Why Me

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I help people develop good financial habits, think clearly about the role money does and should play in their lives, and create actionable financial plans.  I help couples communicate clearly about financial issues in relationships and help people learn how to live within their means. Lastly, I also discuss questions of ethics and investment (more on my perspective on those issues here).

Here are five reasons why you may wish to work with me on your financial life:

  • My advice is evidence-based. Since I refuse anything of value from financial firms (no kickbacks, no commissions, and no remuneration of any kind) and read a lot on topics such as financial management, personal finance, economics, and financial services, I am in a good position to give you specific research-based suggestions. If you work with me, you will get a fair-minded, evidence-based perspective.
  • I focus on each client’s specific needs. By discussing important topics, via e-mail before we meet, I understand your situation better and give nuanced assessments. We collaborate together to create a plan that is tailored to your situation.
  • I am committed to co-creating realistic plans and following up. Since I have done a lot of organizing, I know that a plan is only valuable if it is actionable. In creating a personalized plan I work with clients to make sure it is actionable and follow up to make sure they are making progress.
  • I integrate financial health with broader topics like contentment and wellness. Most financial professionals focus primarily on helping clients draw fine distinctions between similar kinds of mutual funds. This service is especially useful for people with large investment portfolios but much less useful for people who are still in early to mid-career or perhaps even graduate school. Micro-managing mutual funds misses the bigger and more important issues about what role money should play in a client’s life. I certainly help people achieve diversified portfolios of low-fee index funds but I also do a lot more.
  • I can also help with the ethical and spiritual issues connected with money. In the years I have spent working with pension funds, shareholder activism, and responsible investment I have developed a broad understanding of the issues of investment and justice. You can read a bit more here. It is hard to find financial educators and advisers who are concerned enough with the broader impact on investments that have acquired knowledge and experience relating to those issues.

My Approach

Check out this interview I did with Meghan Nesmith over at the Billfold. It’s a good intro to my views of money and relationship.

Speaking more generally, John Bogle invented the Index Fund and is one of my financial heroes. He relates the following anecdote which illustrates my approach well:

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, the late Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, the author Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch 22over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have… Enough.

The point isn’t so much to amass great fortunes as it is to amass enough. Most of what makes us feel we have enough has to do with the expectations we and our friends and neighbors set, usually implicitly. Money can be a tremendous source of anxiety. This is especially true for those who don’t have a plan, especially if they are trying to keep up with the Joneses. Running in that race is certain to never leave you feeling you have enough. Achieving that feeling usually requires some income (making at least a subsistence wage) but also some mindfulness about money and lifestyle (thinking about what you really need).

Money can’t make people happy on its own, but it can certainly make people miserable. I help people think through what things are likely to make them happy and how that impacts their financial lives. If you already have a clear sense about what role money should play in your life I can help you with the details. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I can help with those broader questions.

Fee Structure

My fee structure is based on an hourly rate. Since I don’t have any relationships with any financial firms, you know you are getting my best advice. I don’t count normal preparation or research time in my billed time. My hourly rate varies along a sliding scale from $150-$350 per hour.* A few hours of planning can save thousands of dollars in fees and sometimes increase long-term returns substantially. It usually pays for itself very quickly.

*For couples, I charge the same hourly rate. I am also open to working with groups. Inquire if this is of interest, and we’ll be able to work out mutually agreeable details.

My Background

I graduated from Brown University with honors and concentrations in Economic Sociology and Public & Private Sector Organizations. While in college, I began reading and writing about the relationship between money and happiness and was surprised (perhaps naively) to learn how weak the connection was.

While in DC, I began thinking about the specifics of personal finance following a terrific lecture in January of 2006 by Tom Gardner of the Motley Fool. At the time I was working with the division of a major union that focused on retirement policy, pension funds, and shareholder issues/activism.

A few years later, I was hired to coordinate the investor education project of a different major union. In that role, I developed a curriculum and co-edited an investing handbook. Eventually I became the project’s director. I led that initiative from 2007 until early 2013. In my time as a financial educator, I have taught thousands of people and continue to develop new resources and materials for union members.

I joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2013. I first worked in the Office of Consumer Response investigating complaints about practices in the mortgage industry and then the debt collection industry. Since then I switched to the CFPB’s Consumer Education and Engagement Division where I work in the Office of Financial Empowerment. In my private practice I don’t work on CFPB-related issues since that could create a conflict of interests. I take my public duty very seriously and won’t do anything to compromise it.

Since I began work at the CFPB there are a few topics that I don’t work with clients on (mortgage-related financial protection, for example). If you’d like to know more about my approach, background, or anything else, contact me!