Welcome back to the 107th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Roger Whitney. Roger is a partner with WWK Wealth Advisors, an independent RIA based in Fort Worth, Texas, where Roger works with a personal client base of retirees with $75 million of assets under management.
What’s unique about Roger, though, is that he’s been able to attract almost $50 million of those assets in just the past 2 years by launching a niche podcast on retirement that attracts to him affluent baby boomers making the transition to retirement.
In this episode, we talk about the why and how Roger built his “Retirement Answer Man” podcast, the style and format of his podcast and what he’s found works to attract listeners, the way he transitions podcast listeners to a webinar that shows prospects a sample client meeting and then invites them to a schedule a fit meeting, and the way he treats his podcast marketing strategy as an orchard to be nurtured and tended and not just a tactic to hunt for more retired clients, even though it’s generating a lot of retired clients for him anyways.
We also talk about how Roger focused his advisory firm into a niche of working with retirees. Why his focus with clients is less about financial freedom and more about time freedom, his unique Agile Retirement Management approach to working with retirees that’s less about producing the comprehensive financial plan and more about producing what he calls a minimum viable plan and then engaging in constant iteration of what he calls SMART sprints to the next short-term goal or objective, and how despite being what he calls a classically-trained financial planner, that most of Roger’s conversations today take more of a coaching approach with clients that focuses as much on human and social capital as their financial capital.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Roger shares how the success of his podcast has now evolved into publishing a book called “Rock Retirement” and creating what he calls the Rock Retirement Club as a way to serve the subset of his listeners who will never realistically hire them to be his financial advisor but are willing to pay to join a community he’s created that helps support them in their own do-it-yourself journey through retirement.
So whether you’re interested in getting started with podcasting (or building a content marketing strategy), how Roger attracts new clients and builds business through his podcast, why he creates content only for a very specific audience, or how he handles the compliance side of the equation, then we hope you enjoy this episode of Financial Advisor Success!
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- An overview of Roger’s advisory firm as it exists today. [04:24]
- What his retirement planning process looks like. [13:37]
- The problem with the typical approach of classically-trained financial planners. [25:17]
- How podcasting helps to build a business and get clients. [35:59]
- The format of Roger’s podcast. [46:48]
- Roger’s tips on building an online platform. [51:20]
- Results from Roger’s podcast. [53:51]
- Why he says blogs and podcasts should appeal to a very specific audience. [1:02:07]
- Other pieces of Roger’s content marketing strategy. [1:15:15]
- Why he regularly surveys his listeners. [1:24:25]
- How Roger handles his content from a compliance perspective. [1:27:31]
- What Roger knows now that he wishes he’d known when he was just starting out. [1:44:57]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
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Michael: Welcome, Roger Whitney, to the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.
Roger: I am so excited to be wearing my blue shirt.
Michael: You’re wearing a blue shirt in honor of joining us here for Nerd’s Eye View blue podcast? And, yeah, I guess it’s sort of ironic, like, we’re talking blue shirts and clothes for a podcast interview and a podcast interview essentially talking about podcasts.
You know, one of the reasons I was really excited to have you come out and join us in the podcast is you are one of the few advisors I know that is a podcaster as well and has been doing this for quite a few years. In fact, you’ve been running your podcast quite a bit longer than I’ve been running mine, and have actually used it for business development and getting clients. And I’m excited to talk about, like, what does podcasting look like as a way to actually help build your business and get clients in a niche? Because I know you have a particular niche around retirement planning. And so, I don’t know, I feel like this is going to be a discussion of non-traditional advisor marketing.
Michael: In a world where, you know, I think most advisors still do most of their business development with referrals from existing clients and maybe a little bit of networking. And you’re actually living some of this digital stuff that I think not a lot of others have figured out how to do and actually turn into results yet.
An Overview Of Roger’s Advisory Firm As It Exists Today [04:24]
Michael: So as a starting point, like, I love talking life transformations, but just to maybe frame things for everyone first, can you just talk a little bit about your advisory firm as it exists today? Like, what is your business? What do you do? Who do you serve?
Roger: So my personal business, I’m fee-only. I dropped my securities licenses two years ago as of basically this day that we’re talking anyway. And I work only with people over 50 years old that are dealing with a life transition of figuring out how to gain more time freedom, which we call retirement in some ways, transitioning into retirement, or living in retirement. So my typical client is going to be between their mid-50s to their mid-60s. And they’re at some end of that transformation to trying to figure out this next stage in life. So that’s all that I talk to.
Michael: Okay. And I find it striking, like, it’s less of I guess calling it traditional, “I work with retirees” and more, as you’re framing it, like, “I work with people doing retirement transitions.”
Roger: Well, and a lot of that came from the podcast. Because in surveying the audience, which is, you know, I have my avatar, my person that I talk to who is in that phase, and surveying the audience when I ask them what they think retirement is or what they’re excited about retirement, they don’t talk about the brochures of not working, sitting in a bathtub in a spa, they talk about having more time freedom, notice that’s not lack of work, that’s more time freedom, and pursuing things that they are excited about. So what I’ve found is it’s less about work or not work. I call it a light switch. And it’s really a dimmer switch of, “How do you turn down the career obligations and dial up time freedom to pursue things that you maybe have not been able to pursue because of all the other demands in your life?” So that’s how I talk about it because that’s how they talk to me about it.
Michael: And I find just even that discussion striking because I think for the average financial advisor, you know, you talk about retirement transitions and you’re talking about 401(k) rollovers and maybe starting Social Security and at some point a Medicare discussion, and you’re talking about the dimmer switch of dialing down career obligations and turning up time freedoms. It’s a very different way to be talking about retirement with clients, at least in the context of our business.
Roger: Well, I think that is an advantage and I think that’s a few reasons why the show seems to have…has resonated so well is the majority of things… And so, a little background, Michael, I call myself a classically-trained financial planner. I mean, I have my CFP, my CIMAs, my CPWA, I’m doing the Retirement Management. I get the financial stuff, and I’ve nerded out on that stuff for decades. And I think we’re classically-trained and we’re talking about things from all this money prism or paradigm, and that’s not how people are making decisions. They’re nerding out on that because we tell them they’re supposed to, but what they really care about is how they organize their life. And very few people talk to them about that.
And what I say is, and I evolved to this, is if you think of levers, like you’re at this, you know, control panel of your life, you have all these levers and some of them are very powerful and some of them really can’t move the dial in your life very much. Most of the levers that you actually have control over and most of the levers that are the most powerful have nothing to do with your 401(k), it’s life decisions. How you organize your life and how you maximize human capital and things like that. And I think we fall in as advisors, I have fallen in, is that we think the levers are our portfolio strategy, 401(k) and all these things that we’ve been trained on because that’s what we do, manage money. And they’re important to a point, but the bigger levers are, you know, what kind of house you buy and, you know, how you create your pre-retirement so you can get more freedom in your life. Those are levers that someone has control over, whereas having control over the markets, well, we know how that goes.
Michael: Yeah. But, I mean, I feel like in part just our conversation tends to go to those areas because frankly, like, that’s where we get paid. Like, I get paid for the retirement rollover. I get paid to manage the pot of money. So, as you talk about these sorts of conversations in retirement planning, like, what does this look like from a business model end? Like, are you charging and running a business substantively different in going to these issues or is the distinction simply like, “Yeah, we may get paid for some other stuff but here are the conversations we have with clients that matter?”
Roger: Yeah. You’re right, there’s a disconnect between the compensation structure and where we actually add the majority of value. So my business, you know, 99% I’m AUM, right? We’re managing assets, charging a fee to manage the assets on a discretionary basis, just like a registered investment advisory for anybody. We do that, but that is probably a much smaller percentage of what we talk about than all the other stuff. So if you think of the financial end, Michael, like, we have lots of little conversations where, you know, we use an agile process, which I guess we can talk about. But we have little conversations. So when I’m looking at say the financial resources of a family, I’m talking about their net worth. And how do we allocate free cash flow in the context of their net worth, with their investment portfolios being part of their net worth, sometimes a big part but not the only part? Because that’s the only way you can make decisions, in my mind, to help people create the kind of life that they think that they want to have.
So it’s much more holistic. You know, but we are paid on assets under management. We do have some clients that we just charge an annual retainer, and that’s evolved from this. But you’re right, there’s a disconnect in the payment structure and function relative to where a lot of the conversations and call it coaching is going.
Michael: And so, as you’ve been building more and more in this retirement niche direction and this, you know, retirement niche where you’re talking about, you know, time freedom and not simply IRA rollovers and Social Security timing and all of those pieces, like, is that a concern for you from a business model perspective? Do you feel pressure? Do you view like your future is eventually you’re going to move away from AUM fees and charge other stuff or are you completely fine and happy with being in an AUM model and just saying, “We add our value in lots of ways beyond just the portfolio?”
Roger: I think as an industry, it will be interesting to see how this evolves. And you and I have had conversations on a stage or two about this, of I don’t know if I want to be the first one there when it evolves. Because I think the real levers for value that an advisor can add are outside of the portfolio management. I think of portfolio management as something that structurally is very easy to do but very difficult to implement consistently. And that’s a lot of what we’re paid for. It’s not about adding alpha or outperforming or timing, it’s about structurally making sure you really just have one investment process rather than switching investment processes. So there’s a disconnect there. I don’t know how all this plays out, but I’m comfortable, the clients seem to be very happy with the arrangement because we’re very transparent on fees. So I’m willing to iterate and figure that out as I go.
Michael: So you’ve got this focus around retirees or I guess really prospective retirees making the retirement transition, because, of course, transitions and life changes are in and of themselves one of the primary things that make someone go and get an advisor, right? If you’re comfortable in your current stage where you are, you don’t tend to wake up in the middle the night saying, “I need me a financial advisor.” When you’re staring down a transition into some future stage or change that’s going to be different, that often is the impetus that makes people want to go find an advisor and find someone to work with.
What His Retirement Planning Process Looks Like [13:37]
Michael: So what do you do for clients? Like, what does your retirement planning process look like?
Roger: So I am a big fan of Agile Project Management. And that is really a software project management structure. It used a lot of the software. The best way to explain what it is is if you think about software, and you and I may…I know I’m old enough to remember when you bought Microsoft Office, you brought home, like, 20 CDs and you spent a day and a half loading them into your computer. And then you had this bloated piece of software that updated very rarely because it was such an onerous process. So that’s how software used to be developed. And that’s called waterfall methodology. So it was like, “Let’s just figure out everything. Cram it all in there and get it right the first time.”
And what we saw on the software industry, not that I ever worked there, was they transitioned from that to something called agile, which is, “Let’s get out the minimal viable product that hits the client need, know that it’s imperfect, and then iterate a lot.” So that nowadays we see like on our iPhones or whatever phone you use, that’s why those apps that you have on your phone update every week. Because rather than trying to figure it all out, they’re getting responses from users, they’re thinking creatively, they’re prioritizing which ones are the most important, and then they just iterate to the next one, and the next one, and the next one. So what I’ve done is I’ve taken that methodology and applied it to financial planning. So we use an agile process.
Michael: Use an agile process, like, as your retirement’s planning process.
Roger: Yeah. It is Agile Retirement Management, ARM.
Roger: And the idea around it is… You know, one problem I have discovered as a classically-trained financial planner is we create these huge documents after having these long drawn-out meetings that make it not very inviting for someone to want to go through the process. Because usually, my experience, when someone, a client or prospective client comes to or seeks out a financial advisor, it’s because they have a pain point. You know, just like, you know, the reason people get estate plans done is usually because someone they know is dealing with it and it’s a window of opportunity, “Wow, maybe I should deal with that too.” And then what happens is that window of opportunity can go away and then they go on with their life and they don’t get their plan done. So when someone reaches out to a financial advisor, in my experience it’s because they have a pain point. They have something that they’re trying to solve. And so we make it a lot…hopefully, if we’re delivering correctly, we’re making it a lot more of an engageable interactive process than the kind of traditional mediums that a lot of us have probably been through.
Michael: So in the sort of agile terms and framework, client comes in and your goal is not to give them The Comprehensive Financial Plan, which is sort of the old-school equivalent of the waterfall methodology, like, “Let’s make the entire software and we’ll ship it all at once in one giant product,” and instead, you’re doing the agile approach, which is, “Okay, client comes to the table with a particular problem, let’s make the minimum viable product solution that…you know, the minimum viable plan, I guess, that addresses all the stuff that they need to address but only goes as far as what they need to address to solve their pain point, and then over time we’re going to iterate and fill in the rest of the plan.”
Roger: Right. So in my mind… So I’ll tell you the exact conversations I have with everybody. So in my mind, it’s always… So when someone comes to you with that pain point, Michael, everybody wants to jump to tactical, right? They want to jump to the tactical solution for that pain point. And what I tell people is we always need to have a process that leads us to a strategy that will lead us to the tactics. And if you go through that process without getting bogged down, the tactical stuff actually is really easy.
So the conversations that we have with clients are around…for three or four different stakes. One is, “Okay, Michael, here is where you and your wife are. When we’re looking at this transition, what is an ideal life for you?” You know, this is a goals discussion, right? “What are the base needs that you would want to have covered if you could have everything? What are the wants and then what are the wishes? And then let’s quantify those.” And then, “Okay, now that we know those, let’s look at the resources you have. Which first is going to be we have human capital, the ability to earn an income, which is our most powerful asset, we have the social capital, Social Security, pensions, things like that, and then we have financial capital, which could be, you know, rental income and things like that.” And so we still go through that fact-finding process of organizing all this, but we do it together rather than sending them this huge questionnaire. And it’s an interactive thing. So usually, I’ll have them fill out a very quick questionnaire and then we walk through it together, and I make all the adjustments as we’re talking.
Michael: Meaning, like, you’ve got financial planning software up and you’re doing live data entry?
Roger: Yeah, almost all my meetings are virtual. So they’ll give me the basics and then I’ll walk through and tweak the basics with them on a video call with me.
Michael: And what are you using to do that? Like, what’s your video call it software? What’s your planning software that you’re doing all this on the fly?
Roger: Yeah, so I use Zoom, the most stable environment that I found that is really simple from a download perspective for the client, and then we use MoneyGuidePro for the interactive part, and then we use some spreadsheets and things on the side.
Roger: So when I’m working with the initial client, “Where do you want to go? Okay, what income sources do we have? What is your net worth? Let’s look at the financial resources you already have available.” And then we’ll talk about risk, and then we’ll profile whether this is achievable or not. But then over time as we’re working with clients, in each one of those conversations, we’re always looking for opportunities to improve something or risk that we might want to mitigate. And then let’s say we identify four different things. Well, rather than try to tackle four different things all at once, we prioritize, “Okay, which one do we want to sprint and take care of first?” And so we create this rhythm of SMART sprints, I call them. You know, the acronym for goal planning: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound. Okay.
And then we have a sprint. You know, when you think of the traditional quarterly meeting, our traditional quarterly meetings, we go through each of these sections, look for risks and opportunities, and at the end of every meeting we say, “Okay, this is the one that we’re going to tackle in the next 90 days, and these are the actions, the first actions for you, for me, and for us.” So we treat a client as if they’re this ongoing project. And so clients are constantly, either themselves or me, we’re tackling and making incremental process based on what we prioritize is the one that we really need to deal with right now. And so we just go through having little conversations.
And what I found is over time, it makes the client part of the process and owning the process. So they get that affirmation that they’re actually doing…you know, taking part in this, which ultimately makes them feel like they have more control, because they do because they’re paying attention and we’re taking incremental action. So psychologically they feel like, “Okay, we have some control over this.” It’s not just, “Here’s the allocation policy and then let’s hope for the best.” No, because we’re looking at, “Wow, where could we increase our income over the next year or so? Whether that’s through a side hustle or through networking better at work, you know, or building your skill set within work so you can get a raise.” You know, all sorts of things. So it’s a good way of allowing them to feel empowered. So we’re actually walking together and taking action rather than me coming down from the mountain and telling them what they should do and overwhelming them.
Michael: Well, and I’m struck, it’s just…I mean, just the whole framework is different and evokes a different mindset for the client when you say, “Look, we’re just going to meet on a quarterly basis, and every 90 days we’re going to meet again to figure out what thing we’re going to work on or focus on for you for the next 90 days. And it may be something that you work on or I work on or we work on together, and then we’ll try to get through that thing. And then in 90 days, we’re going to come back and just figure out the next iterative improvement in your financial life.”
Roger: And all the while, you find this, especially in life transitions is what they say they think what life they want over the next three to five years, that changes constantly. I mean, we were talking about how old we are, when I was 41 and my wife was, you know, 10 years younger, we wanted very different things in terms of how we organized our life. So going through that as an advisor and having this, because they’re the expert in their life, right? I just get to see them periodically. You know, if we’re collaborative, I’m constantly asking challenging questions so I can identify, “Ooh, they’re thinking about me…you know, they’re obviously not as tied to what we say we want to go to as they were.” Maybe because the grandkids, you know, emerged, you know, four states away. You can see, “Oh, they’re starting to think about maybe…” You know, it may be on the radar, but by having this collaborative approach, you can identify those things, and that can influence your planning ultimately.
Michael: And so are you literally meeting with every client on a quarterly basis? Like, that’s your rigorous structure?
Roger: No. So the way we structure that is twice a year we are proactively calling them and scheduling a meeting and, you know, really getting in their face and say, “Let’s meet and have a huddle.” We call them a huddle because that’s what you call it in agile. On the off quarters, we’re tapping them on the shoulder to schedule a time with us. Because you have those clients that some of them aren’t all in on it, some of them don’t want to talk to you that much. You know, the way I wanted to position the process is we let everybody find the rhythm that they want, but my obligation in terms of delivering my value is we will be proactive that, “Hey, we’re going to call you every six months and try to get a meeting. We’re going to tap you on the shoulder on the off quarters to let you self-select. And then we’re always going to be available for on-demand decision making.” So I try to be very clear when a client is engaging us, “You’re paying me fees, this is how I’m going to dance for my dinner, and you can hold me accountable for things I can actually control,” which is the proactive, reaching out and working on projects and follow-up and all that other stuff.
The Problem With The Typical Approach Of Classically-Trained Financial Planners [25:17]
Michael: Interesting. So as you look at this now, like, since as you said you are, I love this, a classically-trained financial planner, like, how would you distinguish the way these meetings and client relationships work now compared to the traditional approach?
Roger: I’m part life coach. And I think that’s the next wave of really successful planners is going to be helping life decisions which impact incredibly, especially in retirement, impact incredibly the financial aspect of it, and not just the portfolio but all the other financial aspects of it. So I would say I’m competent in the skill set of financial planning, but it’s the EQ part of it in helping them integrate. Because when you’re sitting in your 50s and you’re thinking about the last phase of your life, we’ll call it, my understanding is most people are thinking, wow, really, they only have 10 to 15 years to make the most of it before they’re like their grandparents.
So although it may be a 30-year timeline, most planning doesn’t think about those go-go years. You know, I think of it like a teeter-totter. On one end of the teeter-totter, they’re like, “Man, I’ve got these early years in retirement and I want to make the most of it while we can. But I want to be a good steward and make sure on the other end of the teeter-totter that I’m okay when I’m 90.” And we’re straddling, standing on top, straddling the teeter-totter trying to balance, if you’ve ever done that. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that. We’re trying to keep them in balance.
And what ends up happening that I see is, from a financial planning perspective, we run these spreadsheets that go out 30-plus years. And because people are living longer, they want to spend more money, they’re healthier than ever, they don’t have pensions, the advice almost always makes the teeter-totter skew to living less today so you’ll be okay potentially in 30 years. And that’s a lot of really bad choices. And that’s not how you’re going to get somebody to engage in thinking about these things. Because they want to be good stewards, but if all they hear is, “You better work longer, you better save more, you better take more investment risk and you better settle for less later on,” or some combination of those things, well, that sucks.
Michael: Well, okay, but if they really don’t have enough and haven’t saved enough and aren’t on track, like, isn’t that just…you know, sucks but it is what it is? Like, you know, sorry, that’s your life? And, like, what do you…?
Roger: Well, then okay, what are the opportunities then? So if you’re underfunded from a financial aspect perspective, the real solution, and this is going to be the majority of people, is well, I hope you find work you love because you’re going to need to work, right? So think of that situation. I’m not saying this is ideal, but it is life. If you need to work, let’s say that situation Michael, you’ve got to work until you’re 70. I’m sorry, you have to. Okay, they’re probably thinking of work and the work that they’ve done for years that although they’re good at it, they can make a living, it sucks the life out of them, right? Let’s say that scenario. Well, what proactive steps can you take incrementally to maybe change your mindset, build your skill levels so you can pivot to something that’s a little more enjoyable, or create that pre-retirement, or maybe you’re not in your career making $100,000 a year but you can make $50,000 a year but be happier with what you’re doing then? There are still actions you can take.
Michael: Well, just an interesting way to reframe it. Like, what are the opportunities that are still available even for that client who is going to have to work a whole lot longer? Where you can start framing up like, “Okay, then how do we find you more enjoyable work or something where you can earn a little more, or something where you can earn a little bit less but do it longer and maybe that actually owes okay financially? You know, you can semi-retire earlier, you just can’t fully retire as early as you want.” Like, it reframes it into a much more positive like, “Okay, then what things are we going to do with the cards you’ve been dealt scenario?” Rather than just the, “Well you’re going to have to spend less, save more, work later or just die sooner.”
Roger: Yeah. And what’s interesting in those discussions Michael is it ends up getting a lot more touchy-feely. Because if you’re in that position, you probably have some work to do on forgiving yourself for all the mistakes, potentially, or coming to terms with the hard fast ones in the head that life threw you, getting over those and moving those behind you and then thinking about, “What could I do going forward?” And it’s hard to get people’s mindset focused on, I don’t want to call it victim mentality but what has happened to, “Okay, what can I do next?” And that’s the coaching part of it. Because ultimately, at the end of the day, you have to come back to… I talk about this when we have this extreme thinking about, you know, the world blowing up or the dollar or the economy and everything else. I’m like, “Okay, great, I get all that. At some point, we’ve got to come back to, ‘What can I do next to get my house in order?'” Because that’s the only way you’re going to take back any power, regardless of what’s happening in the world.
I tell this story about…and I tell this to clients after we’ve sort of come to, “Okay, this is the life we’re going towards,” I tell them the trailer story. I say, “Look, we can do everything right from here on out and you still may have to live in a trailer.” You know, and they’re looking at me like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like, “Well, we can be intentional, we can take action, but the markets can do what they’re going to do, health, just crazy curveballs. We can do everything correctly and we could just have such a bad hand that we’re going to have to, you know, in your 80s live in a trailer.” I’m using that metaphorically. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. And I was like, “But if we’re proactive about it and we’re really having little conversations and agile, what I can tell you is most likely we’re not going to go from your life now directly to the trailer overnight, which is usually how people deal with stuff. What will happen is we’re going to iterate so much that we’re going to be making so many little adjustments that when we finally get to the trailer, it’s not going to be that big of a transition.”
So from an advisory “what is my value” perspective, my job is to proactively facilitate these conversations. And these things degrade over time. You constantly have to have these conversations to iterate. So from a business perspective, you have that need for you to help them navigate this in perpetuity.
Michael: So how do you explain and frame that value proposition to a prospective client?
Roger: Well, the nice thing is I don’t have to because all prospective clients come from the podcast.
Michael: Where you’re literally already having these conversations.
Roger: I talk about it every week. I go deep into the technical stuff, but I go into the softer stuff. And I talk about everything I talk about.
When I was getting ready to start the Rock Retirement Club, and we may talk about that a little bit, which is this educational club, I had listeners fill out a survey. So I had about 700 people fill out the survey. And so I said, “I need to talk to these people to see do they really want this and what would they want?” So I had about 70 conversations in 2 and a half days. I just loaded up the calendar with people that were willing to talk to me that had taken the survey. They weren’t clients, they were just listeners of the show.
And I got all the data I wanted, but what I really got, Michael, and it literally brought a tear to my eye was, “Wow, all of these people, they’re super intelligent, some EQ-wise, some IQ-wise, they’re very intentional, they have amazing values, and they’re all really, really nice.” I mean, from a…I’m like, “If I had all these people in the room, they would just love each other.” It was a very homogeneous group. And I was thinking, “Wow, I guess that makes sense because if they’ve listened to my show…” A lot of times when people find my show, they go back and listen to four years’ worth, every episode. So the people that think I’m an idiot, they stop listening.
Michael: Right, by episode three.
Roger: Yeah, exactly. So by the time someone reaches out to me to set up a fit meeting to see if we’re a fit from a client perspective, they’re all in. I don’t have to explain anything.
Michael: And that to me has always been the interesting dynamic around marketing from, you know, blogging, podcasting, like, any of these perspectives, any of these approaches is, you know, when your business development process is that you’re producing some kind of content that they like, find valuable, retune into, whatever it is, for a sustained period of time, you know, if they don’t like you or won’t like working with you or don’t like your style, they just move on at some point a long time ago. Like, they don’t ever contact you. The ones who contact you almost by definition, like, they’ve already connected with the content and the stuff that you’re doing, and so much of the process of building trust and credibility, like, it’s already done.
Roger: Yeah, they have a relationship with you. I mean, I know you’ve felt this, Michael. You know, as prolific as you are, I know, I can’t pronounce words, in the blog but speaking, I know that you’ve had instances at conferences when people come up to you and you’re like a little mini-celebrity because they already have a relationship with you from all of the stuff that they’ve consumed from you. And it’s that way with the podcast. So it’s a really beautiful thing over time.
How Podcasting Helps To Build A Business And Get Clients [35:59]
Michael: So talk to us a little bit more about the podcast. Like, what is the podcast? What do you do? How did you come about this? Like, what’s the story of the podcast?
Roger: Basically, it came out of a midlife crisis. So I call it a healthy midlife crisis, that’s totally changed my life, right? In all good ways. Not the bad ways that they normally do. I was in my early 40s. Our RIA with my business partners, we had been in business for, was it, 12, 13 years after leaving a major wirehouse. And we had hit that point in the hockey stick of, you know, revenue is increasing much more than overhead. And I had a lot of time. And it was fun, but then I started to do triathlons and travel and everything else. But I started to get bored and not challenged.
And then what happened was I had a conversation actually with a buddy who is very, very money-motivated as an advisor. And he called me up one day and he goes, “Roger.” “Well, yeah.” He said, “Do you realize that we’re entering our zone of maximum power?” And I’m like, “What the heck are you talking about?”
Michael: Well… I like zones of maximum power.
Roger: Whatever that is. So he said, “Well, think about it. We’ve been doing this for years, so we’re battle-tested in our profession.” “Oh, yeah, that’s true. We have skins on the wall but we’ve screwed it up a lot.” “Yeah. And then we have technical knowledge, a lot of technical knowledge, we have less hair, so people will listen to us more than when we looked like we’re 20, so we look the part, and we still have, you know, a 15-plus year timeline of where…have the energy to really want to be involved and do all this stuff.” And when I heard that from him, I just sort of pooh-poohed him. We got off the phone, I’m like, “Yeah, he is, he wants to make, you know, a zillion dollars. And that’s cool, but that’s not motivating to me necessarily.” And so I didn’t think about it a lot.
But then it wouldn’t leave me. And I reframed. I was like, “Holy cow, dang it.” In my mind, I was thinking, “You know, I’ve gotten to the point after years and years of struggle and failure that I can live a pretty good life, have some time freedom, make decent money, provide for my family, but if I wake up at 65 and say, ‘What could I have done? What should I have been doing?'” And I’m a Christian, so for me, it was like, “Would God be really proud with that?” That was how it impacted me, and that started the journey, “I’ve got to figure this out. I’m supposed to be doing something.” And if you think of, you know, all the soldiers with their heads all at the same level, I’ve got to take risk and put my head up and put myself out there and risk getting knocked down. And that was how I started the podcast, figure out what I’m supposed to be doing for the rest of my life.
Michael: And why a podcast? Like, “I’ve got to pick my head up out of the crowd and take a risk,” like, I get that as one thing, but like, “And therefore, in 2014 I’m going to do me a podcast” is kind of somewhat random direction to take that moment.
Roger: Well, then I started exploring. I hired my first professional coach outside of the industry, I started to go to conferences that were outside of the industry, and I actually started blogging. So I started writing a blog and it was really, really painful for me. And in high school I was in debate, I think out loud, I’m comfortable talking. I don’t really have stage fright or things like that. So after blogging and just feeling miserable, you know, having to sit with…you know, I can’t do what you do, but I could talk. And I enjoy talking. And then in some of these conferences I was going to, I started to learn about podcasts and I started to listen to podcasts that were my virtual mentors, like Michael Hyatt and Ray Edwards and these people in…you know, most financial advisors wouldn’t know anything about. Dan Miller. And so I started a podcast because I’m like, “I love to talk.” I’m comfortable talking and I like organization. I like teaching in that way. So that’s how it came for me.
Michael: Interesting. So it was just, “Hey, I’ve got some stuff to share, but I’m not a writing type, I’m a talker type, so let’s do a podcast.”
Roger: Yeah. And for me, I thought of it…I never thought of it as marketing, which may be different. There was a gentleman when I first started my podcast, his name is Lou Mongello. He has a Walt Disney podcast. Been around for a decade. The guy is, you know, huge. He actually was a New Jersey attorney who was a Disney fanboy. He looks the part. You know, he is Italian to the core. And he was a Disney fanboy so he started this podcast just to talk about Disney stuff and he got this huge following. He actually quit law, moved to Orlando. He can see the fireworks every night. And he makes his living talking about Walt Disney. And he goes there every day. And so he and I met at Social Media Marketing World, this huge conference, that was my first non-industry conference, and we got into a little group together and he’s like, “Roger, when you start this podcast, don’t pay attention to any numbers. Just find your voice and love on people.”
So what I did, which is very non-quantitative, which might freak you out, is I’m like, “This is not marketing, this is just me thinking out loud about issues I’m dealing with in clients because when I think out loud, it organizes my thoughts.” So for me, this was a nice virtuous circle where I’m talking about things I’m dealing with which are going to make me a better advisor, and I’m just going to do it publicly. And so I’m going to get the content out there but really I’m helping myself hone my skills with my clients. So that was my thinking. And I’m going to treat it not as marketing. And when I talk to advisors about podcasts… You know, if you’re an advisor from my vintage, you know, or your vintage, you probably had to hunt and fight and scrape to survive early on because there isn’t really a good career path for us.
So we have this mentality of hunting and killing, right? We do a seminar, we get leads, we convert to clients. And you run the numbers, and if it works, you just keep doing it. I didn’t do any of that. I said, “With this, because I’m at a stage in my life where I’m not hungry, I don’t need the money to eat in terms of hunting and killing, I’m building an orchard with my podcast.” Meaning that, what do you do with an orchard? You plant some apple trees, you’ve got to prune them, you’ve got to water them, you’ve got to deal with the bugs and everything else, and they don’t do anything for you. And only over years of doing that, ultimately they mature and all of a sudden you get an apple, then you get a few more apples, and then you get to the point, if you’re a good farmer, somebody wants some apples? I don’t know what to do with these things. And it took a lot of pressure off from a podcast perspective, and it made the podcast less about me saying how smart I am and talking about strategies and me just having conversations with listeners and building that know, like, and trust.
Michael: I love that orchard metaphor, that just…and contrasts so well with our industry’s traditional hunting and gathering framework. That, you know, on the one hand, like, it takes a while to grow an orchard and for them to bear fruit, and there’s still a lot of work you’ve got to do to maintain the orchard along the way, but ultimately, orchards are much more scalable than hunting and gathering, right? The reason our whole society changed when we actually figured out agriculture and farming versus just hunting for our food every day because eventually, you can produce a lot more with a healthy orchard than you can by just what you hunt every day. But it takes a while.
Roger: Yeah. And it’s a little bit more of a servant heart and it takes a lot of pressure off. You know, if you’ve ever watched that show “Naked and Afraid,” when they go out and hunt and they come back with nothing and they’re starving, that’s not a good feeling. And I’ve been that as an advisor. And it definitely…I think it builds an audience in a way that is sustainable. And it’s, again, a virtuous circle where, you know, I get emails and letters from listeners who will never become clients. It will bring a tear to my eye, right? This is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life through all this. I’ve discovered that. And on the show, if you listen to the show, rarely do I ever tell anybody how to become a client. And usually, when I do it, I do it in my disclaimer.
Michael: “Disclaimer, Roger is also a, you know, financial advisor who gets paid for doing this and da, da, da, da, da.” And that’s the way you “disclose” like, “Oh, by the way, you can hire Roger to be your financial advisor.”
Roger: Yeah. And sometimes it literally goes like, “Look, you’re an idiot if you take advice from me. I don’t know anything about you. I don’t give advice to people that aren’t clients. I am an advisor. If you’re interested in hiring…you know, talking to me about whether you’re a fit, go here, otherwise, you better talk to your legal advisor, your tax advisor, your financial advisor, because that’s just common sense.” That’s roughly my disclaimer.
Michael: Right. At which point they say, “Oh, crap, I do need a financial advisor. Well, this Roger guy seems to know what he’s talking about.”
Roger: Yeah. And I usually say, “Don’t take advice from me. I don’t know anything about you. Silly.” I think, you know, the feedback I get, and it even feels weird talking about this Michael, is the feedback I get is that I’m human. I bring a human aspect to what generally… And I remember, for years, I tried to make sure I was the smartest person in the world thinking I had to overwhelm people with my knowledge and smarts. And sometimes we feel that like an advisor. And I think for me anyway, I found a place where I can admit, “Ah, I didn’t know the answer to that. And that was wrong what I told you.” And be much more transparent, which is really a lot more comfortable, at least for me.
The Format Of Roger’s Podcast [46:48]
Michael: So can you share with us a little bit more? And, you know, for people who are curious to hear this, we’ll include a link in the show notes as well. So this is episode 107, so if you go to kitces.com/107, you will have a link out to Roger’s podcast called “Retirement Answer Man” if you want to hear it. But Roger, can you just share with us a little, like, what do you talk about on the podcast? Like, what do you do? What do you talk about? What’s the format? What are you giving people?
Roger: So one way that I iterated on it, so we have sections. So I learned this from other podcasters and movement. So here’s the format of the podcast. We start off with introduction, which is very short. I have the disclaimer. I have hot topics, which is usually a topical, whether it’s in the news or something related to the main subject, and then the practical planning is the main subject. And sometimes that can be technical, it can be answering questions, or it can be softer. So softer is, you know, I’ve talked about how technology is going to change retirement. I talk about 10 reasons not to buy an RV. You know, I’ve talked about personality testing and, you know, tricks we play on ourselves from…you know, behaviourally. So that’s the main section. And then I have a Happy Lab, where basically I’m silly and just talk about some tip on how to be happy that I’m trying to do for myself. And then I have a Smart Sprint Segment, which is a seven-day sprint, take a little baby step to create a great life based on what we talked about in the show, and then the outro.
And so, like, I have themes. I’ve started to switch to themes. So the theme for January shows is going to be how to count the cost of spending in retirement. And then February is going to be how to manage cash flow in retirement. And then March is going to be something softer. I try to go hard, soft, hard, soft from a topical standpoint and always have a little bit of rhythm of that even in one show.
Michael: And how long do these podcasts run?
Roger: Yeah, so they’re about 30 minutes. I mean, I’ve had them an hour, but they’re generally 30 minutes. And I have interviews maybe not even 10% of the time. Usually, it’s monologue.
Michael: Okay. So it really is just you riffing.
Roger: Well, I do more than riff. I haven’t organized, yes, but it’s me talking, talking with one person, right? So when I’m talking, and I’ve hired voice coaches and I’m not…definitely haven’t perfected it, but I work at the craft of having a conversation with one person and helping them challenge some of their preconceptions of what they’re looking at and helping them think a little bit more creatively outside of just simply the tactical stuff.
Michael: And how do you learn to do this?
Roger: By doing it, right? When the podcast first started…I mean, again, other people like you, not that you don’t have great podcast, but, you know, your Nerd’s Eye View is, how do you learn to do that? I don’t know, how you learn to do what you do Michael?
Michael: Yeah, only after like the first 1,000 articles that were years ago, and thankfully no one reads because they were terrible, eventually you start figuring out how to do it. And fortunately, that means by the time a reasonable audience shows up, you’ve already gotten pretty good at what you’re doing.
Roger: It’s the same way with the podcast, right? The original title of the podcast was very, very engaging. It was called “Plan Well, Invest Wisely” and basically spoke to no one. And then through iterating, and I don’t listen to my shows very often, if at all, but it’s iteration. And for me, it’s surveying the audience, hiring voice coaches, surrounding myself with other podcasters that are farther along than I, getting feedback, and iterating. Just like you do life, just like you do… I mean, when you first got married, how do you learn to be married? Yeah, you just sort of do it then pay attention and iterate, “Okay, I won’t say that again.”
Roger’s Tips On Building An Online Platform [51:20]
Michael: So any resources or tools you would recommend to people who are curious to try some of this out? I don’t know, voice coaches or conferences or books or just any anything else that was kind of a driver for you in figuring this stuff out?
Roger: Well, I think when you’re a financial advisor, you get trapped in the ecosystem of financial advisors. You know, we can learn about social media at a industry conference, that’s probably not the best place to do it, though. Because there’s a lot of groupthink in any industry, I’m sure, but in financial advice industry for sure. And what really opened my eyes was going to Social Media Marketing World, Podcast Movement, FinCon. You know, this place that is an ecosystem not of advisors, of people that are bloggers, podcasters in the personal finance space but also in like Walt Disney space, and then finding a small group of people that you can have weekly meetings with. So in concurrent with this, Michael, I started one and I joined another small study group, mastermind group, whatever you want to call it, of five or six people that we met once a week and we were very motivated to help each other along and give feedback and walk life together as we do this. But I think that would be the best tips.
Michael: And how did you find those people?
Roger: The non-industry group, it was through two people I met at Social Media Marketing World, Lou Mongello being one of them. I started one and we ran it for five years. It was a weekly meeting of five advisors. And I started with one. I said, “Okay, Blaine, you and I, we’re thinking about this, let’s talk every Friday at 8:30 a.m.” And then after a while, as we got into a rhythm of just helping each other, we said, “Okay, hey, Darrell would be good, let’s get Darrell in here.” And then we got to about five or six. So, I mean, it’s just finding that one foxhole buddy.
Another idea would be to start listening to shows and get an idea of what’s out there. Listen to people like Michael Hyatt that understand this online platform stuff, Cliff Ravenscraft, “Podcast Answer Man,” where I got my name. You know, he has old episodes, talks all about podcasting. You know, blogging, read people that… there are plenty of people to sell you pick and axes on this stuff. So you’ve got to be careful about that too.
Results from Roger’s Podcast [53:51]
Michael: So talk to us a little bit about results. Like, what kind of clients are showing up? How has it gone? What sort of business are you seeing?
Roger: So I’ll just talk about the last two years. So I’ve been podcasting four and a half.
Roger: And I iterated with trying flat fee planning because, you know, these people, I never meet a lot of the times. I’m like, “They’re not going to transfer their money in the traditional sense.” So I went down the flat fee planning. I’ve done a lot of iteration of testing. I’m like, “Ooh, I don’t want to do those things.” So now, over the last two years, the process is, what happens is they reach out, there’s a form on my website. I talk about my agile process. And if they want to see, I call it Fit meeting, they can give me some very basic information and we schedule a half hour fit meeting. And I send out a Fit kit. I learned a lot of this from, I’m trying to remember the name of the gentleman. He speaks with financial advisors a lot. I send out a Fit Kit with outline of my fees, tells…you know, just some…
Michael: So the Fit kit is like a follow-up email, “Hey, you’ve scheduled an introductory Fit meeting with me, here’s some more information about me and our services and what we cost and how we work?”
Roger: Yeah, FAQ. And we actually mail it overnight. We want it to be physical if at all possible.
Michael: Okay. Why?
Roger: It becomes real.
Roger: It becomes something they have. And that’s the hard part with what we do anyway, right? Everything is so…it’s discussion-based. You want to give them things that are real if you can, a little bit, especially up front.
And so we schedule a Fit meeting. And I have one tomorrow. So tomorrow, I don’t have the particulars, but this person is 55 years old, net worth of about $2.5 million, managers his own assets, says, “I need someone who can do this right because I’m not” was his comment. And so the way that Fit meeting is going to work, I’m saying, “Hello, Mr. Joe,” whatever, “First off, we’re making no decisions today, right? I’m going to learn a little bit about you. I’ll tell you a little about me then you will step away and I’m going to step away, and we’ll both…we’ll have a follow-up email to see if we want to talk together further.”
And then they explain what their issue is or what prompted the call, and then I tell them exactly how we work. And then they ask questions and they say, “Okay, well…” And you can tell whether it’s something on your end or their end that really is a fit or not, and then you step away. And then usually I’ll send a follow-up email a few days later saying either…politely, you know, “I don’t think we’re a fit. Here might be some resources,” or, “We think you’re a perfect fit after talking with my team. If you feel the same, let’s schedule our first meeting.” So that’s sort of the process. So the last two years, and part of this had to do with, you know, my partnership and divesting myself from my partnership, where, you know, I moved away and became my own advisor. But this year, 2019, AUM gained $25 million and about the same the year before, a little less.
Michael: So picking up about $25 million per year of new asset flows from the podcast.
Roger: With them proactively reaching out to me. And they already understand the process because they’ve listened to me talk about it. So integration into the rhythm is super simple.
Michael: And how do they get…like, how do you get them from the podcast to your website to contact you in the first place? You said like you’re…well, l guess it correctly comes in your disclaimer and such but is that all that really happens? It’s a very passive process of how they get there?
Roger: Yeah. Right now it is. I used to do some webinars and things like that. And that helped. Webinars definitely helped, but right now it’s pretty passive. Other than they’re going to have to want to reach out, I don’t ask them to reach out at all.
Michael: What were you doing with the webinars that were helping when you were doing it? Like, what was the structure or what was the approach?
Roger: So the webinar started because what we did maybe four years ago and actually came from a listener who offered himself up is we did a case study, a live case study. So this particular gentleman, in the show he’s called Carl, we recorded, I basically did a framework for him helping him figure out whether he could retire or not. So what he agreed to do is, we changed his name, we changed some of the particulars, pre-recorded it, and then I released it episodically on the show. “Okay, here’s Roger and Carl talking about his goals.” “Here’s Roger and Carl talking about his cash flow.” “Here’s Roger and Carl talking about his net worth.” And then the webinar was live going through the collaborative planning, watching me walk through Carl and showing him the results of whether he could retire or not. So that’s what I did with the webinar. It was the results show of this live case study.
Michael: So you basically like live-recorded a sample client meeting, like, a sample meeting of your financial planning process with a hypothetical client and then literally you just…people got to see exactly what you do for a client.
Roger: Exactly. So hearing me, you know, get the…you know, explain the facts of what he said. I always say, “Clients give me a lot of black and white, and in our conversations, we color it all in.” So they got to hear Carl and I doing that and potentially seeing themselves, “Oh, if I was Carl, I know I’d like to answer that question.” And then through that, I sent out worksheets so they could follow along. And then the webinar was, “Here are the results for Carl.” And we negotiated because it didn’t quite work. And then, you know, for me, it was just a experiment of, “Okay, well, if you’re interested in this, here’s a flat fee planning offer if you would like to go through this with me.” So that’s how I tested webinars and did things like that.
Michael: And I guess you’re not doing it now, so why not?
Roger: Oh, we’re doing the case studies.
Roger: Yeah. But I’m not doing flat fee planning. So like flat fee, you know, I had never done flat fee planning before. So we still do the case studies but I don’t make those kind of offers anymore.
Michael: Okay. But that’s still part of the process is people can, like, see a webinar of you walking through essentially a sample client meeting so they can get a better understanding of what it’s like to work with Roger?
Roger: Yeah. So what happens is when someone is really engaged, they find your podcast, like yours, and are like, “Wow, this is awesome,” they go back. And so now I have five or six where they can go listen to the episodes. It’s like watching, you know, binging Netflix, right? They come back and listen to the episodes of me talking with Carl and then they can go watch the replay of the webinar results show. And I have four of those. Some people with pensions, some people without pensions. Like the last one we did, the lady, you know, blew people away because they were totally happy living on $38,000 a year, which, you know, some people can’t imagine. So that challenged some of their assumptions. So now I have those built up to where people go back and watch them just like they would Netflix.
Michael: Interesting. And I guess the point is, like, they’re not real clients doing their thing, I guess both for privacy purposes and because that may or may not run afoul of testimonial, you’re just literally showing a sample of, “Here is how a retirement conversation would go if you were working with me. Like, here’s my process, here are the kinds of questions I ask. You can literally see how the conversation would flow.” And if you’ve got a situation similar, obviously you’re going to put yourself in that person’s shoes and be like, “Yeah, I think it would help if Roger asked me those questions. I think I need to call Roger.”
Why Roger Says Blogs And Podcasts Should Appeal To A Very Specific Audience [1:02:07]
Roger: Yeah, with a real person, right? And this sort of brings up the subject of niching, you know, creating a niche, which you’ve been a fan of.
Roger: Right? And my team always says, “Roger, this is…” You know, because they’re younger than me, like a lot of people, and, you know, they’re in their 20s and 30s, like, “Roger, this is great stuff. You need to stop saying you only talk to people over 50.” I’m like, “No, that’s all I talk to.” Because I’m dealing with specific issues. And, you know, I have some friends as advisors and I’ll listen to their podcast and give them feedback. And we think that the more general we are in our discussions, let’s say on a podcast or a blog, the more universal it is to readership, the more people will be comfortable reading it. And it’s actually, I have found the reverse. The more specific a story is or a blog is, the more relatable it is because the reader or the listener will make the mental adjustments to their situation to make it specific for them. But it has to be a specific story, a specific blog, and very specific in the details. Because if it’s too general, it really doesn’t talk to anybody.
Michael: Yeah, it’s an interesting phenomenon I found as well and was frankly something that took me a while to get over just in the nature of this podcast as well and our format. That, you know, we’ve had a huge amount of success with the podcast and a lot of listeners that have become really, you know, engaged and active listeners. And, you know, as you said, we have people who pick up the podcast and then go back and binge on all of them back to the start. And, you know, everybody’s story is different and unique, and not everybody…well, you know, no advisor perfectly overlaps to any one other advisor, but when you hear someone’s story with all the specific details, we almost always find a few pieces that map onto our world as well. And it gives takeaways or creates a new insight or gives us some kind of breakthrough.
And even though no one’s specific situation lines up perfectly because we can map the parallels, like, “Well, I’m not exactly like that guy, but I’m similar in this and that and that thing he said, like, that really resonated for me as well.” And you don’t get that until and unless you get into specifics and details. Like, if it’s…as you said, if it’s too general, it just doesn’t connect with anybody.
Roger: Yeah, it’s very counterintuitive. And it’s scary to do, right? You know, that’s the problem with having a niche is, “Wow, if I exclude all these people,” you know, it’s a scarcity mentality aspect of it, sometimes rightly so, “Then, you know, I exclude a huge segment of the market.” Why do we want to do that? But it actually gives you more, you know, at least in my experience is it gives you more, much more traction in the one little area that you want to be in.
Michael: Well, and to me, that’s always been the key distinction, the key insight for why niching works and why having a focus works. And I find for most advisors, like, as you said, there’s always this fear of, “If I get more specific about who I’m going after, like, what happens to all the people who don’t fit that situation, who don’t fit my niche, who don’t fit that fact pattern, and then they won’t want to work with me because they hear I’m only for, you know, X and they’re Y.”
And the thing to me that always seems to get missed is, like, it’s not like for most advisors you’ve got, like, a never-ending stream of clients beating your door down already. Like, if your biggest problem is, you know, “Hey, I was going to specialize in, you know, pre-retirees in their mid to late 50s but I’ve got this problem where 40-year-olds keep showing up in my office and trying to hand me millions of dollars,” like, okay, fine, then take the millions of dollars from 40-year-olds but then take a moment and be honest with yourself like, “How many advisors really just have random clients with piles of money who show up in their office and try to hand it over in the first place?” Like, for most of us, I find we’re really anxious about excluding someone who wasn’t actually hiring us to do business anyways, at least not in any material number.
Roger: And a lot of times I think we don’t find out what niche that we’re really resonating with that we can really talk with until where we’ve reached some level of success or experience, right? And then it gets a little fright, “Well, what do I do? I’ve got all these other clients, they don’t fit that, and I built this business.” And you almost feel trapped by what is even though you know you want to go to what should be from a fulfillment impact and everything else. And so sometimes we can feel trapped in our current practice knowing that really we want to be over there. And my solution for that, and I’ve done it really poorly and really well, I think. The really poorly was when I decided I wanted to be fee-based. And I basically blew up my entire business, burned the ships, scuttled the ships and marched towards this new reality of my fiduciary life, right?
Michael: So what does that mean in practice? Like, you had a bunch of commission-based revenue and just said, “Screw it, we’re going fee-based, I’m dropping my securities licenses,” and, like, just walked away from a pile of revenue? Like, that kind of scuttle the ships?
Roger: Yeah. And before my fee-based business was mature enough. So what in reality happens is your income goes down by about 80% and you almost lose everything. But you’re noble. But you’re noble.
Michael: That’s a tough noble transition.
Roger: I think a healthier way to do it. And this is what I did from five years ago pre-podcast to where I’m in today is, I call it old car, new car. So if you think of your current practice as your car, right? It gets you around town, it’s not cool-looking, it’s a little dirty, it’s got rust on it, but it’s reliable, right? And it gets you where you need to go. You know you want to have this hot rod but you can’t…you know, if you decide, “I should be driving a hot rod,” well, you don’t just get rid of the old car until the hot rod is ready. What you do is you drive the old car around but every night, all the off hours, free time you go in the garage and you work on your hot rod. And then once the hot rod is road-ready then you can get rid of the old car.
You know, so you can think of how that would work in a business transition. You have this tapestry of clients that have no rhyme or reason. Well, that’s your old car. Okay, you want to be a fee-based advisor focused only on retirees, great, go build that new car on your side time, refine your process, nurture that, and then when that…that will naturally overtake the need for the old car. That’s probably a financially healthier way to do it.
Michael: Yeah, it’s to me still I think a sort of, understated, underappreciated, just practical challenge of the transition from the commission-based model to the fee-based model if you started on the commission side. You know, I just think of it, like…back to my early days, like, well heck, getting $100,000 IRA rollover was a really big client back when I was getting started. And, you know, you could put that into a A share mutual fund, got paid 5% or sometimes 5.75%. So, you know, like, get your $100,000 client, in 2 weeks I’ve got a $5,000 commission. If I take $100,000 client and I put him into an advisory account, 3 months from now I get 250 bucks, which is my first quarterly fee for a 1% annual. So, like, I’ve gone from $5 grand in 2 weeks to 250 bucks in 3 months.
Roger: That’s pretty noble.
Michael: And also pretty brutal if you do that…you know, if you transition that too much too fast. Now, you know, the good news is you do that repeatedly over time and a couple of years later you wake up on January 1st and you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars in recurring planning fees that you can keep if you just give awesome service to all these great clients that…relationships that you developed over time, which is frankly a hell of a lot easier than finding new ones.
And so eventually, as you build up that recurring revenue over time, it’s an amazing, amazing business, but it’s a rough build. I mean, it’s a rough build for advisors who were starting from scratch, which is why we see even a lot that are building the fee-based model charge standalone planning fees and other stuff just so you can get some chunks of revenue in the door beyond just getting that first quarterly fee a couple of months after the client starts. And why even for advisors who are transitioning from commissions, like, you can get there over the span of a couple of years. You just keep shifting the mix of your revenue. And after several years, you’ll suddenly find that the commissions are such a small piece that it’s not a big deal either to walk away from them or to downplay them or to transition the rest of them out. But if you do it too fast all at once, it’s abrupt, to say the least. Just, like, financially abrupt.
Roger: Oh, yeah. And even if you do it…and, you know, the first step, even if you’re doing it gradually is to wean yourself off of that drug of the 5% upfront because it’s a little bit of a drug. Because you’ve been trained, you know, if you live… This really does fit the hunting and killing. If you’re living hand-to-mouth every single month for years in terms of, “Commissions creates my revenue,” it’s hard to get out of that mentality. And I think with a podcast or content marketing in general, that does not work very well.
Michael: So I’ve got to ask then, like, what made you, you know, blow it up with the torsion “scuttle the ships?”
Roger: I was a lot younger and not very smart. And I’ve been known to… You know, for me from a personality standpoint, I’m more refined than I used to be but I’m a forward-looker. And I am a sucker for investing in the future or knowing where I should be and wanting to go there. I’m just a lot smarter now and more mature on the process of doing it. I think at the time I did that, I was in my early 30s. I wasn’t that smart. Not that I’m smart now but I wasn’t that smart. And I was…I think it was an ego thing, “I can do this. You know, this is what I should be doing, so I will do it.” Not thinking enough. I think I’m much more mature in how I navigate these things than I used to be.
Michael: Yeah, it’s just one of those…well, and any business that has a compounding effect over time, like, I think we overestimate sometimes how long it’s going to take to get back to where we want to go, so we never start. Or we underestimate the short-term disruption and just, I don’t know, I might explain it well. Like, we overestimate the speed, underestimate how well it compounds in the long run. Like, I still see so many advisors that get stuck because of that transition like from $5 grand up front to $250 bucks in 3 months that they never make the transition to fee-based and never build that business and never find, like, how much more effective you get just as a business owner when you’ve got a recurring revenue model and not a purely upfront one.
Roger: And Mike, I wonder if some of it too is because the…you know, and I’m older than you, I think I started in ’90, the traditional entry into the business has been a sales mentality. I mean, I remember in ’98 when I went to UBS’s or at the time PaineWebber’s three-week training in Weehawken, we spent three weeks on product knowledge and sales presentation. And, you know, that was…and I grew up. You know, that’s how I grew up in the industry. And it never fit with me. I’m not a particularly good salesperson, and I am not particularly money-motivated in terms of massive amounts and Rolexes and things like that. You know, not that that’s wrong, but that’s just not me. So I knew I was not happy. I was very miserable, actually, in my former version of who I was. And I knew where I wanted to be. I wanted to be like I am now.
Other Pieces of Roger’s Content Marketing Strategy [1:15:15]
Michael: So talk to us about some of the other, I don’t know, I guess I’ll keep calling them non-traditional marketing pokers that you’ve got in the fire. Like, I know beyond the podcast, like, you’ve got this Rock Retirement Club that you built. You published a book called (not coincindentally) “Rock Retirement.” Can you talk a little bit about some of what you’re doing there beyond the podcast now?
Roger: Yeah. So as it has evolved…so the book doesn’t make any money. I think I’ve gotten one royalty check of like $200. So the book is not about making money. But the book is an extension of the podcast and the overall message of, it’s not just about surviving retirement, it’s really about rocking retirement because this is your only life. So the book is an extension of that message that reaches the different audience, that may bring people into the podcast, bring them into our email list so we can love on them that way. So it’s like a calling card in that sense, right? It’s, you know, the first iteration of that manifesto.
The Rock Retirement Club, which we just launched, I seeded it with 60 people end of October 2018, and we just opened it up for our first open enrollment period. We’ll probably end up with about 120 people in it. So what the Rock Retirement Club is, it came out of… You know, I have no desire to build a huge practice with lots of advisors and, you know, that. That’s not the journey that I want to be on. I want to be much more lean and nimble. So I see myself coming to capacity with clients I can actually walk with one-on-one.
Michael: I was going to say are you…you know, picking up $25 million a year, like, it doesn’t take very many years at this pace before you start quickly getting to the capacity as an individual.
Roger: Right. Right now I have to hire a full-time paraplanner in addition to my…and we could talk about my team too from the podcast perspective, but I need to shore up the team on the planning perspective because of time, right? That’s our most valuable resource, which is a blessing to have to deal with. So, you know, I’m looking at the podcast and, you know, it has a robust listenership as of now. The majority of them don’t use financial advisors, which is interesting.
Michael: Oh, they’re self-directed enough to listen to a podcast about how to rock retirement. I feel like there’s sort of a self-selection process there that’s like, people who are interested enough to take that upon themselves are going to tend to be people who like to seek out their own information, not necessarily people who hire advisors.
Roger: Exactly. Exactly.
Michael: These are marketing clients, so, like, clearly not all of them are self-directed.
Roger: Yeah, clearly not all of them, but about 70% of them say they don’t use an advisor, never have. Either that’s because all their stuff is in their 401(k) so they’ve never had the need, and that may change, or they’re, you know, the DIY, right? DIY people that, you know, they’re comfortable doing it themselves. And my message is, “Hey, you can do this all yourself if you’re intentional and smart enough.” I don’t try to tell them they’re wrong for that.
So some of this came from… You know, in a business, you’re always looking for a fulcrum to place a lever, right? And so adding advisors could be that, building a firm could be that. That’s not really the path I’m comfortable with. So I was looking for a fulcrum to place a lever, I’m like, “Well…” You know, if you’re doing it yourself, a lot of times you feel like you’re all alone. And all the majority of the education that you consume, whether it’s personal finance, blogs, or podcasts, there’s a hard, and I’d be interested in your opinion on this, Michael, the difficulty, especially in the financial planning space, is even…every education usually has a sales pitch at the end somewhere, you know, leading you somewhere else in the funnel. Not in a nefarious way, but it’s business, right? We don’t all do this for free.
So even if you’re DIY, you’re very intelligent, you’re very intentional, all the information you’re getting is in bits and pieces and not organized, number one. Number two is you don’t have anybody to have these conversations with that are exactly like you and exactly in the same phase of life. And you crave that.
So we started the Rock Retirement Club, and the three tenets of it are, it’s education, it’s not advice. The three tenets are you’re going to get, hopefully, world-class education on how to actually do retirement on the hard side and the soft side. That’s my job. You’re going to get empowerment, meaning you’re going to get checklists and resources to actually go take action on that, not just consume the education. And third, you’re going to get inspiration through conversations with people that come through the filter of my podcast. So they’re nice, they’re intelligent, they’re intentional, that are either a few steps ahead of you or a few steps behind you or right where you’re at, and be able to have a safe place to have conversations and learn from others, knowing that there’s a certain bar from a spirit standpoint to get into it. Now, a lot of cool things can happen with that. I’ve seen it for myself. So that’s what the Rock Retirement Club is.
And for me, it’s a subscription service. So my job is to create education and curate the conversations and the content and bring the right people together, and I’m compensated through the subscription model.
Michael: And what’s the subscription cost?
Roger: Right now it’s $40 a month, $400 a year. Well, I’m closing, so…
Michael: One hundred and twenty people, like, that’s a $50,000 subscription business helping people who weren’t going to hire you anyways. That’s a nice model.
Roger: Yeah. And then we’re going to close it and then we’ll open it up every six or so months and manage it so it’s not about getting thousands of people in there. We’ll manage it so we see to the culture part of it. And already people in the community are stepping up, “Hey, Roger, here’s a great idea. You want me to work on the spreadsheet to curate this stuff?” So we have people already volunteering and only in the community. So I think it could be something special if we can execute it.
Michael: And is there like a platform you’re building on? Like, I’m just wondering, how do you, like, literally make this kind of membership resources platform thing?
Roger: That’s interesting because, in fact, I’ll give you two of ’em if you want. Because I was surveying about that and I had all those 70 calls and everything else. Overwhelmingly, nobody wanted to do a private Facebook group, which surprised me because that’s the normal thing where I’ve seen a lot of these in other industries, private Facebook groups. I didn’t want to build a website and deal with the management of a website. So I connected with a lady, Gina, who created Ning, who created something called Mighty Networks, which is a platform that allows you create communities. A lot of the communities there are free. You know, if you’re interested in photography, you could find one and find people like you. So what they have as a platform is I created my own, it’s categorized as a secret network. So you can’t find it. It’s not indexed by Google or other places. And it’s basically like a Facebook but it’s my own ecosystem.
Michael: And, like, it’s on your website? It’s on the Mighty Networks’ website? Like, you know…
Roger: It’s on their website.
Michael: …rogerwhitney.mightynetworks.com or something?
Roger: Yeah. And the only way you can…you can’t search it and find it. I have to send you an invitation. And then once you have that you log in. And there’s a mobile app, so it works like a Facebook app. So only people that get an invite directly from me will ever know about it. And the conversations in there are indexed by the search engines.
Michael: Okay. And so that’s what you use. And you can…I guess the community can be there and they can chat with each other and you can post your checklists and resources and…does Mighty Networks even handle the like $400 a year payments and processing and all that?
Roger: Yeah, they handle all the payments, subscription. You sign up right there and it’s done through Stripe, which is an online process.
Michael: Right. Interesting.
Why Roger Regularly Surveys His Listeners [1:24:25]
Michael: So I’m struck that, like, one of the themes you mentioned a lot here as you’re looking at this stuff is just how often you seem to survey your people, your listeners. It’s one of those, like, I feel like it’s an obvious thing and I feel like something almost none of us ever do as financial advisor, like, actually survey our clients, never mind your blog readers or podcast listeners and the rest because most advisors don’t have that. But we at least have our clients and our prospects. But we don’t survey much. So, like, how did you come to be the great surveyor of all of this stuff whenever you’re looking at it?
Roger: Well, I started with the podcast, surveying the podcast. And it’s funny because surveying clients is a lot less productive, right? And there’s an art to survey, especially if there’s a personal relationship where you can’t get the information that you actually want to get because there’s a relationship there and nobody wants to offend anybody. So it hasn’t worked really well with clients when we have attempted it, but it works really well with podcast listeners or the RRC and things like that.
I think with the clients, you have to figure out how to do it almost nefariously, if that’s the word, in your meetings. Do it with some intentionality to look for some things that they’re saying and writing them down. I don’t know. I haven’t figured that part out. But, yeah, with the podcast or the RRC in that case, it’s my job to be the fuel for them and serve them. How am I going to do that? I don’t know what they want. I don’t know what their pressure points are. They do. And for me, having the podcast has helped me figure out what my clients value more because I get more data from the audience, who are just like my clients.
Michael: It’s interesting, having the podcast helps understand clients more because you can survey them essentially more effectively than clients.
Roger: It’s a virtuous circle. You know, a lot of people that…you know, in the podcast world, they’ll start a podcast to get out of their day job, right? They’re, you know, doing side hustle. They’re trying to build this thing to get away from something. And I’m like, “Wow.” I’m like, “This is awesome.” Because this is a virtuous circle. It’s helped me develop ARM, you know, Agile Retirement Management, it’s giving me tons of data on talking about time freedom, not retirement. So from that perspective, Michael, that’s a good point, is like on the surveys, I have pages of paragraphs of people telling me what retirement is in their own words or what they’re worried about most in their own words. And then if you actually consume that, you start to talk to them using the words that they use to describe these things rather than the words I think I’m supposed to use. And that’s how you build a relationship.
How Roger Handles His Content From A Compliance Perspective [1:27:31]
Michael: So, like, the one other thing I’ve got to ask is, for a lot of advisors, the challenge for this isn’t just figuring out how to do the content and such, it’s good old-fashioned industry compliance. So how do you handle all this content stuff from a compliance perspective?
Roger: That is a wonderful question. So when I started the podcast, I was a hybrid advisor. I had my licenses and I had my advisory business. And with the custodian/broker-dealer that we used, and it wasn’t with foresight, we bifurcated the advisory name from the brokerage name from a business standpoint. So it helped me a lot that when I started the podcast, it was an advisory-only activity. So that’s how it was surveilled. So it could be done post use a lot easier.
Michael: Okay. So in essence, as a hybrid, the podcast got launched under the RIA side of the business.
Roger: Yeah. So that helped me a lot. I have talked with advisors that have launched podcasts in the BD world, and it’s a lot more work, right? Because you have to be a lot more intentional in the production of it because they have to listen to it or read the outline beforehand, and maybe you’ll get to a point where they trust you enough that they’ll be some post use going on. But there’s a lot of archiving that has to go on and a lot of check the boxes that have to go on. So even when I was in that hybrid world, Michael, it was interesting, and there’s not clarity on this rule like there aren’t on many rules when you’re dealing with FINRA, is I couldn’t use the word “mutual fund” because using even the term of a prospectus product would automatically bring it back under the BD.
Michael: Good Lord.
Roger: So I had you use words like “investment strategy.” I had to use synonyms around that.
Michael: I had an advisor friend whose ultimate breaking point was that he did some article, like something the effect of, “I love tax-free Roth IRAs,” because, you know, they’re tax-free. Like, what do you not love about tax-free Roth IRAs? You know, compliance shut down the entire article. Wouldn’t let him say, “I love Roths” because, you know, 47 pages of disclosure later or something. And that was ultimately his, “I’m just leaving my broker-dealer. Like, this is…”
Roger: Yeah, and I think that’s the evolution. And ultimately, that’s why I dropped my licenses. Actually, I dropped my licenses prior to my book coming out. That was the really thing because I was like, “I don’t want somebody to have to go through this book and tell me I have to change a bunch of things.” And from a compliance standpoint, I think another way to be very safe or to help you be safe is the more you talk about wisdom rather than facts, the more universal stories you use rather than factual stuff about the technical stuff, the easier it is to stay away from the guardrails. Like your friend, right?
If there’s one quote that I want to be, like, attributed to me when I die is like, “You can Google knowledge…” Like, I don’t keep a lot of knowledge in my head of Roth IRA limits and things like that, I just don’t have a mind like that, but I can google it in an instant, but you can’t really Google a lot of wisdom. And so I try to make my show more about wisdom, which means I can be more universal and personal and not have to be right on every little thing I say.
Michael: And, you know, I think it’s an interesting point to make here, I mean, this whole phenomenon that frankly I’ve seen from a lot of advisors, that the push towards content marketing, I’ll kind of use that broadly, so like blogging, podcasting, book writing, any of that stuff, is leading them away from broker-dealers. Like, it’s not as though RIAs don’t have compliance obligations to oversee content and what they’re saying as well. Frankly, the fiduciary duty for RIAs emanates from the advertising rule for RIAs. So, like, the most fiduciary part of RIAs is to be a fiduciary advertiser from a regulatory perspective, but when you do it in an RIA context, like, ultimately, you’re just trying to make sure that you really are being accurate in, you know, doing what you say you’re going to do, not overpromising, not guaranteeing things that can’t be guaranteed.
And so many RIAs are fairly modestly sized firms that, like, you oversee yourself or you at least…your chief compliance officer is your business partner that you’ve worked with for some number of years and you’ve got a level of trust there. When you’re in a broker-dealer environment where some compliance officer has to oversee 100 or 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 different advisors and you don’t know any of them and there’s no trust there, then you get stuck in this world where, well, how would you run compliance if that was your job and you could get fired for, like, what the one biggest idiot out of 10,000 advisors at your firm could do? Well, you just start making arbitrary rules like you can’t use the word “mutual fund.” And it does clean up the one biggest idiot who was going to use mutual fund inappropriately and then, unfortunately, ends out driving away advisors who were just using the word in a proper, completely reasonable, not at all compliance-violating process, you know, sentence or context, but just don’t want to deal with compliance rules that are written not for them but for, you know, whatever the one biggest idiot in the organization could say.
Roger: Exactly. And like in our RIA, when I was a partner in it, we had about 10 or 12 advisors, and I was the chief compliance officer in addition to doing all this other stuff, and I didn’t want that responsibility. Because I think to be a chief compliance officer, even in an RIA, you have to be dedicated to be the chief compliance officer. And I’m comfortable in my experience and skills of where the guardrails are when I’m producing content, but when you start getting even 10 people producing content, it starts to get a little problematic in terms of surveilling that and trying to run your own business. So that’s one reason why I resigned as chief compliance officer and did the things I did in business the way I did. Why I don’t want to have a lot of advisors again.
Michael: Because you just don’t want to have to oversee them?
Roger: Right. If I’m going to hang, I’d rather be on rope that I created, not somebody else’s.
Michael: Fair point. And it just gets back to, you know, one of the amazing things about the advisory business, just like as a business, is you can build the darn thing however it is that you want to serve you and your needs and whatever you want your business to be to fit your world.
Roger: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I have buddies that are building roll-up billion-dollar RIAs. And that’s awesome. There are so many ways to do this. So you can really make it the way you want. I wanted…you know, part of my journey in this was, for my wife and I, we’re in our early 50s, our kids are 21 and 22, I wanted location independence. I wanted to be able to go live different places and not have to worry about how I’m going to see clients and explaining to them. Now my world is all virtual. All my meetings are virtual. So when I go, I told you I was going to Colorado for the month of June, I’m going to work there and have meetings there, but I’ll be there. The clients don’t care. And now my pool of potential perfect fits is the whole country. I have clients in over 26 states. And so there’s a lot of advantages to this.
One thing I wanted to hit on in terms of this platform marketing stuff, Michael, and you do well with your shirt, is, like, one thing that I found and I didn’t do it intentionally at first but I keyed in on it and I like it now is, especially with the podcast, is you’re building, you know, it’s that old Seth Godin tribe thing, you’re building a community, and a community has their own words. So like when I talk about working with a client, I walk life with clients. And when I was doing flat fee planning, I said, “I speak into the life of a client.” I don’t walk with them, but I speak into their life for a period of time. I don’t think about things, I noodle on things. And I don’t have meetings, I have huddles or little conversations. And then some of the stuff just percolated up naturally and it keyed in when I was speaking with someone and they were using the same words, “Oh, Roger, I need to noodle on that.” Ooh. And that creates that bond. And that can be pretty powerful.
Michael: Interesting. So for advisors who, like, want to get started with this, right? Like, not the people who are going to be where you are now but the people who are going to be where you were four years ago, five years ago, do you have tips or suggestions? Like, how can an advisor that wants to start doing this get started? Like, what should they be thinking about or focusing on?
Roger: I’m a big believer in doing. And it’s hard because, you know, especially for a perfectionist, I think you need to do, right? And, you know, whether that’s starting with a blog or starting with a podcast, I think the doing part, even if you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing, teaches you so much. But on that, I think one thing you can do is really evaluate what medium are you comfortable with, right? Because like with my podcast of 255 episodes, I’ve never missed a week. You know, the average podcast lasts nine episodes industry-wide. So, you know, you better do something you’re comfortable with because this is something that you’re going to be doing and integrating into your life. So if I were to try to stick with blogging, I would have failed long ago. So figure out what it is that you are most comfortable expressing yourself. It could be video, right? It could be video. It could be blogging. I know advisors that have built…you know, have built business through Twitter, which seems crazy to me. So I think, figure out where are you most comfortable with because you want to stick with it long term.
And then I would suggest hiring a coach, maybe outside the industry rather than in the industry. That was my…I’ve had a coach for the last four years, different coaches, none of them were in the industry, because I was trying to learn from people. There are people doing amazing things outside our industry. Not that they’re not doing things inside our industry, but very few get this kind of stuff. And you have a lot of them on your show obviously. But I would look to hire a coach, even if it’s local, to help you think about where it is you want to go and just start doing it. Because nobody is going to be reading it or listening anyway, like you said.
Michael: Yeah, it’s…well, it’s the weird double-edged sword, right? Like, you’ve got to do this stuff so that you can start building an audience and growing over time, right? As you said, like, you have to…if you want to grow the orchard, at some point, you have to plant the first seeds. But the truth is hardly anyone is around for the first few seeds. Like, it’s okay. Don’t overthink it, make it higher stakes than it really has to be. You know, eventually, you have to build some valuable content that people tune into, but you don’t have to overthink about how perfect it is the first one because not many people are actually going to hear the first one anyway. It’s okay.
Roger: And maybe the process is, Michael, that you frame it correctly. You frame it as this is not a business acquisition journey but this is a personal journey. And you’re building…you’re actually thinking of it as an orchard rather than you expect something from it. So that takes a lot of pressure off. And it’s really hard for advisors because we’re very A-type personalities, let’s get those SMART goals. And how many people do you want to have on your launch and all those other types of things? How many reviews do I have? All those things that are quantifiable but really aren’t what the main thing is. So maybe you frame it where you don’t have those expectations, and then, whether it’s writing, podcasting, whatever it is, do it on something you’re dealing with as an advisor, that you’re trying to figure out, or maybe you’re dealing with something as a client, which is how I did it was, “Okay, I’m dealing with this issue of,” whatever, “I’m just going to talk it through to frame my thinking.” So you create your virtual circle. So let’s say you’re a year into the writing or a year into the podcast and you haven’t gotten any clients, that you could still say this was a win.
Michael: So speaking of which this whole framing around, you know, find the content medium that works for you. And, you know, as you’ve noted, like, blogging would have killed you. You’re a talker type, so the podcast was better. How did the book come about? Because that’s kind of a lot of writing.
Roger: So the book. Well, that came about because all…you know, a group that I’m a member of, there’s a gentleman named Dan Miller, “48 Days to the Work You Love,” and he’s a personal coach, and I’m part of a small mastermind with him. And they all have books. And I had a conversation with a gentleman in that group and we were like…yeah, I was writing the book myself and living a slow painful death, and so I’d always put it away. And we had a conversation once. And this was actually a numbers conversation of, “Okay, if you write a book and you hire a coach or a co-writer to help you write it, let’s say it cost $20,000, and you go through the process and you give up the ownership of doing every word yourself, is it worth it?” Of $20,000, you know, I probably have $40,000 in the book, if you think of all the editors and all the other stuff, I totally made that back. And it’s been out not even a year.
So what I did was I hired…but the issue with that was because I don’t like necessarily ghost-written books, right? Interview me for an hour and go create something as a marketing thing, because I wanted it to be me, and that I was adamant about that. But I hired co-writer, coach, whatever you want to call it. And what we did is we went through a process of…we spent the majority of time on the outline, knowing exactly what the purpose of the book was and getting the outline tight. And then once you have the outline tight, it’s like writing a lot of blog posts. And so what we would do is we would have an hour and a half call once a week and I would talk the chapter to her and she would record it. She would give me the first iteration of it, and then I would write into and she would write into it and I would write into it. And we did that chapter by chapter. So that’s how I got over that. So I felt ownership of it. These are my words. You can hear me in the book, but I didn’t have to actually…I had to figure out how to hack it to fit who I am.
Michael: Interesting. Yeah, I had heard this saying a couple of years ago, I don’t even remember where I heard it originally, that…something to the effect of you don’t have to write a book in order to author one.
Roger: Huh, I like that.
Michael: To be the author, it does need to be your ideas. Your voice, at some point, has to carry through because that’s what connects the connection to the readers. But you don’t have to be the writer. There are lots of writer types frankly. And in a world where the media industry isn’t doing well, there are actually a lot of really good underemployed writers out there. But you’re the one with the ideas, so you can author your ideas and have someone that helps you write them. Out of curiosity, who did you use for the writing process? Like, is that someone you would recommend that we can share out for our listeners?
Roger: Well, she doesn’t do it anymore. She’s an attorney. She did it for a period of time and then she’s not doing it anymore.
Michael: Oh, all right.
Roger: Yeah. But I have the name I would throw out is Nick Pavlidis.
Michael: Is Nick Hiblis?
Michael: Pavlidis. Okay.
Roger: He’s a Greek guy, and he’s an attorney, ex-attorney. But he is someone I know very well who does this in the right heart.
What Roger Knows Now That He Wishes He’d Known When He Was Just Starting Out [1:44:57]
So as you look back at this, Roger, I’m just curious, you’ve been doing this for almost 30 odd years as an advisor, so if you talk back to, I don’t know, your 20-something self or your 30-something self, like, what do you know now about the world of marketing and business development and all the rest that you wish you knew then?
Roger: I think I wish I would have had more confidence in who I was. I think I was trained poorly and I had to go through a lot of iteration to untrain myself through, you know, how I was early on. I was basically a stock trader in the ’90s, and that’s how I learned. But from a marketing standpoint, I don’t think what I do is marketing. You know, I feel like I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing in my life. And a lot of that has come from feeling comfortable and confident in myself, which I did not feel back then. I don’t know if that [inaudible 01:45:55] answers your question.
Michael: Well, it does. I also find that ironic. Like, you started your career back in what we now call the days when companies still trained you. I mean, you went to a three-week training in Weehawken, which is three weeks more than what most advisors get when they start in the industry today because a lot of those training programs have been wound down. And you’re basically talking about how it wasn’t actually good training and you had to untrain yourself from the great industry training of the past.
Roger: Well, actually, Michael, that was my second iteration. When I started in ’90, I started at a small broker-dealer, and I traded tech stocks. I had no training. I just learned from the guys in the office who had a stable of clients that they would trade stocks for. So I learned really bad habits. When I went from there to PaineWebber, I thought I was becoming a professional, which I was. It was an iteration of becoming a professional because I knew that what I was doing, even though it was successful, I wasn’t helping anybody and I didn’t feel good about myself. So going to PaineWebber was actually me becoming a professional.
Michael: Interesting. So what was the low point for you in this journey?
Roger: In the advisory journey or…?
Michael: Yeah, in advisory journey.
Roger: It was that first transition where I scuttled the ships and I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay the bills, and I wasn’t in a…I internalized it all and didn’t share enough with my wife and beat myself up and ended up being a much poor of a husband than I should have been and a father than I should have been because I was so…I thought this industry was…this is the worst industry to get into. It’s so hard, at least when I did it. Because you have to struggle so long in the hunt and kill, hunt and kill. And so the people that usually are successful are really good salespeople. And that doesn’t translate necessarily to practitioners. And I always wanted to be a practitioner or an artist at what I do, and I was starving for a long period of time.
Michael: You were a starving artist in the financial planning profession.
Roger: Financially starving. So my low point was when I made that initial transition, my income literally went down by 80%. You know, we totally reorganized our life, sold the house, moved to…you know, downscaled everything to cut costs to try to make it work until I could get to the other side. I don’t know how I survived it. I don’t know how my marriage survived in a lot of ways.
Michael: And so in retrospect, like, don’t regret the transition, just regret how you did the transition?
Roger: Yeah, I mean, obviously, as of now, I know the end of the story. So it’s a good story, right? Every story has the…you know, there’s a natural story arc. You know, one is a lot of forgiving yourself. And, you know, I feel like I’m a total failure so many times along the way. And a lot of this journey, which is, you know, I have to sort of grieve over that and put it behind me so I can become who I’m supposed to be. And I think as an advisor if you had to fight and scrap and fight and scrap and maybe you had missed starts… I mean, my password for my computer used to be loser123. I mean, it was, “I’m horrible at this.” You know, but that did not define who I was forever. I mean, now, you know, I get…you know, some people think I’ve really figured this out and have a lot of success, but that’s the top part of the iceberg. You know, in my early 40s, internally I was like, “Man, how am I ever going to come out of all the screw-ups that I’ve made in my life?” Seriously. I mean, I’m still dealing with some of that already, but that’s the bottom of the iceberg.
Michael: So what comes next?
Roger: So my…I pick a word every year, and my word for ’19 is “embrace,” which is a lot of really good things are starting to gain traction. So for me it’s, I don’t feel like I’m leaning in to what I’m supposed to be doing hard enough. So I’m trying to figure out how to embrace some of the things happening. Lean into them and figure out. I want to make sure when I’m that 65-year-old person that I talked about, that I look back and say, you know, “There was a lot of glory created there. I really did what I was supposed to be doing.” So I’m trying to lean in. That’s what’s next.
Michael: Now I’m just curious, what was 2018’s word? This is kind of a cool like, “I’ve got a theme word [inaudible 01:50:55] year.”
Roger: 2018’s word was “celebrate,” which was…you have time for this? Because I know we’re running long.
Roger: So right when I…the year I started my podcast is the first time I ever had a year where I picked a word. And because for me I’m Christian, I pray a lot, I was like, I didn’t want the podcast to be about me. Because these things can feel sort of egotistical. You know, you’re putting your face up there, you’re blogging, you’re podcasting. You know, it’s about you a lot. And I didn’t want all this to be about me. And I’m like asking, “God, is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” And my friends, and my fellow advisors, like, “What the hell is he doing over there? Why is he doing those things? Who does he think he is doing those things?”
So my first word was “trust” because I was praying a lot like, “God, I don’t want this to be about me. Knock me down. Tell me if this is what I’m supposed to be doing for my life.” And so the first word was “trust.” And for me, what that meant was, “Roger, you’re not going to know whether this is what He wants you to do. Just trust that He’s going to knock you on your butt or redirect you. You need to act.” And so I started doing that. So this year, ’18’s word was “celebrate,” was, I have a hard time celebrating successes.
Michael: So speaking of which is, as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success, and one of the themes that always comes up is just even the word “success” means different things to different people, sometimes different things to us at different stages in our lives. So, you know, you’re now on this successful track that you’re celebrating, and so I’m just wondering, like, how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Roger: Well, obviously, being able to provide for my family and do that. The financial side is definitely important. But for me, I feel like I am in…I know exactly who I am, exactly who I help, and I feel like I’m having a big impact and I’m getting that feedback from people that are like, “This is, you know, literally changing my life. Thank you so much for the show,” or, “Thank you for this.” I mean, that’s success. I’m helping people that are afraid of the future. They feel like there aren’t a lot of options. There’s so much unknown, and they’re looking for someone to help figure this out and give them permission, for lack of a better term, to do what they would like to do and help them figure out how to do it in a safe way. That’s success. I mean, I’m just having a blast.
Michael: Well, very cool. I’m so thankful you were willing to come and join us on the podcast and just talk about the journey and how far it’s come. It’s kind of a fascinating thing when you just finally find that point where you’re really comfortable with yourself and what you’re doing and that it’s having an impact and just let it go and keep doing it.
Roger: Yeah, yeah. Thanks. I enjoyed talking with you.
Michael: Likewise. Well, thank you, Roger, for joining us on the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.