Why I Do What I Do

by Scott on August 29, 2011

My parents were both 48 when my Dad passed away. Once a successful business owner, a brain tumor had ravaged him both physically and financially. The comfort and security my brothers and I grew up with was long gone; either sold, foreclosed on, or repossessed . My mom, who stayed at home to raise three boys, was thrust back into the working world after a twenty year layoff. For my family it was a period of
time that was just really rough.

A few years later I graduated from college, worked a bit in corporate finance, and ultimately entered into financial planning. Along with being a great career opportunity and satisfying my entrepreneurial spirit, I was driven by something more personal. I wanted to make sure that, no matter what the circumstances, other families wouldn’t have to endure what we went through.
As my practice grew, I noticed I was beginning to build a niche of divorced and widowed women. I’m sure there were many reasons, but based on feedback this is what I found:

1. I’m pretty good at just shutting up and letting people tell their story.

2. I hate overwhelming people with numbers, ultimately it never helps anyone make a decision.

3. I always thought that could be my mom on the other side of the table, so I made sure ed to come from a place of empathy and caring.

(*OK there may have been a 4th. I mean if a little of the ole Scott Powers Charm™ happened to slip out, then who was I to stop it. ;) )

There was one instance when I met with a woman who had been recently widowed. She has just met with another advisor who had proceeded to overwhelm her with numbers and percentages. I could tell that I had a very small window to make my case, and of all things I suddenly found myself telling the story of how I taught my Mom to pump gas.

As a precursor, my Dad did everything for my Mom. He felt that was his duty, including doing the driving and taking care of the car. We also grew up in a small town in Maine that at the time only had full service stations, so my mom never had to pump gas for herself. (Since we lived on a peninsula we also had to drive 45 minutes to do just about anything, and my house was so remote that we couldn’t get cable TV until after I left home…….I was supposed to be part of the MTV generation dammit!! Saying I was sheltered might be a bit of an understatement.)

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So my story was that my Dad was getting treatments at Duke Medical Center in NC when he was sick, and after a long day at the hospital my mom and I ran out to grab some dinner. When we stopped to get gas she asked me to show her how to pump it herself. It seemed like such a simple task that it never dawned on me that she didn’t know how (she would either find a full service station or let the car run on fumes until one of her sons would fill it). She also never wanted to ask anyone for help because she was always afraid of people making her feel stupid for all the things she didn’t know how to do. She wasn’t stupid at all…she just didn’t know what she didn’t know. When we were done with our gas pumping lesson she thanked me for being so understanding. It’s one of those small moments that meant so much and really stuck with me. It was my Mom, she didn’t have to thank me for anything.

So I told this story to the lady sitting in front of me who had just lost the one person who was supposed to take care of her. My promise to her was that “There are going to be a lot of things you don’t know about your money. It’s my job to teach you, and you will never be made to feel less for what you don’t know.” Of course she became one of my favorite clients and I got the privilege of watching her put her kids through school and eventually fall in love again.

Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in our work or business and forget why we started doing it all in the
first place. This post was a chance to revisit that for me. Is there something that drives you to do what you do? I would love to hear your story or your thoughts in the comments below.

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