Living by Design, Choosing Your Future

I became a parent to an 8-year-old in 1989. I didn’t know a lot about parenting, but it soon became clear to me that money is one of the most taboo subjects between most parents and their children. As someone in the finance industry, who knows how vital a tool like money can be, I decided right away that she would start working with us to pay the bills.  When we’d sit down to pay the bills, it was her job to find the amounts owed on the utility and cable bills and write out the checks. Then, ten years later, when our next daughter turned 8, she began her financial education as well. To me, it seemed like a small thing that would set her up to know what money was and how it operated in her life. I wanted her to see that it’s not a gift or something to fret about. It’s a tool she could use to build the kind of life she wanted.

In the very beginning of my career, I was invited to be a part of a team that built a financial plan for a billionaire. Every week, the team would meet in Chicago to piece together all the billions of pieces of his financial plan. I had the opportunity of a lifetime to learn from the best in the business, considering every angle.

I did that for a year, and at the end of it, I realize it was exactly what I wanted for my family — to choose my future and design my life, taking all the options into consideration. I wanted to build multiple income streams and back up plans to secure my future and my family’s. And once I’d done that, I knew i wanted to help others do the same. Then, when I left the publishing industry in 1989, I was in an incredibly fortunate position. I didn’t have to go back to work, but I also felt like my contributions weren’t done —I wasn’t done. I knew I wanted to build something.

I looked at 100 options for helping people, and I even tried teaching personal finance for a while at the high school level, but as it turned out, the parents had twice as many questions as the kids. The kids didn’t even know what questions to ask, because their parents had never talked about it.  So I started teaching the parents.

My hope was that, if I could help my clients learn, they might be able to have those conversations more succinctly. I thought that if I helped them do what I’d done in my own family — setting up a situation where the children can see their parents’ financial choices, not chances, in action — then it would make it easier for parents to teach their children about how to make the same choices.

Both of my children are of the mind that we work for everything — because money is a tool that can help us build the lives we want. Both of my daughters graduated college with no debt — without my giving them a dime. One of them built up and raised a flock of sheep and used the proceeds to pay for her college. The other went on a full-ride academic and volleyball scholarship. They’ve chosen their lives, built multiple income streams, and worked to build a safe future.

That’s why financial planning is about more than just feeling secure in retirement. It’s about learning the kind of management skills that will not only give you a life of your choosing, but teach the next generation to do the same. Are you ready to build a future with us?

— Gary Mattson