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Origin Stories, Part 5: ‘I Wanted to Make Things Happen’

By Thomas Coyle August 30, 2016

We conducted an informal survey to find out how and why financial advisors chose their calling. In Part 5 of the series, we turn to FAs who followed a strong calling to work with people. Read the rest of the series here.

For some second-career seekers, the attraction of the financial advice business boils down to a desire to see tangible results — frequently after spending time in fields where uptake on their recommendations was tough to track.

Mark Germain is a case in point.

The head of Beacon Wealth Management in Hackensack, N.J., decided to “work for individuals on their financial challenges” in preference to continuing in a lucrative career at an international consulting firm.

“I was tired of big-company issues and wanted to make things happen for the people that wanted help,” he says. In the realm of corporate consulting, he says, “often the work was paid for and not implemented.”

This was frustrating to Germain, a results-oriented guy.

“I wanted to have the good ideas implemented, monitored and changed if needed,” he says. “Becoming a financial advisor gave me the channel to design, implement, and monitor exactly as the Financial Planning Association proposes all advisors work.”

Though Germain says client service can get stressful in times of market upheaval, part of his job satisfaction comes from “helping clients see that long term investing and a stick-to-it approach makes the most sense.”

For Germain, watching clients “go from starting out to retiring and the joy of seeing them burn the mortgage, collect social security” and benefit from retirement plans “we designed with them years before is a total sense of accomplishment not only for the client but for me as an advisor.”

Stephanie Genkin

A desire to stop showing and start doing also propelled Stephanie Genkin to financial planning — in her case, from a successful career in journalism.

After a successful stint as a Middle East correspondent, Genkin became a business news producer at CNN. She was there late in 2008 when, for a few months, the U.S. financial system looked like it might fall over.

“Our viewers, like so many Americans, were panicked and confused about the events that were unfolding,” Genkin tells FA-IQ. “In addition to a lot of good reporting, we also did many personal finance segments to help people navigate the recession with as little damage to their finances as possible.”

In this context, however, Genkin says she saw “value in trying to help individuals, believing that the average person was going to suffer long after this” — she means the financial crisis — “was over and would need to figure out how to get back up again.”

So Genkin decided to become an advisor. While still working full-time at CNN, she studied for a certificate in financial planning from New York University. Eventually, she established her own RIA: New York-based My Financial Planner, which charges clients by the hour for portfolio design, implementation and checkups and on a project basis for financial plans.

“It’s very rewarding to help people understand and overcome their money fears and obstacles and giving them the tools to grow and protect what they’ve worked so hard for,” says Genkin.

She adds that the thrill of moving into a field that lets her see results while helping “people of all backgrounds build a solid financial foundation to support their goals” remains “stronger than ever.”

Read the rest of the series here.