My History in Finance: The Beginning

Personal Money Planning |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®


30 years ago this year, I started the financial firm Personal Money Planning. We followed my pre-journey to the start of the company last week. When we left off, the firm Personal Money Planning was mostly just a name. I worked under my former professor. As his firm was structured for commissioned sales and I wanted to offer my services under a fee model, we parted ways. Personal Money Planning became a firm all its own—which meant I was all on my own—for better or worse.

There are several things I learned in this transition. The first was that you need to be able to see the natural progression from where you are now to where you’ll be later in life. I looked at my situation while working for my professor and saw it was taking me in a different direction than I wanted to go. Weighing the pros and cons of change, even if the pros have it, the courage to step out on a different path is not easy. There is no guarantee which path is best. But the quote attributed to Yogi Berra comes to mind: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Well, I did.

Another thing I learned was to not burn bridges. I’ll admit, sometimes burning those bridges is the safest thing to do, but that is an exception to the rule. My professor, mentor, and then-current boss and I parted ways respectfully as friends (thanks Alan). We’ve spoken at events for each other, had meals together at industry events, and referred business to each other as the situation warranted. No matter which side of the fork you take in a relationship, mutual respect can be golden.

Here I was, on my own, having to figure out all the nuances of the business that previously other people had to worry about. The odds were high I was going to fail.

Last week I mentioned I worked a part-time financial services job for three years before Personal Money Planning started. When I started that job, there were 10 of us in the new-employee training program. By the time I left that job, only two of us from that group were still in the industry. Historically, the financial service industry has been brutal to newcomers.

You may have read that 50% of new businesses fail in the first year, or in the first five years, 90% fail by then (reported numbers are all over the place). Suffice it to say that new businesses fail a lot. Mine was going to test this.

With the help of the Small Business Development Center at Midwestern State University, I wrote up a business plan (thanks, Paul). Using my incredible skills and being an optimistic pessimist, I mapped out what the next five years would look like and then what I thought was the worst-case scenario.

Guess which line on the graph proved to be correct? That’s one more learning point: Be realistic about what should happen and what could happen.

We’ll continue our journey next week.