Alexandria: Thank you so much, Luis, for coming on today. We are here in New Orleans at NexGen Gathering, and you are one of our ambassadors here this year. I just want to kind of thank you for coming and being a part of this experience. Thank you for being on with us today.
Luis: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Alexandria: Yeah, no problem. I just want to jump right in because I know time is valuable, and want to get back to the conference, but I want people who don’t read your LinkedIn to know who is Luis? What makes you the guy that you are today, or the man that you are today?
Luis: That’s a very good question. One that I’m still trying to find out myself.
Alexandria: Sure thing.
Luis: Well, I think a little bit of back story on me. I was born in Dominican Republic, and that’s a small little island in the Caribbean. A little fun fact, I believe it’s one of a kind. It’s one island that shares two nations, so it’s Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the same island.
Luis: I moved to New York when I was 11 with my family. I speak Spanish as my first language. I had to learn English and all that stuff. Went to school in New York, and lived there for 25 years. Now I’m in Las Vegas. I became a financial planner not by choice. I didn’t even know that the financial planning path was available as a career. I didn’t even know what a planner was.
I met someone at the time when I was working in the mail room in college, and she introduced me to a CFP, right before I was about to graduate. I met with him, and he was kind of starting to grow his business, and said, “Hey, if you want to work for me part-time,” so I started sitting in client meetings and stuff. It actually took me a little bit of a while to figure out what a planner did.
Luis: It was such a broad range of things. What I got from it was that you’re a problem solver, right? That’s who I am. Going back to your question, I look at things from what can we do to solve whatever the issue is that a person has, and that’s how I run my business. It’s basically looking at it from what answer do you provide to a specific question, so what problem do you solve?
Luis: That’s what I feel like I am.
Alexandria: I want to go back to something you said of how you kind of stumbled upon the profession, or I didn’t know what financial planning was until you had a friend that connected you to somebody else. I wanted to kind of hear a little bit more about that. You were in college, and you just were talking over the water cooler at the mailroom, and they were like, “Oh, you should talk to a financial planner.” What were you studying in college prior to that? Was that actually in line with even being a financial planner, or was it totally something different?
Luis: I guess somewhat. I was in school for economics, so I was just about to graduate. I was heavily looking into jobs at that point. That’s when I spoke to the person that worked at the law firm. She was like, “Well, I know somebody that works in finance, and that might be related to what you’re doing.” At that point, I was just looking for any job. Nothing specific. I just needed to get paid …
Alexandria: Of course.
Luis: … and start paying student loans back.
Alexandria: Yeah, you’re like, “Hey, this is a job that pays.” I totally understand. What was your first impression once you started working there?
Luis: It was what you said. It was kind of like all combined. What is this? I sat at client meetings, but every single person had a different issue, right? It took me a while to figure out like … I couldn’t figure out what a planner was, truly because usually, an accountant, they do numbers. It’s specific. This was like sitting at client meetings, and helping them figure out their life, in a sense.
It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but I liked it. The common theme I saw was that of okay, you help people get somewhere from where they are. They tell you their goals. You solve a problem. I found it super interesting. I was like, “Wow, I wonder why this wasn’t offered as a college …”
Alexandria: Class or something.
Luis: Right, a class. Not only do you not learn it personally in college, it’s personal finance, but then it’s not also offered as an option of career. I definitely stumbled upon it. I’m glad I did. I’ve been in it ever since, since college. That’s it. That’s the only job I’ve ever had was being a financial planner.
Alexandria: Yeah. You also kind of mentioned too, you’re from Dominican Republic, but maybe kind of provide some insight like your family and your upbringing. Was financial planning even talked about? Like in your community, was that something that you saw, management of money? How did that like now get you to the point where, “Yeah, I really want to do this because how I was even brought up, this was there, or it wasn’t there.” Can you kind of talk about that?
Luis: Yes, absolutely. It’s a big driving force. I come from a big family. Six siblings, mother and father, grandparents lived with us. I was the youngest so from birth we lived at least 10 people in the house. When we moved to New York, we had a one bedroom apartment. No, financial planning was not talked about.
Alexandria: Right. There were some other things.
Luis: Just to give you background, my parents never had a car, never had credit cards, never had a job that offered a 401K, never had life insurance. Nothing. The most my parents ever had was a savings account, at most. When we needed to buy something, you just saved up for it. Maybe some of the listeners are not familiar with the concept of layaway, but when I grew up, it was kind of like reversed credit. You wouldn’t get the instant gratification.
You went to a store. You saw something you wanted, like a couch, and you put a down payment on it, and then ever week or whatever you made payment toward it, but you didn’t get the thing until you were done.
Alexandria: Yeah. I can understand that.
Luis: It was a blessing in a sense because I learned that hard work, and kind of like all right, if you want something, you have to work for it to get it. That was the blessing part of it, but then the down side to it was that my parents couldn’t really teach me any of it, so when I went to college, for example, and I had to fill out a FAFSA, my parents don’t even know English to this day. They couldn’t help me fill out a FAFSA. I had no idea what a FAFSA was.
This is like another language for me. Now, that is certainly a driver for me because a lot of my peers also come from similar backgrounds where they’re the first one in their families to graduate college, things like that. Now, they have options that our parents didn’t have, 401Ks and all that stuff. It’s very common in my culture, for example, like grandparents, you never put them in a nursing home. They live at home forever.
A lot of us are probably not going to be in a position where we can do that because it’s just different times, you know? Growing up in the Dominican Republic, yeah, there were 10 of us in the house. Somebody was always around to be able to take care of an elderly person. Things like long-term care insurance, all that kind of stuff, that was never talked about. It was like family was it. Family was life insurance. Family was long-term care.
Alexandria: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Totally. I can’t wait, we’ll get to the talk about … I think that this probably shapes a lot of how you work with clients because you’ve seen different things than maybe a traditional family grows up thinking, or what other minority communities see as far as when it comes to relationship with money, and how you handle things when it comes from a community and family perspective.
We will definitely talk. I want to kind of hear a little bit more to your progression to where you are now, so you started with this gentleman in the firm, and you were kind of sitting in on meetings. What happened next? Did you get your CFP? Did you sit in meetings for several years? What was your kind of next steps after that first time working?
Luis: Yeah, so at the beginning I had mostly administrative role. I was making appointments, running the calendar, all that stuff, sitting in meetings, taking notes, doing the follow-up stuff, all the paperwork, applications. Then, slowly, yes, the first thing I got was a Series 6, and a 63 I think it was. Just to sell mutual funds or whatever. I was talking to clients as I got more comfortable.
Then, eventually Series 7. Then, I got the 66, and also I became an IRS Enrolled Agent because where I work, we used to do our clients taxes as well. It’s kind of like a little bit of a one-stop-shop. We did financial planning, investment management, tax preparation. Then, I got my CFP in 2016, which was kind of late because I started in ’01. I had the experience for quite a bit, but it was something that I had as a goal for like far out into the future, for some reason.
Then, I realized that having the 66 for example, was like the bare minimum in the business, right, so it’s like what is your differentiator? It’s like all right, everybody has this license, so it’s like how are you different? The process of becoming a CFP was very educational for me, the class, and then study for the exams. I became a better planner just by going through it. Absolutely.
Then, now that I have it, and combined with the Enrolled Agent as well, it’s very powerful. I can offer a lot of things to my clients because sometimes people don’t realize how one thing leads to the other. When you’re advising somebody about rolling things over, and things like that, there’s some tax component to it. A lot of say like, “Oh, we don’t give tax advice,” but to some extent we do. That’s why I made sure I was licensed at least in this, so I could talk about it.
Alexandria: Yeah. That’s great.
Luis: With confidence.
Alexandria: I do want to touch a little bit on the role agent because right now, I think, in the profession, it’s been all right, get your CFP is maybe the standard, and then after that, designations in your expertise, but it actually sounds like you started the enrollment agent right after you’re kind of selling mutual funds, and being a para-planner of sorts, operational in the firm you were at. Were you preparing taxes for people, for clients?
Alexandria: You guys were like offering multiple services outside of just financial services?
Luis: Yes, correct. We were doing tax preparation as well. Actually, now that you mention it, I also got my mortgage license when I was working there in New York. Yeah, New York and Florida, so we were doing really like the one-stop shop. We did taxes, investments, financial planning.
Alexandria: Oh my gosh.
Luis: Mortgages, life insurance.
Alexandria: You were all year long, you were doing something. That’s awesome though.
Alexandria: That’s really awesome. I know a lot of people are like, after they’re done with their CFP, they’re like, “Oh, maybe …” A lot of people are dabbing into Enrolled Agent. Is that something that they should do? Is that a good way to go about it? Not even to prepare taxes, but to allow, like you were saying, that extra step to understanding the tax planning behind it, because you do get a basic level of knowledge in the CFP with tax, but the Enrolled Agent just takes it to the next level.
It actually helped you become very specific in experience in that area prior to even seeing CFP material, which that made you different right there, without even having a CFP, so I can only imagine the client experience that people had.
Luis: Definitely. I think it’s a good niche. Even if you don’t want to prepare taxes, having the Enrolled Agent is super helpful. I meet a lot of planners that work with retirees, for example. They’re talking about Roth conversions, and all kinds of stuff that will impact their taxes. If you’re able to talk with your CPA, and you have an EA certification, the Enrolled Agent Certification is the highest credential the IRS awards.
You can actually represent people before the IRS, not that you would want to necessarily, right, but just to give you the idea of how powerful … It carries a lot of weight. When you’re talking to somebody about their finances, and how taxes impact those plans that you have forward, it’s amazing what you can do, and the level of respect you get also, from other professionals.
Alexandria: Yeah. Everyone listening out there, research it. You said you were in the industry for a really long … or in the profession for a really long time before you actually went and got your CFP. Once you had your CFP, were you like now the senior planner? When did you transition into the space you are now? How did that look?
Luis: Yeah, so when I became a … Let me backtrack a little bit.
Luis: Leading up to being a CFP, I was already itching for it, right. I felt like, Wow, I’ve been in the business for 14, 15 years at the time. I was like this is long overdue.
Alexandria: Yeah. That’s all right. Everyone has their own paths.
Luis: Yeah, I was a late bloomer on that one. What I did was I moved to Las Vegas from New York, and I also, at the same time pretty much, broke off my relationship with the CP I was working for. I took that as my go ahead to just go on my own, and create my own company, which is then why … I said you know, I definitely got to get the CFP certification. I did that.
I’m a solo shop in a sense, solo plan. I work for a company that I do have a back office, and compliance, but in essence, my own company is me. I’m a solopreneur, as they say.
Alexandria: Yeah, hello. Your firm is called Build a Better Financial Future.
Luis: That’s right.
Alexandria: How did you come up with that name because that’s like … It’s like actionable. It’s not necessarily like you didn’t come up with Rosa Financial.
Alexandria: How did you get to that name?
Luis: Yeah, you know, I was looking at a lot of firms out there, like such and such advisors, or such and such wealth, right? I don’t know that people can identify with that necessarily. I was like I want to have a name that immediately, just by looking at the name of my company, you know exactly what I do, or at least have a really good idea.
Luis: I was like, “Well, I help people build their financial futures.”
Alexandria: That makes you go, “Okay, let me ask more of that person,” when it’s like an advisor, or something, or managers, or something, you’re kind of like, “Of what?”
Alexandria: It’s supposed to draw you in, and that’s definitely what I feel like when I read it.
Alexandria: I was like, “What?” A very unique name.
Luis: Some people don’t have wealth to manage yet. They just graduated. They have student loans, but they’re making good enough money where they can afford to pay a planning fee, for example. They’re not wealthy, so to be Rosa Wealth Management might not be attractive to an individual like that.
Alexandria: I totally understand. I want to kind of transition this, because it seems kind of where we’re going, kind of hearing more about your firm and what you do now. Now, you’re your own boss, and you are doing the financial planning for your clients. I want to see who makes up your clients? Who do you work with in your firm?
Luis: Very good question. It’s still a very wide range of clients. I don’t have a target market. I think that the industry is somewhat … it’s headed towards that way, in a sense. Not necessarily a niche, like I work with doctors per se. What I feel like is you should have a certain set of qualities that you look for in a client because it’s a two-way relationship.
The clients choose you, but you get to choose your clients as well. I’m doing a little bit of soul searching in that, but right now, it’s very wide-range, and I have like a 28-year-old saving in a Roth, and I have the 55-year-old retiree as well. It’s super wide. I love working with them all, so I haven’t made up my mind.
Alexandria: That is totally fine. That says something, though too, that even though you have this wide range of clients, that your firm can even sustain being able to work with different demographics, and different generational of clients. Not everybody can do that, at least profitably.
Alexandria: I’ve been on your website. It was curious. It’s like, “Oh, there’s packages.” It’s very transparent.
Luis: Right, yes. Very intentional.
Alexandria: It leaves it up to the client to go, “Yeah, that’s a fit for me,” before they even talk to you. How do you work with people maybe more monetarily, or how do you get them so you’re able to work with the young person and the older person financially, and still pursue their goals?
Luis: Right, yeah. That’s a very good point that you bring out. I did the website very intentionally where I wanted to be super clear on my pricing, and fees, and everything so that if you do reach out to me, you’ve already looked at that and know what I charge, and how I work. It’s not like pricing is going to be an issue, and I’m not going to waste a half hour talking to you, and then I tell you what I charge.
I know there’s a lot of people, for some reason, don’t put their fees on the website. You know what, it’s going to come out at some point.
Alexandria: They’re going to know.
Luis: They’re going to know, so just be up front about it. It is what it is. If they can’t afford it, then they won’t reach out, right? What I do is like you said, I do have different packages because I wanted to allow … I wanted to work with younger professionals that don’t necessarily have a lot of money to invest, but what I noticed was, let’s say I met somebody that graduated law school, and they owe $200,000 in student loans, but they’re making six figures.
They don’t have any money yet, but they have enough money where I can work with them in terms of all right, how are we going to get rid of these loans, and oh yeah, I want to buy a house in two years. My wife is pregnant. All this stuff, right? They can afford to pay planning fees,
I work with people, they don’t have to invest money with me. I could just change them a planning fee. I start about $1,500 on a simpler plans, and it goes up from there. I also have what I call a booster package. I notice a lot of people don’t need all this fancy planning yet either, especially if you’re just graduating. You probably don’t need to worry about retirement just yet, or you’re not thinking about that, right?
I don’t need to give you retirement projections when you’re 22. The booster package is kind of like addressing your most pressing questions right now. We’ll do a budget so cash flow is going to be king. We’ll look at your 401K options at your job, for example. Do a life insurance analysis, and then if you have any debt, we’ll structure a plan on how to best get rid of that.
That’s pretty much it. It’s like all right, let’s get my house in order, and then we’ll worry about the fancy stuff later, right, filling up the different retirement buckets, and all that stuff. That’s kind of how it works. You don’t need to have money to invest with me. Ideally, I’ll do both for people where when they are ready to start investing, then they could invest money with me. They don’t have to as long as they’re paying a planning fee.
That’s pretty much how I operate. Some people just come back to me, and they don’t have necessarily any need for planning. Some people are retired already, and they’re just like, “Hey, here’s my money. I just want you to take care of it, and that’s it. I’m good.”
Luis: It allows for working with the various different kinds of people.
Alexandria: Are you still doing taxes for people too?
Luis: I’m thinking soon I have to cut it off at some point because like last year, I did 148 tax returns.
Luis: That’s a lot for one person.
Alexandria: Yeah it is.
Luis: And then to still manage the assets and the planning, right? The one thing I realized was that a lot of those tax clients are not financial planning or investment clients. I just have like a ton of tax only clients. I might, at some point, just kind of like, “Hey, you know what, I’m going to stop doing returns for people who only do taxes once a year.
Luis: Maybe just cut it off, and do like a packaged deal like, “All right, if you invest money with me, or your a planning client, I can do your taxes for you,” and that’s it. That might have to be the way to go for me.
Alexandria: I mean that sounds like an added value for the client that they could, “Oh, I can be a client and get my taxes done.” It’s just an added value, and it also sounds like a great way to get clients in the door.
Luis: Yes, exactly.
Alexandria: Especially for … I mean you’re not a new planner, but a new planner who is starting out in the business. I they have some type of expertise or they’re able to provide this added value, they could get them in, and I mean it’s unfortunate in this situation, but it’s like financial planning is not yet required, but taxes are every year.
It’s not shocking that you got all these tax people, because they need that every year, but it’s actually a nice way to be like, “Hey, this is how I’m now working in my firm to transition you from being tax specific to I want to see how the overall picture is for you, and I want to start helping you on a deeper level besides just the tax planning we’re doing.
Luis: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, you bring up a great point. If anybody out there that’s just getting started, getting the EA is a great thing. If you want to grow your client base, you could start doing taxes. Like you said, they’re going to need taxes no matter what, whether they have money to invest or not, they’re going to need their taxes. It’s a great revenue stream, and then eventually, yeah, they might be ready to start investing or planning. A great way to, for sure, get your business out there.
Alexandria: Of course. In your firm currently, is it just you? Do you have, you said a little bit of support staff. How many people make up your firm?
Luis: My firm, I work for a company called Retirement Wealth Advisors based out of Grand Rapids, and what they do is they’re an RAA, and I’m an IAR.
Alexandria: Got all the acronyms.
Luis: Got all the acronyms. Independent Advisory Representative, right, but what they allow you to do is to have your own DBA, Doing Business As, so I’m Build a Better Financial Future. I have my own website, my own email, everything, but I’m still an IAR of the RAA. I don’t have to brand RWA stuff, basically.
It’s kind of like a hybrid in a sense. I feel like I have my own company. Build a Better Financial Future itself is not an RAA. I’m the advisor for RWA, but I like it that way because I don’t have to wear so many hats. They have a back office support compliance. They have a planning team as well, so they help me with the plans as well, so I’m able to scale it because I can have a team of planners working on something as opposed to just me doing it all.
Alexandria: Yeah, that is a big point because I know a lot of people starting into the business, or they start their own business , and they don’t have that support, so they’re being the business owner, they’re doing the operations. “Oh, by the way, you’re compliant. You’re making sure your website’s in order, and building …” It’s like, “Oh my gosh, I thought I just signed up to be a financial planner. I didn’t know I was going to be getting into all that.”
It’s really unique to you that you’re like, “I see that that could be a hindrance on my ability to help clients …”
Alexandria: … and go, “Hey, this is going to help me focus on the clients by having this support, and working with someone that can just provide that.”
Alexandria: It’s not a bad thing. I just think sometimes it gets overlooked. It’s okay to get help. It’s okay to partner with people. It’s okay to like, “We signed up to be financial planners,” so it’s not bad if you’re not also a business owner but also a compliance person.
Luis: Right. Absolutely.
Alexandria: It’s a lot to do. I can only imagine, especially for a young planner who’s starting. Starting out, you don’t know you want to do all that, and it may be just sitting in client. I kind of want to ask a little bit about this. You stumbled into the profession. Somebody at the mail room told you about a CFP. This is an initiative and things that, I think, our profession is struggling with of getting more minorities involved in the profession.
Alexandria: Kind of what are your takes, or things you may be doing currently, to help get that going, because it’s always unique to hear when one minority person gets into the profession, how that happened. How can we get more people to go to that same channel, besides the mail room, maybe.
Luis: Out of all places, right?
Alexandria: Yeah, right. Out of all places. It’s still hilarious to me. How do you think that that could happen, or what we could be doing differently?
Luis: I think that us, right, the ones that have gotten in already, we need to identify the next us, and so I’m looking for the next Luis out there that I can extend my hand out, and push. One of the things that I do is that kind of like unofficially mentor, where people that are, for example, in the insurance industry, and I put that in there.
Like, “Hey, I see that you’re helping people with their insurance, but what about the rest of the stuff? Have you ever thought about being a full-fledged planner?” Then, talk about the benefits of being a CFP. I feel like if each one of us, and I know that’s kind of slow, right, because it’s like one at a time.
Alexandria: Yeah, well that’s grass roots. It’s a very grass roots concept.
Luis: Right. That’s my personal approach to it. I think that the work that organizations like FPA and the CFP board are doing just to bring more awareness, when I look at the numbers, 3.5% for blacks and Hispanics. That’s super small. It’s like a minority within a minority.
Alexandria: Right, and there’s two of us right here.
Luis: Right. Yeah, so I’m thinking on the larger scale, the organizations FPA, CFP Board. On the smaller scale, the planners that are already in the profession, just identify the next you, and just get them in there.
Alexandria: You kind of talked about your background being from the Dominican Republic, living in New York, your big family, and I always think back to like, “Oh, how do you get …” Like if I was to convince one of my family members to be a part of the profession, or a school mate I went to school with, you go to a school that maybe a majority minorities, and how could you change the focus of one of those students to go, “Oh yeah, I want to be in the same track. I want to be Luis when I grow up.”
It’s like it keeps feeling like you have to start earlier and earlier, but it’s like there’s so many layers to it, prior to them even knowing what the profession has to offer …
Luis: That’s true.
Alexandria: … and the community base, and so, one thing I think is really fascinating, I really want to talk about is, you said you’re fluent in Spanish. A lot of people would speak English right? It’s like how does that help with knowing you can communicate to a whole nother group about what the profession is, and what financial planning is? How do you like, you know, go about doing that right now, because that’s so interesting to hear more about.
Luis: Yeah, that is true. You know, it’s funny because a lot of the people that speak Spanish and English, they don’t always speak Spanish, but just the fact that you identify with them, like a small little like, “Hey, que pasa?” Just that little introductory. It kind of creates a connection, and it’s a good gateway for opening up the conversation for financial planning.
It’s very helpful. I feel like people want to do business with people that they like, and also feel comfortable with. Normally, that usually happens to be people that are like you. It’s kind of like the saying that says you can’t be what you cannot see. Now, having us in these roles, we have to take it upon ourselves to not just be planners and that’s it, leave it at that.
We have to be advocates for the profession, because ultimately, like you were saying, some schools are minority majority, right? I think that’s how the US is going to be like in 2050. At some point, it’s going to be a majority minority country, right?
Luis: Country. It’s also good for business, right, because ultimately these are going to be clients.
Alexandria: So true. Even like who you can work with. You talked about like the young person the older person, but that also means you can work with different minority groups that aren’t getting financial planning, and you’ve found a way to one, still be profitable as a business, and help communities that maybe don’t have wealth, and maybe need more education before they even get to the wealth building part.
A lot of people don’t have wealth yet, so they don’t associate money to go, “All right, I can start actually working with Luis right now.” They’d probably be like, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know,” but you’re able to come in and be like one, they see this man’s from Dominican Republic. He speaks Spanish, and I can relate a little bit differently with that as a client,” but also as someone who may be interested in going into the profession.
Luis: Yeah, that’s true. Normally, even when I then got into the business, I realized that, for the most part, even our conferences, when you go to like your standard conference, one of the first questions people ask you is, “Oh, how much do you have under management?” You’re identified, like your value is based on your AUM, right. I love how the industry now has changed with these younger planners that now it’s like you know what, some planners don’t even manage money.
I’ve met some here that they’re just straight planners. I’m like that’s awesome because it just opens up such a wide range of people you can work with. It’s unfortunate that not only is this not available as a profession, but it’s also not available to the masses. It is, but it’s not known like that, right, where people look at somebody with a title, like wealth management, and yeah, they’re not going to think about, “Oh yeah, I want to open up a Roth with this guy, because I probably don’t have enough money to work with them, right?”
Luis: Unfortunately, the advice doesn’t get to the people that really need it the most.
Alexandria: So true. I mean, and we’re here at NexGen Gathering, and I think it’s interesting that a lot of planners, they’re coming like to a conference. You get your name badge. You have your name, and underneath it’s like where you work, right?
Alexandria: You’re already getting all these layers on top of you, but it’s like how do you define yourself within the profession? I think that’s what’s going on here at this conference, where people get to actually figure out what that is, especially if you’re new, or career change, or wherever you are in this space, you get to define that.
You, as an ambassador, get to help people understand what that is, and see what resonates with people, but I think that that’s a huge point, that it’s like it’s hard being new, and being classified under oh, you’re AUM, or you do planning like this. It’s more of how are we making the profession move forward as young planners, and that’s what we’re doing here at Gathering.
Luis: Yes, and you bring up a good point. It’s defining your place. Maybe that place doesn’t even exist yet, but you have the opportunity to make it.
Luis: It might be against all odds. Like Sandra was saying in her speech, people told her that she couldn’t be profitable working with lower income people, and she made it work. You can make whatever it is that you want to … You want to work with non-profits, whatever, you can design what it is that you want to do today. You don’t have to be defined by traditional standards of, “Oh yeah, I manage this much in assets.” Obviously, that’s nice.
Alexandria: Yeah, of course.
Luis: Not saying not to grow your AUM, but there’s so much more to it than that. That’s one of the things, I got out of the investment management business. People look at me like, “What do you mean?”, because I still manage money, right?
Luis: What I mean by that is, I’m no longer that guy that is looking to get this huge account. It’s kind of more like I want to help people, and investing is just a part of that. There’s so much more to it. For those listening out there, just keep that in mind. It’s not all about just gathering assets. There’s a lot more to it. You can help people that don’t have money, and still have a profitable business.
Alexandria: Yeah. One thing I want you to define, because it probably connects right to what we’re talking about now. I read in an article that you have an approach of barbell approach with your clients. Even me, I was like, “What is that word?” I’ve seen that word maybe investing books. I’ve never seen it in definition to clients. Could you kind of explain that a little bit? It probably sounds like it ties right into why you did that transition.
Luis: Yeah, I guess when you picture a barbell, it’s kind of like smaller at the top, right, and bigger at the bottom. It’s exactly what we’re talking about. I’m working both ends of the business, where I’m like okay, I’m working … For example, I do retirement seminars, so I do work with retirees and pre-retirees that are the people who usually have the largest amount of money, but I didn’t want to shut the door off to working with a young person that just needs to open up a Roth or something.
That’s kind of like where that came from. I think I’m able to structure my business in a sense where I can still do both, and help people, and still make money. That was kind of like finding that balance. How do you make money and help people at the same time? There’s only so many hours you can do pro bono or whatever.
Alexandria: That is true. That is so true. That’s so true.
Luis: So that’s what I’m doing, because when you think about it, you hear articles that say, “Oh, this is the greatest wealth transfer that’s going to happen,” but people are living longer too. The person that retired at 60, they might live to 90. They might not be transferring those assets yet.
Alexandria: They’re holding on to it a little longer.
Luis: Right. Right, so I feel like all right, I can work with both, the older generation, the newer generation, without necessarily having a specialty per se. That’s kind of how I look at that barbell approach.
Alexandria: Got you. For your clients, do they … This might be more focused to the younger end of your barbell, but are they coming on, and you’re doing kind of like the entry level, helping them educate, and starting to just understand wealth, and understand what they can be doing right now? Are they ongoing client, or are they just kind of one time, and then we check in.
How do you work with them after that first initial, “Okay, we’ve solved, or maybe got some things in place to handle what you’re curious about right now,” but how do you make a young person that you’re working with, stay like long-term, and keep working with them?
Luis: That’s a good question, yeah. The booster package that I offer is kind of like a one shot deal. We sit down, and we go over whatever your goals are. Then, I do have a follow-up, maybe like a month later. Make sure everything got implemented. Then, you’re on your own.
Alexandria: Well, they said they maybe do it on their own. They were looking for some guidance.
Luis: Yeah, then they could become a full planning client, but one of the things I’ve noticed, going back to the tax preparation, it’s like, okay, if you do, say the booster package, I help you figure out how much life insurance you need, or if you need life insurance, and your 401K elections, and all that good stuff, do a budget.
If you stay on, maybe I’ll do your taxes, and you’re not a full planning client yet, but you probably don’t need the full plan yet because we already did your budget, and you already kind of are on a path to get out of debt, but then if you pay me for taxes, we could always have this little side conversation. I’m not going to like bill them by the minute or anything, you know? We still have somewhat of a working relationship, and then I build off of that.
It’s like all right, maybe you become a tax client after that, and now we have a relationship, she can still ask me questions related to the budget we did five months ago, and it’s still affordable.
Luis: You’ve got to pay somebody for your taxes anyway, right?
Alexandria: Yeah, you’re like, “Well, here I am.” Another added value. I’ll tell you, it’s coming up a lot. The EA seems to come up a lot as far as a profession goes. We’re here at Gathering, and I know this is your first year attending. So far, what were you maybe thinking you were walking into, or what is your maybe first impression about NexGen, and what that community is about?
Luis: Very good question. You know, one thing that I realized this morning was Sandra asked, “What do you expect to get out of this?” I had not given that thought. It was more like, “Okay, I’m an ambassador. I’m going to go there to give of myself by asking questions, and meet other people,” but then I realized you can learn here too. This is for everybody. It’s not just that one-way thing. I can learn from the younger advisors as well.
That was my big takeaway this morning was that I was expecting to just come here and give. Then, it was like, “Oh no, this is like a gathering of thought, and different things, and what are you doing that’s working?” You just hear so many different ideas. That was amazing to me, so I’m really excited about … This is just this morning.
Alexandria: I know. We haven’t even gotten through the first day yet.
Luis: I was still eating breakfast. It was like, “Wow, this is amazing.” I see a lot of people continuing to say that they’ve met so many best friends here, or people that shape like their path going forward. I can see why.
Alexandria: Like you said, “I was just here to show up, and I wasn’t knowing what I was going to get out of it,” especially with Gathering. As an ambassador, what are you … You say you were here to at first think about what was it that you wanted to give. What were some of the things you wanted to make sure you came here, and told some of the students, or some of the new NexGen, or just people who are in the profession already?
Luis: Yeah, one of things I wanted to share was, for example, I’m doing the breakout session on working with self-employed clients. Funny, again, the EA stuff comes right back in. Just to consider, for example, the self-employed individuals that get 1099s, or they’re freelancers, or whatever, are in need of a lot of planning.
I think it would bring a lot of value to that. That’s one of the things I’ll be sharing in terms of the session. I’m also going to be in a diversity panel. The things that I wanted to share was kind of like what we were talking about before where it was like don’t let the industry define you. You can find a place. If it doesn’t exist, you can make it.
There are ways where, you know, you may not want to go on your own right away. Yeah, maybe it is good for you to work for a company for a couple of years, and learn how the business works, and then you can go on your own. That was kind of like what I was thinking about. It’s like you can find your own place, and also help carry that torch too. If you are in a place where you can help somebody else that perhaps doesn’t have an idea as to what their path should be, you might be able to help out too.
Going back to what we were talking about earlier, just identifying the next … I have kind of like my eye out for all right, who’s going to be the next young advisor to watch?
Alexandria: Right, I like it.
Luis: Let me talk to him or her, and see if I can put them on that path, you know?
Alexandria: Yeah, just be like that person to help get them to take that first step. Basically, put your hands underneath their foot, and kind of catapult them.
Alexandria: That’s so true, especially for NexGen, you come, and you’re not sure what you’re going to get out of it, but you know just being in the space, that something will come from it, the conversation that you can go back and actually act on. This year’s theme is Take Action, so it’s a lot of people having conversations and ideas, but it’s also what can I go, leave here today with?
That could be very simple. I met Luis. He was amazing. I want him to be my mentor, or I leave here wanting to make sure I keep the conversation going, or learning that I need to go get my EA, or see if I have an interest in tax planning.
I think that that’s something that really comes out of Gathering each year, especially with the participants, but I really like that the ambassadors are here to provide that insight, and help where they see it. Like, “Oh, I was there 10 years ago. Let me kind of help you, or let me give you some knowledge, so that way when you see this come up, you can totally avoid it.” That’s where I feel like the passing of the torch is and passing of the wisdom happens. How can you help someone else avoid the hiccups you may have come across?
Luis: That’s huge because yeah, one of those hiccups could set you back. If somebody already made that mishap and they can tell you, “Oh no, go this way instead.” Definitely be open-minded because you can learn from somebody. Again, even us, for us ambassadors, I ask questions, and I can learn from a young person too. It’s a two-way street definitely.
Alexandria: Oh, I understand. I come across, and not very often, other male minorities in the profession. There’s not a lot of minorities, but there’s another level of not a lot of mail-men.
Luis: Yeah, that’s true.
Alexandria: I’m always curious like how did you navigate the profession when you had all those barriers, and who was out there looking out for Luis? Where did you lean on, or who did you lean on to help you get through that?
Luis: Yeah, that’s good. At the beginning, yeah you have kind of like the feeling of out of place, especially when you go to these conferences. The typical … This is the stats that you see. Your average advisor is like a 50-year-old white male, right?
Luis: There’s definitely a lack of younger people, women, African American blacks, Asians, right? Up until recently, I leaned on Rita Cheng. I reached out to her. She had shared an article on Twitter, and I retweeted it, and then she reached out to me like, “Oh, thank you for sharing my article. Let’s talk. I want to hear more about your story.” That ended up creating a great relationship, and also opening up avenues, like being here, for example. That’s how I got invited.
Definitely, for those listening, don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody, even if you haven’t met them. Something as simple as me having shared somebody’s article ended up in me being here as an ambassador. Those listening out there, reach out to somebody. I feel like mentorship is such a strong thing that that could be another way for us to, like you say, just help somebody push up, and don’t be afraid. Just go talk to somebody that you normally wouldn’t. You never know, right? If you don’t ask, the answer is definitely no.
Alexandria: Yeah, that is so true. I know right before we left the break-out session Sandra, she had mentioned, “Make sure you talk to somebody you would have originally walked right up to, but also talk to that person that you probably looked and avoided. Go to that person because there’s the breakthrough right there of why you wanted to communicate.”
I think Twitter is good space for a lot of people to meet people who aren’t in your normal circles, that are part of the profession. I’ve shared with other people like, “Oh, I’m following Luis. I know a lot about him,” but then I’m like, “I haven’t met him in person before.” The reach-out process, and being okay to like communicate with a new person that you feel like you can hear or learn from them is huge, especially for our next generation of planner, or anybody in any profession.
Alexandria: To be totally honest with you.
Luis: I would say follow other planners too because sometimes you go to these network events, and if you find somebody that’s in your same profession, then you kind of like, a lot of people say, “Okay, well they’re my competition. I’m just going to avoid them altogether.” There’s definitely a divide here.
I feel like that is super helpful because you just never know who you might meet, or get introduced to that normally you would not approach because they do the same thing I do, so I don’t want to approach them. They’re my competition kind of thing. It’s not like that.
I’ve had opportunities to work with a different firm, for example, because I was friends with a planner. Everybody has their own pie. Just because your slice got bigger, mine doesn’t get smaller.
Alexandria: Yeah. Oh, so true. So true. One thing you pointed out, we gravitate to people within our profession. What makes you really like gravitate to the profession? I know you kind of started in in a very unique way, but what makes you keep going like, “I’m extremely passionate about this profession. I keep wanting to wake up, and still go at it every day?”
Luis: Yeah, one of my drivers is I still feel like there’s such a huge lack of financial literacy in general, so in my case, I didn’t learn it in school or at home. Most people, as far as I’m concerned, they still don’t learn it in school. Maybe some schools do, I’m sure, but it’s not like a well-known thing. Like everybody had gym and health class, right. There’s no financial literacy class.
You graduate college. You have a ton of debt, and you don’t even know how to balance a check book …
Luis: … let alone write 401Ks and all this stuff. My driver is we need to get this information out there to everybody.
Luis: I’m only one person, but I feel like I can put my drop in the bucket. If everybody does the same thing, eventually we’ll get it full. That’s my driver there.
Luis: Raising that awareness. Yeah, more from an educational standpoint for sure.
Alexandria: Have you ever thought … This is now me putting something on you, but you said education. Have you ever thought of teaching the next generation in profession, or going out … I know your real work is financial planning and working with clients, but that also is like a whole nother … Financial literacy is a whole nother spectrum too.
Luis: Right. Yeah, absolutely. It’s a whole nother world. I’ve thought about it. Yeah, maybe one day I’ll be like a adjunct professor.
Alexandria: Right. You’ll be a host. You’ll get promoted from ambassador to … Yeah, that’s totally what Sandra had mentioned today. It’s like, “I’m the best adjunct professor you know.” I mean no matter what space you’re in, you can always educate someone. You can always have a little bit of knowledge that someone doesn’t that you can totally communicate to them.
Alexandria: Yeah, financial literacy, it is a huge lack. Some people, it’s crazy, don’t think … They don’t believe in it, you know?
Alexandria: Because it’s just too many of us. How can we possibly make a difference if I go talk to that one group for an hour that that would change their kind of trajectory about how they deal with money?
Alexandria: It’s ongoing.
Luis: Yes, it’s ongoing and it affects a wide range of people, so a lot of people think because somebody has money, that they’re financially savvy. Not necessarily either. Don’t be intimidated by that. If you’re a young planner, and you’re working with an older person, and they have money, it doesn’t mean that they know a whole bunch about money just because they have it.
Luis: You’re still educating even at that level.
Alexandria: Yeah. No assumptions. Make no assumptions when working with someone. That’s totally true. I wanted to, once again, thank you again, Luis, but I wanted to see if there was anything else that you wanted to share with us that we need to know about Luis, or that you wanted to share that people should go out and start doing, take action on, or just in the space of the profession?
Luis: Going back to what we were talking about, so for planners that are of minority, that are already in the business, identify the next you. It’s kind of like my theme right now. For example, and what I mean by that is I was in a financial advisor magazine, I think they called it The Young and the Bold. It was the Ten Young Advisors to Watch.
I had my eye out like who am I going to get on that list next year? It’s kind of like each one, reach one, each one, teach one. It’s what I would want to leave with everybody else in the profession. The second thing is again, just don’t be afraid to reach out to anybody, whether it’s somebody that you want for them to mentor you, anything like that, even if you’ve never met them. Write them a letter. Maybe, yeah, do it differently. Write them a physical letter, mail it.
Alexandria: Right. Be careful what you ask for. You’re going to have all this mail when you get back.
Luis: Right, right.
Alexandria: They’re like, “All right. I heard Luis wants me to write them a letter.” You’re going to find the next one. You’re going to have a whole lot of them to pick from.
Luis: Right. I hope so. I hope so. It’s such a wide gap when you look at the numbers. Everything, right? Women, they’re like about 22% I believe, right, in the business.
Alexandria: Somewhere around there, yeah.
Luis: Something like that. Yeah, it’s too small a number, so we need more.
Alexandria: Yeah, so true. Thanks again, Luis.
Luis: Thank you. This is wonderful.
Alexandria: We are going to enjoy the rest of the Gathering, but I just wanted to thank you so much, again, for coming out with us.
Luis: I appreciate it. Thank you.