Meet Your 2015 XYPN Essay Contest Winner

2015 XYPN Essay Contest

The entire XY Planning Network team can't wait for our first-ever conference, #XYPN15! Not only is this the first conference hosted by the network, but it's the only conference created for Gen X and Gen Y financial planners looking to work with their peers while running profitable firms.

In honor of this event, we hosted an essay contest for writers, bloggers, future planners, and advisors with existing firms to share their stories and explain why they'd succeed as financial professionals getting paid for their advice. We wanted to provide a scholarship for the winner, which would include a pass to #XYPN15, a pass to FinCon15 (a financial media expo that also includes an advisor symposium), travel expenses, and a hotel stay.

The contest officially ended on March 31st, and today, we're thrilled to introduce our winner and share the winning essay entry.

We felt so fortunate to have so many smart, talented people participate in this contest. We appreciated every single essay we got to read, and had so much fun connecting with bloggers, financial advisors, students, and through the stories they shared.

Our participants made it extremely difficult to pick just one winner -- which is a great problem to have. But, much like the Highlander, there can only be one.

The winner of the 2015 XYPN Essay Contest is Patrick Hardin!

Patrick Hardin is currently enrolled in the CFP certification program through CFFP, and loves Lindy Hop and music. He lives with his wife in Kennesaw, GA where they spend their time teaching dance, playing jazz and enjoying friends and family. His passion for personal finance stems from his own progress and he looks forward to the day he can helps others overcome their fears to champion their dreams.

If you’d like to learn more about Patrick, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or tweet him @paddyflafla.

Without further ado, here’s your winning essay from Patrick:

2015 XYPN Essay Contest Winner: An Unexpected Journey

When I graduated six-ish years ago with my music performance degree, I had high aspirations of becoming a collegiate percussion instructor after obtaining my doctorate degree. I’d start an eclectic, avant-garde chamber ensemble and spend my days commissioning new music projects for my students’ amazing percussion ensemble program. Sounds like living the good life, doesn’t it?

There was really only one thing standing in my way, at least so I thought. How in the heck was I going to achieve my dream of artistic prowess and also raise a family, given the expected rate of success in the industry and our culture’s obsession with getting art for free? Both music and family have always been important to me, but it was difficult for me to see how they went together, financially speaking. Without a lot of positive guidance, I spent years wrestling with how I  would raise a family on such an income. I know other people do it, but how was I going to make it happen? What would that life look like practically?

These questions surrounded my thoughts in those early years after graduation.  Even before I graduated, I struggled with the idea of being a musician and how I would make ends meet financially. A couple times, I even considered changing from percussion performance to a degree in economics (I’ve always been a numbers guy), but stuck out my music degree because I was on an awesome scholarship. Plus, I do really have a passion for music and wasn’t bad at it, either. Nonetheless, even after graduating with my music degree I applied for two different “financial planner” jobs at an insurance company and at a not-so-well-known (or respected) brokerage firm before I landed my first job teaching percussion. (Let’s just say I’m glad I avoided those near misses.)

When my teaching job ended, I did the mid-twenties meander: singing songs from musicals, working as an assistant restaurant manager, rock climbing, playing in a pipe band with Scots (did you know they can put it away? I mean, woah. . .) and trying to figure out which step I was heading next. I knew a handful of things about myself: I was motivated to get ahead, I was smart, and I was willing to learn anything to get out of my current job. But, there was much more that I didn’t know, and I just kept hoping something would stick. I desperately needed a safe place to land.

And that’s when I found out my good friend’s mom was hiring at a securities broker/dealer housed in my home town. They needed someone to work in the back office, and I needed something to pull me out of my spiraling 20’s meander. The timing couldn’t have been better, as it came at a time that I now see as a defining period of my life. I got a “big boy job,” as my friends and I call it. Shortly after, I got married. I sold my house that I had bought, foolishly thinking I had the time and resources to fix it up (think: Money Pit). Things were changing, and changing fast.

While I liked most of the changes, I struggled watching my dream of being an artist slowly fade away.

Sometimes, Dreams Change

I won’t forget the moment when I realized that everything had changed for good. (And for the best, as it turns out).

See, here’s the thing. Even when I started working in finance, I thought I would still go back to graduate school for music. It was that “yeah, one day I’ll go back and make it happen” talk you give yourself when you still aren’t ready to let a dream go. My close friends are currently chuckling with me about this, I’m sure.

However, I also knew that I was enjoying my time learning the finance industry. I mostly enjoyed the work I did day-in and day-out, and there was a new desire building inside of me to become a financial advisor.  While I still had a lot of back and forth internally about going to music school, I also spent a lot of this time researching different business models to see how I could become an advisor – work with an independent broker/dealer, maybe work at a bank (no), be fee-based, be fee-only, maybe?

This see-saw of ideas (music – finance – music – finance) stopped after one day in particular. A day that I spent with some close family members of mine who had agreed to let me intrude into their financial life as a practice run for the real thing. They knew I had worked with my wife to pay off roughly $15,000 in debt I had amassed from before I sold my home. I felt like I had learned enough through my research and my experience that I could help them, and they decided to take me up on the offer.

Taking a week to pour over their accounts and cash flow, I built a loose spreadsheet for them – a “let’s get out of debt” projection based on their current income and debt loads. My intent was to eventually write out a full financial plan for them. At the end of the week, we got back together to discuss my findings.

The next part was tough: I had to bear to them what I thought was the bad news. I told them that if they didn’t change anything, it would take about 5 years to pay off their current debt load. Before I could even get into what I thought the good news was, which is that there were ways to accelerate their payoff, I was struck by their reactions.  The wife broke down in tears of joy. The husband’s face was blank with disbelief. This news I was terrified to deliver, because I thought it was bad, had suddenly given this family hope. A hope that they had not had moments before. They were now given a renewed confidence in their ability to get out of debt, and the tools they needed to take their lives back from the long struggle they had been through.

I will never forget this conversation, nor do I think will they.

I drove home to my wife that day and told her that was it. I couldn’t ride the back and forth see-saw anymore – I knew for sure I wanted to give people the hope that they can achieve their financial dreams. People need someone that can give it to them straight while also helping them see that things can change. My love of music and performing needed to take a back seat for a time so that I could really pursue this new dream.

A Firm For The Future

Suddenly filled with a new passion for helping people with their finances, I knew that I wanted to start my own firm as soon as possible.

I also knew that I had limited funds and wanted to be financially solid myself before I went for the jump. So, I started  doing research about how to launch my own registered investment advisor firm. In my initial research, I stumbled across this cross-post by Ms. Sophia Bera on Nerd’s Eye View about setting up an RIA on the cheap. I then heard through the grapevine that XY Planning Network would launch soon, and I even attended the first launch meeting! (BTW, if you don’t know about XY Planning Network, and you need a financial advisor, check them out here. They have fee-only advisors that work with all clients, regardless of financial status, who have signed oaths to keep your best interest first, not theirs.)

Having completed my initial research into what I wanted for my business model, I decided to set my own launch date so I could start making an action plan.

And I did. I chose a launch date and made it a real thing by telling my closest friends and family to keep me accountable. I even downloaded a countdown app on my phone that is ticking down the days until I can help people. And as each day gets closer, I get more and more excited. I AM SO STOKED, PEOPLE!

I can’t tell you my launch date just yet, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled.

What I can tell you is this: I’ve fully committed to this new dream and I’m doing everything I can to make it my reality. Right now I’m going full throttle through my CFP education. While that may delay my launch date,  I feel it is the wisest way for me to be ready to most effectively start my firm. Plus, I’m diligently working towards my own personal financial goals, like building up my own emergency savings account.  It’s important to practice what you preach, ya know?

So, why am I going to make a great financial planner, you may ask?

Because I care.

I care enough to train myself first before just going out and pretending I know how to help others.

I care enough to make sure that I’m financially sound, so you can be financially sound.  I don’t want you to worry that I’m trying to swindle you to pay for my lavish mansion I can’t afford.

I care about people. I want to give others the comfort that I have been able to give my family members – that feeling that the seemingly unattainable dream of financial freedom may be actually within reach with a little hard work and a good ally.

That’s who I am. I’m that ally. Or I hope to be soon, at least!

So, there you have it. Trained musician gone rogue to the world of finance. Taking expectations and flipping them upside down.Changing lives, people. That’s what it’s all about.

Are you ready for this?

Because I am.

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