about us

John

New York stock brokers were literally jumping out of windows. I remember seeing the news and the media about the Stock Market Crash.  It was the strangest, craziest thing I can remember at the time. All I could think of was: Why do they think it’s the end of the world? Why were they willing to die for a market crash, a job? Why were they looking backwards and not forward? I remember becoming so curious about the stock market.  My dad was watching the markets every Sunday, via the newspaper, so it was something that had caught my attention.  

At school one day after continuing to see the news of the crash, I asked my teacher, “How do I get to be a stock trader?” His answer, “I don’t think you want to do that. I’m not sure you could do that.”

The seed had been planted. I can’t do that? From then on, I became obsessed with the stock market. I looked in the newspaper stock listings everyday. I would read any material I could find and watch the news for the 3 min coverage of the markets back then. Obsessively. Shortly thereafter, cable TV blossomed and CNBC became my new “fix”.  Every single day I would watch the markets instead of doing homework for my college courses. My hidden obsession: how to become a stock trader in New York. (To be real, I was an immature college student and my obsession was my track and field scholarship and beer, but in the back of my mind I was going to grow up and work on Wall Street as a New York stock trader.)

After college, the rules changed and the minimum to invest in mutual funds dropped from $15000 to $2500. I knew exactly what to do and I was able to make my first trade with a little cash and a cash advance from a credit card. My tiny bit of money doubled each year for several years. And then I went through a divorce and literally gave it away. I knew I could always make money in the market, so it didn’t matter that it was now gone.

Jump ahead, and just as I was getting married (for the second time) to Karen, I had found my way into a career as a Licensed Financial Advisor.  

I completed my Series 7 license, which is the “Holy Grail” of the financial industry (https://brokercheck.finra.org/  CRD# 4167748), along with the other 6 licenses I had taken (Series 24, 53, 56, 63, 66, along with Life, Health & Disability licenses). I thought that I had found my path of becoming a stock trader; I was in the financial world. I was immersed in the financial world and it was looking like my dream job could actually become a reality. I continued looking at different funds and investments daily to help my clients invest wisely. Until… until… my ideas were shut down.

My dream financial “advising” job had turned into a sales job. Who is the best salesman? Who could get the most amount of money moved from the client’s current positions and get them into a fund or other type of investment my company provided, even though they may be identical.  Those who did were awarded all the perks, all the recognition, all the praise and promotions.

I felt as if the path was being laid for my exit from my “Dream Job” of eventually becoming a NY stock trader. My exit from that company was cemented the day my boss sat in on a meeting with one of my high net worth clients who had done very well for herself in a mutual fund which she had chosen years before, “because she liked the name.” My boss belittled her and told her she didn’t really know what she was doing and that we would help her get into something that would make sense (in reality, there was nothing wrong with her investment except that it wasn’t making my company any money).

I looked for a new job the next day; I quit less than a week later and went to work for a bank that had financial clients and portfolio’s already set up. It was quite the “promotion” in exposure but a ridiculously low salary and I loved it. Until, this too, turned into a sales position where I was expected to take clients portfolios which were doing very well and sell them on a different fund just so the bank could make money. My exit from this second position was a lot easier. I knew the sales route wasn’t for me, even if I loved advising clients on their finances.

Throughout this time, I had continued to invest into stocks and funds and did very well with what money Karen and I were able to keep putting towards the stock market. Doing well in the market was a double-edged sword for me, though. I would invest, double my money and then take that money and use it to pay for our next big expense: a wedding ring, our honeymoon, our first house… I never feared I would run out of money with the market — I always knew that I could make more.  

Shortly after we married, with very little money in our savings, I took a chance and purchased a 4 unit rental building, in a college town, with $1500 in out of pocket expenses, including the down payment (it was a private sale from a local real estate investor) and the monthly profit from that literally replaced my income from the bank. I wasn’t rich, but cash is cash.

It was at this point that I decided to pursue another deep-seated dream of mine: to become a teacher. I had given up on my dream of being a NY stock trader for now. The financial path that required immoral sales was not how I wanted to get there. For the time being, our goal was to save up cash, get it into the stock market, to grow it quicker and then invest in real estate.  

Fast forward to 2008. We had mortgages on 5 rental properties and had 42 real estate properties under a lease-option contract with around $25k profit locked in on each property (over $1 million profit under contract) — and more calls flooding in each week wanting us to “buy” their house through lease-option. In the summer of 2008, the financial crisis had taken a strong hold in Michigan (where all of our properties were) and in the blink of an eye, the value of properties plummeted. All of the properties that we had were now worth a fraction of what they had been and all 5 of our mortgaged properties were vacant — many due to job losses of the tenants. 

To make matters worse, Karen had just lost her job. What money we had was spent on properties. We were devastated. We scrambled to find a way out, but couldn’t. We had to file for business bankruptcy based on our real estate business failing because of the world financial crisis.

We were literally at zero. The only legal way to declare bankruptcy is to prove you have zero assets. Even Karen’s wedding ring was in jeopardy. I was able to pull out my teaching degree and find a 7th grade Science teaching job in a different state, so a few short months later we moved halfway across the country to start over.

Late 2008 was a very scary time for many people because of the economy and stock market crash. However, things were finally looking up for us; I had a job, Karen had just found a job as well in our little town in Kansas (albeit at a 30% pay cut) and we were very fortunate that my parents allowed us to stay in their home, freeing us up to save our income for months. We saved like mad and in Dec 2008, I was able to get back into investing in the market. I was able to double the money in 4 months and we were back on our way again, moving forward.

Life had a different plan and everything came crashing down. Again. Two short years later, the trickle down effect of the 2008 financial crisis caused cuts to be mandated in the schools, and being the “low man on the totem pole”, I lost my job. Not too long after, Karen’s company let 95% of their workforce go as well. We thought we had turned the corner on our financial troubles but we were now fighting with our backs up against the wall. Again.

We have definitely seen our share of Big Up’s and Big Downs.

So how did I find my dream job as a stock trader? After I lost my teaching job, I was feeling very low — sitting at home, wondering how to find a teaching job or any kind of work and watching my daily obsession, CNBC.  I began to notice this young guy who was on CNBC once or twice a week, giving his perspective on the market or certain stocks. His predictions about the markets or prices of stocks were absolutely unbelievable — often within pennies. Six months after I noticed this guy, his company name was finally shown under his name. I wanted to know how he did this, how could I learn what he saw, what was he doing. With nothing to lose, desperate to know more and not sure how to get out of our current mess (we were in a house we couldn’t afford without both incomes), I decided to take a leap. Once I had his company name, I figured I could just call him up and ask him. So I did.

Somehow I managed to get him on the phone — with no research as to his company, who he was or any info, I called his company phone number like it was the pizza place down the street. More than an hour later, I had an invitation to come visit his company in New York.

I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely floored. My high school dream was about to become a reality. I hopped on a plane and headed to Wall Street.  I learned more in that week about the market and stocks than all of my combined knowledge for the past 30 years.

I ended up being a NY stock trader with them for almost 5 years and still keep in touch with a few of them to this day. I absolutely loved it! Zero sales skills needed. Just the knowledge I had acquired in my pursuit.

As you can see, my personal financial situation has not been a pretty one all the way through. With job losses and feeling the direct effects of the financial crisis that shook the world and forced us into bankruptcy, Karen and I have been through it all — the good and the bad.

We now travel the world full-time with our two children. Through our knowledge of finance and budgeting and all of the lessons we learned, we were able to create the lifestyle we have now.

What I do is share my knowledge of those good times and bad, to get others in a better financial position — so they can achieve their goals. I share my knowledge of risk assessment and finding avenues to adjust their monthly budget without disrupting their current lifestyle, but to actually enhance it for the better. 

Because of my former life as a teacher, I am very comfortable bringing any concept down to the level of whomever I am working with. It is always my goal to teach rather than show, as the results are so much more powerful!

 Let me know what questions you have.

Karen

I knew before I could talk that I would go to college. I would earn my degree, get a good job, get married and have a happy life. My life was planned out. I grew up in a very traditional, Catholic family and from a very early age, the power of saving was ingrained into my head. Part of my allowance for doing chores every week was saved in a bank account. 

By the time that I was in college, working a part-time job for $5/hr, I had saved a substantial sum of money. I had made choices with my money, choices that some might see as sacrifices, but I had a lot to show for those decisions. (One of my “choices” was to live at home while going to college. It had been my dream to go away to school and have the dorm experience, but with the offer of a scholarship from a university close to home, it didn’t make financial sense for me (yes, at age 17!) to go into debt just so I didn’t have to live under my parent’s rules full time.)

Enter my future husband, John. We met while I was in college and he convinced me to invest half of my savings into a mutual fund that he had been following for years — this took a lot of effort on his part as I had never been taught the value of investing, only the value of saving. This was a pivotal point in my financial education — learning the potential growth of money. 

Another aspect of my financial “growth” education was that I chose to participate in a stock purchase plan through my employer. Through this plan, I invested 5% of each paycheck into the company’s stock which was purchased at a discount; I was working part-time at $5/hr, so the amount was nothing that I even noticed. 

The efforts of saving, investing with my employer, and following the advice from John (which doubled my investment in the first year) led me to have a very sizable amount of money stashed by the time that I was 22 — with absolutely no debt. This money set us up to purchase our first home together right after we were married.

Having followed the traditional path that was laid out for me, I had gone to college, graduated and gotten a “good” job; a job that I thought would be mine for the rest of my career. The “powers that be” had other plans in store for me. Over the course of the next twenty years of my career, I lost my job 3 times (not for anything that I had done or not done, but because of corporate site closures) and narrowly missed a 4th job loss. The loss of income due to unexpected unemployment, followed by moves to different parts of the state and even the country caused a lot of financial stress and strain. John and I learned early on to work together to make smart money decisions through these tough periods, as well as during the “good” times. I also learned a lot about investing from John.

It was shortly after my second job loss that our financial world came crashing down upon us even harder than before. We had started a real estate business and had purchased a number of rental properties with mortgages. None of them were expensive houses and the rent that we were receiving was more than sufficient to pay the mortgage payments. John also had a ton of additional business lined up as well through other avenues. Unfortunately, our timing was terrible and a few short months after our 5th purchase, all of the properties were vacated due to the economic crash of 2008. 

We were devastated, and financially in a giant hole. The loss of income from 5 rental properties combined with my job loss meant that we had no way to cover the debts on those properties. We had some savings, but not enough to sustain 6 mortgage payments a month. Although we scrambled and tried everything in our power to reverse our situation, in the end we swallowed our pride and consulted with a bankruptcy attorney.

It was overwhelming for both of us. We had used everything we had in savings to try to keep our business afloat, but to no avail. The properties remained vacant and we could no longer pay the mortgages. With no potential of changing our course, we had to declare bankruptcy.

Emotionally this was incredibly difficult for both of us. We had agreed that we would pay these mortgages and now we couldn’t. But it also meant that our dreams were crushed as well. Instead of getting ahead in the game and seeing an improvement to our financial life, we had complete devastation.

We did what we needed to do. With a young baby at home, we buckled down and made the decision that we had to move so that we could both work full time. We economized in every way we could, and slowly, very slowly, we built back our savings and were looking towards a brighter future.

Two more job losses (one for each of us), saw us moving yet again — with another small baby. (Clearly having children was not good for my career — within a couple of months of both of our children’s births, I lost my job!!) Our move meant an increase in our living expenses — not by choice, but as a result of the location of the new job. This meant we still needed to keep a very close eye on our finances, but we continued to move forward with our goals.

After our last move (which was the only one by choice and resulted in me narrowly missing ANOTHER job cut!)  I started to realize that the job that I still really enjoyed and was mentally-challenging for me was no longer meeting a fundamental need within me. There was a dream that was desperate to come out, but I had no way of making it a reality. I was tired of the 9-5 (or lets be honest here, more like 7-5) job that paid really well. I wanted to travel and spend more time with John and our children. I lived for vacations, and planning the next vacation was what kept me going. But with only 3 weeks of vacation each year, there was no way to see more, or travel more than twice a year.

This was the start, the start of a total and complete change for our entire family. John and I spent hours upon hours talking, searching and eventually finding a way to make our dream (he shared my desire to travel and experience the world while our children were still living with us) a reality. The fundamental issue that needed to be solved before we could embark upon this journey was money. Walking away from a stable source of income was tantamount to financial suicide in my family. But I wanted more. And even though I had been raised to follow the traditional path, that path was no longer enticing to me and I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. The only way for us to make our dream a reality was to find a way to make our own income.

But what skills did I have outside of those of my career (which were not amenable to remote work)??? And then a light bulb went off… I knew finances. WE knew finances. We knew how to make a budget, how to stick to it, how to pinch a penny when necessary and how to make smart choices when there was money available. We knew how to financially plan for the future and make those plans a reality. And then a second light bulb went off… We would use those skills to help others to get a handle on their finances, to teach them how to manage their money and to make smart financial choices and thereby allow them to make their dreams a reality — whatever those dreams might be.

So now we travel — full-time. We gave up the traditional path and started to design our own path. We certainly have had our ups and downs, our moments of trial and our moments of triumph. But through it all we have the knowledge of money — and we share that with others to help them realize their own financial and life dreams.