An Interview With a Financial Coach of 36 Years!

An Interview With a Financial Coach of 36 Years!

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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The Difference Between a Financial Coach and a Financial Planner

The Difference Between a Financial Coach and a Financial Planner

If you’re looking for professional advice on financial matters, it’s best to look for someone that fits your needs and will have your best interest in mind. If you’re young and want to know what to do with the $3,000 in the bank or you’re older and not sure how to deal with an estate of a loved one passing, it can be confusing finding the best help for your situation. The two most commonly confused financial professionals are Financial Advisors/Planners and Financial Counselors/Coaches (I’m going to refer to advisors as planners and counselors as coaches). 

These aren’t the only financial professionals. There’s quite a few more. But, focusing on these two they both help people with their finances and share a lot of similarities. The main differences lie in their education, training and the services they provide. Maybe you’re looking to hire someone to work with or you would like to pursue a career in the field. Let’s explore the differences between the two.

What is a CFP®?

The CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) is the gold standard for the financial planning industry and perhaps you know someone with the certification. In order to receive this designation, you have to pass a difficult exam and work in a related field for three years. CFP’s training specializes in wealth management, tax law, investment risk, and estate planning. If you’re thinking about working with a financial planner, I would only recommend you find one who has this designation.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to be a CFP® to call yourself a financial planner. Any Joe Schmo off the street can sell you financial products and doesn’t need a certification in order to do so. That’s why it’s extremely important that you hire the right person with the proper training. Most financial planners are financial salesmen and they typically sell life insurance, mutual funds, and annuities. You can’t blame a financial planner for the products they sell though, it’s usually the company who creates the products and the financial planners are limited to those. 

Sadly, the financial services industry is laden with dishonest and crooked financial planners that many people have lost trust in. They had no idea they’re paying large commissions or high fees. But when you take into consideration the compounding effect of fees, a 1% difference over 30 years could lead to a triple-digit difference. A single investment portfolio could be enough to fund the financial planner’s entire lifestyle. With that being sad, some fees are worth paying for the service a financial planner could bring you. Just ask yourself frequently if this financial planner is truly bringing you value. 

Not all financial planners are crooks. Not all have their interests in mind over their clients best interest. I know many amazing financial planners who provide a great service. But there are a lot of people who simply cannot afford to work with one. The truth is, 95% of people are underserved. The system is not set up to benefit everyone, only the people who have done well financially. The question financial planners have to ask themselves every time they meet with a prospective client is, “Are you rich enough for me to make money off of you?” This is the financial planning industry as we know it.

Imagine walking into the doctor’s office because you’re sick. You sit on the plastic sheet of paper and the doctor walks in. He says, “before we get too far into this, I want to apologize and let you know that we only specialize in helping people with a BMI between 20 and 25 and who maintain a body fat percentage below 20%.” He tells you to exercise a little more and eat a little less and come back when you’re healthy. We know a doctor would never do that but this is how the financial services industry works.

When should you work with one?

Most financial planners spend time with older people. Why? Because they’re better storytellers? No. Because they have money. Financial planners typically meet with 5% of the wealthiest people. They can’t afford to spend time with millennials or broke people because if they do, they don’t eat or live indoors. This is the disconnect between people who want sound financial advice and those that are willing to pay for it. Most financial planners would like to help the average person but they simply can’t if they want to stay in business. Often financial advisors will charge a percentage of assets under management. If there are no assets, their business model does not allow them to work with that individual. 

“1% of nothing is nothing”

From a financial planning perspective, there are three ways they can go about working with a client. Sell products, work with them until they are rich, or wait until they are rich. This is why the financial services industry has had a bad reputation. People just want help. If you would like someone to manage your investments, learn more about social security benefits, or understand your insurance needs a financial planner would be great to work with. However, my opinion is if you’re more of a DIY person on the path towards financial independence you do not need to work with a financial planner. By learning a few simple steps you can automate your finances, bypass the fees and achieve more in your lifetime. 

How are they compensated?

Financial Planners earn income in a variety of different ways. Earning commissions on selling products, charging assets under management or flat fees. I recommend you work with a financial planner who charges a fee or an hourly rate. 

But what about someone who says they actively manage your portfolio and have consistently been able to beat the market? You’d be surprised to know how often they don’t beat the benchmark. Instead of paying a ton of money to beat the market why not just own the market for a fraction of the cost?

What they don’t do

Financial planners are not trained in a few key areas. Student loans and credit repair. The words student loan are not mentioned one time in the CFP® exam. With the amount of student loan debt on the rise, this is a huge factor to consider when looking at someone’s financial situation and most financial planners have no idea how to address these. Second, a financial planner is not going to help you repair your credit. Lastly, I only know a few financial planners that include in part of their practice helping people make better behavior decisions like budgeting, saving money, using a credit card, etc. They may have some personal experience when it comes to these areas but it’s not something they are educated in. This is where the financial coach comes in who targets helping the other 95% of people. 

What is an AFC®?

There are many self-proclaimed coaches and counselors who help people with their money. You really don’t need a certification to call yourself a coach, so be careful. Certifications do establish credibility. The most common is the (Accredited Financial Counselor®). 

AFCPE (the Association of Financial Counselors and Planning Educators) began in 1984 and is really bringing forward what our country needs. Which is financial literacy, financial education, and actually helping people with the things they need help with.

“What good is a financial plan if it’s not implemented”

An AFC® educates, coaches and tutors their clients on how their money works.

A planner is really good at turning sprinters into marathon runners, but what about the couch to 5K program? A financial coach takes into consideration what the client needs and does not try and sell them anything. They focus on helping people understand their financial situation, set goals, work towards them and implementing a plan.

When should you work with one?

51% of Americans feel they don’t have enough saved to get input from a planner. Realistically, 95% don’t have enough to get help from a financial planner but they’re looking for advice. A financial coach can be a great middle person between a financial planner and a counselor. If you’ve dug yourself into a deep hole with student loans, credit card debt, etc. you should work with a financial coach. If you’re just starting out and you don’t have a lot of cash saved up and you want to make sure you don’t make any big mistakes, work with a financial coach. If you would like to build a long-term relationship with someone that understands money and isn’t going to sell you something, work with a financial coach. 

If you’re in a situation where no one wants to spend time with you because you have too much debt and not enough assets, it may be worth looking into a financial coach that can help get you started on the right path. 

How are they compensated? 

Financial coaches are compensated in two ways. They work for a non-profit organization such as the government, military, university, or hospital or they have their own practice and they charge a flat fee.  

What they don’t do

Financial coaches do not advise on investments. They will not tell you when is a good time to buy into the market or when a company’s stock is on sale nor will they manage your money for you. Many financial coaches have what is call an RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) in which they can provide that information and manage other peoples money. Most do not spend time helping you with your social security benefits, tax law, trusts, estate planning, etc. They will not tell you what to do, they will educate you on the different options and ultimately it is your job to decide what’s best for you. 

We need both professionals today. Hopefully, after discussing the difference between a financial planner and a financial coach you have a better idea of who you should work with. As well as which career path you would like to pursue if financial services is something that interests you. 

I’m sure there are many things that I’ve missed and haven’t included. This is based off of my experience and I welcome any feedback or comments. 

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