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Building the Business 101: A Renaissance Man of Career-Changers

Everette Orr's took the scenic route toward a career in financial planning.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 06/26/2008

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.

More so than most other professions, the financial-planning profession seems to attract midlife career-changers. We know planners who have entered the field in their 30s, 40s and 50s from careers as varied as lawyers, bankers, English professors, and physicians. Why does financial planning attract accomplished individuals with such wide-ranging backgrounds? We don't have a definitive answer, but we believe that there are several characteristics that make the field attractive to more-mature individuals:

1) Many advisors, especially career-changers, start out as independent business owners. The ability to create your own business, determine your own hours and working conditions is very appealing, especially for people who have been working in a larger organization with rules and limits dictated by others.

2) Success in our profession requires solid technical and analytical abilities, as well as strong interpersonal and communication skills. This is a fairly unique combination and presents the kind of challenge many people are looking for after some years in the workplace.

3) Financial planners are able to help individuals solve real and significant problems in their lives. There are few vocations that offer the opportunity to perform such a personally rewarding service--even fewer that are accessible to a midlife career changer.

Many of our colleagues entered the profession after facing a financial planning challenge within their own lives. This was the case for both of us. Annette, who has a background in management consulting, became a financial planner 12 years ago, after the death of her father. A complicated family situation and some questionable last-minute changes in his will left her determined to learn more about financial planning and interested in devoting her life to helping others avoid unexpected and unintended consequences as a result of their financial decisions. Veena's interest in personal finance first began with her own family's estate-planning process 10 years ago and increased as she began thinking of careers that would allow her to do meaningful work while having the flexibility to spend more time with her children.

One of our local colleagues and friends is the quintessential second-career financial planner. Everette Orr is the founder and sole owner of Orr Financial Planning, LLC in McLean, Va. We have both known and admired Everette for many years and consider him a real Renaissance man. Everette is a CPA, CFP, and CFA, and a planner dedicated to working with the middle-income market. His story is a great illustration of a successful career change into the financial planning profession. We interviewed him recently and felt that anyone considering a move into our profession could learn a lot from his example.

The Interview

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