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What Makes a Planner?

Veena and Annette share their stories.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 01/22/2009

This monthly series of articles describes the many steps and occasional missteps we have taken in building our financial advisory business, Garnet Group LLC. Currently, Garnet has eight staff members, more than 90 clients, more than $300 million in client net worth under advisement, and offices in Bethesda, Md., and Boston. Veena Kutler, CFA, and Annette Simon, CFP, are the managing principals in the Garnet office in Bethesda.

We know a lot of people in the financial planning profession. Both of us have been struck by the way the profession is a magnet for people looking for second careers. We know planners who used to be civil servants, attorneys, doctors, journalists and building contractors. It's true that more colleges are now offering financial planning as a major and young people are entering the profession by going through the steps of getting the education, and then working their way up the ladder at a planning firm. The majority of the planners we know, however, are career changers who were drawn to the profession through a strong personal circumstance.

Both of us are career changers and our histories are detailed below:

Annette had very compelling and personal reasons for becoming a financial planner. Her story in her own words is below.

What makes someone want to become a financial planner? In my case you might call it a series of unfortunate events.

My father died from pancreatic and liver cancer almost 15 years ago. In the last year of his life he suffered terribly not only from the ravages of his disease but because his financial life began to unravel at the same time.

For most of his life he had been a successful businessman. He and his brother sat atop a small empire of retail stores and a variety of investments in local businesses in my Midwestern home town--a family business my grandfather built after emigrating from the Ukraine. We lived very comfortably in our small community while I was growing up; in fact I'd say my brothers and I were pretty spoiled, never wanting for anything. I saw my dad as a savvy businessman and a person of the highest integrity.

Our fortunes first began to turn when my dad and uncle decided to open a new store halfway across the country in Nevada. Until then I had been unaware that dad was unhappy with his life, but he was restless and looking for a big change. Boy, did he get it! Our family voted (four to one--I was the only one opposed) to relocate so that dad could manage the new venture. Soon after moving the family he left my mom and filed for divorce.

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