At the age of 31, I thought it would be difficult to identify the turning points in my life – the major life events that affected me personally and were then followed by important financial changes. As I really considered them, however, the issue was not a lack of events to pin point. Problem was there were too many in such a short period of time.
I vividly remember a conversation with a former boss and dear friend about this very issue. I was in my early twenties shining shoes at a local country club for summer work. My friend’s father, Tom, had recently retired from his full-time employment and took a job running the men’s locker room to fill his time and get him some free golf. The work was mindless, but the money was fantastic (little known secret). I was getting ready to graduate college and couldn’t pin down exactly what I wanted to do with myself. Most likely I was between girlfriends and lamenting that issue as well. One day when I was feeling especially anxious about what life held for me, Tom said something that I will never forget… “Pat, your twenties are the best decade of your life, but they are also the most difficult. The pieces of your life pie aren’t set. What will your career be? Who you will marry? Will you have kids? Where you will live? Where will your kids grow up? All of those choices happen in your twenties.” If I was feeling anxious before this conversation, now it was worse. However, he was right. Before our twenties, most big decisions are out of our control. But as we grow up and become adults, the decisions are our own and tend to have a big impact on the outcome of our life.
I can’t remember exactly what made me agree to be an escort for the BOTAR ball. Most likely someone asked during the year in which I said ‘yes’ to everything (everyone should spend at least one year saying yes to every opportunity that arises). Needless to say, I agreed to participate as an escort for the Bells of the American Royal. In common fashion, my application came through a little behind schedule, so I didn’t get assigned a Bell to escort. Rather I was selected to be a Royal Escort, otherwise known a backup. This slight meant that I would not have a specific Bell to escort, but rather fill in if one of the other escorts dropped out or had some horrific hamstring injury and could not participate. Lucky enough, this happened. I was called into duty and I didn’t know it at the time, but my wife Lauren was standing right next to me. One slice of the life pie firmly set in place.
A few years later, after my wife and I had been living in downtown KCMO for several years, we decided that our condo’s easy access to the bars was not a key component for a growing family. We began our search for the next Amey Family Estate. Kansas City offers many unique opportunities due to a two-lane road that cuts the city in half and puts you in Kansas or Missouri. Neighborhoods have their own identity. Northtowne, Brookeside, JOCO, Perfect Village (Prairie Village)…needless to say, a lot of choices. We wanted to live in a home where neighbors were friends and we could walk to restaurants (the adult term for a bar). Lauren and I both had roots in midtown, so like the Swallows of Capistrano we made the 1.5 mile migration back home and set up shop in Roanoke. Another slice of the pie in place.
A career of as a financial planner was not something that I envisioned during my early 20s. Growing up and in college, I thought that I would eventually go to medical school and become a doctor. Sometime during my junior year at KU, my academic advisor and I decided that wasn’t the right path for me. Biology and I did not see eye-to-eye. If I wasn’t going to be a doctor, I was going to be the next best thing, a hospital administrator (I get to tell the doctors what to do). This led me to graduate school and the opportunity to sit down with several high-level hospital administrators. They asked about my interests and why I wanted to pursue this career. I talked about the excitement of 24/7 action in a hospital and my desire for strong personal relationships. I wanted to solve people’s problems and what better way to do this than to help sick people feel better? Well, that is not exactly what hospital administrators do. I have tremendous respect for those in this setting that guide enormously complex organizations to success, it is no easy task. Enter Tony Tocco and the world of finance. Mr. Tocco taught in the Rockhurst MBA program and introduced me to financial analysis, issues, and investments. I was good at it. I could read an annual report and understand the underlying issues and opportunities of an organization. First problem, I wasn’t going to sit at a computer and power through spreadsheets all day doing analysis, that wasn’t going to help people. Secondly, I graduated and entered the financial industry in September 2008, not great timing. After wandering a little, I found the career in financial planning. It paired two of my most important goals: I can solve individual’s problems and use my skills in finance. Another pie piece in place.
Each of these turning points in my life is just beginning to bear fruit. My wife and I are building our family and entrenching ourselves into Kansas City. My career has introduced me to a more diverse set of people and issues than I ever thought possible. So Tom was right, your twenties are a fun decade, but you have some real decisions to make.