Hannah: I am here at the FPA Annual Conference in the podcast booth and I have Preston Cherry here with me, and I was just introducing Preston to one of my other friends here and hadn’t met him before. As I was trying to describe him, I was like, “He’s one of us. He gets it. He sees this bigger picture. He gets financial planning. He’s one of us.” So I am so excited to introduce Preston to our audience today. So thank you for joining us.
Preston: Hi, Hannah, it’s been a while.
Hannah: It has.
Hannah: I know you’ve been on my list to be on this podcast. So as we were talking about this podcast, and I was asking you what is your focus right now? You are doing a lot of different things from academia to mentoring, to having your own practice. There’s so many things that we’re going to dive into. You’re writing a book, lots of good things on this podcast, but what are you most proud of that you’re doing right now?
Preston: Most proud of? Well, thank you for the introduction. I’m most proud of impact, really just making an impact on people’s lives. That may sound cliché, or maybe not. I was watching a TV show the other day and it said about clichés, he’s like, “Why do you so many clichés?” And he says “Because they work.”
Hannah: Because they’re true.
Preston: Yes, and they do work. But yes, it is delivering impact and measurable impact at that. Some of my current students that I teach, and past students that have graduated have gone on and either opened up firms or working with firms, and they reach back out to me via LinkedIn or … I even got a handwritten note from a young person, and I thought that was old school.
Preston: This particular student said, “I really appreciate how you delivered the instruction and just shared with us about real life events that are coming our way.” When he said that in a handwritten note, that actually just touched me, and I said, “That’s the impact that I’m talking about.”
Preston: I had another student that launched his virtual firm like mine, and I was coaching him through that process, and he took a lot of advice, it just wasn’t me. He had to have the ability and the willingness and all that to do it. So I’m not taking credit for his success, however, he just said that on LinkedIn just yesterday, he said, “I couldn’t have done that without you.”
Preston: And I just want to willingly and freely give my time to those that are willing to take it and do something with it.
Hannah: Professors are one of the most interesting groups within financial planning and I love the professors that are in financial planning because I think they really care about this. Is that what brought you into pursuing, because I know you’re in a PhD program because you want to be in academia, on top of having your own practice, is that kind of what drove you into furthering education?
Preston: What really my dad used to have is, he still does actually, he has his name on his license plate for years, since I’ve been a child. So what really drove me in being a PhD was having a cool license plate. My license plate has got to say PhD PDC. So that’s number one to be honest. So that’s what got me in.
Hannah: I really hope it’s not already taken.
Preston: I hope it’s not either. So at the DMV in Texas, let them know I’m coming. But, no, that’s actually true. After I left industry and I’ve done several things, managed money, wholesaler, financial planner and whatnot, I wanted to see what I could do next. I’ve never truly answered this question for myself, which is, what do you want to do and how do you want to maximize your own potential, Preston? And ask that question to myself in a mirror, and I didn’t have an answer for that. So I allowed myself to dream without any ceiling, and one of the things was the PhD, and is because it would give me a larger platform to make that impact, like I mentioned.
Preston: And my niece, she was born back in 2008, she’s 11 now. When she comes to Tech, she visited Tech about a month ago, and she has Tech everything. Tech earrings, Tech every, I mean Tech toothbrush, Tech … but it’s even not about the Tech thing about it. It’s about her seeing her uncle opening up doors and she can dream without limit, and we have a close relationship and that’s one of the things that’s been driving me other than a license plate. But no, I see her a lot and she speaks on how this influence, she’s at KIPP Academy now and she tells her instructors, she’s like, “My uncle is doing a PhD,” and I’m glad she’s speaking on that because it shows her opportunity and dream boundless and limitless, and maximize your opportunity.
Preston: Because I always didn’t do that in my lifetime. So now that I have the opportunity with my new found clarity and all that the last four or five years, then that’s all I want to do is maximize myself every day to the best of my ability.
Hannah: I love that story with your niece, and I know we often talk about the impact we have with clients and different things, but when we really pursue our passions and our dreams, it impacts the people in our lives. And I love that. I know it’s easy to forget that, but that’s really powerful.
Preston: Yeah. There was some times in my life to where I share openly that I had a great childhood, there’s always something in people’s childhood. But my parents have been married 41 years. I’m about to go visit them in a couple of days to celebrate that. So my childhood was good. I was exposed to education, so I had opportunity. But then, some point in my life, I had a little dark stage where I just was lost and self-destruction and whatnot. And as my mom shares with me, she goes, those weren’t wasted years like you think, forgive yourself. But those were just lessons that you can … She goes, now you’re using those to do the impact that I was talking about. So when she told me that I got more comfortable with my own past just going up, success and where you’re getting is not linear.
Preston: So after getting through that period of trying to do this second round of self-discovery, I was like, okay, I’m tired of not maximizing myself. And that’s all I wanted or continue to want to do right now, is show people that you just have the opportunity to maximize yourself. You really don’t even have bosses. Yes, you have to respect the hierarchy of any type of firm, and if you have your own business, your bosses or your clients. However, when you wake up in the morning and live in gratitude, then you’re your own boss because you want to maximize yourself because you’re living in gratitude of the opportunity that you have to wake up that day.
Hannah: When did you decide that you were going to go the professor route and the academia route?
Preston: Well, I’m not leaving the practice because that’s what I like to do as well. I have two passions and I’ve been given the gift of speaking, so I’m going to be on the speaking circuit as well. But yeah, academia came into play, it was the pursuit of it … It was something left on the table, far as the PhD pursuit. And I remember I was talking about dreaming big? Well I had a four year relationship with a firm where I was a mutual fund wholesaler, and that firm downsized and they gave me a nice severance check and some health care, and I appreciated that< and that’s when I had that conversation with myself. This was January, 2016, and at that point is when I asked myself that question and then I started looking for jobs again. They were going to be sideways, now when you’re wholesaling you make a pretty decent amount of money if you’re good at it.
Hannah: Which you were.
Preston: I was, I had to learn, I wasn’t always good at it, but I had to learn and I got good at it. So I interviewed with other companies and they we were going to give me bigger opportunities. However that’s not where my passion lied. So I said, okay, what do I want to do? So I ended up going to Tech opportunity days just to network with some of my colleagues that I haven’t seen in a while. And right there I was thinking about just networking. Well, I ran into somebody at Tech and they were like, hey, we have some scholarships laying around, why don’t you pursue that PhD? Now mind you, when I pursued my master’s back in ’06 at Tech, people were telling me then to pursue the PhD and I didn’t listen, but it was good. I had gained a lot over a decade of experience.
Hannah: So how old were you when you decided to go back for your PhD program?
Preston: Mm. Oh man. They would say elderly now. You know, elderly Americans. Because I wrote a paper and I used older Americans, and they said, try elderly, try softer language. But how old was I? Let’s see, I’m 40 right now. So three years, 37.
Hannah: I love that. There’s so much pressure on people to figure out the right career path by the time they’re 23, 24, 25 and so what I’m hearing from you is that it doesn’t really matter the age.
Preston: No. Samuel L Jackson is famous for, those famous words he always says. So everybody knows who Samuel L Jackson is, but he has a story all the time that he didn’t really pursue acting until he was 39 or 40, and particularly after a period of struggles that he had. And look at him, he’s almost knocking on 70, so he’s had a 30 year acting career of all these accolades. So it’s never too late to pursue what you want to do. And even at 28, I think I was doing my master’s degree at that time, 27 or 28, I felt that I was rushing against time. I didn’t think I had much time. But now look, fast forward 12 years later being 40 and I still, I’m a young person, I have plenty of time. So it was just slowing down and realize that I had the time and not worry about where I was maybe numerically in age to pursue what I wanted to do.
Hannah: Okay. So you were in this wholesaler role, you’ve had this career where you’ve gone through different firms, you ended up bringing in the wholesaler. One of the things that we don’t talk about much on this podcast is how going in that wholesaling route is actually a career path within financial planning. Can you talk a little bit more about that and what your thoughts are on people who are interested and care about financial planning in that role?
Preston: Absolutely. Good question. My financial planning background helped me connect with the advisors that I was offering stories to. Lot of people are scared of the S word, sales, and I also “sold” life insurance. And I keep sharing with advisors and planners that the S word shouldn’t be something that we’re scared of because you’re actually selling advice as well. But here’s, instead of using words like business development to reframe it, you can reframe it in this way, in my opinion, which is I never sold anything. I never sold anything, currently to this day, I don’t sell advice. I didn’t sell life insurance, and I didn’t sell a mutual fund. I made an offer. And if I’m being true with my offer and in my fiduciary standards, so to speak, then I have learned about this firm enough to know how they engage with their clients and help them move forward, and they need a story to share with their clients in order to move them forward.
Preston: So that’s what I did there. I made offers in the wholesaling world and that’s my financial planning background helped me with that. Now to continue answering your question, which is, the diverse background that I have, I bring that to the table to the students. You don’t have to go one route. So I share stories with them all the time that you can be compliance, be operations, that those are not titles that are bandied about because they don’t get all the glamor, but that’s necessary. If it fits who you are, which I ask young people all the time, I said who you are is going to change a little bit, but the base is there, admit and acknowledge who you are and embrace it, and then you can be marketing, you could be … All firms need something just across the board. So it’s just not to be limited in scope, because we were talking about, I know we were talking about dreaming a lot, but yes, realize who you are and don’t be afraid. Ask for some advice to not to be limited to one road to success.
Hannah: We were just talking to somebody else in the podcast about, where having that extra thing that you’re passionate about can add so much value. That what makes you different, what makes you unique actually makes you more marketable often.
Preston: Absolutely, because you can speak on it freely.
Preston: You can speak on it freely without trying. And that’s a great point, Hannah, because I tend to ask my students, okay, talk to me about something you like, just talk to me. And that may be fishing or gaming or whatever it may be, and they’re like, aw man, this new game, I got to this new level and there’s one thing that you have to do, you have to read this map and you have to bring it up and this, that and the other. And I said, see, find out what you like and why are you here in this program? What do you want to do? You need to transfer that freedom of exchange as far as communication as when we’re talking about, is that same passion of communication that you just gave me there, transfer that to your why, why you’re in this program in which you want to do. Go figure that out. That’s the exercise. And they’re like, well, you didn’t even really give me any advice, Mr. Cherry. I said, yes, I did. I said, go home and try that. And when it comes back they’re like, wow, nobody’s ever advised me like that. I don’t want to tell you what to go do. I want you to discover it through what you relate to and which you enjoy doing.
Hannah: You’re in this academia program, you’re getting your PhD and then you decide to start your own firm as if you probably weren’t busy enough. What was your why behind starting that firm?
Preston: Well, actually my granddad, actually. I was kind of procrastinating on this from for a while and I like to share that too, it was more about fear and I still have that to this day to where I have to do an audit of myself about that fear, and say, like for writing, for example, right now it’s like, okay, I know I can write academically, but I don’t know if it’s going to be good enough. So that holds me back and I’ve learned enough in life to say, okay, you know what you’re doing, Preston, you’re holding yourself back because you’re scared, so work through that. The business is the same way. I’ve had this idea for a while and I also wanted it to be perfect and procrastination and having it being perfect, those are holder backers, and it did.
Preston: My grandfather passed away a couple of years ago and right before he passed away I went to see him, and I told him that I wanted to open up a firm, and it’s wanted. You see how that’s the ed. It’s not that I am. So I was already leading with procrastination and he said, listen, I’ve been waiting for one of you jokers to open up a business. And my dad, he’s good at barbecue, and he hasn’t done that yet, but he’s about to retire, I think he’s going to do that. And when he did that, my grandfather wasn’t sitting up straight very well at this particular time, but he was taking large breaths too, and he would straightened up his back to say something important. So he was saving his breath up to say that. And when he straightened up and looked me in the eye, that told me right then, stop procrastinating, it’s not going to be perfect. And it was part of my dream, so I did it. And it was part of just the legacy, the family legacy and seeing how much effort it took him to say those things because he knew he was probably passing on soon, and I said I need to do this. So that’s my why. And also with my niece, I wanted to show her that another thing is possible.
Hannah: Oh my gosh, I love it. I think one of the misconceptions that’s out there is suddenly once you do this, you wave this magic wand and it’s easy and you move forward and it’s rainbows and sunshine. Has it been a struggle or has it been easy? What has that been like opening your virtual practice?
Preston: Well it’s actually, you don’t know what you don’t know. And now I’ve heard the stories and whatnot, but actually living them, I have a whole new found respect, like doing business taxes that I had to file an extension for, and taking pictures of receipts, doing due diligence on software, that type of thing. I’ve done that in the past, but not as it fits a particular philosophy. So going through all the stories that I’ve heard about, and actually I’ve done with somebody else’s practice before, I have a new found respect for that. That said, your word process, great word. Has it been easy? No, developing a website like I wanted it to be, where I wanted people to log on and find themselves in the website and have the story be told, that took a year.
Preston: But that was a process. I wrote every word on the website and it was days I was like, I said, why don’t the website designer, why don’t he fix this? Why didn’t he know? I did not tell him the philosophy and the dream and all that, get some words. He was like, no, I need you to do it. So there’s been nights in this PhD process to where it’s two or three o’clock in the morning, and my eyes across side and whatnot. So it hasn’t been easy per se, but it’s been enjoyable because of the process.
Preston: I heard this story by Kobe Bryant, he told a sportswriter, he blew out his ACL and he was out for like eight months, and then he rehabbed and then came back. He played about a week and blew out his other one. So he was out for another eight months and the interviewer asked him, he said, weren’t you mad that you did all that work and then you had to go back and do the work again? He goes, no, not really. He said, because he said, I like having the basketball in my hand, but I knew in order to get the basketball back in my hand, I had to immediately go back into the process and I know it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew, he said, I had this thing attached to my foot every day and I had to do these rotations on this wire, and it was about 1,000, 2,000 reps a day. He said, but I needed to do that every day in order to get the ball back in my hands. So your word process is key. Yes, it’s not easy, but you have to enjoy that process in order to get to your goal. And if you have that some sort of fulfillment in the process, then you can attain a lot.
Hannah: One of the other things that I know you have that you’re working on right now is writing a book called Statements.
Hannah: So tell me more about what is this book, Statements? Why did you write it and what, what is it about?
Preston: So I had the chapters, and I’ve written a rough of one or two. So it’s probably about six months from being finished and then you got through all the publications and all that type of stuff. So probably the summer. But I got the concept of just through experience, not only my clients that I’ve served, but also myself. And the bank statements are a statement of empathy and understanding someone, and learning about someone because it’s a double play on the word statements.
Preston: So when you request documents from your client, all right, they don’t know what they are giving you because they haven’t gotten their documents together. But they see the list and they’re like, okay, we’re just going to print all these out and give them to him, or to the advisor or the planner. But there’s one document that they intentionally leave out every time, no matter how rich or poor, it doesn’t matter, it is the line item, detailed bank statement. They will give you that cover sheet that says debit debits and credits and the summary sheet, the cover sheet, even if they take it out of the envelope and then all the details are in pages two through 19, they intentionally take that out and give you the cover page. Why is that? Is because the statement is revealing. And I remember when I was going through, I’ve been through a wasteful of money period of my life. I’ve been through some personally dark times. And if somebody would’ve pulled my bank statement, I cannot lie about what’s in those lines at all. And it’s deeply personal. So they intentionally leave that out. So that’s that first part of the statements.
Hannah: Well, what I really like about what you’re saying is just the compassion that you’re talking about and the empathy for your clients is recognizing, like when we ask for these documents, we’re asking for a lot.
Hannah: And often it’s so easy to just be like, “Oh, here’s what I need.” But really understanding the weight of what we’re asking our clients for, I think is really powerful.
Preston: It’s essential to understand that somebody is entrusting you with their life, their household, their family, and revealing something they may not want to reveal. So understanding that up front is very key. And then the statements, the second part of the statements is the moniker at my firm is life, money, balance. Don’t let your money lead your life, let your life lead your money and not be so reactive and recovery, and that’s my why, that’s part of my why, which is when I grew up, I had a good childhood, however, we were always reacting to money and then recovering from money situation. So we never got any financial momentum. So if you don’t have to do that means your money is leading your life and directing what your life is supposed to do or, or going. However, if you reverse that and let your life lead your money, then your goals are on line and you’re getting to realize the things that you want to attain.
Preston: And what that second part of the statement says, I want some statements from the people that have influenced me over the years, and I’ve heard some great statements. Some of those one liners, some of those zingers. So I’m going to have them contribute to the book, and I’m also going to use my own one-liners and I’m going to transfer that from life and also to money. So that’s a double play on words.
Hannah: So what’s next for you?
Preston: You know, it’s just like a vacuum, a vortex. Kind of like Star Trek or something. I don’t know what’s on the other side. All I know is it’s this is big star area, that’s how I imagined it. It’s very well-lit and just like, well, do you want me to go through that door?
Preston: It’s kind of like a Patrick Swayze in Ghost, when he’s going to the other side. He’s like, I got to go, but he doesn’t know what’s really on the other side. So that’s where I am right now. And I enjoy that not knowing. I don’t know where I may end up geographically. The world is my oyster, which I appreciate and I’m really appreciative of the openness of not knowing. That said, I do want to teach academically and continue to have impact at the university level, and also just continue to run my practice. Right now I have a client waiting list, but I can’t serve them well right now. I do serve clients right now, however, the scale that I want to do it at, I can’t give them all my attention. So I told many of them to just wait to 2020 if they can.
Preston: So academia and practicing and obviously the book and speaking. So just see where that takes me really. And whatever I get into, which is I just explained that, but whatever it is, it is about maximizing myself and I’m going to dedicate myself to the fullest, not only to maximize myself, but to maximize that impact.
Preston: Maximize that impact, and I don’t want to short change either one of the two, because time, and again, living in gratitude, I appreciate the time that I’m here on this earth and I call this my Benjamin Button mode moment. I remember in that that movie, it was odd through that whole movie because he was advancing in age opposite, going the opposite direction. But it was a love story, and they only had about that 10 minute moment of the movie where they could be with one another. And that’s where I am right now, and I live in gratitude of that. I’m in this moment to where I’m finally really good at what I do, and I understand what I do and where I want to go, and who I want to impact. So being in that moment, I live in gratitude with and I just want to maximize that.
Hannah: You’ve talked a lot about having an impact and I know you talk to a lot of young planners, you love the mentoring side. I know people are reaching out to you all the time. What are the themes in what you’re seeing that you’re talking to all these people, all these people you’re mentoring? What are the commonalities on them and what are some of these core issues that you see as young planners facing right now?
Preston: They’re very good with technical skill and what they can help with and social media and they get things done checklists wise and whatnot. So they bring a tremendous amount of value. They discover things. I used the word the other day, somebody called me old, I was like, my Clint Eastwood get off my lawn type of quote. I said, man, these kids, they’re so spry. And somebody said, you should just use the word spry? That just tells you you’re old right there. So, they move quickly and that’s good. They see things that I may not see or the firm may not see. So they bring a tremendous amount of value, that said, they see what others are doing and it’s kind of like a mimic. One of my professors told me one time, don’t be a parrot.
Preston: So when I’m talking to young folks, I want them to discover, kind of like the exercise that I mentioned earlier. I asked them this question, have you, I know you have some people that you look up to and want to do. However, what do you want to do? What is your why? Where did that come from? What type of environment would you like to be in for the next few years? And also too, even if it’s an environment that you don’t want to be in, be open to constructive criticism. I don’t like criticism just for criticism’s sake, but even if if it’s job that you don’t like, you can take something from that. For instance, some young people say, I don’t want to shuffle paper or gather documents and whatnot. I want to be in a client meeting. I’m like, first of all, yes, there’s some things to gain from being in a client meeting, but you can learn very quickly that you don’t want to be in a client meeting that early without the skillset, because there’s going to be a difficult situation that comes in that you can’t get out of. Somebody crying on you and a dime, on a drop of a dime or something like that.
Preston: But one of the certain things I share with young people is, you can learn a lot from a client by not even talking to them by being, in a lack of a better term, intimate with their documents. You can kind of learn patterns and trends and whatnot. So being one, becoming one with those documents will help your skillset of understanding people, which will help you communicate with them in those meetings. So taking something from every instance is what I I tell them, even if they don’t like it, there’s always something to be taken from it.
Hannah: Oh, I love that. And even just knowing the document and it will make you so much better.
Hannah: It’s foundational.
Preston: Oh my goodness. One of my projects I hated doing when I was in investment operations was re-papering. I think it was after the Patriot act or something like that. And I had to stamp all these suitability papers and that was when the copy machine where you had to load it with that perforated paper and you had to clip it on each side and run it through the machine for copying and all that.
Hannah: You are old.
Preston: Yeah, I know. But that said, I got something out of that because I learned about suitability and what people, although they could do it, should they be doing it? And just looking at those boxes of how much people income, because you had to do all the Patriot act check boxes and everything like that. I learned just from those papers out of repetition, I was like, some of these people shouldn’t be doing what is suggested. And it goes back to what my grandfather said one time, I was lifting up this big bag of leaves one time when I was a teenager, and he was like, okay, let’s take these leaves to the curb, son. And I was like, okay. And I picked up this big bag and I try to throw it over my shoulder. I was playing sports at the time. He said, son, he said, why are you doing that by yourself? And I said, because I can, and he said, I know you can, son, but is it smart?
Preston: So I share that story a lot. Don’t think that’s what suitability is. It’s like, yeah, I know you can do it, but should you do it? Is it smart? And I learned that through that re-papering process.
Hannah: Yeah. Oh, that’s great. We’ve been talking a lot about impact and so as we’re wrapping up, I’m curious, what do you want people to say that Preston Cherry’s impact is?
Preston: moving them off of unreal to real. Moving them off of unreal to real. And some people have this kind of, I don’t mind people dreaming big, because look, I’m dreaming big and doing what I need to do. But I didn’t get to this point just by just dreaming Willy nilly. All right. I had somebody kick me the real, my dad, straight forward. Deena Katz gave me the business a couple of times, and so I had some people straighten me out over the years and it helped me take a seat back and measure where I was and take a real inventory of who I was or am and wanted to do, with some real talk. And that becomes, it’s a hard thing to do to take self-inventory of yourself. It really does. And I don’t expect young people to be doing that right off the bat, but if somebody would have coached me in that area a little earlier, maybe I would have done that exercise thoroughly, more thoroughly than that.
Preston: And that took some real talk. With a little bit of real talk, I think the probability that you accomplish your dreams grows higher because you have a little reality in there and it leads you to self-inventory, and it did for me. And with that real talk, it inspired me to want to maximize myself. So yeah, I get that a lot. They’re like, Mr. Cherry, you gave it to a straight and that’s what I want to do, because I don’t want to sugarcoat anything, but I also don’t want to deter dreams. I don’t want them to deferred either. So with a little bit of real talk, hopefully that gets somebody there quicker.
Hannah: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Preston.
Preston: Yes, thank you for having me. It’s been long overdue, so thank you so much.
Hannah: Oh, it has been. Awesome.