to people on the brink of bankruptcy. I’ve learned vicariously what a person needs to do to live a life of quiet inspiration.
So I haven’t had to learn painfully. Learning vicariously is a lot funner. Learning experientially is painful. But I have made some financial mistakes, my biggest financial mistakes over the years is I’ve lent money to people and they turn out to be gifts. That compassion I have in my heart to help people out, “Can I loan you a little bit of money?” oh yes, yes, yes, and in almost all cases it ends up being a gift. But you know what, I don’t owe anything. My life is a stewardship. So I don’t mind sharing. We are very generous in our tithes and offerings and other things because that’s part of a sharing life.
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