Ian Bloom, CFP®, is a nerdy financial planner and proud of it. In this interview with him, I got to ask him all about his path to financial planning, how he’s developed his own “niche” based on his interests, and the importance of sharing expertise.

This discussion is a really interesting dive into how one Certified Financial Planner™ found his way in the profession, using unconventional approaches to both his practice and his market. 

Ian’s superhero origin story

It wouldn’t be a nerdy interview without a superhero origin story, and Ian shared his with me. While he was attending Appalachian State, Ian met his girlfriend (now wife) and went home with her to meet the parents. There, he met her father, Stephen Brody — if you’re a big follower of YAFPNW, was on the podcast way back on Episode 90. Ian fell in love with what Stephen showed him about “financial life planning” and the rest is history. 

He started working as Stephen’s mentee at a captive insurance firm and other firms before eventually starting his own firm, Open World Financial Planning. He officially became a CFP® in December 2018 and is also NexGen director for his local FPA chapter’s board. On top of running his own firm and helping out so much in the NexGen community, Ian has a fascinating niche audience — one that stems from his own nerdiness (said with a smile).

Nerds + money

Ian loves games; video games, card games, RPGs, you name it. He’s also a self-professed nerd and shares a lot of content with themes related to gaming. Even his company name, Open World, is a nod to video game and comic culture. How has this helped him in his firm?

It’s given him his own very unique target market. As he said during our discussion, he’s uniquely equipped to understand how “nerdy” clients want to invest their money, or what to do when someone has a massive comic book collection. Most of all, he’s able to really understand his clients’ financial planning needs because, as he puts it, what they care about is more important than finances. Finances are just what makes the things they care about possible. All of this, as well as his close mentor/mentee relationship with his father-in-law, have led Ian to embrace “financial life planning” in his own practice.

Life planning + systems

Financial life planning, as Ian put it, is about being more concerned with what your clients want from their life than what sort of assets they have under management. You start with what they care about, what they want to do, and then you consider the financial elements that will help them get there. Of course, Ian is by no means the first person to embrace this approach, but he does share a ton of resources and places to go for information and training in the financial life planning arena. (See shownotes below!)

He’s also big on systems, and explained the importance of creating systems that allow each of his clients to have a meaningful experience when working with him. These systems include the initial meeting, as well as exercises to work through their interests and wants before collecting the numbers. Ian takes a “purpose first” approach to his clients’ finances, and I think it’s something you new planners out there will definitely resonate with.

Sharing easter eggs (sometimes for free)

There’s one other thing I really wanted to talk to Ian about: all of the content he creates. He has a great website, tons of blogs, and a pretty extensive YouTube channel. He also just published his first book, A Gamer’s Guide to Money. While many CFP® professionals might hesitate to create free content and put it out there, Ian has no qualms. He also talked about the “long game” with his content; he knows that a single video isn’t going to go viral and book him a million clients overnight. But when people stumble across his content, that builds a relationship. There’s a statistic that Ian shared with me: It takes 10 pieces of content before someone reaches out to you about your product/services. At this rate, Ian should be doing pretty well for himself in a few years!

My main takeaway from this discussion is that Ian is a NexGen planner with big goals and a voracious appetite for learning. Not only does he share a ton of great resources in our interview, but the level of attention and care he’s put into his practice is really inspiring. I think many NexGen planners out there who feel “shoehorned” into selling product in their firm or who are unsure about who they want to serve will get a lot out of this episode, so make sure to tune in.

 

 

 

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • Ian’s origin story
  • The pressure younger planners may feel to sell products instead of plan
  • How to create a personal brand around your non-planning interests
  • The power of interests and expertise in attracting the right clientele
  • What financial life planning means
  • The idea of “purpose first” in financial planning
  • How to build your skills and competency around life planning
  • The importance of systems and processes in life planning
  • Organizations and resources you can leverage to help you in your new career
  • The power of a really good support system
  • Why you should explore creative pursuits in addition to your career
  • The value in sharing expertise (for free) in a medium that works for you 
  • What “WID” means and how to apply it to your clients

 

Show Notes:

In this episode of YAFPNW, I talk to Ian Bloom about:

Want to follow Ian? You can find him on Twitter @ianhbloom

 

 

Show Transcript

Episode Transcript


Hannah: Today on the podcast we have Ian Bloom. And if you have been a longtime listener, you may have heard a previous podcast by Stephen Brody. And Ian, that is your father-in-law, right?

Ian: Yeah, that’s correct.

Hannah: Is Stephen how you got introduced into financial planning?

Ian: Yeah, he is. Actually, if you’re willing to hear the whole kind of long story made short part of it, basically what happened is I met his daughter while I was in school, we were both RA’s at Appalachian State. And I came home with her one day while I was going through that kind of mid college crisis and I met him and fell in love with what he did almost in a weekend because he showed me a lot of what he did for a living coincidentally. And I was like, Steve, I think I want to do this. And he was like, oh God, what have I gotten myself into? So that’s kind of how I got involved in the profession.

Hannah: Well, and now you run your own financial planning practice called Open World Financial Life Planning. And on your website it’s financial life planning for nerds. So, how did you go from meeting your future father-in-law, hearing about financial planning, and starting your own firm? For those of you listening before the podcast, I was told this is the superhero origin story. So what is your superhero origin story of how you got to build your own firm?

Ian: Essentially, what happened is I got started in the profession after begging Steve to take me on as a mentee. And we were under a captive insurance company that no longer has representatives. I try not to name any names just in case I speak ill. But essentially, what he did is he gave me the opportunity to get my licenses, get a salary, and get paid to learn, which was incredible. I learned really good ways to work with clients, I learned really good ways to develop my financial skills. I got licensed, the whole nine yards. And that enabled me to kind of get a head start in the profession while working with some of his clients jointly with him. And so, I’m incredibly thankful for that opportunity. Obviously, it’s one of the best ways you can get started.

Ian: And so, after a while, we actually ended up at another entity that just didn’t support the same way that we used to do business together. Because I was a younger representative, they wanted me to sell stuff. And as a financial planner, that’s just never really been my particular interest. I’ve always been interested in focusing on the client and what matters to them and trying to make that stuff a reality. So, when I felt that emotional pole towards doing something else, I kind of knew it was time.

Ian: I worked with a business coach and spent a lot of time thinking about whether I could continue to make a living where I was or whether I needed to make a change and how that was going to work out. I was considering launching my own firm, and I waited so long to do it that my wife actually one day said, “Just do it. I’m tired of hearing you talk about it.” And so that was the trigger. That’s kind of how I ended up launching my firm.

Hannah: And so how long did you work at Steve’s firm>

Ian: About three years.

Hannah: Okay. So in that three years, did you get your CFP?

Ian: No. So I was most of the way through the coursework when I left Steve’s firm. And I had obviously enough service hours at that point. So, what I ended up doing is in the first three or four months of launching my firm, when you’re mostly dealing with operational stuff, compliance stuff, that sort of thing, I would work during the day and then study at night. And so, I ended up finishing my CFP and thankfully passing the exam on the first try. So, as of December of last year, I became a CFP.

Hannah: I’m curious, I know a lot of people listening to this might not understand the different like entity structures, like you say, a captive insurance agency and things like that nature. I mean, you said that you were feeling the pressure to start selling things. I’m curious, did Steve feel that same pressure or was he just at a higher level than you and so he kind of got out of that, or kind of what was that dynamic?

Ian: I felt a lot of pressure because I didn’t bring in a lot of my own revenue. I was building a business that was largely based off of Stephen’s and another team member of ours. And so, I didn’t have the advantage of just having this book of hundreds of clients or whatever to work from that were willing to do business with me.

Ian: And so, even though they were generous with allowing me to receive some shared work with them, that couldn’t sustain me on my own. Whereas Steve, at that time had a very successful practice that coincidentally led to enough ethically sound product sales that he just didn’t have to worry about it. He would have a client retire and put them, and acquire a long term care insurance product for them to make sure that they didn’t have to worry about that. And that might fulfill a lot of his sales requirements for the year. Whereas I was having to work specifically to go out and sell those sorts of products, which meant that I had less time to spend on financial planning.

Hannah: I think it’s a really interesting point, even with my time at the broker-dealer, you can have two people in the same system and set up, but they can experience it very, very differently because of where they’re at, and I think this is a good example of that.

Ian: Oh, for sure. I mean, the old structure at the captive insurance firms which is somewhat going away, but it still has some lingering presence is this whole idea that they want you to come in and hit these big sales numbers in your first few years, and that’s going to justify your contract over the long term to them. Whereas, if you come into that system and you already are doing a ton of financial planning fees, some investment fees and occasional insurance sale and you are profitable for the company, they’re just not going to bother you. And that’s kind of the advantage that Steve had going into it. Not to criticize him, he worked super hard to get that over the previous 25 years of being a financial planner.

Hannah: And Steve’s, go back and listen to that podcast, guys. He’s so on point, he’s so good.

Ian: He’s incredible.

Hannah: There’s two pieces of this that are just fascinating to me. You have financial life planning for nerds. So let’s start with the for nerds. So how did you decide that that was going to be your niche or what you’re going to specialize in?

Ian: Very simply Hannah, a nerd. I’m just kidding. I’m actually pretty involved in a lot of nerdy hobbies. So I play Magic the Gathering, I play Dungeons and Dragons. I play a lot of video games. I custom built my own gaming computer. Like all of these things were in place way before I entered the financial planning profession. So, one of the things that I knew when I was launching my own firm was that I was not going to be able to compete with every financial planning firm in Raleigh for clients. You just can’t outspend some of the larger firms in terms of marketing. So I had to niche down and decide who I wanted to serve.

Ian: And thinking about where a lot of modern high incomes are coming from in a younger age demographic, a lot of them are engineers, whether that’s software programmers who are kind of the modern new engineers, as software engineers, or whether that’s biotech engineers or electrical engineers. These people are earning great incomes right out of school and they’re hungry for making financial progress to make their life better.

Ian: And so, I knew that if I kind of went with what naturally interested me, I could hopefully build a successful client base.

Hannah: And have you seen a lot of the clients that have come to you? Would you classify your clients as nerds?

Ian: Almost all of them, yeah. I mean, there’s one or two here there because one of the interesting statistics about niche marketing is that it still comes up about like 60/40 or 50/50 as to who you work with. So like, my online branding is all about marketing to nerds, but every once in a while, like a family friend will call me up and be like, “Hey Ian, I need some help. Can you help me?” And my answer is obviously yeah. I’m not going to turn away good people who have a meaningful need that I can meet. But I do have a lot of nerd clients. And even the one to tend to come to me not from like that marketing perspective tend to have some nerdy qualities about them. So yeah, most of my clients are nerds.

Ian: My hallmark example that kind of shocks people, he doesn’t think of this as that impressive, but I have a client with a $200,000 comic book collection.

Hannah: That’s awesome.

Ian: Yeah, it’s super awesome. I love talking about it with him. And it’s one of those things where it’s like, well, that’s a unique need, right? That’s something that I understand that a lot of other financial planners don’t, which is why he sought me out because I’m able to tell him, hey, here’s how you get collectibles insurance on that and here’s why you should be worried about that in the first place.

Hannah: The other piece of your tagline here is financial life planning. So financial life planning for nerds. So, tell me more about what does that mean? What does financial life planning? Or what can clients expect from you that they couldn’t from somebody else?

Ian: Sure. So let me kind of historically talk about where life planning started. I don’t know in what order these things happened but there are kind of different schools of deeper financial planning insights. And one of the big ones is the Kinder Institute started by George Kinder. And the idea is that as a life planner, your goal is to work with clients from their life first, not their money first.

Ian: So, things that they care about matter more than their finances. And you can use the finances as a tool to make the things they care about happen. As opposed to showing up to a financial planners office and talking about the best return you can get in the market. It’s like, well, the best return is a cool conversation to have.But what’s a more interesting conversation to a life planner is why do we want return? What goals are we trying to fulfill by investing this money? Are you trying to spend more time volunteering or more time with your kids or more time just doing that one thing that you’ve always wanted to do? Then yeah, let’s invest your money and let’s build this. But, you know, it’s always coming from that sense of purpose first, and the money is just the details.

Hannah: I think this maybe answers itself. So how does that change your process in how you work with clients?

Ian: Sure. So my first meeting with clients is very much focused on who they are not what they bring to the table from an asset perspective. It’s very focused on asking questions like what’s important to you. Standard examples include like Kinder’s three questions, which are a little bit more detailed, but they start off with like, if you had all the money you ever needed, how would you change your life today? Because ultimately, these sorts of questions steer us in the example of what this person maybe should be doing with their life regardless of the money, right? If somebody comes back and says, well, I would leave the job that I have immediately. It’s like, well, why are you working it now? Let’s have that conversation. It might be that you can’t just quit your job tomorrow but maybe there’s a path to another career that would make you happier, or even just another employer.

Ian: And those are conversations that we as financial planners are kind of uniquely equipped to have in a lot of ways, because we sit at the intersection of meaning and money. And if you go to a therapist, they can help you identify the meaning in something, and if you go to a financial coach, they can help you talk about money. But as a financial planner, you can really examine the long term impact of these decisions both from a life and from a financial perspective. So, life planning is just honoring the life part of it more and trying to help clients tease out what’s important to them.

Hannah: What gave you the confidence to really embrace this idea of doing financial life planning?

Ian: Oh, 100% working with Steve. I don’t know that I would have known it existed. I think one of the interesting things is that almost, maybe that’s too strong, but a lot of financial planners when they’re exposed to life planning as a movement, they kind of immediately go, oh, yeah, this is kind of what I’ve been looking for. They want to provide those deeper conversations with their clients. And I just feel incredibly fortunate to have been sort of raised under a life planning umbrella. So there was never really another way to do financial planning to me I guess. So it was less a confidence thing and it was more a Steve saying this is the way you’re going to do it. And I said, yes. You seem to be very successful, I’ll do that.

Hannah: And so, have you done other trainings or anything like that to kind of build your skills? For the people listening and guess who don’t have Steve, how can they get equipped? How can they build their skills and competency around this life planning rather than just the numbers if you would?

Ian: Sure. So, two organizations that really stand out to me when I’m thinking about looking at life planning are obviously the Kinder Institute, which I already mentioned. They do two day workshops, five day workshops and ongoing mentorship programs that all lead to a designation called the Registered Life Planner Designation. Going through that is intensive and incredible, and I’m only partway through it. So I can only speak to the two day at this point. I’ll be doing the five day in January. But the purpose of that education is deepening your listening skills and making you more aware of some of the signals your clients might be sending you that they’re ready to have those deeper conversations.

Ian: Then it also provides you some of the questions to ask to open up those conversations to begin with, right? There’s a whole lot of below the surface level stuff that our clients are dealing with that if we don’t know how to ask about it, we never will. And so that’s kind of the focus of those courses.

Ian: And then another organization that kind of resonates with me, though I haven’t attended any of their learnings is Money Quotient, which is all, along the same vein, right? It’s another organization whose goal it is to make those conversations that you’re having about money in life go a little bit deeper with your clients. So, like I said, I can’t speak to them in particular, but those would be two organizations that I would look out if you’re interested in deepening your life planning skills, so to speak.

Hannah: I know like Money Quotient, you look at the Sudden Money, like the those types of groups, they’re really working on building process around it. So it’s not just did you ask the right question, it’s giving you the tools and resources that you need in order to do it on a consistent basis, which I think is a really kind of profound thing to have.

Ian: Oh, for sure. I think one of the most difficult things about having these conversations is if you’re not exposed to life planning, you know that they can be had, you just don’t know how to do it?

Hannah: Yeah.

Ian: And doing it consistently with every client as a system is what makes it a business, right? If you can’t replicate that, then it’s not really your business. You can’t own that. And not to say that the business entity dominates all, but if it’s not a replicable system, you can’t ensure that every client is having that same meaningful experience. So yeah, definitely seeking out the systems is important. If you just go into it blindly and ask your client, well, what’s really important to you, they’re going to look at you like you’re crazy.

Hannah: So I’m curious because you have had this exposure to Stephen, you have the Kinder, when you do life planning with a client, does it look similar or do you kind of have your own flavor of it? Does that make sense?

Ian: Yeah. So the honest answer is that I take bits and pieces that I learned from really intelligent people and try to combine them into things that I think are inspiring. So, I start off my first meeting with the discovery meeting that is kind of a hodgepodge of different practices that I’ve meshed together. And then my process kind of flows into what Steve describes, which you can find in his model called Inspired Financial Planning because obviously, he trained me a little bit so I definitely model him in a lot of ways. And I ask a lot of the same questions he does. But that processes is kind of a stapled together version of a lot of other really, really good insights from life planning and financial planning coaches in various aspects of the industry. So, it’d be hard to honor all of them specifically by name.

Hannah: Well, and for anybody curious about what that process actually looks like, go back and listen to Stephen’s episode, where he actually goes and dives pretty deep into what does that actually look like. So the resources is there for you all.

Ian: He’s not going around talking about this stuff to withhold it from people. He’s interested in helping people find their way to a more life planning centric thing. So, he’s pretty giving with that information.

Hannah: You made the jump, you started your own firm, and now you’ve had your own firm for a little over a year now, right?

Ian: Yeah, that’s accurate.

Hannah: Okay, so tell me what the last year has been like.

Ian: Oh, man. Starting your own firm is like both the most exciting and terrifying thing you’re ever going to do in your life. It’s exciting because you have all this newfound freedom, all this creative stuff that you can express if you so choose. Or you can do nothing with your time, you can go to the gym at two o’clock in the afternoon, you can do whatever you want. It’s terrifying in the sense that for the first time, there’s absolutely nothing else to blame. If you don’t succeed, it’s like, holy crap, that was me. That was me not succeeding. It wasn’t because the entity that I’m a part of didn’t bring in enough new clients, it wasn’t because I couldn’t do the workflow in time, it’s literally because people weren’t that interested in services you had to offer or you didn’t let know enough times. It’s exciting and terrifying I guess.

Ian: But I will say that kind of the main thing that got me through it is a lot of the stuff that FPA NextGen offers and XY Planning Network offers, in the sense that a lot of these organizations are really focused around providing collaborative conversations between similar financial planners. And so, having those study groups and those other amazing professionals to have regular conversations with is kind of what levels out the emotional turbulence.

Ian: I tend to think of it as the difference between like, if you go into entrepreneurship on your own and have nobody to talk to about it, it’s like you’re 100% equities. You get a lot of return but there’s these big volatile swings and you kind of lose your mind. Whereas if you’re going into entrepreneurship and you have a really good support system, it’s more like a 60/40 portfolio. You’re still going to see some of that volatility, there’s going to be emotional highs and lows, but you’re going to be able to weather them a lot better, because they’re going to be less dramatic.

Hannah: So you talked about the freedom, that creative freedom that you have when you start your own firm, like you can do anything you want, especially around a content and marketing side of things. So, I’m curious, after you had your firm paperwork, your websites up, you were able to start doing things, what avenues did you pursue? What were your creative avenues?

Ian: Oh, man. I do a lot. So I started off with a YouTube channel, which is just the same name as my firm and I produced a segment on there weekly called Nerd Finance, where it was just a three to five minute video where I would try to connect a financial topic to a nerdy topic. So like different types of life insurance and starter Pokemon or Monster Hunter and life’s challenges, stuff like that. So, connecting financial planning with stuff that’s interesting to my audience. And so, that’s got about 70 videos now and that was an interesting project that I learned a lot from.

Ian: I’ve also written a book and I submitted the audio version to Audible recently so that’s recorded. I also do a podcast with three other financial planners called Financial Foresight. And I offer responses to reporters who reach out to my network about like various things, so I’m quoted in a lot of news articles, which is cool. So, those are kind of all the creative outlets that I can think of. I don’t think I’m missing anything.

Hannah: Going back to your YouTube channel, you said you have 70 videos, you said you’ve learned a lot in doing that. What are some of the things that you’ve learned?

Ian: Yeah, sure. So I learned a lot about quality of production, of how to appear on camera and how to seem more natural even though there’s nothing natural about being on camera. I also learned a lot about the equipment that goes into it. So, better cameras, better lighting, a better backdrop, all that kind of stuff. And then finally, I picked up a lot of tricks with editing software to make stuff appeal, or I’m sorry, appear a lot less slapped together or unprofessionally performed I guess I the term.

Hannah: My husband has a background in television on the production side of it. And anytime I talk about like a videos, he’d always be like, you know, the people on camera, I mean, that is like, there’s a whole skill set that goes into being on camera, that’s just very different.

Ian: If you ever want to funny study and just seeing how much somebody can improve in a year at this stuff, go watch the first YouTube video on my channel and then the most recent one, because I don’t take anything down.

Hannah: It’s funny, there’s some really big people who are really successful financial planners who are in the media, and I’ve gone to their YouTube channels and seeing their first videos to where they are now, you’re like, wow, that is such an improvement. But they got started and they just did it. So, I mean, it’s so cool to see that.

Ian: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s definitely the first thing about content production, is that you’re going to be bad at whatever you’re doing the first time you do it, so you just have to do it. And then you’ll get better at it over time.

Hannah: So, you have these 70 videos up. Is this a channel, like have you gotten traction from YouTube? Is this something that you want to keep doing? Kind of where are you at right now a year in?

Ian: My goal for the YouTube channel this year is a little bit different than it was last year. Last year, I was really just trying to see if it was something I wanted to put time into and really just try to get the quality up to a point where, even though I’m not crazy about the quality of my YouTube channel, I respect it. It’s not something that I look at and I’m like, oh man, why did I even post that?

Ian: And so, the benefits of it so far have been mostly like delayed for me where I’ve had conversations with people that I thought might become clients or that might have been interested in having that initial conversation, and then six months later, they come back around and they’re like, hey, I watched some of your YouTube videos, I think it’s time for us to sit down now. So, it’s just kind of a way to stay in front of a lot of the people. And that’s really my major goal is to be putting out a lot of this free education for people that are potentially interested, that also has the dual purpose of exposing them to my way of thinking about finance and my way of thinking about life planning, and hopefully resonates with them.

Hannah: I read a quote recently or a stat, I guess, more than a quote. It was something along the lines before anybody will reach out to you, on average now, we consume 10 pieces of content before we reach out to somebody. And so, when I hear all these videos, I’m like, that’s a great way to start engaging with somebody where they learn you, like learn about you, are much more comfortable with you and engaging with you that way.

Ian: Oh, for sure. I actually have had a number of first time appointments recently, where I’ve sat down across the table from somebody and they’ve been like, hey, thank you for putting all those YouTube videos on your website. I really feel like I got to know you. So that’s what led to me booking the appointment. And I’m like, well, that’s the purpose of the video so I guess they’re doing their job, right? It may not have, you know, it’s not a channel with thousands of subscribers. It’s not a channel with hundreds of views on each video. It’s literally like I get 50 views of each video on YouTube and maybe 100 on Facebook. So it’s not that grandiose but the advantage of it has played out a couple times in that manner.

Ian: And then also, it’s just, this is going to sound really weird, but when you’re in your first year, one of the things you have to do more than anything else is keep yourself focused on like a repeatable task. And so, the YouTube production was that for me in the first year. You’re not going to get a lot of interest in your first year of earning a new firm, you’re not going to have your calendar slammed with like 100 people wanting to meet you for the first time. Whereas, more experienced firms might even be turning away a lot of prospects. Your first year is not like that.

Ian: And so, as a result, having a couple of things, like producing the YouTube channel for me that you can do to measure your output as a professional is good and it’s fulfilling. So, it’s served a lot of different purposes actually over the last year I think.

Hannah: One of the things people talk about all the time is blogging, like writing blogs. Are you a blogger, have you been writing blogs, or did the YouTube videos kind of replace the blogging for you?

Ian: Yeah, the YouTube videos kind of replaced the blogging. And the funny story about that is when I was working with that business coach trying to decide whether to launch my firm, one night my wife was in my office working on something completely different while I’m having a meeting with this business coach. And she’s talking about content production to coaches, and she’s saying, you need to do something on a regular basis to get yourself out there. You can podcast, you can record videos, you can write a blog. And my wife who’s sitting probably 10 feet away, looks up and says, “You cannot write.” And I said, “Why?” She goes, “Your writing is so dry. You really need to work on it before you could be a good blogger. So why don’t you focus on being on camera or something?” I was like well, at least she’s honest with me.

Hannah: We all know our strengths, right?

Ian: Yeah. And the funny part is now I’ve gone on to write a book, but I kind of get her point, which was the way that I was writing a lot of stuff back then was very academic because I come out of the college world, and then was mostly working on CFP education and all that kind of stuff. So it wasn’t exciting writing. And I’ve gotten better at that. But it took me a long time and working with a professional editor to finish the book. And so, I feel like my first 30 blog posts would have just been throwaways.

Hannah: So let me ask you, so what prompted you to write a book? I don’t hear many financial planners who are actually publishing or writing a book.

Ian: So I address this at the beginning of the book in like the intro section. It was a couple of things. The first is, I realized that there really aren’t that many financial resources out there that connect gaming and money. Which is weird because most video games have a monetary system in them. And a lot of game players are really good at utilizing that monetary system within the game but they might not be good at finances in their real life. So I wanted to be able to connect those two things and provide that resource.

Ian: And then the second selfish reason is like, I’m kind of an achievement-oriented person. And so, I kind of wanted to be the guy who wrote the book on gaming and money. That was just, being able to say I’m the dude who wrote that book was just an inspiring thing for me to be able to do.

Hannah: And so, how long did it take you to write this book? What was the workload from it?

Ian: Sure. So full disclosure, the book is not that long. So I want to start off there. It’s like 35 pages in Word. It’s not that substantial.

Hannah: Now is that double-spaced, single-spaced?

Ian: Single-spaced. I don’t cheat.

Hannah: That’s still a lot.

Ian: Yeah, I mean, it’s still a lot of work. But I would say, when I actually sat down to do the writing itself, I started in February of this year, and I was done by the end of April. And that was because I again was kind of still in that first year mode where I had some good client work at that point but I was just kind of moving through things. And the YouTube channel had become kind of second nature at that point. I’m at the point now where I record all the videos on like a Monday once a month, and then I record and post them and schedule all the premieres.

Ian: So I didn’t really need to spend a lot of time on that and I found myself at the office with time and then so I just go into this focus room that we have on my co-working space. And I was just like, what am I going to do. And I started writing, and I found that I really enjoyed it so I just kept doing it. And so, over the course of two or three months, I wrote that book. And then I kind of put the brakes on it for a little while because summer happened. And then I submitted it to an editor at the end of July. So, she tore my book apart and made it a lot better. So I’m very thankful for her work, you know, back to my wife’s original point.

Hannah: Yeah, editors, bless them. I think they kind of enjoy ripping it apart.

Ian: Oh yeah, yeah. It’s a little bit of like, this is mine now. Yeah, they get to do that. So the whole process I guess would have been from February to August so about six months. But there’s probably about a month in there where I didn’t really focus on the book at all, a month and a half, something like that, because I just didn’t have time between travel and client work and stuff. You know, the summer always gets crazy as a financial planner because you’re trying to keep up with everything and your family’s like you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t have a schedule. So do this with me.

Hannah: Yup.

Ian: So, that’s kind of the way that played out. And then when I got back to it, it was just another like month basically between when the book was kind of its done first draft version and when I published it.

Hannah: Well congratulations on getting the book done and published and out into the world.

Ian: Thank you. Thank you. It was certainly different. And a huge learning experience working with Amazon on self-publishing it and stuff.

Hannah: So the other thing you had talked about is you are on a podcast now with some other financial planners. So tell me a little bit more about how that came to be and kind of what is the purpose or what’s the intention behind it?

Ian: So the podcast is called Financial Foresight, which I think I talked about it at the beginning. And the original idea with it was this is a study group that I meet with almost every Monday, and it’s just three other people like me who had launched their firms at about a similar time. And so, we were kind of each other’s emotional and mental support group through that period, in the sense that not only was there a great amount of catharsis in talking about the challenges, but we would often push each other forward, we were accountability partners, that sort of thing.

Ian: So, the podcast really came together because we just wanted to do a podcast that was four CFPs sitting down talking about all these consumer facing financial issues and kind of our perspectives on them. Because there’s a lot of like tips articles and that kind of stuff out in the media but there’s not a lot of really in-depth discussions on particular subjects. So, our podcast format is usually that we pick two topics and we do about 10 to 15 minutes on each topic an episode. And so, it provides a lot more context. There are obviously multiple perspectives and we don’t always agree, so that’s good. And then, we also get to have fun. So that’s kind of where that came from.

Hannah: And podcasting is just a fun format, like you get to interview people and talk to people. So, I certainly relate to that.

Ian: Yeah, it’s fun to laugh with people. And it’s also fun to talk about things that you’re mutually passionate about.

Hannah: So, is the goal on this podcast, so, it’s more for consumers, right?

Ian: Yeah, absolutely. We spend a lot of time talking about consumer facing issues. So, things like the Boglehead three-fund portfolio is an episode that we have coming up soon where my friend Isaiah, who’s one of the financial planners on there, is probably going to tear that methodology apart. He’s investment focused and has a bone to pick with the idea that you only need three mutual funds.

Ian: Another example of it is we talked about like whether buying a house or renting is the correct financial decision. And I am the only one who rents currently on the podcast so I was catching a little bit of flak. It’s also fun to be able to offer both perspectives because most financial issues are what I call WID issues, and this is something that I also stole from Steve. But WID stands for well it depends. And it depends on the client’s life circumstances and what’s interesting to them. So, we’re hoping to in the course of the podcast explain that through the context of a lot of other financial issues while also hopefully educating people from a CFP’s perspective on how to think about or address some of these problems.

Hannah: Through all these different mediums and different content creation, because I mean, you’re doing a lot, a weekly YouTube video, podcast and the book, how do you measure success with the content that you’re putting out there?

Ian: So that’s kind of hard. There’s kind of qualitative and quantitative measurements that I take for myself. Two of the qualitative measurements are when I listen or watch the content or read the content, do I feel like I contributed something meaningful to the world? Whether or not it’s got a lot of downloads or whatever, do I feel like the information that I put out there would help somebody if they heard it? And then the second qualitative measurement is do people talk to me about it afterward? So, what I mean by that is a lot of the people in my co-working space follow my social medias and stuff. And if they come up to me afterwards on a YouTube video, and they’re like, man, that was a really great video, thanks for putting that out, then I know that that was meaningful. Whether it was one or 20 people, they got some value out of it and I feel good about it.

Ian: The more quantitative measurements are things like I track my websites total visitors and Google Analytics and some of the behaviors of the people who visit my website, so that I kind of know on a month to month basis is my overall presence online growing or shrinking. Which in the long term will translate to more people just booking appointments directly through my website. And then also just views of the content or sales of the book or whatever, the most basic metrics. Which are how engaged are people with this particular piece of content and does that make it good, bad, or does that just mean I haven’t promoted it enough?

Hannah: You know, it’s interesting, maybe we do a podcast obviously, we’re doing right now. We started doing a lot of content in my practice as well and you just, you write and you throw everything out. And it’s like you forget often that there’s actually a person that could be reading it. And every once in a while when somebody emails me about the podcast or whatever it may be, I’m always like, it’s almost like jarring. I’m like, oh, like people actually listen and read this. Like if I could have 100 people, if I could talk to 100 people, like I would of course do that, but that’s kind of what you do sometimes when you put a blog out there, or you have 100 videos, you know, views of your video. Like, of course you’d get in front of 100 people. A room full of 100 people would be a great event to speak at.

Ian: Oh, for sure. And the other thing, which I got this from Taylor Shulte NextGen Conference, so shout out to him, he’s awesome. He does a lot of content and advisor marketing related stuff, so you might want to check it out if you have issues or things you want to learn about that. But he says that part of the reason they put so much time and effort into their blog posts at their firm is because they know that this will exist on the internet forever. So they’re not just going to get value from it this year. They’re hopefully going to get value from their online presence for many, many years to come. So, when you’re building these pieces of content, you’re not going to see the value upfront. It’s going to be a lot of back end way to return on your time in this case.

Ian: So, I think that when, one of the barriers to people doing a lot of content related stuff is they think about like, well, only five people are going to watch it. Only my best friends are going to watch it because they’re going to be curious. And it’s like, yeah, that’s probably true, initially. But you’re not making it for your best friends, you’re making it for the people that are going to read, watch, listen to it in 20 years, and they’re going to find that particular episode on Google or whatever, and they’re going to have a meaningful relationship to that piece of content.

Ian: So, that’s kind of the mindset that I go into all this stuff with is that even though it’s maybe a lot of time right now or it’s a little bit painful to produce it because it takes a lot of emotional or creative juice out of me, it’s like, but in the future, why am I making this? What does this do for my firm five years from now?

Hannah: Anybody who feels overwhelmed by that, you can always delete it if it’s bad later.

Ian: That’s very true. You never have to post it. But recording it gives you the ability to do all that stuff, and that’s the cool part.

Hannah: In the FPA Activate group, I go live on a pretty regular basis. It’s a hard thing to do and it’s a hard thing for me to do it myself. But somebody told me once, nobody really remembers all they, they just remember that you did it. And that’s always something. So like, even with all the stuff that you’re doing, like people just know that you do it and like that’s a big deal in and of itself.

Ian: Yeah, I get a lot of compliments from people who don’t watch or read any of my content. Like, wow, this is really impressive that you do all of this. And I’m like, well, thanks. Watch it. I’m just kidding.

Hannah: I say good things, watch it.

Ian: Exactly. Yeah, there’s meaningful stuff in here.

Hannah: That’s great.

Ian: So yeah, I mean, I think that overall, by the way, my inspiration for doing a lot of this content is that I really don’t like networking events. And so I figured that from a long term perspective, if all this content does is provide me an avenue to never have to go to another networking event again, that’ll be cool. I mean client focus networking events, by the way, obviously FPA is amazing. I really don’t like going to events where I have to shake a bunch of people’s hands and hope that one of them is going to want to book a meeting with me at the end of the night. That just doesn’t really jive with me. So, I would rather just provide value upfront.

Hannah: So now you are on, speaking of FPA, you’re on the local board for your chapter. Can you tell me a little bit about like how you got involved and like, what do you find valuable and why do you commit time to be on the board as a young planner?

Ian: Oh, man. Yeah, that’s a big question. So I got involved because I was really good friends with another financial planner, who when I was at that firm, that Steve still is at, their office was right under ours. So, we hung out, we went and got meals together occasionally and just got to know each other really well. And he became our local FPA boards president. And so, as a good friend of his, when they were looking for somebody to fill in for the NextGen position, he reached out to me and said, “Hey, man, you’re really involved with other financial planners, you enjoy these kinds of conversations. Would you be willing to lead the group this year?” And I said, “Yeah, okay. Sure.”

Ian: So, I joined the board without really knowing what I was getting into, and that’s okay. That’s how most volunteer positions are, you kind of just show up and then you figure out what your job is along the way. So, I’m the NextGen director for our board and my goal kind of within the greater FPA NextGen community is to try and strengthen the growth of the young professionals. Whether that’s through life planning or demonstrating to them that there are alternate ways to follow their career paths or just helping them problem solve some issue they’re facing in their existing practice.

Ian: I really think that financial planning deserves more collaboration because we don’t innately compete with one another, especially if we have different niches like not very many other people are financial planners for nerds so I’m not really worried about the competition. But I just feel like that’s kind of the direction that the profession should be heading in order to consider itself a full on profession as opposed to just an industry.

Hannah: One of the things you were telling me about is what you’ve started in Raleigh within the FPA, of these mastermind groups. Can you share a little bit about that?

Ian: Yeah, sure. So the mastermind group actually came from another board member who ran one last year and we really, really liked the model, and we decided that it was something that was very specifically applicable to NextGen. The idea behind it is usually our turnout is somewhere between five and eight people but if we get above that we just split up into two conversations. But you bring one problem that you’re facing to the meeting. And what occurs is a structured conversation in which you get to present that problem, you have a minute to provide context. And then over the next 10 minutes, people are going to offer you feedback and ask you questions about how they might solve that problem.

Ian: So it might be something like, well, we’re facing issues with client acquisition. And then a follow up question might be, well, what’s your target client look like? Have you really define that? And they might say yes, no, maybe, but, you know, we’re starting to open up that thing and it’s focused on their one practice problem. And we go around the table and we answer one question from everybody at the table. And it’s kind of like a Vegas conversation, what happens there stays there. So, all the members of the group know that we’re not going to go back if, you know, they’re young financial planners who happened to have other FPA board members as their lead advisors, for instance, we’re not going to go back and say, this person was talking about this in this conversation. It’s entirely confidential, with the goal of everybody just getting a little bit better every time they show up to the meeting.

Ian: And so, those have been pretty successful because we find that there’s a pretty big need in the professional circle of financial planners for people to sit down and have these sorts of candid conversations. It’s really hard for friends or family to understand what it is we do. So walking in with a bunch of other financial planners and not having to explain what it is you do before addressing the problem is pretty cool.

Hannah: That’s awesome. And what a great way to better yourself and to help those around you.

Ian: Yeah, and that’s ultimately the goal of FPA, right. We’re just trying to all be better planners.

Hannah: You said that you’re very achievement orientated. So I’m curious, you’ve written a book, you have this podcast, you have these videos, what’s next for you?

Ian: That’s a big question, Hannah. No, I’m just kidding. So I’d like to turn the book into a series. The actual title of the book is A Gamer’s Guide to Money: Level 1, which implies or levels. And I’m hoping to publish about a book a year of a similar length to provide more and more financial education.

Ian: I would also like to see my practice grow to a sustainable number of clients, but I think it’s going to stay as a solo practice. I don’t really have a whole lot of goals to grow it into a larger firm because I do have a pretty niche focus and I ultimately love the client work so I don’t really want to become a manager or anything like that. But I would love to do more speaking, love to do more writing, love to do more content production just for the heck of it because I enjoy that stuff. I think that’s most of it. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe something that I haven’t even thought of yet

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