Friday, November 21, 2003

An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.
-Henry Ford
Next Tuesday is the first anniversary of the day we decided to come back to New York, officially declaring an end to the Virginia Experiment.

Coincidentally, I've been on the fence the past few weeks about whether or not to pursue an opportunity to get back into the financial services business on more agreeable terms. Primerica has a program for financial advisers that, on the surface, seems to be exactly what I've been looking for: relatively independent, on your own schedule, and, most importantly, no quotas. They basically count on you working your own personal network, no different from American Express and the others, except they don't charge for the initial financial plan (or financial needs analysis, as they call it) which was the big hurdle at Amex, and don't expect you to risk relationships with hard-sell pressure tactics, aka no quotas.

The people I've always been interested in helping generally don't have $400-700 to drop on a plan intended to help them save money for their goals, no matter how well-intentioned. Most of them need debt management and budgeting help before they can even start to think about 401(k)s, 529s and Life Insurance. They're certainly not the types to sustain a full-time financial adviser with kids to feed and rent to pay! If anything, they're the types most advisers ignore.

The big problem is many of them are young and short-sighted, live paycheck-to-paycheck, are resistant to advice and uncomfortable taking it from a friend when it means sharing their dirty financial laundry, and, most unfortunately, generally ignorant of how finances work.

Whenever I think of the extreme shit I went through to get these licenses (Series 7, 66, Life & Health) I get totally pissed. Not so much because it didn't work out at American Express - that situation was doomed from the beginning - but that they give me the ability to really help people and I can't take advantage of it! It doesn't help that I work for magazines written for financial advisers, write articles on mutual funds and other financial products, and watch scandal after scandal unfold. Never mind the people I've seen make bonehead decisions (like buying a house they can only afford if they never quit their post-retirement job and their spouse's expensive health issues don't get any worse) because of pride or ignorance.

What do you do when you have the power to help and the desire to do so, but those in need won't cooperate?

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