Note: We work with many clients through challenging transitions, including marriage, cross country moves or career moves to accommodate dual careers. We want to share our personal experiences of major life changes. They help us provide thoughtful advice. This is the fifth installment of our series. It features Dan Routh.
Transitions show up in many forms; big and small, personal and professional, and most importantly – planned and unplanned. There has been no shortage of transitions over the last decade in my life, with geographic leading the way.
As high school sweethearts, my (now) wife and I have lived in the mountains of Virginia (Go Hokies!) as undergrads, back home to the busy DC suburbs for our first jobs, then to Oklahoma and finally to North Carolina where we have made our ‘forever’ home.
Oklahoma – Semi-planned transition
At the ripe age of 23, we moved to Stillwater, OK for my wife to pursue her DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) at Oklahoma State. One of my biggest goals for Oklahoma was to become a CFP® professional and learn real financial planning. Well, that and becoming solid two-step dancers… which I think we accomplished.
“If she’s studying, I’ll study”, I said, which worked out well as she more or less lived at the library & coffee shops.
If you had told 18-year-old me, an east coaster who loves the beach, that part of your twenties would be spent in Oklahoma, I would have called you crazy. But four years in Oklahoma gave us our fondest memories and biggest transitions both personally and professionally.
Engaged and living on one salary, we quickly learned that “live like a resident” with a small emergency fund was a necessity, not a suggestion as Dr. Dahle of White Coat Investor famously says.
Six months into my new associate advisor role, I was told I needed to go get clients and sell products, two things I did not agree to at the start. This was my first real exposure to the conflicts related to selling financial products for compensation, as I would be moving to commission-based pay immediately. This is not ideal if your income is the one paying the rent.
After looking at our budget & reviewing our own (very basic) financial plan, I made the decision to quit and find a new job, knowing our emergency fund could get us through a few months if needed. Thankfully, I landed quickly in a great role doing planning only, no sales.
North Carolina – Planned Transition
With my focus back on learning, I went on to pass the CFP® exam and gain certification. I spent the next three years working under and alongside great mentors at a local advisory firm. My wife finished veterinary school and entered the match program, where you get placed for your rotating internship after graduation. You submit where you want to go and hopefully a hospital or university picks/matches you. We helped ourselves out though by only submitting for one place, the Triangle.
It was our first transition, in what felt like forever, where we got to decide where to go, who to work for… what type of life we wanted to live. We were no longer chasing the next thing, but starting our new life post-training. We got to pick, rather than the next degree or job leading the way.
It may seem like I focused primarily on professional growth, but our life evolved on a personal level as well. We got a dog, got married, traveled to 20+ states and built a house in Raleigh. There were highs, like my parents retiring or most recently us becoming aunt and uncle, to lows like losing grandparents & health scares.
I can’t script what happens next, nor will I try. But, I do know that with a little planning, we can be ready for what comes our way.