Welcome back to the 151st episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Luna Jaffe. Luna is the founder of Lunaria Financial, an advisory firm in Portland, Oregon that oversees nearly $55 million of assets under management for 100 client households.
What’s unique about Luna, though, is that in an effort to solve the challenge of building an advisory practice that ends out with minimums too high to work with everyone, she launched the Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe, an actual pie shop across the street from her advisory firm office that offers low-cost financial education programs on budgeting and what Luna calls her Wild Money process.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about what Luna has learned in trying to expand the reach of financial education through a retail store. Why she ultimately decided to charge a standalone fee for each money class instead of an ongoing membership fee, the budgeting philosophy in the Wild Money process she teaches that she has found resonates with those seeking help with their finances, and the real-world challenges that come with opening up a retail store that has to manage retail employees.
We also talk about Luna’s own advisory firm. Her unique year-long financial planning process that can run up to 18 meetings by incrementally helping clients implement changes step by step along the way, the exercises she uses from mind mapping to vision cards she created to having clients write a love letter to their money, how Luna integrates the eMoney Advisor portal into her somewhat non-traditional process, why the firm uses the You Need a Budget, YNAB tool to help clients actually change their spending behaviors and the flat fee structure that Luna adopted to ensure she is properly compensated for her time-intensive planning process.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Luna shares why despite the retail challenges, she hopes to ultimately take on investors and expand the reach of Sacred Money Studios, the additional challenge she faced when she decided to break away from Edward Jones to start her own independent firm, and why her biggest tip to other advisors is the importance of finding a mentor, not just one who will listen to you, but one who will pull you forward into what you can really become.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- Luna’s Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe [04:55]
- Why Luna Is Adamant About The Value Of Budgeting [10:25]
- How Luna’s Classes Are Set Up [21:15]
- How Luna Manages Running Both the Money Studios and Pie Shoppe [34:02]
- How Luna Launched Lunaria Financial And What Her Practice Looks Like Now [43:55]
- How She Structures Her Year-Long Financial Planning Process [51:50]
- Where The More “Traditional” Piece Of Financial Planning Fits Into Luna’s Process [1:04:36]
- How Luna Uses 18 Meetings Over The First Year And How They Fit Into Her Business Model [1:12:25]
- What Surprised Her The Most About Building Her Own Advisory Firm [1:32:28]
- What Success Means To Luna [1:43:14]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Luna Jaffe
- Luna Jaffe Personal Site
- Lunaria Financial
- Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe
- Wild Money by Luna Jaffe
- Financial Gym
- Outsourced Financial Planning
- eMoney Advisor
- You Need A Budget (YNAB)
- The Capacity Crossroads And The Small Giant Alternative To Building A Lifestyle Or Enterprise Firm
- Certified B Corporation
Did you enjoy the Financial Advisor Success Podcast?
And if you have a moment, please Click Here to leave us a rating and review in iTunes!
Michael: Welcome, Luna Jaffe, to the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.
Luna: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here with you.
Michael: I’m really excited about the discussion today and this dynamic that I think so many of us struggle with as advisors, where we go out, we build these successful advisory businesses, we get clients, at some point, you start having the challenge of just capacity. I can only handle so many clients. Most of us do the same natural thing. We kind of raise our minimums, we move upmarket, we work with more affluent clients because it grows our income with a fixed number of slots. And it works great from a business perspective until at some point you realize like, all the people you work with are none of the people you worked with originally when you started the business, and almost everybody you talk to, you have to politely reject because they don’t qualify for your business anymore. And I think for a lot of us, it creates this challenge or maybe sometimes outright kind feeling of guilt that I can’t help a lot of the people that I talk to. And so some of us take pro bono clients and some of us take “accommodation” clients or we try to refer them out.
And I was fascinated when I had heard about your business, Luna, and what you do because you have come up with, I think is by far kind of the most original way to handle this challenge. You created a space, a physical retail space that you call Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe. And that’s not just a cool metaphor about “get your piece of the prosperity pie,” you literally sell pie and talk about money stuff and financial education classes. So I’m just really fascinated and excited to talk about this dynamic of running an advisory firm and a pie shop that does money classes.
Luna: I know. Strange, right?
Michael: And how all that comes together. So, maybe just to kick off, talk to us a little bit about this Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe thing that you created.
Luna’s Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe [04:55]
Luna: So, my office is on the second floor of a building in a little village part of Portland. So, I can look across the street at my pie shop and Sacred Money Studios. And it actually came to me as a…I was actually going on a vision quest, the literal, go out into the desert, don’t eat and drink for four days and three nights and just pray on whatever you…just be out there in the space and be quiet after a lot of noise and busyness in my life.
And about a week before I was to go on that, one of the things that the native elder that I was working with said to me was, from the minute you make the decision to go on a vision quest, you’re in preparation mode. And preparation is most of the journey. And so a week before I went, I just was sitting, I meditate every morning, and I was just…I just got this entire like, “Oh, you’re…” I’m supposed to create this space across the street where there was a building that was empty. And, “You’re supposed to create the space where people can gather and talk about money and be in conversation that’s not only in a financial advisor’s office.” Because, of course, many people never get into a financial advisor’s office. It’s not where they can start out. And I kept having this experience over and over again of people that would call me, because I’ve written a couple books, and so people call me and say, “Wow, I need to get out of debt. I need to learn how to budget. I need to start the journey but I don’t know where to go.”
And so that morning, I was sitting there and it was like, “Oh, I’m supposed to create this space where people can go, where I can refer them, where other people can be referred to to just be in a community as well as have classes and workshops around working with the more basic levels of money.” And the only other place I could refer people prior to that was to the local community college. And as many of us know, the people that teach personal finance, so-called personal finance in community college, especially continuing ed, are financial advisors looking for clients. So again, they’re not necessarily motivated by the thing and going to be there to help the one that is not quite ready for a financial advisor that doesn’t have $250,000 or $500,000.
So this whole thing came to me and then I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m good. I don’t really need to go out on the hill and sit there for three days and night in the rain and the cold and the sun and the…” Then it was like, “Oh, no, you do.” So I still did that part of it. And when I came back, it was like, “I guess this is where I’m going.” And the interesting part of the journey was that I thought, “For sure,” I just kind of thought, “Well, I’ll just get a couple investors and we’ll make this happen.” And then I went to my compliance department and they said, “No, you can’t do that.”
Michael: This is not acceptable outside business activity?
Luna: And your securities license, you can’t have investors. And so I was already…I had already leased the space and I was already building out the business plan. And I was like, “Holy moly, what am I doing here?” And I ended up personally financing the entire thing with my own credit. And no bank would loan money to me even though I have a successful financial planning business. And it gave me a really big taste of what it is to be…I was like, “I’m an entrepreneur that already has 30 years of experience and no bank will loan to me.”
Michael: Yep, they all just, “What are the assets? What are the collateral?” Like, “Well, my clients really like me.”
Luna: Well, it was also that I wasn’t borrowing money on Lunaria, I was borrowing money on a new business. And because it was a new business, they wouldn’t loan to me. And I just had this total revelation about what’s it like to be a person of color? What’s it like to be in any minority business that has an idea, a really good idea and doesn’t have the ability to get funding from their friends or family or their own personal credit lines? And it was helpful in that way. It was horrible in lots of ways. So I personally financed this thing, and yeah, it’s been quite a journey.
So the whole purpose of it is, like I said, it’s just to create a place where the conversation is open and the taboos that we typically have are not present. We’re just simply talking about the shame and the guilt and the feeling side of money in a place that everyone knows when they come in the door that it’s going to be okay, that they’re going to be accepted. And it sounds very simple, but it’s very huge.
Michael: And so, how does this work in practice? It is literally a pie shop. There’s a menu up on the side. I can get regular pie and cobbler and chocolate bliss pie and giant macaroon chocolate walnut cookies. So, we are full-on restaurant pie shop and coffee and tea and drinks and the whole nine yards, but you’re trying to run this Sacred Money Studios thing as well. So, how does it work in practice? Are you mostly, we’re a pie shop, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. there’s a workshop about money or is there like continuous programming? Do I have to like confess my money secret in order to get a bonus slice of pie?
Luna: I like that idea. I’ll have to try that. Yeah, if you confess to something that’s really shameful or hard or difficult and you just want to let it go, then yeah, we’re working.
Michael: And we’ll give you a piece of pie and you will feel better about it because a pie helps everything.
Why Luna Is Adamant About The Value Of Budgeting [10:25]
Luna: Yeah, exactly. It will lighten your load. We might increase the calorie intake, but we’re going to lighten your emotional load. No. So how it works is that, and it’s really morphed. So we’ve been in business for three and a half years, and it’s been quite a journey because managing a business like this, I have two business partners, and we all have full-time jobs. So it’s been a lot of work. And we started out with a membership idea. So people would join, they’d get unlimited access to classes. And our classes were focused on three different areas. We’ve always had budgeting as the foundational piece. So, I’m so adamant about the value of budgeting.
Somebody at the conference I was just at said budgeting is a four-letter word. And I said I’m really determined to change that idea of what it is. And to me, it’s a freedom tool. It really helps us gain more control, more clarity, and more intention around what we do with our money. And it also points out the places where we don’t do things well, but it also shows us the places that we’re strong. And that’s what’s missing so often is that people don’t know what they do well. They don’t have a lot of reflection around the things they do know or that they do know well because there’s no way to learn that stuff. You’re kind of going along in your life. You’re bumbling along and you don’t know.
Michael: And how does that come in the budget context? Is that just things like, “Hey, you actually do spend less than 30% of your household income on rent and mortgage. Good for you for actually being in line on this.” That kind of celebrate the successes?
Luna: Yeah, that and things like, people…we’ll ask questions. We have an intake form and we kind of walk people through like, “What do you need? Do you need financial planning?” In which case they walk across the street and talk to me. Or do they need one-on-one money coaching or do they need to get into this budgeting class? And a lot of it is helping them to really determine kind of what the starting point is, but also too, I always say it’s like a GPS. You have to kind of know where you are. You’ve got to do the pin drop. And that pin drop is an assessment that we do. I do it over there. I do it in my financial planning practice. It’s just critical. I feel like our industry is just really good at, we do the assessment for us, but they don’t get to do it for them. And I want it to be focused on what do you feel confident in? What do you know? What do you practice? So, that assessment happens across the street at the pie shop.
And when they take a class, they’re getting a chance to see their practices and to get some…it’s a sense of support around the fact that they’ve always felt bad about a certain thing that they do in their lives. And they haven’t realized that it was really just a miscalculation of expenses. And I’ll give you example. So there are people that are always like, “Oh, I always spend too much money eating out.” And when we look at their budget, and it’s like, but you can afford to spend what you’re spending eating out because you’re already saving and you’re able to do the vacations you want. And it’s like a relief, like, “Oh.” It’s like in your mind, you just need to budget a little bit more for that because you can afford it.
Michael: And so that’s the part of the freedom context around how you frame budgeting? Like, the point of this is not just to reign in the categories where you’re spending too much, which I think is how most people think about budgeting in a negative context, it’s also recognizing the freedom to say, “Hey, you can afford to budget X to eating out. And like, you can afford that. So go do it, and yeah, be guilt-free. Enjoy it.”
Luna: Yeah. I say that the budgeting categories are a container and a permission slip. It’s a container for the things that you need to really keep your eye on. We still only have X amount of dollars coming in every month. So you have to contain certain things. But the permission slip piece is when we start aligning people’s values with their spending. And if you say that, “One of my top values is creativity” and nothing in your budget is going towards creative activities, then we have a misalignment of values. So, if we start to budget even $25 a month into a creativity category, and then we’re like, you get to spend that on that class or on that art supply or on that whatever. And I’m an artist, so to me, creativity is a big piece of the kind of people I attract.
But it also could be, “I really care about my family and I never feel like I can go visit them,” but they’re not putting family as one of their categories. They’re not traveling to the Midwest. “To go see my family” is not in there. When you start to budget for it, then you have permission to spend it. And it totally transforms people’s feelings of mastery around money. And that’s what I’m going for. I’m going for helping the people feel more confident, more competent. And it’s across the whole spectrum of whether they have $17 million or they have $100 in the bank account. They’re trying to figure it out.
Michael: So you mentioned that you, I think there were three pieces of what you kind of focus on and work with people on this in the workshops. One was budgeting. So, what are the other areas?
Luna: Yeah. Great. Thanks for bringing me back to that. So budgeting is core, and then my work, which is based on my books, which is called Wild Money. And it’s a creative process to looking at your relationship with money in six different aspects. So we look at receiving money, spending money, saving money, investing, how you protect it with insurance and estate planning, and then giving it away. So that’s the second piece.
And then the third piece is that we actually use a process called tapping or Emotional Freedom Technique, which is a tool. It really helps people to get clear about the mindset blocks that they have or the ways that they have really inherited certain belief systems about money. And it helps them to start to shift it. Like just like the simple ones like, I suck at money, or I’m never going to have what I need, or I’m never going to earn more. I have a lot of people that come to me because they come to the pie shop and they’re like, “Yeah, I didn’t think I’d ever need a financial planner, but I just inherited money.” And what’s cool is that they’re like…what I find is the biggest challenge is that they don’t know that they can develop the capacity to manage that money in a healthy way.
So, this tapping process, which is, there’s lots of people out there that you can study this with, is the tapping is using meridians that you tap through. I don’t really know why it works, but it really does work. And it’s, you basically start to work on, “What do I really believe? And how do I want to change that belief system?” So we use that as a tool. And we use it for people that are like, “I know I need to budget, but I hate it and I don’t want to do it.” So I’m like, “Go to the tapping class first and work through what that resistance is, and then take the tapping class.”
Michael: And so what is the tapping class? Is this a metaphor for tapping something mentally? Am I like physically tapping something on myself?
Luna: Tap your head and the third eye and by the side of your eye. You’re tapping on these acupuncture points that actually help to rewire the neural pathways in your brain. And I’ve done it. I went to this woman, the woman that I actually invited to come to the pie shop and teach, I actually was like, I kept hitting this place, and I think a lot of people will relate to this, where I kept getting to like $50 million under management, and then it would drop back. And then I’d get there and then it would drop back. Or my revenue, my own personal income would go up and then come down. I’d be like, “What the heck is going on here?” And I call it my own internal glass ceiling. It’s like my own belief system was, I can’t manage more than $50 million or I can’t make more than $200,000.
So, I went to her and I said, “I want to work on this.” And so we basically just started…she would have me start talking about what was going on or how it worked, and you tap as you do it. So you’re using these points. It’s like having a therapy session but you’re actually tapping at the same time. And the weirdest thing that happens that I’m…and I’m also a therapist by training, so to me, it was like, “This is so much faster than therapy.” And that was brilliant. So to me, it was like, I would be tapping along and then all of a sudden I would just have this thought of like, Oh.” Like, I just remembered something that felt so random and not at all related. But it was like this childhood thing of whatever I did. I can’t remember one at the moment, but it was just the sense of like, and I would say to her, I’d be like, “Oh, this is what just came into my mind.” She’s like, “Great. Now, we’re going to go there, and we’re going to just work on that one little place where you felt shame about whatever it was.”
And literally, in 5 or 10 minutes, that piece was cleared. And within a month or two, my assets under management were like $55 million. And I was like, “I have no idea why that works,” but it worked. So I was like, “Okay, if it works for me, probably it’ll work for people who have a fear…” We all know people that have…they save, right? They save. They want to hit $10,000 of personal savings. They get there, they immediately have an emergency. It happens over and over and over to people. And I say that is your personal set point. You’re afraid to get above $10,000. Like there’s something there that says, “I don’t deserve that. I’m not worthy of it.” And I feel having done this work for…I’ve been in the business for now 17 years, to me, there’s such a deep connection between self-worth and how I manage my money. If you don’t feel worthy of it, you’re going to spend it easily. You’re going to hand it away when you don’t really…can’t afford to do that. You’re going to give things to your kids when you’re not taking care of yourself.
So, this tapping class was so and still is, is so powerful because we have people in there that have a $20,000 or $30,000 a month income from trusts or from whatever, and then we have people in there that don’t know how they’re going to pay their rent. And I love the fact that they’re all in the same room. Because part of what we discuss is the judgments we have about each other. And we use that to say you know what? Everybody has a struggle when it comes to money, whether you have a lot or you have a little or you’re just doing the best you can in the middle. So these classes really create, the tapping classes, in particular, create a lot of conversation. And that’s where people start to feel like they have a tool that they can use on their own to notice like, “Oh, wow, there’s that thing again. I’m feeling that. And how can I handle it?”
How Luna’s Classes Are Set Up [21:15]
Michael: And so how are these classes set up? Is this just a like, again, on Tuesdays, just come on in at 5 and we’ll be talking budgeting? Is this like a structured multi-classroom, multi-week thing? How do you actually put this out there? Because I’m going to imagine like, somebody just comes in because they thought it was a pie shop. Like, “Whoa, I’ve walked into something different.”
Luna: Yeah. Well, we have a classroom in the back, and so, yeah, like if they take my Wild Money class, that’s an eight-week class. I ask them to commit to coming to all eight classes because we move really rapidly through all these different things. And if they don’t have one piece of it, then it becomes pretty challenging. The budget classes are also either four weeks or eight weeks. The tapping classes are drop-in classes. And that enables people to come and go. Because really the tapping classes are, we’re going to talk about money, but we’re going to talk about what’s up for each one of the people in the class on that day around money.
Another thing that’s fun about the tapping classes is that whatever somebody else is working on, I’m also working on. So if we’re dealing with somebody’s challenge around, how do they ask for a raise at work, we all tap on it together. So we all go through it, and it’s kind of fascinating how, as a collective, things start to move for the whole group. So there’s a sense of working through whatever it is that we want to move forward on. And it gives us ideas about like, “Wow, I never thought I could ask for a raise. Maybe I should do that,” or, “I never thought that I could even save $25, like that even mattered.” So, yeah.
So our classes, we also do seminars and weekend workshops. We’ll have people come in from out of town do a…we had the woman who started the Money Coaching Program. Her name is Mira Lathrop. She started the Money Coaching Program at Capital One. She came in and did a wonderful class on how to talk to your honey about money. And then we did a whole open mic night about money stories. So we kind of shake it up and do as many different things as we can to just keep the conversation going. And then in this space, even if you’re not taking classes, when you’re in the space, we have a section where you can come and write on…I love this paper. There’s a paper called spy paper, and it dissolves in water. And so we have a little section where it’s like, let go of something that’s not working for you around money and write it on a piece of paper and put it in this bowl of water and it disappears, and watch your troubles disappear. And then we have a wish tree, where you can write something that you really want around your relationship with money. And you can put that on the tree.
And so it’s just a really…we try to create ways for people to just engage. Even little subtle things like the numbers that we give people for when they order their pie and you get a number to take to your table so we can find you, each one of those numbers has a quote on it that has to do with money. All of our little table toppers, little flip…there’s little things on the tables where you can say, it’s like the special of the day, but then there’s also money quotes and there’s things about money coaching. So it’s a subtle, not so subtle, but we’re trying to weave it in, and people are kind of like, “Yeah, what is this? What are we doing here?”
And then, of course, I also have a retail space where there’s money books and different things related to money that are, to me, just ways to say, “Hey, there’s some great books out there, but you’re never going to find these books.” Like my book is at Powell’s and all the bookstores, it’s in the creativity section instead of in the personal finance section. So even if somebody were looking for a book that was a colorful, female-centric book around money, they wouldn’t find it in personal finance because the bookstores won’t put it there. So I always want to highlight those books that I think are really great alternative ways to look at money and more approachable, especially to predominantly women clients.
Michael: And so, actually doing these classes, the budgeting series, tapping classes, talking about Wild Money, is this predominantly you doing and teaching the classes? Are you like training instructors or developing people who are guides for this? What does it look like in terms of the doing work on this when you, “Oh, by the way, on the side, I also have an actual advisory firm across the street?”
Luna: Yeah, exactly. It’s really been everything. I do train money coaches, and I train financial planners and advisors in how to use this process. More and more, I have them… I teach the Wild Money classes mostly, but I have a budgeting coach that I’ve trained. I’ve trained several at this point. And I actually send my clients over there. So it’s really fun because when they sign up for a year-long financial planning process with me, which my process doesn’t look like anybody else’s out there. I’ve never seen anybody who kind of goes at it the way I do.
And part of the program that they get when they sign on for this process is that budgeting…they get either a budgeting class or one-on-one budgeting coaching. And I give them the choice because sometimes their schedules don’t work with what we have available, or they’re just feeling like they’re not the classroom type of people, which I totally respect. Or they live out of town. So I have clients all over the country, but I also have clients outside of the country. So if they’re outside of the country, then obviously they’re going to work via Zoom, and they’re going to just do their money coaching that way, money budgeting. It’s just specifically budgeting. So, yeah.
We bring people in as well that are going to teach. Like the tapping person is not me. I don’t do that. I use it occasionally in my own practice and teach people how to do it, but I don’t teach the ongoing classes. I like to leverage. It’s really important to me to bring as many people who want to build their own businesses as possible. So some people are contractors, and the money coach that we have is an employee.
Michael: And do people pay for the classes? Is this a charging and revenue thing unto itself if you’re trying to expand reach?
Luna: Yeah. And again, we’ve tried everything. We started out with membership being a way to get the classes, and then we found out that that just wasn’t really working very well. In terms of profitability, it was just not working.
Michael: Because people wouldn’t retain? They’d join for a while and then drop?
Luna: Both. Yeah, they would do that, but also, they would…it’s a balancing act of who to attract. So we either were attracting people that were too broke to be able to even afford a $49 or $69 a month membership fee, or we were dealing with…yeah, so it was either zero or they would join, but they’d only join for a couple months. And so we’ve just shifted to pay by the class. I actually pay the studio when I’m having one of my clients go over there. And that way, my clients are actually getting engaged with the community as well. And so to me, again, part of my mission is community and empowerment. And so, if you start to feel like… Most people who go to a financial planner never talk to the other clients that they’re engaged with or have other people that they feel like, “Oh, yeah, we’re all on this journey together.” So I kind of bridged that a little bit.
Michael: I feel like, for a lot of advisors, I feel like there’s almost a fear to it or hold back from it of keeping their clients together, separate of not mixing them together. Maybe we’ll do a client social event, but never like, “Hey, let’s all talk about our financial issues” in a big group session with multiple clients.
Luna: Yeah. And I think that’s really a travesty in a way because…it has to do with the advisor. Because for me, coming out of it, I’m a therapist by training, so to me, it’s like, of course, we’re going to talk about it. Why wouldn’t we talk about it?
So as an example, I have five high-net-worth clients right now, women, that they have all either experienced death or divorce, I think it’s all death or divorce at this point, or, oh, inheritance. And the five of them I just said, “Instead of doing this Wild…” Because I do the Wild Money process with my clients, and I said, “I think that the five of you would really love each other. Let’s do this as a class.” And it’s been fabulous. They love each other. They love sharing what’s going on with each other, with themselves. They’re very open. There’s no guardedness around that feeling of like, “I just inherited $2 million and I’m just like, I don’t know what to do. I’m just struggling here. And I don’t feel like I…I don’t think it’s okay for me to struggle.” And it’s like, of course, it’s okay to struggle. That’s a huge shift to go… I have a client who actually went from homelessness to having $800,000. And she’s one of the people in this class. And it’s just like so powerful for her to feel like she’s not alone and that she can talk to people, because most of the time, most of her peer group or friends she’s had have been people that had nothing.
And so to me, it’s like, any conversation I can create to help people feel more at home, be in their bodies around their money means that we’re going to have a healthier world. I feel like part of the reason why our world is so unhealthy around money is because nobody is willing to talk about it and face the feelings just flat-out, just like, “Let’s just talk about this.” So many people are afraid of judgment. They’re terrified of being judged. And the reason for that is because we’re very judging. It’s a true story.
Michael: And we tend to attach a lot of judging value to money. What are you worth is literally a reflection of what are you worth, what do you make is literally a reflection of your value. I don’t think that’s truly ultimately the case, but it is the natural connection point that I think our brains form and that most of us do just intuitively. But I think that’s part of what makes us so private about our income, our assets, our net worth, what we do, because everything feels like it’s going to be a comparison to someone else about literally, am I worth more or less than them?
Luna: Yeah. And I have to say it’s quite different with women and men, in my experience. I think women are afraid of being seen as not generous or seen as…it changes everything. So one of the things I teach people whenever we’re in a Wild Money class is I always say, “One of the things I want to invite you to learn how to do here is learn how to be curious about another person’s experience because you have no idea,” just back to the iceberg idea, right, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in those people’s shoes.” And I think about, why did Kate Spade commit suicide? Why did Anthony, is that how you say his name? Bourdain, why did these people commit suicide that are like at the top of their game, super successful? Well, there’s something else going on there. And did anybody ever stop to ask them what it’s like? What it’s like to feel that much pressure or that much…the eyes are on you all the time. And when anybody has resources… Like, I work with a lot of women who feel like, how did they date when they have so much more economic means than any of the men that they meet?
And I’ve even had…I had a dinner that I loved. It was such a great conversation. I had a dinner for all the women in my practice that were partnered with men who had far less than they did. And it was a fascinating conversation because we went from everything from a person saying, “I just told the person when I started dating him that I was rich and that he had better be okay with that.” Another woman who’s been my client for like 15 years said, “I’ve still not told my husband of 9 years what my net worth is.” And then one person was like, “Yeah, I will never marry because I don’t want to inherit my partner’s family and their family problems. I don’t want to feel responsible for that. And I feel like I would if I married him.”
So it was fascinating as a study of how people address this. And ultimately, I’ve had to learn as an advisor to not…I don’t know any better than they do. I just feel like my job is to be curious about what is or is not working for you. If it works for you to not tell what your net worth is to your husband and you feel better about that, as long as you’ve got estate planning in place and when we’ve talked about what happens if you become disabled, who manages your money, as long as we have those conversations, then I’m going to be fine with what your choice is because you’ve thought it through. But if you haven’t thought it through then we have some problems.
How Luna Manages Running Both the Money Studios and Pie Shoppe [34:02]
Michael: So how long have you been running the Money Studios and Pie Shoppe now?
Luna: Three and a half years.
Michael: So you’ve survived. I think…I was going to say like, some astronomically high number of restaurants and retail businesses go out of business in 6 to 12 months. So, three-plus years, you’re a survivor.
Luna: Yeah. And I feel like that is a good way to describe it. It’s been the hardest three years of my life. And it was coupled by the fact that I opened the doors in May of 2016, my mother was diagnosed with ALS in June, she died in December. She was in New York and I was in Portland. And then in the middle of that, I got married. And I was managing…we were managing 14 baristas and people that aren’t…and it’s nothing like running a financial planning firm. And my firm is just me and my assistant of 17 years. We’ve been together 17 years, we know what we’re doing. And it was a whole new world to have to deal with minimum wage employees. And it still is a whole new thing. And then on top of that, we layered this whole social enterprise on top of the pie shop, which was about hiring women coming out of incarceration. And holy moly, did that bring on a whole bunch of new problems that we didn’t even anticipate. So it was like, “Wow, that’s…” Yeah. Lots of crying. I’ve really done a lot of crying.
Michael: Yeah, I can imagine. It is one of those things that I think we just…everybody’s got their own problems and challenges. Like in our advisory world, I think we struggle with, “How do I find that next advisor who’s going to do a good job and take care of the clients and have the right attitude? And like, how do I find the professional staff who will communicate and do the follow-up diligence that I want and expect from my clients?” And then you translate it to another context like what you’re dealing with and just, “How do I make sure my minimum wage barista actually just shows up for work today?”
Luna: Exactly, exactly, just shows up. And when they don’t show up, this is the part that just blew my circuits, when they don’t show up, they didn’t open on time, I have to go over and open the restaurant and make the coffee and do the dishes and make sure that the teacher for the class is there. That level of stress has been extraordinary. We just finally hired a general manager. I was like, “I don’t care what it costs, I’m hiring a general manager.” Because I can’t be that person anymore. And it’s been a huge relief, even though it’s…of course, there’s a learning curve for her, but she’s fabulous.
And she actually went through our program. So that was even better for me was that she was also a woman that was just really struggling with divorce and being a single mom. And it was just like, to get to hire her and see her shine in this role has been tremendous. It’s exactly what I live for. I live to help other people find their place in the world and see that they can make money doing it and feel successful. And then all the people that we work with there can go through our program for free. So we also get to launch other businesses that come from our employees that decide they want to do little side businesses or they decide to move on to another thing that’s more in alignment with what they’re looking for.
Michael: And so, I’m just curious, economically as a retail shop, is this class’s model actually economically viable and helps lift it up? Is the reality like, “Oh, God, basically, the classes are funded by the fact that, thank God we can sell some pie?” Like, the profitable pie subsidize the classes? Like just, what does this actually look like from a business perspective? If someone else is hearing this and thinking like, “I want to make a local restaurant where we get to talk about money.”
Luna: At this conference I was just at, there was a chef they brought in, this New Orleans chef, and she said, “Well, the first lesson that I’ve learned is never open a restaurant.” And I was like, “Yeah, right there with you.” I would say right now the classes support themselves, the pie shop is not supporting itself. And we started out with all of our…I would say 80% of…maybe 70% of our energy at the beginning was about the classes and the programs and 30% was on the cafe. And now we spend 90% of our time and energy trying to keep the cafe going, and we have 10% of our energy going towards the classes. And that’s frustrating to me.
Michael: Does that mean you’re literally doing few classes because you have to do more on the pie shop side or just you’ve created the classes, that’s now a machine that’s running on its own, so you’re putting energy towards, okay, how do we get the pie shop up to be a healthy thing on its own?
Luna: Yeah, it’s kind of both. We do have the classes sort of sorted and they kind of go on their own. But we’re basically at a stage right now where we’re looking for investors. We really desperately need a capital influx because I… My vision for this has always been…on a good day, I should say, my vision has been that this is like a yoga studio. I’ve always kind of thought of this like a yoga studio. You need a yoga studio in your neighborhood. We have people that come from 30 to 60 minutes away or longer to come to these classes. And to me, that doesn’t really line up with my perspective on sustainability. So, in a perfect world, we would really nail down the branding and the process and the training of coaches, and then we’d open other locations with a central bakery that is entirely staffed by previously incarcerated women. That’s my big vision. But like I said, that’s on a good day. And on a bad day, I’m like, “Would somebody come and please buy this place from me because I’m really done. Oh, my God.”
Michael: That’s the joy of entrepreneurship. Like, “How are you feeling about your business?” Like, “Well, I don’t know. What’s the last five minutes been like?”
Luna: Well, yeah, there’s days where I’m like, “Should I sell Lunaria or should I sell this or should I just like go to Costa Rica and forget the whole thing?” There’s days where the stress level is so high that I’m just…I’m crazed.
But I always come back to the fact that the things that I love most is I love working with my clients. That just makes me so happy. And I love the planning side. I don’t love the money management side to the degree at all that I love the planning, because I get to engage all my skills. Having been an artist and having been a therapist, I get to engage all those, I think very creatively. And so, I love to be able to sit down with eMoney and get super creative about my planning. And they’re looking at me like, “Wow, I never would have thought of that.” And that’s like, lights me up, at the same time that I love to teach. And so I just want to bring in more capital so that I can get people in place that are paid well, that can run the programs and build it out. Because I want to do a Money Coaching Institute, but I don’t have the bandwidth to just do that myself. Like I can’t keep taking things on and doing them myself. I have to find others that can do it or I have to just pare down my vision.
Michael: And out of curiosity, how did you eventually get this through compliance?
Luna: Well, I got it through compliance because I didn’t take on any investors. However, I went to them recently and I said…well, actually, one of the VPs at KMS said to me like, “So what’s the struggle?” And I said, “Well, I was told I couldn’t take on investors.” And she said, “That’s not true.” And I was like, “What do you mean that’s not true?” She’s like, “You can take on investors. There’s some parameters you have to attend to, but you can take on investors.” And I just looked at her like, “You’ve got to be like…”
Michael: This would have been helpful information three years ago.
Luna: I was so mad and yet I was like, “All right, whatever.” I had to like…I started writing a book called…what was it called? It was like, all the things you shouldn’t do when you’re starting a business. It was called “Diary of a Renegade Startup” or something like that. And of course, halfway through writing it, I didn’t have any time to write it anymore because my mom was dying. But it was like, I’ve had so many of those life lessons of just like…now I’m like, really? And even the process of, “How do I bring on investors?” I heard about this company in New York, it’s called the Financial Gym. So their model’s quite similar to ours. Ours is much more spiritually grounded. It’s like we really bring…we try to bring the whole person to the table. It’s not just their numbers, it’s the emotional, spiritual, physical. We look at your health. We look at the whole thing. But they just got $1 million investment from Jean Chatzky, and I was like, I’m raising my hand like, “How do I get that?” Because there’s so much I could do. There’s so many visions I have, but how do I do that without being capitalized?
Michael: So if you’re listening to this and you’re interested and you want to help, so we’ll have a link in the show notes. And you can go to Portland and get some pie. I feel like someone’s going to come see this if they want to invest, and like, I’m just going to say, it better be good pie.
Luna: Oh, it’s such good pie. And not only is it good pie, but we also have gluten-free pie and vegan pie. I’m in Portland, of course, so these things matter. But people come here from all over the city for the pie because it’s really good pie, really good pie. So yeah, it’s worth it. I do like your idea that if they come in and tell us one of their deepest, darkest financial secrets, they get a piece of pie. I’m going to have to work on that. Like, what can we do for a piece of pie? “Ways to earn your own piece of pie.” I like this.
How Luna Launched Lunaria Financial And What Her Practice Looks Like Now [43:55]
Michael: So now tell us about the other half of the world. So we’re going to metaphorically walk across the street to your advisory firm that’s literally on the other side of the street. So, tell us about your advisory firm.
Luna: So, I started Lunaria Financial in 2010. I was an Edward Jones advisor for seven years before I came over here. And my office was across the street. So I tend to do things just…I just cross the street. That’s as far as I go.
Michael: Well, once you find a comfortable block to live in, why change it?
Luna: I know. I love this village. It’s the perfect little subset of Portland. It’s a village. It’s neighbory and little business district, but it’s not downtown Portland. And I don’t have to deal with the traffic. So it’s lovely.
So yeah, so I started Lunaria… When I left Edward Jones, I left actually for a couple of reasons. One of which was I knew I wanted to write books. And when I called their compliance department, I have this wonderful experience with compliance, they’re just so interesting. So my field supervisor basically said, “Good luck with that. Call me when you’re famous.” That’s her direct words. And I was like, “What?”
Michael: Well, I can’t get famous if you don’t let me write the book.
Luna: Well, that was her point. Her point was, don’t fight with Jones around this. You’re not going to get anywhere. And I had just gotten my CFP, and I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m just…” I’ve always been a risk-taker. I’m like, “All right, I’ll just jump off the cliff.” And I researched firms and went to…found KMS. And they were really progressive. And it was such a breath of fresh air for me to go to a firm up in Seattle that was definitely West Coast. And I just loved the people that I met. And when they were interviewing me, they were like, “Let’s go to yoga and then we’ll talk.” And I was like, “Okay, these are my people.” So, when I started, I had no idea what I was doing. And they weren’t the firm that offered you guidance. So I went from like super Jones, which was fabulous around training.
Michael: Edward Jones, very structured, I mean, the good and the bad of a very structured environment.
Luna: Exactly. And I was fine. Like, they never bothered me because I always was way above the performance expectations. To me, it was a game, and I loved it. And I just kept winning all the awards and mentoring everybody and have a great time. And then I was like, “But I can’t be me.” I had to be Edward Jones instead of being me. And I’m just too creative and out of the box for that. Yeah, so I took a leap. So this firm has been a big journey in how do I want to be in the world? And I had to go through a really rough lawsuit with Jones, which definitely knocked me on my ass for a little while in terms of…it just felt crappy to have a firm treat me like that after I had mentored hundreds of women, and I just felt like they didn’t care at all about who I was. They just cared that I was a number and that my business was leaving.
Michael: And so you ended out in a lawsuit with them over having clients…non-compete and non-solicits and trying to bring clients with or having clients follow you.
Luna: And I was across the street. I was like, “People are going to find me.” And unfortunately, I crafted a letter that KMS approved, and KMS didn’t really know a lot about Jones and Jones’s tactics around advisors that leave. And so, they approved a letter that they shouldn’t have approved. And so then we both got sued basically is kind of the lowdown. Because basically, my letter said, “Hey, I’m across the street if you want to find me.” Like…
Michael: Oh, that’s what got sent to the clients was a, “I’m across the street.” So Jones viewed that as a solicitation to the former clients and said, “No, no, no, you just solicited them.” So ideally, you needed to just set up across the street, put a billboard in front with your face on it, and anybody who happens to recognize you because they’re walking across the street from the same office they used to see you at can just be like, “Oh, I guess she’s over there now.”
Luna: Exactly. There’s so many things I could have done differently. But you don’t know what you don’t know, so you do what you do. Anyway.
So this firm has been a great journey because as I came out of…I got a CFP, but as everybody who’s ever gotten a CFP knows, that doesn’t mean anything in terms of how to practice differently. And at Jones, I couldn’t practice on a fee-based, “Just come in and I’ll just do financial planning for you.” So it took me quite a while to figure out. I had no mentors. I just had to kind of make it up. And I didn’t really have great tools. I eventually partnered with a man here in Portland who does financial plans for financial planners. And that became a great resource to me because I felt very isolated.
Michael: As an outsourcing solution or just literally like a friend to work with?
Luna: Yeah. Yeah, actually, his business is called Outsource Financial Planning. And that’s what he does. So he basically builds plans. He used NaviPlan at the beginning, which I did not want to tackle, and then he has shifted over to eMoney. So what was great for me was that I had a colleague who was a contractor, and I could just send him all the stuff and say, “You work up the plan.” And then we meet and we have a conversation. I’m really shaping the plan, but he’s got the expertise around how to use the tool to model it. And he works with many other financial planners. So he was also able to… It felt good to me. He would be like, “Wow, that was really smart,” and I would be like, “Oh, thank you.” I didn’t know that I knew anything. I feel like I’m making it up half the time. And so for him to give me…he gave me some reflection that I desperately needed to know that I was on the right path and that I was thinking things through clearly. I wasn’t forgetting things that were important. And then together we would present to the clients. So he would be virtual, and the client would be in my office, usually. So we presented that way.
So it’s created a really nice process. And only recently I’ve just started to subscribe to eMoney myself. So now I’m actually in the weeds a little bit more than I want to be with learning the tool, because I love having the control of being able to just go in there and in two seconds tweak something that they just gave me and not have to go through sending it to him and waiting and getting it back. So I’m in a bit of a challenge right now, where I’m just in a technology shift and trying to decide whether do I want to grow and do I want to bring somebody else on. And it’s been me and my assistant for…she came with me from Edward Jones. So we’ve worked together for 17 years. It’s a long-standing relationship. We never meet. We don’t do any of those things that everybody tells you to do. We just do our jobs. And we know how to work with each other. And it’s a great process.
But most of my practice now is…the part I love the most is that I do this year-long financial planning process that has a budgeting component, a Wild Money component, and a traditional financial planning component. And they go through…I basically price it out on the number of sessions we’re going to have. And usually, it’s about 18 sessions in a year.
Michael: Whoa, okay, that is a big number. That’s an intensive…
Luna: Exactly. But I don’t feel like it’s fair to charge…like to me, if I’m going to charge people $6,000 or $7,000, I’m going to give them me. I’m going to give them access to me, and I’m going to work with them, and they’re going to go home and do a lot of homework. And we work through a lot. They work through my entire book in that year. They walk away with a financial plan that has a couple of steps, not a book. I don’t believe in giving people a big notebook that’s not ever going to be something they find useful or practical. I want to give them a sense of, “Here’s the path you said you wanted to go on, here’s the routes that were possible, and the one you chose is this one. And here are your three next steps. Come back in three months and we’ll talk about it again.” And we’ll keep adjusting it because no path is going to stay the same, because no destination stays the same. Let’s face it.
How She Structures Her Year-Long Financial Planning Process [51:50]
Michael: Okay, so Luna, just walk me through this year-long financial planning process thing. I’m still trying to wrap my head around a series of up to 18 meetings when a lot of us are like, “Yeah, I have a 3-meeting process.”
Luna: I know, right? I think it’s a therapist in me.
Michael: You did say earlier like, “I have a financial planning process that’s not like what other advisors do.”
Luna: You’re like, “No kidding.”
Michael: So we’re starting to understand now. So just walk me through what this looks like. What are you doing across this 18-meeting series? Like I say, “Hey, Luna, sounds great, fascinated by your firm, what you do, I’m ready to sign on as a client.” What happens now?
Luna: Yeah. So what happens is that, at the very first meeting, I sit people down and I use the cards that I created to…I use cards, I call them oracle cards because I don’t know what else to call them, but they’re a way for people to really deepen into the conversation around money, but also, it’s an amazing tool for helping people to see the themes in their lives without the reflection having to come from me or from their spouse or from somebody else. So when you draw a card out of a deck that has to do with money, you might get the card that says “overgiving” or that says “denial” or that says “abundance” or that says whatever. And you start to get them over and over and over again. And it’s a fascinating thing. But again, I don’t really know why it happens that way. I just know that it does.
So, I use those cards at the very beginning. And I just say, “We’re going to use these because they’re going to give us a way to deepen the conversation from the beginning.” And they don’t hire me if they don’t want to do the emotional work around money. That’s part of what I offer that makes me unique. So they’re expecting that, in a sense. It’s not like, “Oh, this is some random thing and it’s coming out of left field.”
Michael: That was going to be one of the things to ask. Do you ever get clients like, “I’m so glad you’ve decided to come on and be a financial planning, here’s your oracle cards to draw from.” You’re like, “Whoa, what?”
Luna: Yeah, you’re like, “What?” I think anybody who’s…when I first tell them about my process, I’m very clear with them. I’m like, “To me, the financial journey is partly emotional, it’s partly financial, it’s partly a mindset, it’s all of those things wrapped together.” And that’s usually where people will be like, “Oh, my God, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Because all the other people I interviewed, all they would talk to me about is my half a million dollar portfolio.” And I’m like, “Right.” Because to me, that’s just a tiny portion of what we’re going to be working on. It’s, “Yeah, we need to get your investments allocated, and we need to make sure that you know what they’re doing for you and what different buckets of money have as a purpose, but that is a minor part when it comes to navigating the entire financial situation that you’re in and becoming more financially healthy.”
So my process at the first meeting is you draw cards, we talk about those cards, and they give us some insight into kind of what the starting point is. And because I’m trained in Jungian psychology, I also say that the first draw of those cards… Jung was well known for saying that the first dream when you enter into therapy can often point to what the entire process will look like. And so, it’s very interesting to use that. And I kind of say to them, I’m like, “Well, this might be part of the theme.” Like sometimes people will draw a card and it’s all about receiving, and they’ll be like, “Wow.” We’ll look back on that year and they’ll be like, “‘It really was about me learning how to receive better and be more open.”
So we draw cards, and then I ask them to paint a picture for me of how they would feel a year from now if this process that they just entered into was completely worth the time and money that they spent. How would they feel, and what would they have accomplished in that year? And it’s often surprising. There’s things that will show up there. It’s not just the basic stuff. The feelings can be everything from security, “I want to feel more secure. I want to feel confident. I want to feel capable of having conversations around money. I want to let go of the shame that I feel around money and therefore feel less judgmental of myself or…” There’s lots of different things that people will come up with.
But the piece that’s really interesting is that the feelings are more important to me than the accomplishments, but them naming, “Yeah, I’d like to have my estate plan done and I’d really like to know how to read my statements and what’s going on and where my money’s going. I want to master budgeting” or whatever it is that they might say, I make that list, and that list becomes my guidepost to how well I’m doing in that year-long process with them. So I’ll bring it up in six months, or I’ll bring it up if they start hitting a spot that they’re having a hard time. And I’ll just be like, “Okay, so are we getting closer to this feeling that you want to have? And if not, what can we do to make sure that we start to get there?”
And then they also get a copy of my books. I have two books. One is really just kind of the meat of the process, the Wild Money process, and the second book is a journal that walks them through every exercise. I give them assignments in that book. So there’s a self-assessment. And the self-assessment is really about measuring how much they know and how much they practice. And it’s very different than the kinds of things that most financial advisors ask. I want to know, do they know what a Roth IRA is? But I also want to know how they feel about the money that they make. And do they think that their spending is in alignment with their values?
So, I’m asking questions that are a little, I wouldn’t call them sneaky, but they’re definitely getting at the undercurrents of emotion around money as well as the practicalities. Are you saving 10% of what you make? Do you have an estate plan in place? Do you have enough life insurance? There’s things that are more basic, but then there’s these other questions that, how does giving…what is your relationship with giving? Are you giving in alignment with what you have available to give? Do you feel good about it? Is it in your estate plan? That kind of thing.
So they go home with assignments. And they will draw pictures. And I know a lot of financial advisors look at me cross-eyed when I say that. But drawing pictures about your relationship with money is the most amazing transformative process. Because when you draw an image, it’s not verbal, it’s preverbal. And so if I were to sit down and say, “Okay, Michael, what’s your relationship with money like?” you’re going to use language to describe it to me. But if I actually walked you through a process of drawing a picture of your relationship with money and I teach you how to do it, it’s not like I just leave you hanging. Nope. Most people don’t know how to just like get a pen on paper and start doing that. But I walk you through it in a way that becomes more approachable. And then you draw it.
And you’re making 1 million decisions when you draw an image with stick figure. I’m always like, “Stick figures are awesome. Draw stick figures.” Because they tell me everything. People will draw stick figures with no feet, no hands, no hair, no face, Bill. It’s so expressive in such a simple manner. And it’s not an art project, it’s an expression. So, we use the images because I can look at that picture and help the person who drew it to get a better feel for how they feel in relationship to this thing we call money. And it’s very revealing. But the most fabulous part about it to me is that they can then change the picture and physically change the picture. So I’ll say to them, “Okay, so what’s the one thing you could change about this picture right now that would feel, make you feel just a little bit better?”
For example, I had a couple who was working on trying to detach from his wealthy parents, and they just were feeling like every time they tried to make a maneuver to be more independent, the parents would find a way to manipulate them back into giving them money but making them feel like they were just tied to them. And the strings attached were so intense. So the image he drew was, at the very top of the page was this little boat and a line of water, and then this big, dark, heavy chain and like a big black box at the bottom. And he said, “This is what it feels like. It’s like we’re bobbing along, but then something pulls on the chain and we almost drown. And that weight is coming from my parents’ wealth. And I just can’t stand it anymore.” And so I said, “All right, great. That’s amazing. Tell me what you could do to change the picture.” And he looked at it and then he looked at his wife and he goes, “I could cut the chain.” And he just had this like amazing look on his face. And his wife was like, “Yeah, that’d be great.” And so, for them to have a visual picture of it gave them both a sense that they could work with it, that it was manageable.
So I sent him home and I said, “Okay, now you get to draw that next picture, draw that picture of what is it like to not have the chain.” And the next picture is them, his whole family in the boat, there’s nothing under the water. And they’re sailing towards the house that they were trying to buy. And literally within 2 months, they were in, I don’t know, $115,000 of debt, and they just didn’t think they would ever be able to buy a house on their own without the parents’ help. And they had bought a house within two months. They freaking figured it out. And it was the liberation that they didn’t have to rely on family money anymore, that they could do this on their own that was absolutely essential to their growth.
So the process I walk people through is using these visual images. We use mind maps and writing and different visual tools to help them get a deeper sense of like, “What is this thing? I’ve been in relationship with money my whole life and I will be until I die.” It’s the longest relationship you’ll ever have, but we never look at it as a relationship. So at one point in the process, you write a love letter to money. And it might be an apologetic love letter. It depends on how you’ve treated money over time. It might be an infatuation letter. But it’s a really interesting process to just start to dive into that. And so I weave all of that into the process of financial planning.
So I’m also simultaneously there learning budgeting, and they’re onboarding with eMoney and starting to see their finances in a dashboard in front of their faces in a way that they’ve never seen before. And I was afraid to introduce eMoney to them. I had a colleague a couple of years ago that was like, “No, you’ve really got to try it.” And I was like, “Nah, my clients aren’t going to go for that.” And this summer, I decided no, I think I really want them to have this tool where they can really see everything in one place. And they are loving it. And it’s partly how I introduce it to them, I think, and giving them a context for why this is important.
And then, just again, I think my approach and the reason why I meet with people so often is because I want them to feel like they have accountability and they have a guide by their side and they’re not being handed off or expected to figure it out. Because I know what it’s like to have a professional that does that. And maybe this stuff doesn’t get done, right? It doesn’t get done. I’m too busy. But if I know I’m going back to that office in two weeks, I’m going to do the homework, I’m going to get the thing, I’m going to find the statement, I’m going to make the appointment with the estate planning attorney. And so I think my job is to keep them on track so that we really are building confidence and competence and a sense of security that comes from being in charge of your financial situation, not being at the mercy of it.
Michael: So interesting that for eMoney for you, it sounds like it’s not just the traditional kind of, we do our financial planning software projections piece, it’s actually the eMoney dashboard that has become the big thing in your practice with clients?
Luna: It is. And it’s really been a great resource for them to feel more confident and also, the act of gathering outside assets has been quite…it’s quite an amazing tool to see what’s not with me and to be able to say, “Let’s talk about that.” It’s a real conversation opener for me. And they feel much…they’re so happy with it. They just love being able to go in there and see where they’re at, and then they can also change some things that they want to change. And then I teach them how to find the reports and run things and look at their balance sheet. And they feel more empowered to have the tools that they need to go to their accountant or go to their attorney. And it’s like, “No, the things are right there. You don’t even have to ask me for it.”
Where The More “Traditional” Piece Of Financial Planning Fits Into Luna’s Process [1:04:36]
Michael: And do you still at some point do what, I don’t know, we’ll call it the traditional financial planning process? The retirement projections and the eMoney Decision Center or whatever pieces you’re using. So where does that come in? Where do you go from the cards and the vision drawing into like, “Oh, and by the way, here’s your financial planning projections from eMoney?” How does that shift or transition occur?
Luna: Yeah, it’s very organic. It really depends on where they’re at. So for example, if somebody comes in and they’re just at the end of a divorce and they’re just trying to figure it out, they’re so new and they don’t even have all the assets moved over yet from the divorce, we’re going to start with them, we’re going to start head-on into the budgeting and the Wild Money. And I’ll say to them like, “As soon as all those assets are in your possession, then we’re going to do your projections.” Because we want to work with real numbers instead of just guesses. If we have a good idea of what’s coming or how it’s going to look and we’re trying to make some decisions about do you have to go back to work right away or do we have time to go back to school or to figure something else out, then I’ll map that out for them pretty quickly in the process and help them to look at, “Oh, I see, this is the impact of this,” or, “Should I borrow money for school or not?” So it’s very organic in the sense of where does it fit in a year, but it definitely happens.
And we then integrate that, because one of the things they’re learning in the Wild Money process and in budgeting is, “Oh, what are those numbers?” Like budgeting is really critical, because if they have the budgeting down and they have…I use the program called You Need a Budget. And if they have done that for a couple months, now we have real data that we can put into eMoney, and therefore, our projections are actually more realistic. So they all really fit together. And I’d say my bandwidth issue right now is that I’m the one doing a lot of the…they’ll enter some of their stuff in the money, but, of course, I still have to go in and make sure it’s done correctly and it’s in the right type of…account type is correct. And that’s taking more time than I have available to me. So I’m really at that stage of like, do I need to hire a person that’s just an eMoney specialist or do I hire somebody who’s going to be a virtual something? I haven’t figured that out. I’m open to ideas.
Michael: Well, and I’m struck that you’re doing eMoney and you just said you also use YNAB, You Need a Budget, which is kind of a standalone budgeting tool. So what are you doing in You Need a Budget that you can’t do with the cash flow tracking tools that live in eMoney? What’s actually happening with You Need a Budget?
Luna: I have not experienced that eMoney…eMoney basically does similar to what Mint does, which is, here’s what your spending is. And that’s not budgeting, that’s just what your spending is. You could even set in both programs, I believe, you can set like, well, I want to spend about $800. But because of the way YNAB is super app-friendly, it’s on your phone, it’s easy, it’s much easier for people to use as a budgeting tool. Because to me, budgeting, I mean in budgeting in general, it’s not just to me, but budgeting is comparing what you think you’re going to spend or your estimation of where you’re going to…of how you put your money into categories with what you’re actually spending. And without that comparison, it’s different than just saying, “My target is $800 and I’m overspent.” That’s what Mint does, which I find very irritating. It’s like, yes, so what? I overspent. But there’s no tools for working with the fact that you overspent.
In YNAB, you get to go in and say, “Well, there’s only three places that money comes from. It comes from what I earned, it comes from what I saved, or it comes from my credit cards or money borrowed.” And so when people start to get that in their heads and they’re like, “Whoa, if I overspend here, here are the only places it can come out of.” And the concept of, I have X amount of dollars to budget each month and every dollar is going to get a job, YNAB is just built better for that. And then because you can use it on your phone, you’re also able to track things like the cash you’re spending or other things that you might have written a check and you don’t want to keep a register. And you can just use your app to do that. I find it’s a much better tool. They only place that I wish they would improve is their ability to print and download reports. YNAB is still not very sophisticated in that department. So you can’t…there’s no interactivity.
Michael: You can’t get a printout and go analog when you just want a thing to look at and talk through?
Luna: Yeah. Like you end up having to do things like screenshots or…you can do a CSV file, but that’s not…it comes with a lot of garbage that you have to clean up in order to make it a useful file to take somewhere else. But I use it from a category perspective. I’ll just say, “Okay, let’s just look at what are your monthly bills? What are your discretionary spending? What’s your savings look like?” And because I have people even budget, like if they have a $25,000 savings account, I’m still going to ask them to budget that in terms of, “How much are you comfortable allocating of that $25,000 to car expenses, vet bills, medical bills?” instead of just lumping it all together as, “This is just the emergency account.” And they feel more masterful with their money when they feel like, “Yeah. Oh, look, I need new tires and I have $3,000 set aside for that purpose. I knew that was coming.” As opposed to I’m just… People feel guilty is what I see a lot. Like they put money into savings, but they feel guilty for spending it. And my point is that you need long-term and short-term savings. You have to save for the predictably unpredictable things that are going to happen. But it helps to have those line items.
And in YNAB, they say, “You need to know what your true expenses are.” And I like that concept, although I implemented it a little differently than they do. But the idea is, there’s a lot of things that come up in our lives that we would always forget on a budget. We just forget them. We forget that we have to renew our car and our driver’s license and our…there’s just the prime bill that comes once a year, whatever it is. There’s things that are just constantly throwing off our estimation of what we’re spending. And when you start to get those in the system and you start to plan for them, it’s like, “Oh, I really don’t quite have as much discretionary income as I thought I had.” But I’m more in charge of it, and I feel more prepared. And when I feel prepared, I’m stepping out of the paycheck-to-paycheck mentality.
And it works just as well on the other side. I have a client, young, mid-30s, has about $17 million, had no idea how much money she had. The dashboard on eMoney was absolutely mind-boggling to her, because she was like, “Holy moly, I really do have $17 million.” She just didn’t know, and she never looked at it because she was like, “Well, I deal with this bank or this account and that account, but I don’t ever put them all together.” And when she did that, she’s much more able to look at it from a tax perspective and from how much can I live on perspective and how much can I give away. And it’s a sense of control. There’s a lot you can’t control in this life, but at least if you can see where you’re at, that’s helpful.
How Luna Uses 18 Meetings Over The First Year And How They Fit Into Her Business Model [1:12:25]
Michael: So bring me back once more to just this first-year experience, this like, up to 18…I don’t mean in a bad way, I’m just trying to…no, I’m just trying to wrap my head around like, it’s a lot of meetings. It’s a lot of stuff. So is this like a really regimented schedule? Like, “We will be meeting every three weeks for the next year, and we’re going to work you through all this stuff?” Is it still kind of flexible? What ultimately drives this meeting series? Is there a regiment like, “Here are the 18 things we’re going to do in these 18 meetings over the next year?” Just help me understand how this comes together.
Luna: Yeah, I’ve never been good at that because there’s so little that’s the same between each person, so it’s very flexible. I typically say, “The best way to do this is to meet every two weeks for the first three to four months. And after that, we meet once a month.” And I want them to really get things moving to start to see change, to start to feel like, “Wow, I now can see where I’m at. I can see that oh, I’m missing a few pieces of information and I need to get those pieces.” And the cool thing about eMoney for me is that they can get those pieces put into their vault. And now they have…they have access to them. So they’re not just giving them to me for me to store or for me to keep track of, it’s like they’re also putting them in their own vault. And they have…they now know that like, “Oh, I’ve got my tax returns there and my estate planning and my statements. And that’s pretty nice to feel like I’m not scattered all over.” And they start to develop a new muscle around being aware of where everything is and what it’s doing and what its purpose is. So typically, I’ll do that.
I also will, like I have a client right now who’s…she’s leaving the country for about six months. So we’re meeting twice a week because there’s a lot of moving parts and there’s a lot of investments that are going to happen. So we’re just meeting every two weeks and we’re going to kind of condense it into a very short period of time. And then I’ll be there available to check in as she’s traveling and doing her other parts of her life. So I guess I enjoy being that flexible. It works for me. I don’t feel like I’ve ever needed to be like everybody goes through this process the same way, because they don’t, they’re all different.
Michael: And how long are these meetings? I just imagine you’re meeting that frequently, there’s only so much stuff to go through. Their life only changes so much over the past two weeks since we met last.
Luna: Oh, oh, you’d be surprised. No, no, there’s a lot to go through, because again, I’m not just dealing with their numbers. So we are doing the work in the Wild Money process. So they’re bringing in the images they drew and the writing that they’ve done. Like I have them, for example, do a mind map that is to look at how feelings affect their spending. So the mind map has, “When I’m lonely, what do I spend money on? When I’m super happy, where do I spend money on? When I’m feeling successful, what do I spend money on?” And again, I’m trying to just lubricate their minds around what is it that has been operating in a really unconscious way, and how do we bring that up to the surface and start looking at it so that intentionality starts to become part of the process?
So they’ll bring that mind map in. And then that’s a great conversation. So we do meet for about an hour. My meetings are all an hour. I find that more than that then people start to get just full. I start every meeting with the cards and we do this, just check in, and I’m really encouraging them to be writing or just taking notes on the things that are happening and how they feel about it. So if they find $100 somewhere that they weren’t expecting it, like how did they process through what that was, and is it free money and it just goes, “Oh, I can just spend that,” or is it money that, “Wow, I could pay that debt off with that money?” Or how does it impact their thinking process? And so on. My process is very much like a combination of financial therapy and financial planning. So I’m really combining that aspect of, I want to look at what’s happening with your mother when you talk to her about money. And how can I empower you to have better conversations about her estate plan or about how she’s managing her money right now without getting too much in her business? So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about.
Michael: And so, what does this look like from a business perspective? What’s your model? Are you charging a standalone planning fee? Is this just covered by an assets under management fee? Do you blend them together? How do you get paid for all this work, all the time, all the meetings?
Luna: Yeah. So basically, it’s a flat fee for financial planning. If they decide to do asset management, that’s separate, separate assets under management fee. And typically, that’s…I’m typically just doing basic 1% or less, depending on how much they have under management. So down the road. I also do commission-based products at this point. So I do some annuities and life insurance. It’s not a big part of my practice, but I do it if it’s appropriate. I’d rather have them be able to work with me than have to send them out to somebody else in that world. And my fees are basically between $5,000 and $10,000 for that year. Again, depending on the complexity, how much that kind of behind-the-scenes time will take for the planning process and how much hand-holding there is. Truly, I can gauge pretty well at this point, is this person going to be a pretty high-need, high-maintenance client? Are they going to be…
Michael: You get a feel for who’s going to be high maintenance or not. Yep.
Luna: Oh, totally, totally. Or is it just that they have a lot of complexities. And if they have money in multiple countries and I’m going to be dealing with trying to figure that all out and working that into eMoney, which is challenging. So, I just base it on that. Yeah. And then after that, after that first year, if they don’t become an asset under management client, then they just pay me by the hour. And we tend to contract for another year of four to six meetings, again, depending on where they’re at and what they need and how… A lot of times in a year, they’re getting pretty settled. They’re pretty grounded. And they just want quarterly check-ins after that until something big happens. And then if they come back and they’re like, “Oh, I just inherited money,” or, “Now I’m leaving my job and I need more.”
Michael: So I’m thinking through it at $5,000 to $10,000 in planning fees for, even if you end out with a full like 18 1-hour meetings and some prep work in between and you’re 20 or 30 hours into the process, if I back into the math, you’re still effectively doing the equivalent of like hourly work at $200, $300 an hour or more. It adds up, particularly since you’re…if you then do investment management work, you’re charging that separately for a separate fee because it’s very separate from the full-year meeting process. It’s like the hourly fees really just have to cover the time it takes to do all of this work. And it actually adds up just fine for you.
Luna: It does. And I love it. To me, it’s like, it’s so inspiring to do this work and to see how much people transform in that process that I would far prefer to work deeply with people than have more clients and work at a shallow level, or just, I’m just investing their money. That would not make me a happy camper.
Michael: But you do gather assets as well. I think you’d mentioned like, you’re up to $55 million of assets under management, which is a pretty hefty recurring revenue AUM-based on that basis alone. And so if you get clients that decide to come on board for investment management, does that happen in parallel to the planning work? Is that like, “We’re going to do the whole thing for the first year and then you can decide if you want to work with me on an ongoing AUM basis?” Where does that kick in?
Luna: Yeah, it totally depends. I don’t bring it up, typically, unless they’re like, “Luna, I want you to manage my money,” then I’ll address their concern.
Michael: “Okay, I guess I’ll help out…”
Luna: Yeah, okay. But actually, I do…I kind of feel like the psychology of it is, I’m not going to bug you about this. If you want me to do it, then you’re going to want me to do it and you’ll bring it up. And again, I’m trying to empower them to trust their guts, to teach them how to make good financial decisions. And being impulsive is not one of them. I feel like that’s part of my gig.
And the other thing I do, just as a side note, is I actually do this process with financial planners. I feel like one of the things…one of my pet peeves about our industry is that we are never required to do the work ourselves and yet we’re out there. Most of us don’t have our own financial planners. Most of us think we know what we know. And I’m trained as a therapist, and in the therapy world, you have to have a supervisor, you have to go through your own therapy process. Nobody who’s a therapist would ever imagine doing therapy for other people without having gone through a pretty intensive process themselves. And we don’t do that. And I think it’s insane that we don’t have people that are really…we’re baring our souls about our financial situation with other people.
Some of my favorite work has been with financial planners that want to learn how to use my process, and they go through it themselves. And it’s eye-opening to them to see their own places where they’re super strong and places where they’re just not, and they’re not following their own advice or they’re not walking their talk in certain places because we’re all human. We do that. And so to be in an environment where you can have that kind of open conversation and do your work is powerful.
Michael: And hey, financial planning for financial planners is kind of a cool niche unto itself.
Luna: There you go. It’s just trying to work with people that…those of us that think we already know what we know. Yeah, it’s an interesting one.
Michael: So, once you get through the first year with clients, is…how does this blend together if they are…I get, if they don’t do any asset management work with you, as you said, just, we’ll bill you by the hours you want to come in for meetings at whatever frequency. If they do decide to come on board with you as an AUM client as well, is it still like, “Hey, I’m managing your portfolio for this fee, if you want to do more of this Wild Money and planning stuff, that’s a separate fee?” Do you bundle them together or is there like, “You get this much included in AUM and then I bill you separately?” How do these blend together for you when you’ve got kind of two very distinct services under one umbrella?
Luna: Yeah, it’s a good question. If they become an asset under management client and it’s over half a million dollars, I don’t bill them for time. And people are very respectful. I really don’t have… People unless they’re in the middle of a divorce or they’re going through some kind of big real estate transaction, that they don’t lean on me too much. It never feels like it’s overdone. So I just feel like if I’m managing their money, then it’s part of what they’re paying me for is to be available to them. And to me, the most important role I can play is, “I’m here to be your sounding board. When you’re making financial decisions, please use that. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t use it or that you’re going to get billed for it, because you’re already paying me for management and something should come for that.” I find it amazing that people are…I have clients that are paying management fees of tens of thousands of dollars and they get nothing for it. They don’t even get a…they barely get an annual review, let alone planning. And that to me doesn’t feel fair. It’s like, what are you doing? What are you earning that money for?
And I think that’s what the industry is…that’s one of the themes in the industry right now is like, well, what are you doing for that money as an advisor? And to me, what I’m doing is I’m really helping them to stay current with what’s happening and making sure that they’re able to see their plans and look at them themselves and understand them, and then getting the opportunity to come in and work with me whenever they want to. Most of the time, it’s quarterly or semi-annually.
Michael: And so now bring this back for me to this overlap of your advisory firm of $55 million under management and $5,000 to $10,000 planning fees, and then what you’re doing on the Sacred Money side with $100 budgeting classes. So how does this all fit back together for you? Or is that still the magic question we’re trying to figure out?
Luna: Yeah. Like somebody asked me the same question that I saw on your website, which is, “When do you sleep?” I would say I’m still working it out. I still spend more time than I’d like to spend on the Studio, trying to iron out the challenges of a manager that’s not working out or setting up the whole entire next year’s schedule for classes. There’s more there than I…I’m the visionary. I love being in that role. I don’t love being in the role of dealing with how are we going to market it and what social media outlets are we going to use. That part makes me nuts. So I’m really entering myself into the kind of a role, a process right now where I’ve got a coach and I’m really just trying to get clarity about what my practice looks like going forward. Because I’m also 60 and I want to make some decisions about how do I…do I want to grow a firm? And is that my legacy or do I want to sell my firm down the road? And I’m on the fence.
Michael: Are you leaning one way or another? It’s a crossroads issue for a lot of advisors.
Luna: Yeah. I have met a woman that if I could bring her over, I would. We’re in conversations. For me, it’s a new world to try to figure out how to get her the right compensation package and to understand how that will impact me. It just takes a lot of time and energy to make sure that’s the right fit. And it’s a marriage. So I’m well aware of partnerships that work well and ones that don’t. And so I’ve had both experiences. And I’m just a little cautious because it’s a lot easier right now to just have it be me and I don’t have to direct anybody else. But I’m also not able to grow. And like I said, I have a lot of referrals, and so my practice could easily grow. I could easily take over another office the size of mine and there would be plenty of people. Because I don’t market at all. And so if I did, even if I marketed a tiny bit, it would grow a lot. Because there’s really nobody…there’s nobody in the country doing it this way. And people really want the emotional, they want to feel like they matter.
I actually jokingly was saying to one of my clients, I said, “I think the club I need to start is called the black sheep club.” Because the people I love to work with are the women who are from wealthy families who don’t fit in and don’t know how to navigate these super conservative family members and brothers and fathers. And they’re the progressive, liberal, leaning women that just want to do something different with money. And they don’t want it to just be about accumulating it and stockpiling it for the family, they want to do good with it. And I feel like that’s my niche, and I want to expand that niche. And I think there’s a ton of room for it.
Michael: But as you said, you’ve…
Luna: But, there’s a but there.
Michael: Well, but, as you said, you kept hitting right around $50 million and then would stop growing and drop back, and then grow up into it again and then drop back again. So are you envisioning trying to grow much larger or not? Or is that literally the kind of the crossroads question now?
Luna: Yeah, I’m really at the crossroads. I think that if I could really find the investors and get Sacred Money Studios to be much more financially independent of me, I would feel a lot freer to make some moves with Lunaria. But right now, Lunaria, in effect, is supporting the studio. And it’s on me financially. Even though I have two other partners, they’re not financial partners. So I need that to shift before I feel like I can take a big risk with Lunaria. And it’s finding the right people, as you know. I know you probably have a bunch of employees. I’ve had little experiments with bringing people on and they haven’t really gone that well. And so I’m a little gun-shy of like, what didn’t I see and how do I get the right person in the right seat? And that’s a lot of work. That’s just a lot of work. So what’s more work? Is it more work to hire somebody or just do the eMoney plan myself?
Michael: Well, and at what point? Do you want to grow or feel the need to grow or are you happy with the asset base and the income and the earnings that are there and what you can do with it?
Luna: Right, right. It’s like my motivation comes a lot more from, what kind of legacy can I leave than… I always trusted I’ll be fine financially in the end in terms of my own retirement. So it’s not like somebody walked up and said, “Here’s $1 million, would you leave Lunaria?” I’d probably say no because I’m like, why? Because I like it. But if somebody said, “I’d like to partner with you and we could build something really amazing,” that might be more appealing, where I can continue to do what I do. I just don’t have to handle some of the pieces. And I think that’s what’s happening in our industry, I just don’t know all the ins and outs of it yet. So my fear is always that I don’t know what I don’t know and I don’t know what questions to ask and where to go to get that support. And that’s been hard part of being in a business by myself.
Michael: I think it’s the challenge for a lot of advisors and one of the drivers why a lot of us end out staying on our own or only with a very small team. That just, if you grow much larger than that, you have to start hiring a lot more people, life just gets much more complex very quickly. Most advisors hit that crossroads at 100 clients, give or take a little, which it sounds like is right around where your firm is as well.
Luna: I’m one of those people like, I keep going back to that question that…I ask my clients this question. It’s one of the questions on my questionnaire is like if you had $20 million, what would you do? And it’s so illuminating because there are people that could write 5 pages about what they would do with $20 million, and there’s other people that don’t have a clue. They can’t even imagine anything with it. And to me, it teaches me a little bit about how they allow themselves or don’t allow themselves to dream.
So I actually do this on a regular basis. And sometimes we play things. I do games with people in my classes and we talk about like, “Okay, so if you had an increasing amount of money every day,” we call it the money game, “You have $100 one day and the next day you have $200, the next day you have $400, and it just increases, and you can only spend it on you, what would you spend it on?” And it starts to really show you what matters and what doesn’t matter. And I ultimately see for me, it’s like, it’s not about like…I don’t want to have the big glitzy firm and the…it’s just not about that, it’s, how many people can I help? How many people’s lives can I change? And if I die knowing that I’ve helped as many people as I can, then I’m happy. It’s not about, I need to have millions of dollars to pass to my kiddo, because hopefully, I’m teaching him how to be independent.
What Surprised Her The Most About Building Her Own Advisory Firm [1:32:28]
Michael: So, what surprised you the most about the path of building your own advisory firm over the past almost 20-odd years now?
Luna: It’s interesting. I don’t know how to answer that question. I think what’s been super, super… Oh, man, I want to answer that question well. It surprised me on one level how easy it is to make money in this business, especially because I have the other one to compare it to. It’s really, like to sit down and really know how to talk to somebody and find the perfect solution for them and it’s going to make $15,000 is, to me kind of crazy when I go across the street. And I realized that I couldn’t make $15,000 in that business if 15 people work their butts off for 6 months, I mean profit, $15,000 in profit. So it’s an amazing industry, and I really have some ethical challenges with what we’re doing and how we do it. And I think that’s part of where my struggle is, is like, I just want to do the right thing.
Michael: In what way? The conflicts of the business model or just that it feels weird to get paid $15,000 for this when you can’t get $15,000 with 15 employees in 6 months at the pie shop?
Luna: Yeah, that. Well, it’s just like the inequities you see in incomes around the globe. Why does that software engineer make $250,000 and the teacher at the elementary school level who’s really doing some important work is making $30,000 a year? But no, I think in our industry, yeah, it’s more of the way the industry works. Like going to a conference and seeing that the only way you get on that stage is because some wholesaler paid for that to happen. And so, you’re getting influenced by it. And the influences that are on me are just like the ones I think in the medical field, where it’s like the drug companies that show up and wine and dine you and give you all the samples are the ones that you’re more likely to know more about and do more with. And I feel that in this… I don’t possibly have the time to know everything that’s out there that could be good for my clients. And some of the things I think that are better for them are not the ones that have the money to show up at my door every three months.
Michael: Well, that’s long been the challenge. I think in our industry in particular, there’s one set of conflicts around just high-expense products that they may pay not just commissions but unduly high commissions that kind of creates some very questionable conflicts. But also because one of the “virtues,” in air quotes, one of the “virtues” of being a higher-expense product is you have more money to market and sponsor events and have wholesalers and do ads and what are the other things that you do to get in front of advisors. And so, there is a challenge that unless your company has enormous economies of scale, one of the biggest challenge with low-cost products is they can’t afford to market themselves as being low-cost solutions. And higher-cost solutions have the money to market it.
Luna: I know. And like my whole focus is, because I’m…like my company is in the process of becoming a B Corp, it’s all about sustainability and…it’s profitability, but it’s oriented around the planet and being sustainable. That’s my value system. And so then, if that’s my value system, then how do I reconcile that with the fact that yeah, I only hear from certain companies. The ones that are more impact-oriented don’t have the same resources, can’t pay at the door or don’t want to pay at the door to get into a conference where I might hear them. And then it takes more work on my part to try to find them and try to build those relationships. And it’s worth it, but it’s a lot. It’s a lot to keep up with. And that’s what I think I start to worry about like, what’s it going to be like for me in five years? It has more to do with how much can I continue to learn? And because it feels like the learning has happened on so many levels. And I could hire people to do that, but then I have to trust that they’re going to learn it the way I would want to learn it or digest it in. You know what I’m saying?
Michael: Yep. Well, and I think that becomes the challenge for all of us as advisors. If you ever want to build a business beyond yourself, you have to figure out how to turn what you do into something that is consistent enough that you can literally like train another person to do the same thing and serve the clients the way that you would have served them in your stead. It’s the fundamental challenge.
Luna: That is the challenge. That’s one of the things I love about listening to your podcast is I just keep hearing all these different women, because I listen to all the women, because I like to hear their paths and the things they’ve tried and how many women have gone from broker-dealer to broker-dealer. And I’m like, “Wow, that’s a lot of transition.” And stopping and starting and recreating yourself. And I’m like, “Okay, I don’t need to be afraid of this. I just need to keep going forward and letting the next evolution happen, whatever that may be.”
Michael: What was the low point for you on the journey?
Luna: Oh, Lord. I think the low point has definitely been, the Studio has been just… Well, getting sued by Jones was definitely a low point. That was a huge low point.
Michael: Yeah, getting sued is not high on most people’s list.
Luna: Getting sued is not fun. And I’d never had to be sitting in front of this arbitration committee and dealing with…they just make you feel awful. And that was crappy. But that’s luckily way behind me now.
I have been just…the pie shop has been this like, I have doubted everything I’ve ever done in my life. It’s just been such a huge stressor and been pretty rough on my marriage. And we’re both partners in it. So it’s good a thing and it’s a hard thing that we’re partners in it. So, yeah, the low point has been feeling stretched like a rubber band between the two businesses and kind of saying to myself like, “I’ve been working my ass off for four years, never gotten paid for the…” I work 40 hours a week at the pie shop and then I work 40 hours a week, 35 hours a week at Lunaria. And just, there’s moments when I’ve been just like, “Why am I doing this? What am I doing this for?” And then I get one person who walks in and says, “You changed my life. Two years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing. And my life is on track now and you changed my life.” And I’m like, “All right, I’ll keep doing it.”
Michael: Like, “Oh, now I’m sucked back in again. I was so ready to cut the cord, now I’m back in again.”
Luna: And I was. I really was this summer. I was just like, “We have to sell this. It’s not good for our mental health. We’re just so stressed out.” And it was really, really hard on my wife. And it was just like, “Gosh, what are we doing here?” Yeah. And then we get so many people that come in. Every single day that I’m over there, if I’m working behind the counter, just like on my break or something, and four or five people just like, “We love this place. It has made us a better community.” And I’m like, “Oh, man.”
Michael: All, right, I guess we’re in for another year now.
Luna: Yeah, it’s like, I can’t give it up. It’s like giving up your baby. It’s like, I don’t want to let my baby go. But I also was like, when do you let things go and how do people make those decisions? Like all those restaurants that close. Like I went across the town the other day and I was like, “What? That restaurant I loved is gone.” And it was very successful from my outside viewpoint. I’m like, “They’re gone. Like, where did they go? What happened to that investment? What happened?” And I feel the same way about this is like, I don’t want to be that disappearing business. I’ve done things where I’m like, I’ve written a letter to the community and I’ve said, “Look, here’s where we’re at. Y’all need to like step up and support us, because otherwise, we won’t be here for you.”
And it’s just like, there’s so many challenges to owning a place that’s a retail space because people are…they can be awful? It’s few and far between the ones that are awful, but there can be some awful people that just want to complain or make something wrong. And that’s so demoralizing when you’ve been giving and giving and giving and giving. And that’s like, almost broken my spirit a couple times, where I just like, collapsed on the floor and bawl my eyes out. And then I like, “Oh, I’ve got to get up and work on this financial plan” or whatever keeps me going.
Michael: So, as you look at this nearly 20-year journey that you’ve been doing as an advisor, what do you know now about it that you wish you could go back and tell you from 20 years ago when you were just getting ready to come into the profession?
Luna: Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think my biggest error along the way has been not having mentors that were really…I had a hard time finding people that I could really align with or that were meant…the type of mentor that would pull me forward into who I am, not into making me be something like what they look like or something like that. And even to this day, I still don’t have that sense of like, I have this person in my life who I completely admire their practice or the way that they go about business, and I know I can lean on them and I can ask them any question and I can air my dirty laundry, I have never had that. And I miss it. I’ve been that to other people, but I’ve not had it for myself. And that makes me sad. That makes my heart hurt right now just even saying that because we need those people.
And Jones had a really good model of mentorship, and it was definitely better than I’ve had since I’ve been on the independence world, but it was still being mentored by people that didn’t see the business the way I did and weren’t motivated by the same things I was or weren’t that good at just drawing me out and wanting me to be more of who I was. So yeah, the lesson learned is, get a good mentor early on. And don’t stop looking for one, and be willing to ask, even people that are not in the industry, just the person that can really guide you around how to be a really great business owner. I feel like so much of my struggles have been around the business side of it. Just how do I manage this thing? How do I make good decisions? How do I know when I can afford that or not afford this move?
What Success Means To Luna [1:43:14]
Michael: So as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success. And one of the themes that always comes up is just the word “success” means different things to different people. And so, you’ve built this successful advisory firm, you’re still trying to push forward a successful pie shop to go with it, slightly bigger challenge, but so we’re learning, looking at legacy 10 years out. And so I’m just wondering, how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Luna: I think in a couple ways. One is, success for me is feeling like I can really…that I have the resources, the time, the energy to be out in the world in as big a way as I want to be. Like I’m in the middle of writing another book, that I have the bandwidth inside of me, not so stressed out, basically, to promote that next book. And that next book has nothing to do with the industry. So, it’s like, it’s a real departure, and it’s something that I really want to be able to do without feeling like it’s compromising my work. And so success for me is feeling like I have enough of a team, that I’m doing the things that I love to do and that I really thrive at doing and I’m good at, and I’m not doing the things that make me crazy. So success is learning how to be that person that can hire the right people and delegate appropriately, whether it’s just contractors or whatever it is.
And I think also, success is creating something, whether it’s Lunaria or Sacred Money Studios or something altogether different, I don’t know, that goes on after me, that continues to make waves or ripples in the world of transformation around the way particularly women learn about money. If I could really feel like I had that big of an impact, then that would be success for me.
Michael: Well, amen. I hope there are a few people that hear this and get inspired by some of it as well. I got to look at some of the materials you’ve done, the “Wild Money” book and the cards that you’ve created, and it’s really amazing stuff. So I hope maybe a few advisors hear this and want to check it out further and help carry on some of that legacy for you of what you built.
Luna: Thank you.
Michael: Absolutely. Well, thank you, Luna, for joining us on the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.
Luna: Been a really fun conversation. I appreciate your curiosity. Great questions.
Michael: Absolutely. Thank you.