Welcome back to the 183rd episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Hannah Moore. Hannah is the Founder of Guiding Wealth, an independent RIA in the Dallas, Texas area, that oversees nearly $25 million of assets under management for 25 affluent clients. What’s unique about Hannah though, is the way she has deliberately crafted her advisory firm to support her personal goals, from giving back to the profession through her involvement with the FPA, to building her Everyday Money consumer brand and the unique attitude that she brings to her decisions about where and how she focuses her time to achieve her goals.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about Hannah’s philosophy and how she manages her time and focuses her efforts, the way she limits her working time regardless of the length of her to-do list and uses what remains undone as a way to reevaluate her own priorities and what she’s delegating, how Hannah hired a virtual integrator to help her manage the implementational aspects of the business so she could focus on the visionary work that she does best, and the systems that Hannah uses to manage tasks and workflows to ensure that her vision is implemented appropriately.
We also talk about Hannah’s advisory firm itself and the way she started out by buying into an experienced broker’s book of business, how she transitioned from serving nearly 300 clients to going independent with fewer than 30 of them while still managing to keep her income even with about 90% less work, and the budgeting block tool that she has created for her clients to have more meaningful financial planning experiences with them.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Hannah shares the mindset shift that helped her separate the visionary work she loves from the management she doesn’t enjoy as much, the way she structures her week to be productive and stay focused, and why the number one piece of advice to financial advisors, and especially those in the early years of their career, is to join and get involved with a membership association in the FPA.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- How Hannah Balances Work And Life [00:03:39]
- How She Has Leveraged An Integrator To Help Her Get More Done In Her Business [00:11:10]
- How To Reframe The Narrative Of The Never-Ending To-Do List [00:17:35]
- How A Simple “Yes” In An Interview Eventually Led To Hannah Purchasing Two Practices At The Age Of 26 [00:24:32]
- Why Self-Reflection Is Just As Important As Taking Advice From Others [00:33:15]
- How Hannah Flipped Her Practice And Took Her Top Clients To An Independent RIA And What That Business Looks Like Today [00:39:21]
- Why Resting and Resetting Are Powerful Tools To Maximize Productivity [00:42:26]
- How Everyday Money Came To Fruition As An Idea In The Middle Of The Night [00:45:03]
- What Surprised Hannah About Building Her Own Advisory Business And What A Typical Work Week Looks Like [01:13:12]
- The Low Point Of Hannah’s Career And What She Wishes She Could Have Done Differently [01:17:04]
- What She Wishes She Could Have Done Differently, And Her Number One Advice For New Financial Planners [01:19:55]
- How Hannah Defines Success And What’s Next For Her [01:22:30]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Hannah Moore
- Guiding Wealth
- Everyday Money
- You’re A Financial Planner, Now What?
- Budgeting Blocks for Financial Planners
- FPA Externship
- Financial Planning Association
- FPA NexGen Gathering
- Kristin Kaplan
- Enneagram Institute
- Fox Financial Planning Network (AdvisorTouch)
- Sudden Money Institute
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- XY Planning Network
Michael: Welcome, Hannah Moore, to the Financial Advisor Success podcast.
Hannah: Well, thanks for having me, Michael.
Michael: I’m really looking forward to the podcast today and the discussion. And what, to me, is this interesting balance that you seem to have found between what you do in your advisory firm in working with clients and getting paid – I think we’ve got to do this stuff for serving clients – and your involvement in giving back to the profession as well. I know you’re incredibly involved with FPA. You run the FPA Activate community, do the “You’re a Financial Planner, Now What?” podcast, and you’re driving the recent FPA externship program.
In a world where most of us try to figure out this work/life balance thing, you’re doing all this stuff in the advisory firm and all this stuff in FPA and still have to deal with family life and the rest as well, I think it’s a mystery for most of us of how you juggle that many balls at once.
So I’m looking forward to discussing how do you find this balance of family life, work life, giving back to the profession, and trying to keep it all together?
How Hannah Balances Work And Life [00:03:39]
Hannah: Oh, my gosh, well, there’s a lot to it. First of all, I’ll say FPA is not a pure volunteer position. They are paying me, so that helps things with some of the balance. And I think with anybody who is in a position where they’re doing a lot; I’m not the only person, so we’ve been able to build out teams around me to really help and support. So there’s that side of it. The other side of it is I’ve really embraced, how do I be creative around my work? And that’s really helped me. So I have this perspective of constraint inspires creativity.
Michael: Constraint inspires creativity.
Hannah: Yes. So the founder of Twitter actually came up with that when they started Twitter, because everybody said, “It’s impossible. It is impossible for you to communicate your message in 160 characters.” And that was his response to it. And I loved it. And I thought it was brilliant. And I think it can apply to absolutely everything that we do. And so I often have a long to-do list like I’m sure most of us do, and things fall off of it, right. And I think that’s really, really healthy. So it’s really healthy for me to go through a day and say, “These are all the things that I wanted to do. What didn’t get done?” Okay, so then that gives me the opportunity to reassess and say, “Okay, so why didn’t that get done?” So it’s clearly not a priority, so I can’t use that excuse. Am I not delegating enough? Am I not outsourcing? What can I do? Or is it something that I should get rid of?
So I think, as we always talk about how we’re balancing all of these things, it’s really healthy when some things fall because it helps me understand what my capacity is. And then I have a decision to make. Is this something that I can get help with? Or is this something that I shouldn’t be doing? Or did I do something that I shouldn’t have been doing? So for me, it’s almost on a daily or weekly basis that I’m looking at this, and it’s really challenging myself. And it’s really a self-reflective exercise, because some of this stuff I really, really want to do. But maybe that’s not the best use of my time, or maybe I can get help in doing something else. So that’s just kind of my philosophy towards life.
And you alluded to family life. I have a little 21-month-old little girl. And so at 5:00, I try my best, and I’m mostly really good at this, I’m done. Sometimes, right now, we’re in a really busy time with FPA with this externship, which I’m sure we’ll talk about. But I’ll sometimes go back after she goes to bed. But I’m like, those are really precious hours that I’m not willing to sacrifice. And so I am not grinding it out. I’m more about asking how do the constraints of my life that I put in there, how does that change how I work and how I approach my work? And that has been transformational for me.
Michael: I love that framing; having been active on Twitter, I certainly get and have literally lived the “constraint inspires creativity” and all the ways you try to figure out how to pack your message in the very limited number of characters we get on Twitter.
But it sort of reminds me of the corollary saying that necessity is the mother of invention, right? You get awfully creative and figure out how to do something when you literally have no choice but to figure out how to do it.
Hannah: Well, what’s great here, Michael, is that I don’t need to do this, right? I don’t need to work with the FPA, but I want to. It gives me so much energy and so much life. I don’t have to do any of the things that I’m doing. And it’s this whole flipping of the narrative to “these are things that I want to do.” These are things that I have the privilege of doing. Oh my God, how privileged am I to run my own practice and to be volunteering and helping my profession in the FPA? Can it get better than this?
Michael: But there’s still just packing it all in that I think a lot of us struggle with, and you seem to get there or get to the point that stuff is getting done. I’m struck by the way you frame, “I’ve got a to-do list, and whenever I look at my to-do list of things that didn’t happen and fell off…” First of all, I think it’s really interesting to say and own, “I guess it wasn’t really a priority.” Because if it really was a priority, you would have done that before the other things that were on your list. So either it really wasn’t a priority, or it really, really was, and you have to acknowledge something else you did on your list that was really not a priority and figure out how you’re going to flip that around.
Hannah: I’m not willing to shame myself into action, right? I’ve played that game. That’s not fun. I’m not willing to say, “Well, I should be doing this. I have to do this.” I know that when I get in that space, you’re not going to get the best of me. And I know that to be on my A-game, to do all these big, huge things that I want to do that I have to be on my A-game. And by me sitting here and just being like, “Oh, I feel so guilty. I didn’t get back to this client. I feel so guilty. I didn’t do all of these things.” That doesn’t help me. So it’s the reframing of it that I think is one of the most powerful things that I’ve done. So it’s looking at what script do I have to change? Because if I can do that, then I have so much joy going into the work that I do.
I hear a lot of productivity specials; I hear a lot of advice that we get in financial services, and it always felt a little off to me. Because it’s all about, “How can I cram more into my to-do list?” versus “Everything on my list can really bring me joy and bring me energy!” and if it can do that, then I’m going to be so much more productive.
Michael: And the corollary that goes with that, “Then, therefore, what am I not going to do?” Either it’s not a priority, or I’m handing it off to someone else, or I’m delegating it or just doing something else, so it’s literally not my problem anymore.
Hannah: Yeah. And one of the things is I’ve really come to realize that what’s limiting my growth is usually me. What’s limiting my business growth is usually me. I’m in the way. We hired a brilliant guy to come work with us in our practice. And when I’m trying to be in the way, or I’m trying to be needed, or I think that this can’t be done without me, that’s hurting his growth. That’s not empowering him. That’s going to limit what my company is able to do because of my ego, and that just doesn’t make sense to me anymore.
Michael: That certainly resonates with me as well, having gone through a similar growth path of trying to grow a business beyond me, there’s a stage early on where you want to touch everything and be involved in everything. Or well, initially, you are the only person, so you literally do everything.
But I’ve taken to acknowledging and outright saying, “I am virtually always the primary bottleneck in the business.” Literally me, personally, because the more things I require to route through me to give feedback or approval, or whatever it is, the entire business and everything downstream are limited by the number of hours that I have in the day to look at stuff or give feedback or whatever it is.
And so the more that I require keeping that level of control or that involvement, the more limited the business becomes. Eventually, you will top out at the number of things in the aggregate downstream that you are still able to look at and give your approval on.
And if you can’t move past that, then whenever you hit that natural limit, you stop growing, the business stops growing and starts to flatline. Which I guess if you’re at the point you want to be out, that’s fine. But if you want to grow further, that becomes a problem, and you become the limiting factor in your own business growth.
How She Has Leveraged An Integrator To Help Her Get More Done In Her Business [00:11:10]
Hannah: One of the other things that happened, so I try to look outside of financial planning. I learn a lot and outside of our world here because there are just some crazy, innovative things happening out there. And so I joined this mastermind. It was for creative female entrepreneurs online. Most all of them have an online business, and they’re like, “I am the…” There is nobody within a mile of financial planning in that group, which I love. It’s perfect.
But one of the things…so the lady who’s leading the mastermind group, I was talking to her, and I’m really high [efficiency]…I get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. I was talking to her about it, and I was like, “I’m really good at getting 80% to 90% of things done.” And I was like, “But it’s that last 10% that just…” It’s posting the blog. It’s all these other elements. And she stopped me. She’s like, “Oh, well, that’s easy to fix. You just need an integrator. You’re the visionary. You just need an integrator.” And I was like, “Well, yeah, I know I do. But where do I go?” And she’s like, “Oh, I got somebody you need to talk to.”
So I work with a woman who built herself as an integrator for online female visionaries. She has a handful of different clients, and she runs my entire project management system. So she runs all of that. She’s always working on my business, never in my business. So now whenever I say… I’ll Voxer. Have you heard of Voxer?
Hannah: Voxer, yeah.
Michael: I don’t think so.
Hannah: I know, right? Me either. I thought it was crazy. It’s a walkie talkie app. And so whenever I have my huge, big ideas, I Voxer everything to her. And so I’ll just be like, “Hey, so I have this idea, this new business model.” I’ve really done this, and then I’ll just talk through it all. It’s like, “Here’s what I’m visioning.” And then we would do this, and then we would do that, and then we would do this, and then we would do that.
I just get the whole idea out, because what I realized is as a visionary, ideas bounce around in my head a lot, and if I can’t get them out in a good way, they take up this space that it doesn’t need to be taking up. And so she documents all of it, and we put it in our future ideas list.
Or I’ll say, “I’m in this externship program. And it’s a great example of it. Okay, so we’re going to do this externship program. And here’s…” I’ll just talk it all out. I’ll be like, “Here’s what I’m going to do from a programmatic standpoint. Here’s what I need from marketing. Here’s what I need you to do for this, here’s what you need to coordinate.” And I’ll just talk it all out with her. And we’ll go back and forth, and she’ll ask me some different questions, and then she’ll populate it all into my project management system. And so at that point, we’re just delegating out tasks, pulling in what’s most important for me, and the process is built out already.
So it’s been a really, really powerful way of how I can leverage somebody like that to help me get more done in my practice. I brought her on about a year and a half ago, and I think my productivity of what I can actually get done probably increased three to four times with just that one hire.
Michael: So, out of curiosity, can I ask, who is this? And is she taking on other business owners? Apparently, I don’t qualify because I’m not an online female entrepreneur, but some other people who are listening may be interested.
Hannah: No, she’s amazing. I know right now her queue is full. She has all of her integrator clients, where she’s acting as the integrator. I do know that she is building out online programs to actually teach high-productive virtual assistants how to become these online integrators or integrators for people in these online businesses right now. So if somebody’s interested, I can definitely refer them.
Michael: Is there a business name or a site we can send people to? And we’ll make sure we put it in the show notes for anyone who’s listening.
Hannah: Her name is Kristin Kaplan. I’ll give you the link for the show notes to her program.
Michael: Okay, fantastic. So for folks who are listening, this is episode 183. If you go to kitces.com/183, we’ll have a link out for your path to an online virtual integrator, and possibly one that works more broadly than for just online female entrepreneurs, in case you’re listening, and you don’t qualify for that, but you want one of these as well.
Hannah: What’s so interesting about her is she has a very niche group that she works with. So I don’t know if you follow, not to get too crazy, but she has the enneagram. The enneagram is, I’m a seven. And she’s like, “All of my clients are enneagram sevens.” But it’s really cool because my ideas can be very overwhelming for people.
That’s one thing that I’ve learned, but she knows how to work with me because she knows all of her clients are like that. And so it’s really given me the freedom where I’m not ever worried about overwhelming her. She’s just like, “No, that’s what you do. That’s the value that I bring to this.” And so it’s really helped me to embrace that instead of just being like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to…I can’t give too many ideas because I can be overwhelming sometimes. I can be overwhelming.
Michael: And just for people who aren’t familiar with enneagrams, what’s an enneagram seven?
Hannah: Oh, boy, I’m probably not the best expert at that. So they’re different personality types. Mine is much more; I’m a very big idea person. I get energy from jumping between project to project, so usually, that drains most people. It actually gives me a lot of energy. So really high creative, I tend to let balls drop sometimes. That’s one of the downsides of it. So it’s just much more of an in-depth personality assessment.
Michael: Okay, so you went down this road of needing to get more efficient and focused. You joined a mastermind group. The mastermind group steered you to Kristen and working with an integrator to say, “Look, if you’re good at vision stuff, do the vision stuff. Let someone else integrate it and put it into practice.”
Michael: And then you said you’re coordinating with a project management system as well. I’m just curious, what are you using?
Michael: Okay. So you don’t do that from your CRM system?
Hannah: We don’t. That’s something that we’re going to be fixing very soon.
Hannah: So yeah, we’ve kind of been walking that. Asana has felt like a stopgap for my practice. So we’re doing that on just broad processes and some client meetings, but we’re sensitive not to put client information in there and things like that. So we’re in a stopgap spot right now with that.
But now having seen that, I can’t imagine living without processes, even though they’re not my strong suit. So Matt, who is our employee, he’ll listen to this and be like, “Oh, boy.” They’re not my strong suit, but I know how important they are. And so it’s a high priority now that we’re going to be able to use that much more effectively in our practice going forward.
How To Reframe The Narrative Of The Never-Ending To-Do List [00:17:35]
Michael: Interesting. And so I do want to come back once more to just understand this. I’m still fascinated by this to-do list mentality that for so many of us…you look at a to-do list where everything didn’t get done, and it doesn’t feel good. It’s like, all the boxes don’t have checkmarks. And just you have this, I think as you put it, the opposite script of, “Oh, I didn’t get to all the things on my to-do list. I guess by definition, that means I need to not be doing all these things. So let’s figure out what we’re changing.”
Help me run through your thought process? Literally, what are you thinking about? Is this like a “Do I delegate it or drop it?” kind of thing? Do you have a system of how you catalog, what I got to, and what I didn’t, to just figure out how to how to winnow this down going forward?
Hannah: I’m just not willing to shame myself into action. It doesn’t work. All of the research says that it doesn’t work. The only thing that…it’s this motivational thing. It just doesn’t work. And I don’t like how I feel when I do it. I don’t like how I’m able to do less. Well, I just…every time I see something that I didn’t get done, it’s an opportunity of being like, “What could I be doing differently?” So I’ll tell you with this integrator, towards the end of last year, I was really struggling with… I was like, “I don’t have time.” And she was just like, “Okay.” And it was so great because she’s pushing me on this too. She’s like, “Okay, so what can we get off your plate? What isn’t necessary for you to be doing?” She’s like, “I want to hear everything that you’re doing in your day.”
And so she helped me rethink through this of like, “Okay, so what does it look like? What don’t I have to do all the time? What’s not essential for me?” It’s just this constant evaluation and thinking of what is truly the highest and best use of my time? How can I have the biggest impact?
People talk about vision statements for what they’re doing and everything. And mine is, “I want to change the way people think and talk about money.” Period, that’s what I want to do. That’s what connects all three of the brands that I work with, the two that I have, and then working with FPA. That’s my “why” because I want to change the way people think and talk about money. And if I’m not willing to see those things on my to-do list and be like, “Okay, so clearly that’s not a priority. Maybe I need to shift my focus.”
Right now, there’s a great example with the FPA Externship, because we are in the thick of this right now, which is really fun and exciting. But we have to pause the Everyday Money brand. We had priorities that we were going to be doing on the Everyday Money that we’re just like, “You know what? We’re just going to pause this, and it’s okay.” This is going to be around for later.
I had a friend, not to tell his story, but he was working with a coach, and he had his whole list of things that he wanted to do for a year or whatever. And this coach, it was actually Ann Jacobsen, looks at it and told him, he was just like, “So most people would want to accomplish this in a career, and you want to do it in one year.” And so a lot of what my perspective is, how can I give myself grace knowing that… What’s that Bill Gates quote? This is another one of the sticky notes that I’ve had on my computer screen. “Most people can accomplish more in 10 years than they think they can in a…” Or something like that.
Michael: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we overestimate what we can accomplish in a year and underestimate what we can accomplish in 10.
Hannah: Yeah. So what’s interesting, because I’ve always kind of had this mindset, but when I really embraced it, I saw that I was able to get so much more done. And then just live a happier life. So somehow they’re correlated.
Michael: I’m struck even just down to your, what I thought was a surprising, comfortableness to say, “Yeah, we’ve been working on this Everyday Money brand,” which I know is your…the consumer brand platform that you’ve been working on building.
Hannah: My baby, yeah.
Michael: Your baby, as you put it. And just like, “Yeah, I’m just doing this other thing, and I paused that for a while. And then I’ll come back to it.” Does it feel bad to pause?
Hannah: Not at all. There are rhythms of life, right? There are rhythms. There’s this natural flow of how things go. It’s healthy, right? It’s healthy for things to be dormant. That is a healthy cycle. We have this mentality that to grow, you have to have this perfect trajectory path, but that’s just not the case.
So I know we’ll get into this Everyday Money brand and kind of what we want to do with it. And some really cool things we have going on in there. So I was super frustrated four years ago, where I was like, “Why can’t I get this off the ground?” This is so frustrating to me. Why can’t I just push through and do this? And I was at a retreat, and I went. I think it was Elizabeth Chan; I somehow framed that out. She just looked at me, and she was just like, “Sometimes ideas are just like a seed, sometimes you just have to bury them. And they just have to sit there.” And even though I’m not doing Everyday Money right now, it’s still just sitting here. I’m marinating on it. It needs this time. It needs that from me, as crazy as it is.
But I know the things that I really force and I really push, and I’m just like… Here am I pulling from the book traction, which integrator comes from. Here are my three quarterly rocks, here are my metrics, and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. Sometimes, those are all good things and we have all those in all three businesses. We know our quarterly rocks. We know all of that, we have to run a solid business. But it’s healthy to pull back. It’s healthy for it just to say, “It’s not ready yet. It’s not ready yet. But there will be a time.” And I say this. And I was always like, “Well, see, I’m not as productive.” But then I look around, and I’m pretty darn productive. I get a lot of stuff done.
Michael: Yeah, you really do. Yeah.
Hannah: And so to me, this is not an admission of, I’m not saying that this is an excuse to not get something done. It’s saying that things just have different growth rates, they just have different…we have a garden outside. I learned so much from watching the garden and so much of my life, I feel like I can see played out in that. Things grow at different times, and things bloom at different times. Different fruit is going to come in different ways. And it’s okay, it’s actually really, really healthy. And so once I gave myself that freedom, a happier life, and I actually got a lot more done. So it’s a whole different mentality. It’s a whole different framework for how to approach your life and how to approach your work.
Michael: So talk to us about how this maps more directly on to the work that you do. So we’ve kind of talked about three different buckets or areas that we’ll get into. There’s the advisory firm, there’s Everyday Money and what you’re doing on the consumer side, and then there’s the FPA stuff – an externship and other programs that you do there.
So let’s start on the advisory firm side. Tell us about the advisory business as it exists today.
How A Simple “Yes” In An Interview Eventually Led To Hannah Purchasing Two Practices At The Age Of 26 [00:24:32]
Hannah: Yeah, so as it exists today, I would still call it’s a boutique wealth management firm. So a couple of years ago, well, long story short, I ended up buying two practices at the age of 26. And it was a lot of investment. It’s very investment-focused. I would say it’s financial services. And they talked about financial planning. And then, I actually learned what financial planning was. I learned it in school, and there’s always this disconnect between what it was. And it was really…
This is why I’m so, so passionate about FPA and its importance. FPA is really where I learned what financial planning was. And so I started doing financial planning with my clients. And one of the most powerful things was I had a client who had been with this lady I bought the practice from for 25 years, a long time. And I had my little script. And I was so nervous. I asked for $500. It felt like so much money.
And in a meeting where they’re coming in to talk about their investments, I pitched this idea of financial planning, and in what it would be. And I’ll never forget it. He looked at me, and he was…he doesn’t trust people very well, very much initially. And after going through this whole meeting at the end, I was like, “So what do you think?” His response to me was, he was like, “This is what I’ve been looking for, but I never knew what it was called.” And I was like, Oh my God. What? This is it.
So I started…
Michael: What did you pitch him?
Hannah: Right? I don’t know. No, I do know. But I pitched him what financial planning is and the process that it would be and what he would be able to get out of it. And I will tell you; he walked into that first meeting with me, he literally had his papers crossed in his arms. And he was so… God. It impacted him so much to let somebody in; it was such a big deal. And by the end of the meeting for him to say that was just one of the most validating things. And now he is one of my all-time favorite clients, love him. It’s a really, really great relationship. But I started realizing there’s a difference between investment management – what they were calling financial planning, we were calling it financial planning – and true financial planning. And I started going through and then started pitching more of these clients who I thought would be interested in it.
And then, I started seeing the stark contrast to financial planning and everything else. And it was a night and day difference when I would walk into a financial planning client’s meeting and when I walked into an investment management meeting. And we would do some back of the envelope financial planning, right? We would have some of those conversations, but it’s just a different ballgame. I always say, “Once you’ve tasted true financial planning, you can’t go back.
Michael: What was the difference in practice for you? What you were talking about, the depth of conversations, the fact that you also got the number-crunching financial planning software, and analyze further? What was the difference for you in practice?
Hannah: Yeah, so in practice, we would do… So I’m thinking through, specifically, clients with investment management, we would run and analyze their portfolio. We may or may not run a retirement projection. Those are all good things, but we didn’t have the larger conversations. So when I started, so I’m 26. And it’s crazy what I did. I’m running this practice, and I was just so afraid.
Okay, so I’ll tell you this story because it’s fun. So I got married on October 27th, 2012. And I bought the business on January 1st, 2013. So 10 weeks later. So basically, we had no money. My husband had been from out of town, so he didn’t have a job yet; this is just me. We barely had any money in our bank account. I knew the bills were going to be hitting, and it was just a very stressful time.
And so, I was pacing back and forth in my apartment all the time, but I was so worried about what am I going to be missing. Because it matters that we give our clients good advice, it matters tremendously. So I ended up… Do you know Deborah Fox of the Fox Financial Planning Network?
Hannah: She had a process package, and so I ended up…it’s the only time I’ve done this in my life. I ended up putting that on a credit card. I was like, “I know I can pay this off soon. But I need to know that if I’m walking into these meetings that I’m doing the absolute best that I can be doing.” And so then I had immediate checklists and things that I could bring in to give me the confidence that I wasn’t missing something. Because I’m always worried about, “What am I missing?” And so we did that, got those processes. And so when I’m pitching it, I used a lot of her materials and how to…pitch that script to these clients.
So in practice, what did the financial planning meeting look like? It looked like having conversations about learning about them, taking the time to listen. Yeah, I love the work Brad Klontz does and Ted Klontz – all the stuff on the importance of listening. I also had gone to… Sorry, the other piece that I did, I did the Deborah Fox program and then I also did the Sudden Money Institute, or Financial Transitions Institute with Susan Bradley now. Because I was like, “I need to learn how to be engaging with clients better.”
So I learned to be quiet and listen really fast. But the functional, what did it look like differently? One, I took the time to actually understand them at a very deep level, asking them about their goals and priorities, asking them about all of this. So that I had that context for when we were having the meetings with them, because without that context, it just doesn’t…clients don’t feel as heard. And then it’s just a different ballgame.
Michael: So talk to us about this actual purchased affirm, or purchased two practices at age 26. Was this your entree into the business? Had you been doing it for a few years and then got opportunities? How exactly does this come about?
Hannah: I don’t know. It feels like a lifetime ago. So I was interviewing for a woman. I was 22. She was I think I can say this, 68 at the time. And when I did the interview, she was just like, “We’re looking for a succession plan. Are you interested?” And so she had tried a handful of other…there was lots of backstory on that. And in the interview, I said, “Of course.” I literally didn’t know what a succession plan was. Literally knew nothing.
Michael: All I heard was, “Say yes to this question, and you will be more likely to get the job you’re interviewing for.”
Hannah: Right. Exactly. Yeah.
Hannah: And so I did that. And then I’m just very curious. I’m a very curious person. And so I started working for her, learning about the business, learning about all of these different things. I remember…gosh, this is why I care so much about FPA. I remember going to my very first connection gathering, and I was like, “Finally. Finally, I can get help.” Because nobody was in that situation.
It was up at St. John’s, I think you were there. There were 25 people there. And I remember going…I know exactly who I went up to. She was helping to facilitate it. I went up to her, and I was like… Very first time, everybody’s there. The first time you break out, I was like, “I need to talk to somebody about doing a succession plan. Because I’m in the middle of one, and I don’t know who to talk to.” And she went around the room and they tried, they tried, they tried, and they tried. She went, “I don’t see anybody who’s doing it.” And it was devastating. Because I was like, “What in the world? What is happening?”
Anyway, at that gathering, I got some of the best advice that I ever got. And somebody literally…I was very transparent, everything that was happening. Because succession stories, there’s a story, there’s always a story. And they’re all a little bit different, which is really interesting. But somebody told me, she was like, “Yeah, you need to quit your job. You don’t have the experience for this. You don’t have…” All these different things that were impacting it, that advice. And it was some of the best advice I got. I didn’t follow any of it. But it changed my perspective. So I walked into it being like…because everybody was just like, “Oh my God, you’re so lucky. You are so lucky. You are getting your career handed to you on a silver platter. How fortunate are you?”
And it flipped that script for me. Just saying, “Yeah, you know what? I am really fortunate, but it is not easy. It is not easy. And I promise you I am not getting my career handed to me on a silver platter. No, that’s just not true.” Succession plans are a different way in, but I don’t think that they’re any more or less difficult than starting your own practice.
Why Self-Reflection Is Just As Important As Taking Advice From Others [00:33:15]
Michael: So ironically, you still didn’t come out of it saying, “Oh, well then I guess the succession planning thing isn’t going to work because everybody else in the gathering at the time that had one, it didn’t work.” You just came out saying, “Well, I guess it’s going to be difficult,” and then plowed it and bought the firm a few months later.
Hannah: It wasn’t a few months; it was two years later.
Michael: Okay. So you really had time to opt out. But still…
Hannah: Yeah, but the thing is, so here’s where I really struggle. And one of the things I really struggle with. So we have this podcast that we’ve had over 200 episodes. I’ve talked to so many young planners, and they’re so brilliant and young, and all these different things, so wonderful. And oftentimes, they’re coming to me, and they’re like, “Should I start my own practice?” And I’m like, “I am not willing to give that advice to a single person. I will tell you that owning my practice has been the absolute best thing that I have done. But I cannot tell somebody that they should be doing that.”
I really struggle with how we give advice in this business because I can tell you what’s worked for me. But at the end of the day, you’re the one who’s going to know what’s going to work for you. So I can hear all the best advice. But really, it’s my responsibility; it’s each of our responsibilities to take that advice and really, really understand, what is the best part of that that you need to apply to yourself and what isn’t? And it’s that self-discovery.
We each have our own pathway in this. We each know what’s best for us. And it’s more of; I want somebody when they want to start their own business, there’s no way they should be saying, “Well Hannah Moore said I should start a business. So, therefore, I’m going to start a business.” No, that’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to me. It’s not fair to their family. It’s not fair to their clients. They need to know that when they make this decision that it is their decision, that they’re the ones that came up with it.
And so I think there’s this step between giving advice and the self-reflection that we don’t put enough emphasis on this self-reflection piece. So yeah, people love to give advice all the time.
Michael: Particularly in our industry.
Hannah: Oh, my God. Yes. But the thing is, is that one of my favorite quotes, you’re getting all my favorite quotes, is “Advice kills conversation.” So what we do when we give advice to a young planner, is we’re killing the conversation. What if instead of giving a piece of advice, we asked a question? What if we did that? Because that now is going to help that young planner start discovering for themselves what they actually want to do.
There’s so much more. When somebody asked me a question or advice, there’s so much more under the surface. And so it’s been a really interesting thing to navigate even as I have an audience, I have a platform. What do you…how do you give advice in that when you know that it’s not the advice that’s important? It’s asking the better questions of yourself that’s important.
Michael: So, how did this frame of doing…I guess a purchase/succession plan, how did this work when you decided to pull the trigger in January of 2013?
Hannah: So the logistics of it were…because I had no money, I think we established that. She wanted the freedom to be able to pick who she wanted to run the practice. And so because of that, it was an owner-financed payout arrangement over five years.
Michael: So basically, she got a percentage of revenue of the ongoing business for the next five years, and then that was the deal.
Michael: And can I ask, what was the payout split? How did you come to a number?
Hannah: So it was… Oh, man, it feels like a lifetime ago. We ended up valuing the practice at two times recurring revenue and one times non-reoccurring revenue. And then we built in an internal rate of return of I think it was 5%. Then we just said based on the trailing 12 months; we did percentages over five years. So that was kind of how we came up with that percentage and kind of how we worked around that.
Michael: Oh, interesting. So as opposed to just an arbitrary, it’s going to be 20% or 40% of whatever it is you do; you essentially tried to formulate a $1 valuation. And then said, “Well, based on what we did over the past five years, and the fact that we’re… What we do over the past year and the fact we’re going to try to pay it out over five years, here’s what we would have to pay as a percentage of last year’s revenue to amortize this over a five-year period.
Hannah: Yeah. And so we both had a risk in it, right? She had the risk of the market falling. But at the same time, I also had the risk of, “What if this blew up? What if I double the practice?” Then I’m paying her out more. And so we just found that was a really good solution for us. What was really kind of fun about that arrangement is, when we were negotiating, we were both looking out for the other person, which was kind of a cool dynamic on that.
Michael: So, what was the size or the revenue base of the practice? Was this enough to be your everything, or was this still just a piece, and you were still going to have to grow and drive and do more from there to get to where you wanted?
Hannah: Yeah, so it was…when I left, the practice wasn’t just a 1% AUM practice at all. So it was a much more diverse practice on that. And so there were a lot of clients who were just brokerage accounts that we had that weren’t fee-based or only…we had several multimillion-dollar accounts that we weren’t getting paid fees on, for a variety of different reasons. And so the AUM number always is more impressive than what the revenue ended up being on that. So that’s just my caveat on it.
Michael: Right, just sort of the challenges of a traditional brokerage model, you have a wide range of clients with a wide range of ways they are or are not compensating you, depending on how often you’re doing business with them.
Hannah: Yeah. So when I left the practice, and it had grown over time, was between $60 and 70 million. And so the revenue wasn’t…it was probably… And then again, there were the BD cuts and all the other things that go into it. So it wasn’t nearly as clear. We have the 80/20 rule; we had the 90/10 rule in that practice.
Michael: Okay, so not just 80% of the profits come from 10% of the clients, but 90% of it came from 10% of the clients.
How Hannah Flipped Her Practice And Took Her Top Clients To An Independent RIA And What That Business Looks Like Today [00:39:21]
Hannah: So, in my evolution of this, I ended up buying this practice, and I ended up realizing the difference between financial planning clients and non-financial planning clients. And so, anyway, there was an opportunity that was presented where somebody wanted to buy, basically take over the loan amount of it.
So I was able to take those financial planning clients that I had really kind of developed that relationship with, and I started my own RIA. And so I really went from working 60 hours a week to…I guess I can say it. I brought my top 18 clients. That’s what I did. I brought my top 18 clients and started my RIA.
Michael: And when was this?
Hannah: This would have been about five years ago, 2015.
Michael: Okay. So you were two years into the deal having bought it, and basically said, “Yeah, I’ve got about 18 of these financial planning clients I really like. And the rest are more transactional and more investment-oriented. Not a good fit.” So you resold the rest, and left with your 18?
Hannah: Essentially, yeah. Yeah, so I brought them over and it was great, because… Can you imagine the difference in the workload? When people ask me about this, I’m like, “Okay, imagine if you could just take your best 18 clients. What would your life be like?” And they’re just like, “Oh, my God. It would be amazing.” I’m like, “Yeah, I know.”
Michael: Roughly, how many did you leave behind and not take? How much of a schism was this?
Hannah: So I had…and again, it was a traditional brokerage. And so she got a lot of… I hate calling clients “orphan accounts”, it’s so…I don’t like it. So anytime an advisor would leave, she would get the remainder of those accounts. So there was a lot abroad. But at any point, I had between 250 and 300 families.
Michael: Interesting. So you…that’s just quite a break. You had almost 300 clients, decided to shift to an independent RIA and took 18 of them with you that were a good planning fit.
Michael: So how much revenue did you walk away from? I get the 90/10 rule that I’m assuming you were disproportionately holding onto the ones that were profitable. But I have to imagine this was still a step backward?
Hannah: So the crazy part about it is, throwing out the year that I left because that’s a hot mess, my take-home stayed the same.
Michael: Because at the end of the day…
Hannah: So you had the broker-dealer fees, you had how…the technology suite that I was using. You add in office rent. So I went from working from home and just renting an office when I would meet with clients. All of that, with everything… And granted, that’s not entirely fair, because I was bringing in…I brought in some clients. And I had…some of those clients had life events that brought in more assets. So with all of those things kind of falling in, yeah.
Michael: But the flip side was you had a little bit more time to focus on growth and moving forward when you went from 300 clients to 18.
Why Resting and Resetting Are Powerful Tools To Maximize Productivity [00:42:26]
Hannah: Yeah. So let me tell you what happened, and this was a really pivotal moment in my life. And as you were talking about earlier, “How did you get this mindset shift?” This is where. This happened, and it was intense. And it happened, and I’m so, so grateful. But I basically got to the end of it, and I was like, “I am exhausted. I am completely and totally exhausted.” I’m the type that I was going to school full time and working full time. That was me, right? And being successful at both. That’s just who I am. And so I sat there, and I started thinking back; when I have ever taken a break? When have I ever done that?
And I realized that I had never done that in my life. And going back to when I was doing a paper route at 12 years old, what I did is I got in here, and I was like, “Oh my God. Can it be this good? Can it be possible that I can support what we’re doing and bringing in this income with 18 of my best clients?” I get their phone call, and I’m excited to talk to them. And realizing that’s 15 to 20 hours of work a week. And so my immediate inclination was, okay, well now I’ve done this. And now, I need to grow my practice. I stopped myself, and I’m so grateful that I did. I ended up saying, “Okay, Hannah. For six months, you’re not marketing. You’re not pushing yourself to do more. You’re not doing anything. You’re just going to be okay and rest.”
And it was such a powerful thing for me to teaching me the power of rest and resetting, and it’s not just about pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing. It’s that cycle.
Michael: I do have to ask really quickly on that. Because you are a vision/idea-type person, I’m familiar with the wirings; I’ve got a similar compulsion. Going into rest mode, the brain doesn’t turn off for six months. What happened with all that idea energy? Because if anything, you had more time to think of things.
Hannah: So what I did is I really started doing self-care type things. I focused a lot of energy on that. I focused…there’s a book called “The Artist Way.” Whoa. You want to change your life, do that book. And it’s about how to…someday, I’m going to this talk. This is the talk that I want to give of how to approach your work as an artist. Because it’s fundamentally different than what we’re taught how to do in financial planning. It’s fundamentally different. And that’s what I felt like that book taught me was how to approach my work and my life like an artist.
Michael: What’s the basic gist? How is it different than what us normal, non-artist folk do?
How Everyday Money Came To Fruition As An Idea In The Middle Of The Night [00:45:03]
Hannah: Well, everybody’s an artist. So we’ll start there. But it’s really a self-discovery type of book. So every day, you’re journaling, you’re doing your morning pages. It’s helping people break out of there shell and into their creativity. So one of the things…well there’s just a lot of really good things. And to be completely honest, I didn’t even get through the whole book because it was a big commitment, and I’m an enneagram seven. People who know what that is, they’ll get that. I don’t even know how to…it’s just a wholly different…it’s teaching people to operate from a creative space.
But I ended up doing this, and I ended up having just this time to… And part of the creative process is being able to rest. And I’m still…again, if you talk to people in my life, they’re like, “When is the last vacation you took?” So I realize that I’m still not the best at this, but resting is a critical piece to creativity. You can’t…your creativity will be limited if you’re not resting. And so I was watching different things. I was watching outside of financial planning. I was watching all these different things and seeing all this stuff. And that’s really what creativity is, right? It’s connecting dots that other people aren’t connecting. That’s what creativity is. We’re not really that original.
And so, I ended up looking at businesses outside of financial planning. What was I drawn to? What gave me energy? What gave me life outside of financial planning? Anyway, I was doing this for about six months. And then one…I shot up in the middle of the night. And I was like, “Oh, my God. I have it figured out. I know what I’m going to do.” So more of that context, I think a lot this…so part of going from 250 clients to 18 is I realized the importance of, if you go down to 18 clients, they have to be the right 18 clients. And I have a very clear client persona that we work with. I know exactly who my people are. And so I had friends who were just like, “Hannah, we love the way you talk about money. We love it when you talk about what you do. How can we work with you?” And I’m like, “So about that, do you have $1 million?”
And I realized I couldn’t work with them. And about the time that I started my practice, that was… A lot of my friends, my closest professional friends, were the founding members of XYPN. I don’t know. That’s not the right model for me. I love the model; I fully support it. But I don’t know. It just didn’t fit. I don’t have a better way of saying that.
Michael: Because you wanted to work with a different type of clientele than folks who will or can afford to even pay a monthly fee? Did you want to go further down-market? Or not as ongoing? Just…
Hannah: So again, this is where it goes to, I have definitely told people to go work with XYPN. So there is no dis on that model at all when I say this. But for me, I really struggled with the monthly subscription of, what’s the value that I’m providing to my client, and then having to prove that value. And obviously, there are solutions out there for it, and I love that. But in my gut, I’m like, “This isn’t what I’m supposed to do.” I don’t have a better way of saying that. I love it, I 100% support it. But it doesn’t fit me.
Michael: Okay. Each their own of whatever model it is. So what was the model? It sounds like, “I’m doing the AUM thing for my 18 clients. It works great for them. But it’s very limiting. I want to do something that reaches other people, so I don’t have to tell them about my $1 million minimum. But I don’t want to go to monthly subscription fees, because that doesn’t fit me.” So…
Hannah: So what I ended up creating was a workbook. So it was a way to take what I was doing to a DIY. So people could go through it themselves. And this is the brand I told you right now, is just kind of sitting on the sidelines.
Michael: So the workbook is your Everyday Money?
Hannah: Yeah, it’s Everyday Money, yeah. So that was really where I was like, “This is it.” And so we started building out. I have such a clear vision for what that’s going to be someday. And really taking what I’m learning from my clients and applying it to that Everyday Money space.
Michael: So I want to understand a little bit more about Everyday Money. But before we go there, just help me understand…what dos the advisory firm look like as it exists today? Have you kept it trim, and you’re still sitting at only 18 to 20 clients, and that’s your group? Are you trying to grow it larger? What is the position of the business today?
Hannah: So it is…I think we have 25 to 30 clients right now. One of the things I realized was that I was tapping out of my capacity because I was doing all this work with FPA. And I just realized, kind of what you’re saying, balls are getting dropped. They weren’t getting dropped with my clients, because that’s not acceptable. But I realized I was turning away new clients. So in a year, I probably turned away 10 new clients. And granted, they didn’t all necessarily fit my persona or whatever. So Charlie, my husband and I, had been sitting down one night. And we wrote it on a sticky note; I still have it. And we basically said, “We want a small firm with big ideas.”
Michael: We want a small firm with big ideas.
Michael: What does that mean?
Hannah: Oh, it can mean a lot of things.
Michael: What does that mean to you?
Hannah: My whole thing is, call me naïve, whatever, I don’t care, I want to change the world. I want to change the way that people think and talk about money, period. That’s what I want to do. That’s it. And so I wanted to be the one who can walk into a room and say…help shift that perspective and be thinking on this larger, grander scale. That’s why I love FPA and the work I’m doing there. And so it can mean a lot of different things. But at the core of it, that’s what it means for me.
So anyway, what happened was, in talking with different people, I couldn’t even tell you who did this, but they really pushed back on me. They’re saying, “Okay, so a small firm with big ideas. Why does the size of the firm have anything to do with big ideas? So what I hear you say is you don’t want to work more than X-number of hours in your firm. That’s what I’m hearing. But that has nothing to do with the size of your firm. That’s only doing on your restrictions.”
Going back to “constraint inspires creativity”, so I took that to heart, and I realized we, Charlie and I, had some really fundamental conversations of like, “Okay, so we’ve been saying it’s this boutique practice. But am I willing to grow it to more? Would I be willing to do that?”
So I started thinking about, what would that look like? What would it look like for me to be the visionary in a firm, the culture keeper? That gets me so excited being the culture keeper of my firm. How can we scale this? How can we help more people in the financial planning business? And so we ended up hiring a guy full-time last year. He ended up moving down to Dallas for that, which was a big move.
We ended up getting office space because we realized that we didn’t want to limit the size of the firm based on what I could only handle. And so we hired somebody who wants to run a practice. Yes, he’s a good financial planner. Yes, he’s a very brilliant financial planner. I love the way he thinks about the problems and how he can think deeper and see things that I don’t see. I think he really complements me in a lot of really cool ways from a financial planning perspective. Which is obviously the…you’ve got to pass that hurdle before you can do this.
But he’s also really interested in running the business side of it. And so I was like, okay, I can hire somebody who’d be willing to manage the next hire, who would be willing to actually maybe be a chief operating officer someday. I don’t know if that’s the direction that he wants to go, and obviously, these things change. And that’s totally okay. But that was our intention in hiring him, first, as a really good financial planner who just wants to do really great work with clients. And he does want to do that. But he also is interested in these other things. So we were really intentional about that. So that’s where the practice is right now.
Michael: I guess two questions. One, how do you find these mythical unicorns?
Hannah: Oh, like him? Oh, here’s the brilliant part about this, right? I do all this work with FPA, affect all of these planners all over the country. I have a pretty good sense. I could probably point to who I would want as my next two hires. Actually, I have them in my head right now. I see their faces. So number one, he was doing some virtual pair planning work with me. So I already had some experience working with him. I know what’s up with new planners. And I know who I would go to because I’ve been having conversations with so many new planners because of what I’m doing with FPA.
Michael: Okay. Another indirect benefit and reminder of why to be involved with your professional associations. You build your network. We kind of talk about it as networking, but it’s not just networking in the context of, “I’ll find an accounting or attorney who is also a member who may refer me clients.”
It’s building the network and pipeline of who you might hire someday, or if you’re a younger or a newer advisor, finding your way to people in positions like where you were who may be hiring, where it would be nice to be noticed because you’ve been involved with FPA and that’s how they find. To me, it’s one of the pieces that doesn’t get talked about enough, and benefits of being involved in a professional membership association.
I look at a lot of the businesses that I’ve built or have been involved with as well, and almost all of them came from connections that were created through FPA or some other membership association.
Hannah: Yeah. It matters. I don’t think I would have been able to articulate the importance of it when I started my career. But now, I look back, and I’m just like, “Oh my God.” The community of financial planners is…and that’s really found in FPA. That’s absolutely contributed to my success. I would not be here without that.
Michael: And so what’s the, I guess AUM base or revenue base of the firm as you built it now?
Hannah: I think so right now, we’re at $22 to 25 million, depending on where the market is on any day.
Michael: So, in this space of roughly 25 clients who have roughly $1 million each, it’s a pretty good, healthy amount of revenue for not being buried with 300 clients.
Michael: And so that’s the advisory firm. And so what’s the idea of it going forward from here? You said you sort of shifted to, “We’re going to be a small firm with big ideas. Or maybe we’re not going to be constrained to a small firm. I just want to be able to live my life as the visionary, the vision, and do the things that I want to do.” Which means to make it larger, so you’ve hired and expanded office space. Where do you see this going now? Is this like, “Okay, since we’re not constrained to a small firm, we’re on our way to $1 billion,” are you thinking of those kinds of paths?
Hannah: Yeah. And it’s interesting because one of the things when we hired Matt; I want him to have a seat at the table. What’s been really fun for me, yes, I’m setting the vision for the firm. But it’s also hearing what is his vision is too. It’s just really cool to be like, “I don’t have to do this alone anymore.” And obviously, he’s not a partner yet or anything like that. But yeah, we definitely have our 3- and 10-year plan of wanting to grow the business. Our first kind of checkmark will be at $100 million, I think, is what we have for our 10-year goal. Or maybe it’s more than that. It might actually be more than that. I think we’re at $300,000…or $300 million as a 10-year goal.
Michael: We’ll just start compounding, see what it ends up doing.
Hannah: I know. I just figure you put the right inputs in, you’re going to be good. That’s not true. I say that we do have a very… I feel like I need to qualify this. We do have a very clear…we use the traction. We have one-year goals, and we have three-month goals; we’re on track.
Michael: So that’s the advisory firm. And it sounds like for you, a piece of building the advisory firm building team in the advisory firm is because you want to also then get to spend more time on Everyday Money and the material that you’re doing or creating on that end for consumers who can’t afford to be $1 million clients of the core advisory business.
Hannah: So basically taking the best practices of what I’ve learned as a financial planner, and packaging it up to where everybody else can hear it. So much of what we hear when you go to these conferences, and there are these brilliant financial psychologists and these brilliant people talking about all this, and they’re talking about it, which is great. But how are we getting that message out to the masses? And that’s where I want to be. I want to change the way people think and talk about money on that scale.
Michael: What does that look like in practice? What are you trying to do or create or deliver at Everyday Money to fulfill that mission?
Hannah: Okay. So the first thing is, we have this workbook that people can go through. But I can’t emphasize this enough; our clients will be our greatest teachers if we let them. And so in working with clients, I’ve learned so much. Because if they don’t get something, that’s a point of innovation.
If they don’t understand, that is an opportunity for us to become better as a profession, as a professional in our client relationships. So I very much take that. We have a bad meeting with a client; we need to pay attention to those and figure out how can we do it differently? That’s a really exciting opportunity.
So budgeting. I basically stopped doing it because I don’t know how to do it. And I was doing it with my clients, and they were not getting it. And it was wasting a meeting, and it was they were frustrated, and I was frustrated. And I kind of resigned myself to just saying, “You know what? I work with people who kind of have their budget figured out.” They kind of have it figured out. They come… They know how much money they can save every month, and they figured that out on their own. And I’m going to do everything else.
Okay. Well, that’s just not good enough. And so I ended up having a prospect, they’re two doctor clients making a very healthy income. They came to me, and they were like, “Okay, we need help with our budget. Will you help us?” And I was like, “Well, I don’t really know how to do budgets.” But it’s been bothering me. It’s been bothering me that…I’m sorry. I don’t know how to do budgets with my clients, and I’m calling myself a financial planner. That’s a little bit embarrassing.
And so I was just like, “You know what? Fine, I’m going to do it.” I was like, “Yes.” So I signed them up, and I was just like, “How am I going to solve this problem? How am I going to help them with their budgets?” And so… You know Dr. Ted Klontz?
Hannah: I had a conversation with him several years prior, and it still haunts me what he said. But he said, “Anything you can tell, you can show.” And it was bothering me. Because I’m like, “What does that mean for us as financial planners?”
I still don’t think I’ve even touched the surface of what that means from a financial planning standpoint. But it was really bothering me. And I kept going back to this. I kept going back to this idea of whatever we’re telling them, anything we can tell; we can show. How does this fit with budgeting? And so, I ended up going to a learning store, and I bought these blocks. Kids learn fractions on them. I never did, but apparently, you can. And so they’re just blocks.
And so it’s a multicolor set of blocks. And so I come into this meeting, and I was like, “Okay, we’re going to talk about your budget. I’ve never done this before. You guys are going to be the first people I’m trying it with. So let me go ahead and try this.”
Michael: Welcome, new client. You get to be my guinea pig.
Hannah: Welcome. Thank you for paying me. So I ended up…what I did is I had their income, and so I assigned a dollar value for each one of their blocks. And I had their spending for the last month. So they had given me that information. So we set out a set of blocks in front of them, and then we went through how they actually spent their money. Don’t tell me what you want your budget to be. Let’s talk about how you actually spent your money. I had little index cards, and I would write, “Mortgage, housing, electricity,” all those things. And so they took those blocks, and they actually moved them on the table, right?
Michael: You physically show, “Okay, we can say you spend $1,000 restaurants and eating out. But let’s actually put $1,000 with the budget blocks and look at how big that stack is in front of the eating out budget.”
Hannah: Yes. If you look at adult learning theory, if you look at financial psychology, they’re all pointing to this. But we just don’t see it yet. So they actually physically were moving this in with all the blocks. So what happened is they started having fun. They actually had fun talking about their money. So they moved all this stuff all around their table. And so I still can imagine this. We’re in the meeting, husband and wife are both standing up, completely engaged in this, looking at it.
So they’re both working on moving the blocks around the table and doing it. As a caveat, one of the things I do before every budgeting blocks, which actually I did in the very first one, is I do a values exercise with them. So I say, “What is important to you? What are your values in life? What are those?” And so they do that.
So they ran out of money. They spent more than they made. As they’re going through this exercise, they run out of blocks because they ran out of their monthly income. And they just looked at me, and they’re like, “What are we supposed to do now?” And so I gave them red blocks, and so they filled out the rest of their budget. And so they were able to visually see their budget. It is the most powerful thing I have ever done with my clients.
So in this specific example, they could immediately see where they were overspending. So they’re looking at this, moving things around and looking at. And again, they’re completely standing up, fully engaged, moving things around. The wife looks at this; they had their mortgage in their housing. Because I always go with how they categorize it because I want it to be how they think. She grabs the mortgage, sets it to their “other debt,” looks and says, “Oh my God. Is that how much money we’re spending every month on debt payments?” I was like, “Yeah, that is.” And she just goes, “Oh, my God. We have to stop that.” And they did it.
Because here’s the key. When you start looking at adult learning theory, they discovered it. They don’t need me to tell it. They can start making the connections with this budgeting. I literally did this exercise virtually, because we’re still in COVID-19, with a client this morning.
And so we mailed them a set of blocks, and so we were virtually…
Michael: I was going to say, how do you… When the whole point is for you to get the blocks and move the blocks, how do you do that virtually?
Hannah: The whole thing is, we have a product called the Budgeting Block. So this can be a product that you can literally just send to your clients, and they can do it on their own. So there’s a workbook, and they’re step by step, and there’s instructional videos and things like that. So clients can do it on their own if you want to do that way.
But even this morning, I’m talking to the wife and the husband… Matt was in the room with me. And he was just like, “Did you see that?” He was like, “You were talking to the wife and the husband, his eyes lit up and connected. And he just started moving everything around on the table.” And they’re able to actually engage with their money in a way that we don’t allow them to do.
Nobody…very few people actually think in terms of spreadsheets. It doesn’t mean anything when you say, “You’re $436 over your budget.” It means something. Now we have another building block.
Michael: You want to feel really bad about it? Or was that the problem, you feel too bad about your debt and…
Hannah: We don’t want to shame. We don’t want to shame them, right? So I’ve had clients who are overspending on a monthly basis, and that’s okay, right? That’s okay. Because it fits their situation; they’re in a unique time in their life. And I don’t want them to be like, “That is bad!” Because it may not be, maybe that’s an intentional decision that they’re making, and that we need to be supporting as financial planners. But yeah, this client today, he was fully engaged, moving…both of them were. It is just so incredibly powerful.
So once you get the budget, where they actually spent their money, then we have questions to reflect back on their values. So we ask them questions. Like, “How does your spending reflect your values?” And they’re able to talk through it. They’re able to get that other perspective. Because if we were just going to do this budgeting exercise, yes, it’s very powerful. But if you add that values in it as well, you are going next-level with your clients. I have not been able to have…I have much deeper conversations with my clients about their budgeting now than I ever did with their money, anywhere in the past. Because we can talk about it differently, it’s a whole different dimension to this.
So I had another client. She was a recent widow. And she was completely overwhelmed. And she was just like, “I can’t.” So I was doing a lot of the Sudden Money type techniques with her. Anyway, so I am over at her house, and we’re walking through her budget on this. And she is just…we ended up going through her budget. So we had where money was spent. And so we went through it, and we put all the money out, and so we didn’t have the red blocks. Because she has her Social Security income that she was getting because she has two young children, and then she was pulling from the life insurance money. And she’s just, frankly, trying to survive, everything that had just happened because it was very sudden.
And so we put the blocks out, and we had all her expenses. She pulled up her bank account, and we made sure everything was categorized on her bank account. And we went through it. That’s the level of planning we did with this. So it was all enclosed in that meeting. And so we mapped out…the top row was much money she was pulling from her social security. And the bottom row was the life insurance money. And so what we did… Sudden Money talks about the importance of a thinking partner. I became her thinking partner very literally on this. We ended up going and having… We would look at the blocks, and so we would talk about each category and where the money was being spent. And so we get to the eating out and entertainment.
And we start having this conversation about how it was one of her largest expenses. Well, health insurance. But this was up there. And she was looking at this, and she was just like…we started talking through, “What are you eating out? What does this look like for you?” Having those deeper conversations. And it became apparent that she’s like, “I have no energy. I just am barely surviving. And it so much easier to just load my kids up and go get Chick-fil-A than have to cook anything.” And I was like, “Okay, so but what’s really going on there?”
I said, “I’m hearing that you don’t have the energy to make a big meal, but you are going and getting food. So maybe we just need to come up with a better solution for you.” So what we did, in that meeting, is we paused the conversation. We made a meal plan for her. We made a meal plan for every night of the week on what her meals were going to be. So we said that the constraint on this, it has to be done in less than 15 minutes. It has to be simple, and that’s it.
And so what we did is we mapped it out. We mapped out breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Actually, I think we just probably did dinner. We mapped all this. We mapped each one of these things out. And then what we did is we had her homework after that meeting was to go to the Walmart Pickup or the Click List thing, to have just a saved click list that she would order every week. She would pick her kids up from school on Monday. She would pull into the Walmart thing. They would put the groceries in the back. She would come up; she would unload groceries. And they had a meal for every night that week.
So she saved between $750 and $1000 a month because we were able to actually dive into her budget in a way that I’ve never been able to do with our clients in the past. And it was so great. This was a couple of years ago.
And we were talking recently. And she was like, “Oh, my God, Hannah.” She’s like, “So we’re not doing that Walmart Click List thing anymore.” And she’s in a very different position. Lots of great things have happened to her in life since then. But she was like, “My kids hated it. They were so sick of it.” They were like, “Mom, do we have to eat spaghetti again?”
Michael: It’s on the list. That’s what we click on Tuesdays.
Hannah: Yeah. But that’s the power of these blocks because I would never have been able to have that conversation with her if we weren’t at that level. Looking at a spreadsheet just isn’t the same. And I don’t know a better way of doing, but clients really discover it for themselves.
Michael: And so this is becoming not just a tool you’re using in your practice. Your vision is this is a thing that you offer through the Everyday Money platform that consumers can come and buy if they’re trying to figure out their budget issues?
Hannah: Yeah, absolutely. I use it in my practice. I’ve used it with retirees, I’ve used it with couples getting married, I’ve used it pretty much everywhere in between that. And so it’s a great tool for me, as a planner. I started having planners who are just sending them to their clients. Who are just buying them and sending them to their clients so that they can do their budget.
And a number of planners have started ordering them for themselves. But the reality is you can go to a learning store and buy them there too. I know the pricing on it, and ours look nice. And whatever, it doesn’t matter. Yeah.
We have training on how to do that on our website. So we actually walk you through as a planner. And it’s free training, so you can just go watch it and do whatever you want because this is my goal. My goal is to change the way people think and talk about money. And this is a tool in order to do that. So planners don’t pay anything extra. You just buy the product. And it’s 50 bucks, so it’s not that much.
Michael: How much is it? I’m sorry.
Hannah: Forty-nine dollars right now, and that includes shipping.
Michael: So, for folks that are interested, we’ll have a link out to this in the show notes. So again, this is episode 183. So go to kitces.com/183, and we’ll have a link out for Budgeting Blocks for Financial Planners to use with their clients if you want to try this out yourself for the work you’re doing with clients.
Hannah: It’s really powerful.
Michael: Is this the thing for Everyday Money? Is this just a thing in that you’re going to be doing in Everyday Money, and you want to have other tools around this in the future? Where does this go for you?
Hannah: That’s what’s so fun is that I don’t know. I’m so used to… I’ve done over 200 podcast episodes. It’s just really great. And I’m like, “I know this financial planner space, and I love this financial planner space.” And I have a pretty good sense, probably like you do, of just, okay, I know what’s needed to grow this firm. I know some of those things. But I don’t know. And that’s so exciting for me. Because that’s such an opportunity to be creative and really just play. I just get to play in this space. And that just…I don’t know. I hope there are more products. I don’t know what they are yet. I don’t know.
Michael: So as you talk about…going back to the beginning. There’s stuff you do in your firm; there’s stuff you’re doing with Everyday Money like Building the Budgeting Blocks. There are things that you’re working on with FPA, like the externship program. So how do you think about or look at your time, the balance of the time?
I can feel the passion that you have for all three of these things. You seem to be pretty amazing at figuring out how to do all of them at the same time and getting the team around you to make that happen. But how are you thinking about this going forward of just how you manage all these different things at once?
Hannah: It’s interesting. My mind goes in a handful of different directions on how to answer those questions. I know I talked about seasons and I really, really believe that. I’m not going to be at FPA forever. I’m helping them build out their new planner initiatives, and I’m getting older. And that’s a good thing. That’s a really, really good thing. With Guiding Wealth, my role, hopefully, it changes. Definitely like so many of my other peers, I want to still be involved in the client meetings and will still be involved in the client meetings. But my role is changing. So there’s definitely some evolution of what that looks like.
And different things require different energy at different times. Like you mentioned, the externship program right now. This is May 21st. So June 1st, we’re going to have over 850 students signing up to go through a learning and externship opportunity. That deserves my attention right now. And so there’s this level of…I don’t know. It’s this balance, but then there are times when you’re just like, “It’s not a balance.” It’s, “We’re going to go all-in on this.” Or not all in, but we’re going to really focus on this because it matters. And that’s what deserves my attention right now.
So there’s always this self-reflecting, knowing when is the right time to do what. And just knowing that…I don’t know. I’m just one person. I just don’t get caught up in that. I don’t know. It just works out.
What Surprised Hannah About Building Her Own Advisory Business And What A Typical Work Week Looks Like [01:13:12]
Michael: So, what surprised you the most about building your own advisory business?
Hannah: How much I enjoyed the business-owner side of it.
Michael: How much you enjoyed the business owner’s side.
Hannah: Yeah, oh, God, I love it. Not so much the managing people, but the thinking of ideas, the visionary, being the entrepreneur, that makes a lot of sense to me. The other thing that surprised me is how clients are…I always say this. The amount of money you have is just packaging. One of my taglines in…it was Everyday Money, is, “It doesn’t matter if you have $10,000 or $10 million. You can still live wealthy. You can live wealthy now.”
So I think one thing that surprised me that I didn’t expect going into this is that clients, as much as we’re different and the different complexities, at the end of the day, the people in my life who don’t have a lot of money, a lot of their core issues and concerns are the same as my people who do have a lot of money. So it’s just different packaging on it. And once I realized that, all the intimidation of how much money they went, just went out the door. It was just like, “No, they’re people. See them for people.”
Michael: I am struck, though, that you just sort of said almost as in a sigh, “I enjoy the business owner side of it. Not the managing people, but being the entrepreneur and the visionary.” Most people don’t think of those as separate.
Hannah: Oh, gosh.
Michael: Most people think about as like, “Well, if you do one, you’ve got to do both of those. And that’s hard because if I don’t like both of those, then I kind of get stuck on it.”
Hannah: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve been in the other mastermind group, and they just see the role differently. I don’t know of a better way of saying it. They just see the world differently.
Michael: Because they just see those things as separate, and you get a choice as to which ones you do or not?
Hannah: Oh, I get a choice because I’m the owner of the firm and I can decide what I want to do. But we all get choices, right? Matt is choosing to work with me. At any point, he has the choice not to do that. And so I don’t know. I don’t know that I’m answering your question. I like the business owner’s side. I love seeing the opportunity. Like you, I can probably come up with 20 different business ideas in a day. I was trying to do that. So I love the idea of, how do we innovate? How do we do this better? How can we adapt our process? How do we build a company culture?
I love looking at the numbers of the business, thinking about, what are the ratios? How does that work? Things like that. How does Everyday Money versus Guiding Wealth…how are they fundamentally different businesses? What’s their strategy going to have to be because they’re fundamentally different? That type of stuff is really interesting to me.
Michael: So, what does a typical week look like for you at this point?
Hannah: Well, we’re in the middle of the externship. And so my typical week right now is building content for that. So my typical weeks are, outside of that, Mondays, we have our team meetings. We have our…I’m still with the integrator. She wasn’t…whatever. Mondays, we technically have our team meetings. I have an hour and a half call with a copywriter to do final approvals on all of the content that we’re building out for everything, to help build the content. So Mondays are full with that. So I don’t meet clients that day. Tuesdays and Thursdays, we block off for client meetings. So I try to make sure that we have some Guiding Wealth time in there. Obviously, FPA fits in there as well. Wednesdays are really heavy FPA days for me and building out all the different things there. And then Fridays tend to be what needs to be done, type of day.
Michael: So Fridays are just kind of a catch-up day?
Hannah: Yeah. So we do most of our podcast recordings on Friday and things like that.
Michael: Okay. I’m struck by this also. The client meetings, essentially, get concentrated in two days per week, because you’ve got a very manageable number of clients to be able to schedule them on two days a week?
The Low Point Of Hannah’s Career And What She Wishes She Could Have Done Differently [01:17:04]
Michael: So, what was the low point for you on this career journey?
Hannah: I think, especially in my early years, how lonely it was. I don’t think we talk about that enough. I think that’s a very…again, why I care so much about the FPA. Yeah, it was lonely. It was hard. Nobody understood. Especially in the situation that I was in, there weren’t 26-year-olds buying practices. And having people to relate to in that sense, that was really hard. And making those decisions, and just the pressure of all of that. That was pretty challenging.
Michael: And again, that was, I guess, part of what pulled you into FPA’s NexGen and NexGen Gathering, in particular, was finding a community of other advisors that actually are going through some similar stuff that you can connect with and commiserate with?
Hannah: Yeah, it was that. And so in my local chapter, they also had…they started a seminar series in the FPA DFW chapter. Patrick Doherty and Trudy Turner did it. And it was a seminar series called “You’re a Financial Planner, Now What?” And I always say that’s one of the places where I learned what financial planning was. It felt like a lifeline. That is the word that I use on it, and I think it’s the most appropriate one. Because I have this dream of what financial planning could be, but I didn’t see it played out that way. But they gave me hope that it was possible.
And so that’s really where I could go and ask all my questions and get that engagement. It was so wonderful. And I would come home and tell my husband about this. And there wasn’t a high attendance. I’m like, “This is some of the best content that I’ve heard. What in the world?” And my husband’s background is in film and digital media. And so he was working in a TV station at the time. And he’s like, “Well, why don’t you just put on the internet?” I was like, “I have no idea how to do that.” I still don’t.
Michael: I’ve heard of the internet…
Hannah: I know. I know.
Michael: You can put things on it that people can find.
Hannah: Yeah. And so he was like, “No, you can put it on the internet.” And so they ended up retiring. And this was right after… It was…I talked about that six months of rest after I left the broker-dealer and started my RA. Yeah, so they “retired” from it. And so I took it over with another lady here in Dallas, and she was helping me with it in-person. And she was great – Lynn McIntire from Cadent.
And so anyway, we just started putting it on the internet and doing a podcast. And I suddenly realized, hey, I can call people, and they’ll talk to me for an hour. Okay. And so we got that started and went down that path, and yeah, the rest is history.
Michael: Very cool. And that’s now 200 episodes into “So, Now You’re a Financial Planner. Now What?”
Hannah: Yeah, so it’s pretty fun. I’ve learned a lot on that side of it.
What She Wishes She Could Have Done Differently, And Her Number One Advice For New Financial Planners [01:19:55]
Michael: So, as you look back over the past 10 years or so of this journey, anything you wish you had done differently? Anything you know that you wish you could go back and tell you from seven or eight years ago?
Hannah: No. This was my path, right? I don’t think I would change anything. It certainly wasn’t easy at all. The advice I always give to young planners is always just to stay curious. There’s always something more to know; there’s always something more to learn about, there’s always… That person that you’re talking to that you’re just like, “They’re so boring,” no, they’re not. You just haven’t asked good enough questions. There is something you can learn from them. So stay curious. That’s the advice I would have given myself.
Michael: Any other advice to younger and newer advisors looking to come into the profession today and build on a good, positive step?
Hannah: Yeah. So one of the things… Kevin McClanahan was talking about this with elder care…or elder abuse. How the number one consistent factor in elder abuse is isolation. And I see that in spades with younger planners. I talk to them all the time. Where they’re working at some big-name shop or broker-dealer or something, and they have no idea there’s a world outside of there. And so that’s isolation. They don’t know what else is out there.
So I would say, “Break yourself out of that isolation.” And I know I keep talking about the FPA and why it’s important. But that’s one of the great things about it is that you get to see so…you don’t just get to see it. You could actually have conversations. You could have a community with people who are different than you, who are in different models, who are serving different people. And that is going to only help you in your career.
Michael: So what comes next for you?
Hannah: A lot more fun. I don’t know. We’ll see. The big decision point for me is, what do I want my relationship with FPA to look like? And so that’ll probably be the driver. But in five years, I want to be looking at Everyday Money. I want to be the Brene Brown of personal finance. That’s who I want to be. And so in 5 or 10 years, I think you’ll see much more in that space of not so much planner facing, but consumer-facing. And really championing this message that you can live wealthy now. No matter how much money you have.
Michael: I love it. Live wealthy now, no matter how much money you have.
How Hannah Defines Success And What’s Next For Her [01:22:30]
Michael: So, as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success. And one of the themes that always comes up is, even just the word success means different things to different people. So you’re firing on all cylinders with the advisory firm in a great place, so Everyday Money is growing. You’ve got cool programs like the externship going with FPA. But how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Hannah: Living a joyful life. Am I truly doing work that gives me life and brings energy to me? If I’m really going to be consistent, the amount of money that I make, I’m just not worried about that. It’s, am I doing work that I come home and I’m so excited to go do the work in the morning. Am I really living a joyful life and joyful work life? To me, that’s really, really important. That’s what success looks like for me.
Michael: I love it. And just the way you’ve honed and refined to that, and as we talked about even from the start, just the philosophy of, “Oh, well if something didn’t get done on my to-do list, I guess I’m just going to have change what I put on my to-do list from now on.”
Hannah: Or change what my priorities are, yeah. I’m not going to shame myself.
Michael: I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much, Hannah, for joining us on the Financial Advisor Success podcast.
Hannah: Yeah, thank you.