Wealthbox: Were you a teacher’s pet in grade school? Or were you a trouble-maker?
Dave Grant: I was definitely a teacher’s pet. I loved getting praise from teachers, I loved my parents finding out I tried hard in school, and I even remember how my German teacher said I was one of her favorites because my accent was more “German” than the other kids.
Weathbox: Whoa whoa, wait. Before you go on: Where’d you get that British accent?
Dave Grant: I fake it so that people will like me.
Wealthbox: Kinda like the accent of the robo-advisor character in the ad for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. (We were like, Who were the ad wizards who came up with this one?) But please, continue.
Dave Grant: I emigrated 10 years ago. While attending college in England, I came over frequently to the US to work and on one of my trips I had a boss who was the most attractive blond woman I’ve ever seen.
Wealthbox: Fishing off the company pier, ehh? Please, continue.
Dave Grant: She’s now my wife. She didn’t want to move to England so we stayed here.
Wealthbox: Nice catch. She’s still the boss! Wait, isn’t your wife a teacher?
Dave Grant: Yes, my wife is a teacher.
Wealthbox: So how do the arguments about finances go down?
Dave Grant: I wouldn’t say we argue…
Wealthbox: Sounds like you’re saying you argue…
Dave Grant: Well, we have very detailed conversations about little and big picture decisions. Even though I’m a financial planner by trade, my nature is that of a spender. My wife is a natural saver. That alone leads to friction but we try hard to see things from the other’s perspective. When I came home from a trip to Texas with a pair of cowboy boots (over our $100 spending-without-asking-limit), she gave me a look and changed the subject. I knew I had crossed the line, but
the boots looked good!
Wealthbox: New niche – cowboys. Okay so how did you carve out a financial planning niche for yourself among teachers?
Dave Grant: It all started when I was charged by an employer to put together a marketing plan. I had to understand who I liked working with and what aspects of financial planning I enjoyed. I went through a niche marketing training program run by Kristin Harad and learned that I enjoy working with teachers. It definitely helps that my wife and other family members are teachers, and how I was planning on being one England. However teachers are not the typical market for financial advisors because the belief is that they don’t have or earn very much money. I would say there’s a little bit of truth in that but I’m not having a problem building a business by focusing on that market.
Weathbox: So what is it about teachers’ finances that require special expertise?
Dave Grant: Teachers have a couple of things that make them unique. Generally speaking there is not a lot of financial literacy in the teaching community. They took a job with a promise that their pension would take care of their retirement needs, so they then focused on teaching. For many teachers the promise of the “all-encompassing” pension is slowly eroding so they are now coming to the realization that they have to focus on their personal finances. The time spent in education of seemingly simple topics and explaining things requires patience. Additionally, every teacher is going to have a pension in retirement, which adds a layer of complexity to the planning. Optimizing that pension with a spouse’s benefit can be tricky; it makes for some very specific planning.
Weathbox: Okay so you’ve honed a nice practice in serving teachers. How do you market to them. Is it mostly referral?
Dave Grant: In the first two years of running finance for teachers, it’s been a mixture. I had a couple of clients follow me from the previous firm and I’ve had clients find me online through various writing and videos that I’ve done focusing on a teacher’s finances. However, now I’ve grown a core group of clients, it is starting to be more through referral.
Wealthbox: If a robo-advisor feature comes along to serve teachers, what will you do?
Dave Grant: If there is a “Robo-advisor for teachers” platform that gets released, I’m either going to wish them the best of luck or I’m going to be a co-founder.
Wealthbox: Your real problem is that robots are now replacing teachers but we digress. Let’s get right to it: Can you do the robot dance?
Dave Grant: It depends on what I’m drinking.
Wealthbox: We’ll give you a free Wealthbox account for one year if you send in a video of you doing the robot dance in cowboy boots, but you have to supply your own booze.
Dave Grant: Haha, in all seriousness…
Wealthbox: We’re totally serious.
Dave Grant: Ok I’ll think about it. In all seriousness robo-advice is only good for investments and for any advisor who has taken the CFP exam, you’ll know that investments is only 20% of a good financial plan. Given the level of detail I go into and how personal it gets, I don’t feel threatened by any robo-advisor.
Weathbox: You wrote a really nice e-book entitled, “The First Year – The Diary of a New RIA Owner.” What inspired you to write it?
Dave Grant: As I set up my firm and in its subsequent launch, I struggled to find real examples of what it was going be like. Even other advisors that I asked said, “Oh, it’s going to be hard.” But they didn’t elaborate.
Many of the pieces that are inside the book I wrote as an ongoing blog through my first year of being business. As I got to the end of the first year, it made sense to put them in a book so people could find my journey in one place. However, it’s not a step-by-step guide to putting together an RIA, it’s a diary of the journey of how it feels to put one together and launch one. It is filled with tips and best practices for running practice, but it also covers help to deal with the dark days when things don’t go your way. If people want to read it, they can find it here.
Weathbox: It’s a good read. The advice is practical for startup RIAs and the stories about difficult days are poignant. So what’s the one thing you would have done differently if you knew back then what you know today?
Dave Grant: I would have found a support group a lot quicker.
Wealthbox: You mean, like, “Hello, my name is Dave Grant and I’m a raging advisor…”?
Dave Grant: Haha no, a support group for financial planners. I had a mentor throughout my first year that had founded her company about five years prior, but that gap was too large and I needed to find some peers. I sought out some planners of a similar age who were running their practices, and we formed a mastermind group. We’ve been together for year, had a three-day in-person retreat, and know each other’s businesses intimately. I know I could have avoided some of my problems and have gone through my downtimes a lot quicker if I had the support group in place when I launched.
Wealthbox: What’s your proudest moment in life?
Dave Grant: Teaching my son to pee standing up.
Wait, who’s the one standing up? Seriously?
Dave Grant: Yes, this proudest moment is actually listed on my about page.
Wealthbox: Can we move on?
Dave Grant: By all means.
Wealthbox: So we noticed a recent update on your LinkedIn profile indicating you’re also a “Professional Writer.” Interesting, what’s up with that?
Dave Grant: I’ve been writing for Financial Planning magazine for over three years, Blueleaf for a year, and other companies (who don’t want me to disclose their names) for a longer period. It’s something I enjoy and have now decided to make it a bigger part of my income streams. My hope is that if other companies like my style of writing, that they’ll contact me to work with them.
Wealthbox: We’re big fans of Blueleaf, our products go together like milk and cookies. Hey, would you like to contribute to the Wealthbox Blog? We’re launching a new “Guest Blogger” section for advisors and tech people in the wealth management space.
Dave Grant: I’d be delighted to. What shall I write about?
Wealthbox: Anything but your proudest moment.
Dave Grant: Deal.
Wealthbox: Thanks, Dave. Continued success with Finance For Teachers!