My Story by Richard Ward, CFP®


Richard's halftime story

I got into the financial services industry at age 22, immediately upon graduating from UCLA.  While I had the good fortune of finding some early success, the business was a difficult one in terms of developing new business, influencing clients, and sustaining growth.  Unhappy with being primarily a “salesperson,” I needed to find a better way in which I could become more valuable to my clients and transition into their personal financial advisor.  It was at this time that I discovered the relatively new discipline of personal financial planning, which offered a more holistic approach to delivering financial guidance.  I quickly realized that this was the answer for my desires to pursue a more fulfilling, long-term career path.  So, I enrolled in the College for Financial Planning and earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification in 1988 after completing the educational curriculum and passing the certifying exams.

This certainly was the wise choice, as many investors were moving away from the “hot stock” peddlers and gravitating toward comprehensive financial guidance that financial advisors could offer.  For years, my practice grew more steadily as I helped more and more families pursue their most important financial goals, most often centered on retiring.  This work was also very satisfying, as I knew I was helping people in the best way I could as a personal financial advisor, and it certainly separated me from so many others who were chasing quicker riches.

I did this work for many years and helped many people pursue the retirement they’ve always envisioned.  As I got older, I also saw that this retirement wasn’t always as golden as advertised, as many who retired became bored with life and often aged rapidly once their work and their purpose had been left behind.  I became increasingly concerned for my future (my senior years not that far off) as well as where I was leading my clients.  As their financial advisor, was I doing no more than enabling their transition from a productive, rewarding life to one of self-absorbed irrelevance?  Is this the best we can do?  Is this all that we can expect in our later years?  I knew it certainly wasn’t how I wanted to continue through those years.

Having been a community volunteer and budding philanthropist, it was about this point when I joined a professional organization called Advisors in Philanthropy and attended a life-changing presentation.  At this event, I heard from several leading business people who had done very well (like my clients), but were becoming dissatisfied and even bored with their work (perhaps like many of my clients).  They knew they weren’t ready for retirement but were ready for something much more fulfilling for the years ahead.  They spoke of their journeys of discovery; that is, finding a new vision of the future wherein they could use their skills, experiences, and resources to help others.  They found ways to “repurpose” themselves with their wealth of knowledge, contacts, and capabilities (perhaps what my clients were missing).  These discoveries and the resultant impact each had on other people’s lives were amazing, inspiring, and eye opening.  I thought, why couldn’t my clients do something similar?  Why couldn’t they use their time, talent, and treasure to help others and “repurpose” their own lives?  Wouldn’t that be a more fulfilling future?  And why couldn’t I be the catalyst bringing this kind of future to their lives?  How rewarding would it be for me, personally, to help people help themselves in this way?

As a financial advisor, I knew how to help people target and actively pursue their goals for the future.  My planning process already centered on what they wanted for their family members, how they’d live an “ideal life,” and how they might support nonprofit organizations.  It was clear that through Stifel’s financial planning process, I could help people understand the importance of continued growth through their retirement years, the value of having purpose in their lives, and the myriad of opportunities to live a more fulfilling life if they were engaged in helping others learn, grow, and thrive.  Determining how and where they wanted to make their mark was the vision of the future they could fully embrace – financial planning was the means to that future.

I committed then to reorient my practice around a mission to help these people find this future that I describe as living a richer life.  In fact, my mission would enable me to live a richer life as well by helping these individuals evolve into a world of service and philanthropy, and by allowing me to also immerse myself into the philanthropic community and its many nonprofit organizations.

While I still, after 30-plus years, employ customized financial planning services in my practice, I now see myself as having a much bigger view of life, of helping others, of engaging with my community.  I help both individuals pursue their desires to serve others as well as the organizations who are the primary vehicles for their efforts and resources.

My story isn’t finished being written, but I am excited every day that its evolution continues to show me new ways to serve others, to make an impact, to live a richer life.

So, what could your future hold?  How do you want to make your mark?