Did you know October 7 is World Financial Planning Day? This date was established by Financial Planning Standards Board Ltd. (FPSB) and its global network of affiliates to raise public awareness of the value of financial planning. The FPSB Network represents nearly 190,000 CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals across 27 territories worldwide.

In the United States, the CFP Board maintains the professional standard for Certified Financial Planner® certification. Through a rigorous process of education, examination, experience, and ethical requirements, a CFP® professional represents the highest level of competence in financial planning. Individuals are required to take coursework on financial plan and then pass an examination. They are also required to complete a certain amount of field experience, independently or as an apprentice to a CFP®. The final requirement regarding ethics, mandates that an individual commit to always acting in a client’s best interest and submitting to extensive background checks.

CFP®s are available to provide comprehensive financial planning, which ends up being much more than investment advice. As the CFP® designation suggests, you will get financial guidance specific to your needs. Additionally, you get a uniquely designed, comprehensive plan which reflects your needs, wishes, past experience, and future goals. This is what you can expect when you contact the team at Heritage Advisory Group. The world right now is volatile and uncertain. People are anxious and guarded about their money and assets, and concerned about what the future will look like. The team at Heritage will take the time to listen and create a personalized plan for to achieve short- and long-term goals. On to the interview with Greg!

Let’s start with the basics: how did you get into the business of financial planning?  

I’m a bit of a unique case.  My roots trace back to my senior year in high school when I joined the stock market club.  I joined to get a better idea of how the stock market works and found that I really enjoyed it.  The teacher that ran the club (also happened to be a Lincoln client) saw how much I enjoyed the club and approached me after school one day about a part time job offering  that she had heard about at Lincoln Investment.  That was when I came to work for Jonathan and Susan for a few hours every day after school doing very basic clerical work.  I tried to soak up and learn as much as I could about retirement planning and the customer service that goes along with managing people’s money.  I had no idea that 20+ years later I would still be here and still learning every day.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made!

In your view, what is a common roadblock that prevents people from achieving their financial goals? 

I think financial goals are like any other goal. It requires planning, monitoring, and follow through to get there.  The biggest place where people fall down is having the consistent discipline to do those three things. 

For someone new to saving and investing, where do you suggest people start?  

From my own personal experience and professional perspective I think having a budget is the first place to start and critical to laying out any financial plan.  Knowing how much money is coming in and going out per month is the first step in planning for any financial goal or need.  From there you can build off of that to allocate what portion of your income is left to put towards your emergency fund, retirement plan, or extra savings.  Don’t let it get overwhelming, keep it as simple as possible and know that it can/probably will change over time.

In your 20+ years of work in financial planning, could you share a success story or something you are proud of? 

The story that comes to mind was when I was only a few years into the business and I would show up to a school to meet with teachers during their lunch periods to set up their retirement accounts.  The principal of the building was the husband of one of my clients from another district.  Though, he had his retirement plan with another company in the district and claimed that he and his wife also used another financial advisor at a large firm.  No matter the day when I came in, I could count on him telling me how great the other advisors/ firms were and what the next best idea was for investing money.  However, one day I came into school and he was down in the dumps.  We sat down and he told me that he had recently been diagnosed with a heart condition which had set off some other health issues making coming to work very difficult.  He desperately wanted to retire, but couldn’t because he didn’t have the years in the pension to replace enough of his current salary in retirement.  That’s when I remembered a previous conversation about when he grew up and taught in North Carolina.  He had long closed out that pension, but I let him know that he could buy up to as much as 10 years back to add to his NJ teachers pension.  I walked him through it every step of the way and it cost him most of what he had saved in his retirement accounts with the other advisors.  But, he as able to retire 6 months later nearly bringing in as what he was making.  Apparently the two other advisors, that he touted so highly, weren’t of any great value after all.  He and his wife are grateful clients to this day and he is doing much better in retirement!

How has the financial planning industry over the course of your career? Has the client experience changed? 

I think change is inevitable in any industry.  The biggest change that I’ve seen is the push for technology to increase the speed and efficiencies of all aspects of the business.  Whether it’s processing paperwork by clicking buttons on a screen, doing a financial plan, or communicating with clients, technology continues to permeate into our daily lives and makes us rethink our daily agendas.  Some firms are so confident in their technology that they have even taken it a step further by offering investment advice through robo-advisors.  Though there may be a niche of people that don’t mind that interaction, I also think most people prefer a trusted advisor that they have a relationship with and know that they can count on.  Clients want/need advisement and need to be educated so that they can make informed decisions.  It’s not as cut and dry as either choose A or B.  Advising is about sharing facts on a subject matter as much as it is showing empathy, discipline, and emotion.  Managing the logic and client emotions in any decision is crucial.  I think that’s as true now as it has ever been before.

Once traveling becomes more feasible, is there a destination you are looking forward to checking out? 

I love to travel, so there are many destinations still on my bucket list.  Ultimately I would say that Alaska, Ireland, and Scotland stand out as being my top picks.  Alaska comes to mind as the apex of the majestic outdoors with the untouched land and sceneries that only seem almost surreal (plus the fishing is supposed to be amazing!).  Scotland and Ireland appeal to the side of me that enjoys history. Both places enjoy such rich tradition. I also really enjoy scotch.