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The Simple Life Cuts a Path to Prosperity

For Mark Zaifman, finances are only part of retirement planning.

Kate Stalter, 08/28/2013

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2013 issue of MorningstarAdvisor magazine. To subscribe, please call 1-800-384-4000.

When people talk about the impact of personal finance books published in the past 25 years, you’ll often hear them mention Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. The book offers a blueprint for aligning finances with personal values. Its publication started a movement toward financial independence gained through simple living.

Mark Zaifman makes no secret of its profound effect on him. He read the book in 1992, shortly after it was published and became a New York Times bestseller. Its principles— living within your means, balancing work with the things you love to do—now serve as the foundation for Spiritus Financial Planning, the Petaluma, Calif., investment advisory and wealth-management firm he founded in 2003. The firm’s holistic approach to financial planning is focused on a wide array of clients. “It was a monumental book that changed everything in my life,” he says.

At the time, Zaifman had recently moved to Northern California from New Jersey and was working as an executive recruiter with a focus on software engineers.

“In 1992, I set a goal that I would have enough money in the bank to get out of the corporate world 10 years later and be able to make a very modest income doing whatever I loved,” he says. “I had no idea at the time it was going to be financial planning, but I knew I wanted the financial freedom to pursue whatever passion really made my heart sing.”

Setting the Stage
Zaifman grew up on the East Coast, the son of European immigrants. As is common in immigrant communities, his parents started small businesses to support the family. As a child, Zaifman had the job of counting the money at the end of the day. That spurred his interest in numbers and finance. A few years later, he used bar mitzvah gift money to open his first brokerage accounts.

He earned a degree in tax accounting from Monmouth University in 1983 and eventually joined with three business partners to form Management Recruiters of Bridgewater.

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