It was the summer of 2008 a full six years after graduating from UCLA with my degrees in business economics and accounting. I’d passed my CPA exam, worked for one of the prestigious “Big Four” accounting firms, got hired away by my favorite client and again moved onward and upward in transition to another new opportunity. By all accounts, I was on track, successfully navigating the prescribed path to a respected career and financial independence. But there was one major problem: I wasn’t happy.
Nearly 20 years after my parents gave me the well-intended advice to become an accountant, I am incredibly lucky to have found a vocation that melds the satisfaction of developing personal relationships and helping others with my business and accounting background. This is my story of the 20-year career journey that led me to become a financial adviser
Move to the Front of the Class
As an undergrad, I remember grappling with the question of what I wanted to do with my life. Unlike many of my friends in college, I was the first person in my extended family to pursue an undergraduate degree. Without the benefit of advice and the experienced perspective of those closest to me, I hadn’t developed a clear sense of how to choose a career.
What I did know at the impressionable age of 18 was this: (1) I wasn’t good enough to be a professional baseball player, and (2) I’d always been good at math and had gotten an “A” in my Management 1A: Principles of Accounting class. So, I followed my parents’ straightforward advice and became an accountant.
But as a young professional exposed to the effects of the Great Recession and two rounds of layoffs in as many years, I decided to take a step back and consider what was motivating me both personally and professionally. Through that process of discovery and self-reflection, I came to realize I wasn’t on a good path at all. I had no defined goals beyond the next promotion; I wasn’t building anything I valued and I wasn’t doing work that positively affected people.
It was at this point that I decided to pursue my MBA with the objective of “climbing the income statement” (yes, that’s an accounting joke) and identifying a career path that would satisfy my desire to help others and lean in to my professional strengths and past experiences. While obtaining my MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, three monumental events took place that would eventually lead me to becoming an independent financial adviser at the age of 40:
- I met my future wife, a woman who embodies the virtues of discipline and planning and possessed a willingness to take a calculated risk (on me).
- I developed a keen interest in finance and investing, consuming academic principles directly from Nobel Prize-winning professors who established the foundation of the investment philosophy that I now advocate with my clients.
- I started working with a fiduciary financial adviser to map out our financial goals
Every Career Path Needs a Well-Defined Plan
The seed had been planted, and as I continued to gain work and life experience, I kept coming back to this idea of helping others achieve long-term financial independence and peace of mind. But where to begin?
Just as with financial planning and investing, I came to recognize the value in consulting a subject matter expert. Motivated by my new goal, but lacking a strategy to achieve it, I asked our adviser to step outside the conventional scope of our relationship and share her advice for developing a plan to pursue a career as an independent financial adviser. She asked me a lot of questions, helped me create a list of priorities and objectively inspired confidence in my ability to be successful.
Just as with strengthening my financial future, I learned the importance of remaining committed to a long-term plan, adjusting intelligently as circumstances dictated and not losing conviction in the face of uncertainty. With help, I applied those principles to my career aspirations. Despite a few bumps in the road, I had a clear sense of what I needed to do in order to move closer to my goals, and just as beneficial, I had an unbiased advocate reminding me to stay the course.
I spent the next five years investing in myself and my plan. I sought out opportunities to work with small business owners and sole proprietors to gain a better understanding of what they valued in their work/life dynamic. I helped my parents develop a financial plan and investment strategy that would allow them to retire with clarity and confidence. I led a sales organization through a period of growth and transition designed to sustain its ongoing success. I never stopped talking to people in the financial advising industry, continuously educating myself and evaluating my options.
In 2019, I finally made the transition to working full-time as an independent financial adviser at the firm for which our first financial adviser is now a partner.
Becoming a Financial Adviser
There were two reasons why I gravitated toward my current firm: (1) I saw the ongoing value in learning from an experienced group of respected individuals, and (2) I had a strong affinity for the way the firm serves clients on a personal level and in a fiduciary capacity by creating individualized strategies rather than providing cookie-cutter solutions.
As a financial adviser, I’ve been rewarded with the tremendous honor and opportunity to help families, individuals and small businesses navigate the trade-offs and financial challenges that inform their futures. Likewise, I have tremendous gratitude for the many people who’ve helped shape my path and empowered me to achieve so much fulfillment in my career.
The Right Place at the Right Time
Looking back, it would have been nice to have experienced some grand epiphany in my 20s or 30s. However, if that had been the case, I wouldn’t have learned the myriad lessons that now shape my approach as a fiduciary for others looking to make positive change in their lives; seeking financial health, personal happiness and a path to building wealth that will last their lifetime.
Joey Schultz joined Forum Financial Management LP in 2019 as a financial adviser. Before joining Forum, he served as director of strategic partnerships and global strategic accounts for Expedia and led ongoing strategy development and execution for global strategic partnerships. Joey is the co-founder of Home for a Home, a volunteer organization through which real estate professionals can donate a portion of their commissions to help fund homes for those in need.