Starting Strong: The Young Professional's Guide to Financial Independence
There is an old story about a wise man who wants to build a home. He surveys an area and finds a piece of land surrounded by a good environment that will protect his home from the elements. It takes time, but he slowly works the land down to a point from which he can build his home, ensuring a strong foundation.
At the same time, there is a foolish man who loves the ocean so much that he hastily builds his house on the sandy beach without giving much thought to the strength or integrity of the foundation or the dangers of the elements. Over time, the storms roll in, the rains come, the winds blow, and the tide rises and erodes the sand under the foolish man’s home. Bit by bit, the storm breaks down the home on the beach, and its weak foundation eventually collapses; but the home built on the strong foundation weathers the storm and remains.
The moral of the story is that we need to not only seek education, knowledge and advice, but we also need to put these pieces of wisdom into practice, building a strong foundation for ourselves that weathers the storms of life.
Introducing Starting Strong
For many young adults, this lesson can aptly be applied to their financial lives as they navigate their own unique path to financial independence. Without the knowledge, advice and resources, it becomes very difficult for many to develop a strong financial foundation that will carry them through both the good and challenging times ahead.
Comprehensive Wealth Management’s new service offering, Starting Strong, provides the financial tools, resources and guidance needed by many young professionals as they build their careers, make important life decisions, and begin to map out their futures.
Some of the most critical financial decisions we make in life happen between the ages of 18 and 40, including attending college, buying a home, having children, getting married, establishing a budget, paying down debt and student loans, starting a business or beginning a career. Each decision, large or small, can impact your overall financial health. With Starting Strong, CWM’s dedicated team of financial advisors are here to help provide guidance, encouragement, advice and support as you navigate these milestones.
Why CWM Created Starting Strong
To best answer this question, CWM’s Shilo Lockett, a 17-year veteran of the professional financial services industry and the firm’s first female president, shares her thoughts:
“My father always used to say, ‘The United States is still quite possibly the easiest country in the world to become a millionaire, and yet so many people don’t know or don’t follow the basic fundamentals to help get them there.’
“As CWM has continued to identify ways to better serve our clients and their families, we’ve realized an important gap – the financial services industry primarily focuses around working with those who’ve already amassed their wealth, but not on helping young professionals understand what it takes to build wealth in the first place. Today it seems like we so often read stories about sexy startups, unicorn companies, and people who seem like they struck it rich overnight with an idea or fortunate timing. For the vast majority, however, wealth is built the old-fashioned way – through hard work, resilience, and responsible saving. The Starting Strong program is intended to be a resource for current clients and their professional age children, as well as young prospective clients who want to build strong financial foundations from the start.
"There is an unmatched sense of pride that comes with the knowledge that not only are you self-sufficient, but that you’ve opened the door to prosperity, providing more freedom, choice, and opportunity for you and your family. We’ve seen it consistently in our clients who have spent years amassing wealth, which brought us to one key question: How can we help more people get to this point?”
Financial topics often seem inaccessible or taboo among family members. At CWM, we believe that families need to overcome this unwritten stigma if we’re going to help increase knowledge and fiscal responsibility among future generations. Starting Strong is a path to help begin those discussions and put young professionals on a path to earlier financial stability and independence.
As a strong advocate for financial literacy, CWM is passionate about providing additional financial education resources at the community level. Shilo and Brian Lockett – both graduates of Washington State University (WSU) - have allocated a small endowment to WSU for financial literacy courses.
Additionally, CWM has offered a “Financial Footings” class to third through sixth graders through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Snohomish County, which promotes financial literacy among elementary-age children. Learn more about CWM’s events and workshops here.
CWM financial advisor and Starting Strong lead program developer, Marcus (Marc) Knauss, also shares his perspective.
“Growing up, the investment world always seemed like a secret club that other people were in, a club that I had to be invited to. The reality is, is that we can - and need to - reach out and own it for ourselves. You have a vested interest in your own future and net worth. Young professionals who start their financial planning now can reach the point of true independence earlier than individuals who put it off until later down the road. Those who wait may be intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of investing, or perhaps are disillusioned that becoming wealthy happens overnight with a stroke of luck from the lottery, an inheritance, lawsuit or some other fictitious ‘big break.’
“Studies show that the typical millionaire most likely achieved their goals by intentionally saving, practicing fiscal responsibility and remaining diligent over time," adds Marc. While that’s a less luxurious reality, the CWM team believes it’s also much more attainable."
“You have to pay yourself first,” Shilo adds. “You need to put yourself on your expense list just like your utility bill, phone, internet, and rent or mortgage. It’s amazing how much more fun the ‘fun money’ is when you know you’ve met your savings goals and obligations. There’s a tremendous amount of freedom and peace of mind in knowing that, in addition to being able to weather financial storms or emergencies that come your way, you’ve invested in yourself."
Marc continues, “Wealth is tied to the everyday decisions you make that contribute toward manageable goals, which can add up to substantial results over time. For me, this idea really clicked when I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in January 1999 and received a fairly large signing bonus— at least it seemed large to a 19-year-old fresh out of high school. I had no idea what to do with the money, but I knew I wanted to do something ‘smart’ with it, I just didn’t know what that was. Naturally, I asked my parents what they thought I should do with the money.
“My dad—a client of CWM at the time—suggested I meet with his financial planning team to discuss my options. That meeting truly changed the course of my career path, as it was the first time someone explained to me what it means to save, invest and build your wealth. I remember being told, ‘To become a millionaire, it takes time and discipline, or luck. I’m not a big believer in luck so it’s important to sacrifice a percentage of your income today to invest it for the long term.’ Those words stuck with me for years and shaped how I saw money. Early on, I had the opportunity to steer my financial future in the right direction, empowering my family and me to be far better off down the road.
“Following that meeting so many years ago, I decided right then and there that this was what I wanted to do: give other young people the opportunity to establish smart financial habits early in life, so they are not playing catch up later on. This is how I can help change people’s lives.”
After serving 10 years in the Navy, Marc decided to pursue a career as a financial advisor, and went on to graduate from University of Washington with a degree in business and finance. By a stroke of fate (and a little bit of luck), he ended up back at CWM—now on the other side of the desk, offering guidance to others to help them live richly.
How You Can Start Strong
Starting Strong is intended to be a light-touch, accessible program, focused on goal setting and personal benchmarks. More than that, though, it’s about having someone in your corner to help provide support, encouragement, advice and recommendations as you go.
Do-it-yourself investment programs may seem convenient, but they can deprive young investors of much of the professional analysis, knowledge of nuances, and strategy necessary for long-term wealth accumulation – you don’t necessarily know what you’re buying and why. In addition, long-term savings often loses its place on the list of day-to-day priorities. Working with a fiduciary advisor provides accountability, insight and transparency, and motivation for long-term success.
The above being said, CWM advisors are not here to suggest young professionals lock all their money away without making time for fun; rather, CWM can help them define their intention- including short-term and medium-term goals - and live toward them, while smartly allocating resources to plan for the long term.
“Our team acts as a coach, keeping you on track with your financial responsibilities so you can enjoy life today, without sacrificing your life tomorrow,” Shilo says.
Your future is too important to let the storms of life knock you off course. If you feel that the Starting Strong program may be right for you or someone you love, we encourage you (or them) to set up an introductory half-hour phone call today – no commitments required - by calling (425) 778-6160 or click here to schedule. This will be a time to discuss individual needs and goals, and our team will also happily answer your questions about the process for joining our Starting Strong program.
Schedule a complimentary, no-pressure phone call with a CWM financial advisor to learn if our breadth of consulting services and purpose-driven approach aligns with your needs.