Louis Barajas, CFP®, has over 30 years of experience in the profession. He’s also an author of multiple books, a business and wealth manager, and a national speaker. Of course, he has lots of fantastic stories and wisdom to share about his history in financial planning. 

In our newest episode of YAFPNW, Alexandria and Louis discuss his upbringing, meeting people where they are, and how he changed the community he grew up in.

An early start to the profession

How was Louis introduced to the profession? At 11 years old, Louis’s father started his own business. As the oldest child and because  he spoke English, Louis got a business license for his dad. At 13, he helped him file his first tax return. Louis then pledged to learn everything he could about personal finances so that he could help his family. He attended UCLA, got his MBA, and began work at a firm in Newport Beach California.

Louis remembers the exact day, time, and location that changed his life, when he met and spoke to Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life

“The gentleman that I met on September 8, 1990 at seven o’clock in the morning in Lake Forest, California…he said things to me that literally just changed my life,” said Louis. “I quit, went back to the barrio…I ended up working there for 15 years in the barrio, giving back to our community.”

Since then, Louis has written six books, runs a business management firm for Latin celebrities, and handles $250 million for clients through his investment firm. On top of it all, he’s a national speaker and does pro bono work throughout the country. But when you have a conversation with him, you can tell that helping people in his community is one of his biggest passions.

Financial significance over financial sense

People often associate financial planning with investing, Wall Street, the market, things like that, as Alexandria explains in the episode. But look at the titles of Louis’s books alone, and you remember that the average American has a different day-to-day relationship with money. Small Business, Big Life. Overworked, Overwhelmed, & Underpaid. Where did Louis find the inspiration for these books, and similarly, his approach to helping clients in his community?

It came from the clientele base itself, Louis says. There was not a lot of financial literacy where he grew up. Sometimes even cultural beliefs were misguiding people on their finances, too. That’s why Louis had to create a different strategy by teaching people financial significance, not financial sense. It was important to understand people’s needs and tweak his approach, which is easy to forget when you’ve been a financial planner for awhile.

“How do you approach them in a way that they can actually listen to what you’re saying and they can understand what you’re saying? Because we forget that we learn all this terminology,” said Louis. “They’re intimidated by the way we speak and how we say things, as compared to talking to them in their own language.”

Helping people in need

Meeting people where they’re at, being aware of the situation goes beyond communication styles. For Louis, it also affected how he charged people for his services. The growth of his business and his struggle to hire minorities; less than 3.5% of all planners in the industry are African-American or Latinx.

However, the next generation of financial planners can continue the work towards change. We can help people in need who want to be helped. We can find pro bono work that we feel connected to and passionate about. We can educate ourselves by reading books, asking questions, in order to solve those problems that maybe don’t get as much attention as others.

“You have to be a lifetime learner. You have to educate yourself,” said Louis. “There aren’t going to be classes for if you’re going to be helping the middle-class or the lower middle class. You have to try to be a problem solver.” 

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • Louis’s background and start in the profession
  • The random encounter that changed his life
  • Where Louis found inspiration for his books
  • Why Louis prioritized giving back to his community
  • The lack of minorities in the profession
  • How young professionals can make a difference in their communities
  • The importance of educating yourself
  • Helping those who are ready to listen

 

Show Notes:

In this episode of YAFPNW, Alexandria Davis and Louis Barajas, CFP®, discuss:

Follow Louis on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @louisbarajas.

 

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Episode Transcript


Alexandria: So hi, Louis. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. I know our listeners are in for a treat, to hear your story and just perspective on giving back. I know I’m anxious, and so I don’t want to take any more time up. Let’s just have you share a little bit about your background and where you started, Louis. Let the listeners know what that looks like.

Louis: Well, it’s a pleasure to be on here, on the podcast. I’m a big fan. My background is, I was born and raised in Boyle Heights, California, back in the ’60s and ’70s, a pretty rough neighborhood. My parents are Mexican immigrants. My dad started his own business when I was 11 years old. So, being the eldest of two children and because I spoke English, I had to help my dad with all the paperwork. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. At age 11, I got the business license for my father. At age 13, the IRS came to my dad’s workshop and my dad hadn’t filed a tax return. They asked him that he needed to file taxes within a couple months. He looked at me and said, “Do you know how to file tax returns?” I looked at him and I said, “I don’t even know what those are.”

Louis: So the way I made it out of the barrio was that I read books. I used to love to read books. I had an uncle who used to give me books all the time. So, we found a bookstore that had a book on how to file tax returns. I filed his returns and then we got audited for those tax returns. And my dad and I went into the audit, and we were nervous as heck and we didn’t know what we were doing. And I went up there and I think the auditor, IRS auditors, felt sorry for us and basically we had a no change audit. But I made a commitment on that particular day that I would learn everything about personal finances so I could help my dad. And so again, where I grew up, there were no financial planners. Back then, 60% of Latinos were unbanked in the United… 60% of Latinos in the United States were unbanked, and so that’s what happened.

Louis: That’s when I made the commitment and then I ended up going to UCLA, getting and MBA. Claremont Graduate School where I started with Peter Drucker. Ended up going into financial planning. I hated it because back then it was really just commission-based and I didn’t want to sell product. I wanted to do planning, so I ended up going to a firm called Kenneth Leventhal in Newport beach, California. I was finishing up my certified financial planning designation and started working with some really wealthy people at a big CPA firm doing financial planning and helping some billionaires do financial planning. And so I realized that that’s what I wanted to do. That’s exactly what I wanted to do. So I said, “One day I’m going to go back and help my community and really focus on,” which there was a word called fee only financial plan, at least I don’t remember that, “and do what I was doing.”

Louis: Then I could provide those services. I’ll take you now to, so I started the financial planning industry around 1985. In 1990 at the firm, at Kenneth Leventhal in Newport Beach, I had several tragedies. My grandmother passed away unexpectedly. My uncle committed suicide and my first daughter was born. And on the day that my daughter was born, I met a gentleman at a coffee shop on that particular day in the morning, that changed my life. It was just a random meeting with him and I was overwhelmed because, again the death of my grandmother, the suicidal uncle and the birth of my daughter. And we had this long conversation at a coffee shop and he changed my life. I went back to the hospital, my parents showed up three hours later. I made a commitment. I said, “Dad, I’m going to be quitting Kenneth Leventhal on Monday. I’m going to go back to the barrio community. I think that I can help. I think I have a lot to offer.”

Louis: I will tell you that, because we don’t have a lot of time on the podcast, that the gentleman that I met on September 8, 1990 at seven o’clock in the morning in Lake Forest, California, wrote a book 10 years later when I wrote my very first book 10 years later that got published by Harper Collins. And we met at that time again. And the book that he wrote, the title of his book was the topic that he spoke to me ten years earlier at the coffee shop. And it was a guy named Rick Warren who wrote a book called The Purpose Driven Life.

Louis: And so, he said things to me that literally just changed my life. I quit, went back to the barrio, went back to Whittier and Indiana, which is like the main artery where Latinos live in LA, and started my firm there. And I ended up working there for 15 years in the barrio, giving back to our community. And I realized that the community needed more than financial literacy, they needed to change their mindset. So, that’s what my books were about. So, I’ve written five. I’ve almost completed my sixth book now. We’ve become a business management firm for Latin celebrities. Our investment firm handles $250 million for clients. I do a lot of pro bono work throughout the country. I speak at a lot of events nationally, overcoming issues of poverty.

Alexandria: Wow. I don’t even know where to start. That’s an amazing… What’s crazy is it’s an amazing story, right? The thing that just blows my mind is the interesting encounter people start with when it comes to money, or taxes in your situation, and how young people are basically exposed to it. Really it took you not knowing anything about tax returns and the fact that you filed probably a personal and a business tax return for your dad.

Louis: It was a business. A schedule C. Yeah, a sole proprietorship.

Alexandria: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. And just conceptually, to just know that you can take it on and start doing it and you guys, I mean, it always really starts back at home with your orientation of where you see money and what your exposure is going to be. So I just think that that’s amazing commitment and that you knew at such a young age that when you got exposed to that, that that was going to be the thing that you are going to do obviously for your life. Way more now, encompassing. But it took that one little exposure of the tax return to be like, “This is what Louis is going to be about.”

Louis: Well life is interesting, right? Because again, I noticed that among at least minorities, whether you’re African American or you’re Latino, I realized… For example, I have friends who their first encounter when they had their parents had an issue, a medical issue, and they were the translator for their parents at the hospital. And if their parents are sick for a long time it was this kid who had to translate for their parents.

Louis: And I have friends who went through the same thing and they became doctors. I’ve had friends who are the eldest and they had to be the translators because their parents were being sued when their parents didn’t understand English and they had to be the translator. And the funny part is the synchronistic events of what happened, and these are my friends who told me the same story, but they became lawyers. It just happened to be that my dad needed financial help, and again, being the eldest and out of necessity, I guess we take on a certain level of responsibility. And then we see the need for it and that’s why we jump in and help out.

Alexandria: I want to kind of fast forward a little bit. You touched on this about when you really joined the financial planning profession and you kind of talked about commission-based and fee base and really your first encounter with Rick Warren. It sounds like it’s all kind of happening at the same time. Can you touch just a little bit more about kind of how you got into, if it was Rick that introduced you into the profession or when you were at college? What was that first couple of steps or that first job or did you go right into your business of helping people? How was that?

Louis: Again, just as series of just synchronistic events. I meet Rick Warren. That was already kind of late. That was already back in 1990. I started. So I graduated from UCLA back in 1984 but I didn’t know that it was for financial planning, to be quite honest with you. What I did is is I wanted to learn everything about money and business, and so I ended up going to UCLA. And I didn’t even know that there was a program called an MBA. You can get an MBA in finance or marketing or whatever. But I remember my roommate at UCLA said, “I’m going to go get an MBA.” And I said, “What’s that?” “A master’s in businesses.” “Oh my God. Really? There’s a master’s in business?” And I ended up applying and then while I was getting my master’s in business, I met one of the students there that says, “Well, I want to be a financial planner.” “And what are you going to do?” “Well I’m going to do stocks and this and this.”

Louis: So back then, he ended up working the year before I graduated my MBA program and back in ’87, one year before that, and he recruited me. And it was back in IDS American Express, and then it became why we have Ameriprise, right? And he recruited me into that and I got my series seven and all the other licenses that I needed to get. And so what I did was I started learning about stocks and bonds and mutual funds back then and dividends. But I realized that, I was taught financial planning. And the beginning is you should have a cash user. You should have an estate plan and you should do a plan. I was doing that. I was the number one planner in LA for Ameriprise doing plans, but I was around people that didn’t have a lot of money. And I had to build their cash resources. I wanted to build their foundation.

Louis: And then I started having conversations with managers who were made basically kind of telling me, “You could put them in annuities and put builder cash reserves through there. And that way you win and they win.” But I never saw how it would benefit the client. I’ve always put the client first. And so after a couple of years of doing that, my personal position, I didn’t feel very good about it. I just felt like I wouldn’t to do that to my parents.

Louis: And so I left the profession to be quite honest with you. That’s why I went to go at Kenneth Leventhal, the accounting firm, to go get a CPA license, but they found out that I was already the CFP program. And back then, accountants could not sell any product. And I started doing financial planning while I was getting my CPA license and I fell in love with it. And I realized what real planning was and I said, “Wow, this is probably for the super wealthy, but you could do this for anybody. Every family needs a financial plan.” And because I come from poverty, I mean my parents were very, very poor. Very, very poor. But my parents needed a financial plan. So I realized that financial planning wasn’t just for the wealthy, it was for everyone. And I wanted to make it accessible to everyone.

Alexandria: That’s really where it should be at. I mean that’s what it should have been always, right? But now there’s a lot more people putting the focus of families and that everybody needs a level of financial planning, because we have to start somewhere. And one of the things that you also talked about was your books and how you’re already on book six. So, you’re a big writer. And what I love about even just the books without, necessarily going in depth and reading one right now, but it’s just the titles, right?

Alexandria: When people think of financial planning, they may maybe jump to investing, stocks, wall street, the market. But when I look at your book titles, Overworked, Overwhelmed, Underpaid, those are just how Americans feel about relationships with money. Or Small Business, Big Life For Women. These titles are speaking to people that are dealing with everyday problems or situations. What drove you to wanting to start offering this knowledge through books, and how did you come up with this stuff? Because I don’t think a whole lot of this is maybe taught at school or in your CFP program. So maybe just kind of share how you are different in that space where you’re providing knowledge to overall Americans.

Louis: Well, again, because my clientele base is very different. I mean back then it was with pretty much every poor person that I worked with, they didn’t have a lot of assets. And so what I realized back then was that there wasn’t a lot of financial literacy. Remember there was no internet. Nobody’s going on online and getting information. And so you had to make information available not only through the books, but what I realized when I went back to the community was that no amount of financial literacy was going to help anybody that is poor. Because I grew up poor, but I grew up with loving, loving parents. So I had a wonderful childhood. I can tell you that I had one of the best childhoods ever. We didn’t have a lot, but I didn’t realize. I didn’t know that I was poor.

Louis: I really didn’t. I ended up going to college, getting my MBA and then moving to Orange County, California, working in Newport Beach, hanging out with really super wealthy people, multimillionaires and billionaires. And then you don’t realize that you change. The way you think change. Your attitude change. Your thoughts change, but you don’t see it. And then when I made that commitment on September 8th, 1990 to head back to East LA and started working with the community. And I started teaching and doing financial planning and I’m more of a teacher at heart. I realized that no amount of financial literacy was going to help my community. I was going to help them. And I started realizing that there were certain cultural, at least because I deal with the Latino community, cultural beliefs that were sabotaging even their mindset about believing that they could have any form of financial success.

Louis: And back then my mindset was not even financial sense. It was what I was calling financial significance. That’s what one of the titles of my book was, called Financial Greatness. So that’s where I started saying, “Well, where is there a book where I can talk to them about their own system or business on a handshake or all the limiting cultural beliefs.” There wasn’t anything. And so I just started speaking about it and then I started writing new articles about it and then somebody said, “You should turn it into a book.” And that’s what happened. One of the books is called My Street Money. I was on CNN when Barack Obama was running for president and they were doing the debates and they brought me on CNN. Roland Martin did, and he had me on live after the debate and he said, “Look, we brought Louis here to talk about, not wall street, but main street to the regular folks.” And I said, “Roland.” Whoa. And if you Google it, you can see that tape on the YouTube.

Louis: I said, “Roland, honestly, I don’t know about wall street or main street, but I can tell you about my street. And tonight on my street, they didn’t talk about social security. On my street, people aren’t putting money in 401ks. They don’t have any money to put in 401ks. On my street, they don’t buy stocks, because they don’t even know what the stock market is.” And that’s where My Street Money came from. Because there’s a group of people out there, millions of people that nobody’s attending to. Nobody’s paying attention to because it’s not profitable for them. But again, if you’re a business person and know how to create and implement systems, you can attend to those clients and you can do it rather profitably.

Louis: But, the thing is that how do you reach these people and how do you approach them in a way that they can actually listen to what you’re saying and they can understand what you’re saying? Because we forget that we learn all this terminology. And when we’re talking to people, they’re intimidated by that, all the information we’re giving them. They’re intimidated by the way we speak and how we say things as compared to talking to them in their own language.

Alexandria: Yeah, that’s a big one. It’s like meeting people where they are.

Louis: That’s it.

Alexandria: We started out in their shoes at one point, not knowing this terminology. I mean, especially for the next gen community, we’re still building that knowledge. And so even you have some fears that maybe you don’t know enough. But really it’s taking a step back and really meeting people where they are. So that way when you are communicating about these topics, they really do begin to trust you. They go, “Hey Louis, not only is he knows his stuff but he’s real. He knows what we’re talking about, what we’re going through and I feel comfortable having him help me.” That’s a whole nother level that comes up, especially working with different communities, is the trust level when it comes to money. And when they have what little or all money that they have and having to be able to give trust to someone else within their community to help them with that.

Alexandria: I mean there’s so many layers that have to be peeled back when working with different peoples with different backgrounds before you can just go, “Hey, I can manage money and I can help you build a plan.” There’s so many other layers prior to that. This kind of is a nice segue because you did touch on this several times, but I think it’s always very interesting when people mention, especially financial planners, “I want to be able to help my community.” Right? It means so many different things to each individual person. And I just wanted to see for you, I know you said you finally moved back, and then was living in East LA, and that was the time when you started to making it more important to give back to your community because you had to be back where they. So what did you find that was so important that you felt like, “I need to go back to where I came from in order to provide that knowledge and be able to give people what I have now?”

Louis: Well again, what I did was, I personally put myself in the position that I said, “How is it that my father who wanted to succeed and live a better life, have as a financial planner, as his consultant, an 11 year old kid?” Right? Because he only spoke English because he didn’t have access to anybody else. And I thought there is nobody in the community going back and helping them out. And the only people that I knew in the communities helping them out… A financial planner back then in a Barrio was the real estate agent, because it was something tangible. That was their financial plan, giving them horrific tax advice, no estate planning advice, nothing. And so I’m thinking, “God, where would my parents be if they would’ve had a Louis Barajas who is the certified financial planner, enrolled agent, with years of experience in the community?”

Louis: And would my parents, would they have paid a Louis Barajas, if he would have been there to help them? And absolutely they would have. The problem is there was nobody that they had and the people that they had in their community where… Sometimes the problem is that people in their own communities are the ones that are ripping them off. So I said, “What needs to happen for me to be able to go back and see if I can bring in also young kids to help people in their own community or help their own?” And that’s been the biggest struggle. For me, growth has been a struggle because to hire minorities, and especially I try to hire people that are also certified financial planners, it’s very hard. I don’t know if you know that I think only three and a half percent of all certified financial planners in the industry are African American and Latino.

Louis: So there’s not a lot. And for me, as I continue to grow, it’s not finding the needle in the haystack, it’s finding the haystack. But that was the impetus to me going back and saying, “How can I provide what my parents would pay?” And the problem is because the prior ways to get paid was by selling a product and I wanted to prove that, no, there are plenty of people who are willing to pay for advice if you are honest, and if the conversation you’re having with them is not manipulative. Because I also know a lot of people who are in the communities who are selling products. Originally when I was out there selling products, and my managers were telling me, “Look, you can do what’s good for them and good for you and you can put them in an annuity.” Which was not at that point for that particular client the best thing for them.

Louis: And so I just think at the end of the day, if you’re going to be in and helping people, you have to have a conscience and you have to know that you’re really truly helping them out and not doing it because you wanted to…. Again, the money comes. The money will come. You will be successful because people will talk to everyone about you, when they realize that you’re a good hearted person doing the best for them and you’re not focused on, “How much money can I make?”

Alexandria: One of the challenges that you touched on was about the growth and finding minorities to work with your company in your community. I know that that is a big thing that our profession faces, is just having people with different backgrounds being able to support communities, minority communities, or just communities out there in general. What would you say and how have you been promoting that within your firm or within the profession to help basically change the problem that we have right now with that?

Louis: Well right now, which just so you know, at one point with a financial planning association, I was on the national board of the FDA. And I’ll share a quick story. I mean, FDA members, when you come as an actual board member, you cannot bring your own agenda to the group because you’re basically talking about the overall financial planning association. And it’s not about fee based or commission or fee only, whatever. It’s about what’s best for the association. But I did not do that. I did bring my own agenda, because back then, it was like 2004 to 2006, I realized that every time that I went to a national conference, I could maybe pick out two, three black people and one, two Latinos. That’s it. Out of the 3000 people. And I looked around and I said, “This has got to change.”

Louis: And so when I was on the national board, I kept pushing and I kept pushing diversity. I keep pushing diversity. I kept pushing diversity. And we really never got around to it. But every conversation, I would bring diversity and I said, “You need to watch the demographic of America and how it’s changing. If not, the association is going to lose.” Because it was most of the people in association were older white men and they’re going to be retiring, dying off or whatever. And the demographics in the United States is the minority groups are growing and we need to bring these people in. And I will share with you that I got all my mentoring by white anglo-men who were the nicest people who took me by the hand, who helped me and were the most dependable.

Louis: If it were not the FPA I tell you right now, I would not be where I’m at right now. And it was a national conferences that changed my life, not the local ones, but the national conferences. And to me now, I’m in a, it’s called the DAG, Diversity Advisory Group for this center for financial planning, CFP board center for financial planning. And we’re constantly working on creating ideas of how we can recruit people of color to come in and work in communities that are underserved. There’s a tremendous amount of need. The problem is that there’s not enough people to mentor young kids coming in. And so they have to kind of figure it out themselves.

Louis: And the problem is if we don’t make them sustainable in their communities, they’re not going to hang around. And so at some point, it’s unfortunate that they need to go work for someone else to earn the ropes and eventually go off on their own and go into their communities. But we have to figure out a way that they can become sustainable so they could stay there in those communities, because I’m going to share with you. It wasn’t easy for me. It took years before I became profitable. I sacrificed probably about five or six years before I really started making any kind of money to support a family.

Alexandria: Yeah. That is a big point of really just how do we make them sustainable? And give them the experience portion, right? Mentorship, helping them to pass the CFP exam. I mean, there’s so many, I don’t want to call them barriers, but things that you have to do to even get to the level before you can, “Hey, let’s start helping people.” And so what you shared is very important.

Alexandria: I want to kind of transition us a little bit more regarding the advice to next gen. So what advice would you say you have for just the next gen or the young professionals that are coming up that are wanting to give back in a different way through the companies that they’re working at currently that is going to kind of shift things of how their current structure of their firms are at? Because a lot of them do give back. Maybe they do a food bank drive or they do some pro bono work once a quarter, but maybe they have a lot more drive to get really involved in their communities or even providing services to the communities that they want. What advice do you have for them?

Louis: Here’s my take. This is going to be very interesting and because I did it for so long and I’ve worked in communities of really impoverished needs, but I don’t believe in what most people think of as pro bono. I just don’t. I believe in pro bono when there are catastrophes, pandemics, hurricanes. I believe in pro bono when it comes to that. When it comes to working with underserved, I have figured out that if a person does not pay for advice, they will take it as an opinion and they will rarely implement it or rarely follow up and follow through with it. And so when I was in the barrio, I was targeting, let’s say if I was going to charge $300 for a financial plan back then. And if I knew somebody who could not afford it and they could afford, $50 or $25 or maybe if they couldn’t afford it, I would still charge them $20, because those $20 hurt.

Louis: They knew they needed me and they would pay me the $20. I could have taken that money and give it away if I wanted to. I needed it, but it wasn’t about 20 bucks. It was about the mindset of that individual paying for that advice. Now pro bono work that I do, for example, today I did a two hour training session for an organization on the zoom with 75 people called New Economics for Women in Los Angeles. They cater to single mothers and build low income housing, but create these incredible programs of prosperity. And so my goal is that I can’t have 75 Louis Barajas’s out there. It’s just impossible to find. But I had 75 staff members that worked with over a thousand residents and help them solve issues of poverty. And I said, “Well, why not help them consistently to create programs for them, to teach their staff so the staff can then help the residents.”

Louis: And so those are the areas that I look at it in which I do create the biggest impact. The food drives and all that are great, and I do those as well. But the problem that that’s not where my happiness… When I give money or when I help with food banks, I feel happy, but I don’t feel kind of a sense of purpose. When I give back to that nonprofit organization that’s dealing in issues with poverty and helping those people prosper, that’s what I feel I was meant to do and that’s where I given the biggest impact. And I guarantee you that every single community has organizations like this that if you’re really talented and you really want to help out, they’re dying for people to come in and help them out. There’s so much need out there. So that’s my take on kind of the whole pro bono and giving back.

Alexandria: I really like how you broke that down because I think it gets used interchangeably of the word pro bono, the action of going to help someone, versus actually needing financial planning. And so it can get very confusing or watered down or just maybe overused. The word pro bono in general can get overused to that point of the example you gave about mindset. No matter what the amount was, like you said, 50 bucks, 300 bucks, the person’s paying $1,500, they feel it and know the value of who and what you’re providing for them. And that’s what’s important.

Louis: Yeah. You’re professional. You’re seen as a professional. Anybody who’s willing to pay something is a professional. Anybody can give you free advice. And again, whether you take it or not, just depends on how much influence you have on that person. But as soon as somebody is willing to pay you something, then they’re seeing you at a different level and they’re going to respect you and they’re going to trust you. And I feel, there are a lot of firms out there that don’t allow a lot of young people to help people like that to help other people in need. Why can’t you take on, if you’ve got 50 clients, why can’t you have 10 clients who are going to pay you a little bit, whatever?

Louis: What’s wrong with that? And you never know. Let me just share with you, again, because I’ve had 30 years into this, more than 30 years. I have blue collar workers, people in their seventies now, in their seventies, that I started with that were in their forties and who never made more than $40,000, $50,000 a year ever. And have invested with me in their retirement IRA rollover is over a million dollars. People from Boyle Heights. And so I know that this works and it just takes time. And what happens is that any young person coming into the profession needs to understand that, yes, you’re going to find fruit that is already ripe that you can start making money, but at the same time you need to start planting seeds. So, the seeds will grow as long as you water them, as long as you help them, as long as you’re there. There’s nothing better to tell you that I’ve got clients for 34 years and they stuck with me and I had been there with them through their divorces, through their illnesses, through whatever, and even now through this.

Louis: Some of them, they’ve got a lot of money and they’re retired and they’re not worried and they’re not afraid. There’s nothing more beautiful than that. And so I just think that a lot of people say, “You got to take on these clients.” Those are the seeds that will also provide the shade for you as an advisor when you’re 55, 65, 70. Because people ask me, “When are you going to retire?” I said, “Why would I retire? I love what I do. I love what I do. I’m never going to retire.” People retire because they’re fatigued and they hate what they’re doing. I have no plans. There’s no financial planner that I would hire to plan for retirement. I would hire them to plan my estate plan and making sure that my money lasts. But I love the profession. The FDA has been wonderful for me and I think just getting involved and thinking long term is how young people can really get engaged in the profession and really get a lot of purpose and meaning out of it.

Alexandria: That’s amazing. Thank you so much. There’s so much in there that I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m over here taking notes and just listening.” For a minute, forgot I was even doing the interview because I’m just listening and taking in so much of the information that you’re sharing. That it basically is like the next gen community, the young people that are out there, we don’t have limits. And so it’s kind of like go out there and provide help to those who are willing to pay for the help. Obviously there’s the CFP exam and other credentials you can get, but maybe you could talk a little bit to this briefly. Because you’ve I’ve written so many books about topics that aren’t maybe your mainstream topics that you would find at school or in a textbook.

Alexandria: How did you begin to really become more well rounded about topics that are really the issues that people are dealing with? Because I could say that a lot of the information that I learned in college around some of the CFP topics are good, but they seem to be more swayed for if you have lots of money and can plan out all these different things. But it doesn’t maybe address what most Americans are going through. So how did you really begin to educate yourself on that or what advice do you have for next gen community about that?

Louis: You have to be a lifetime learner. You have to educate yourself. There aren’t going to be a lot of books out there. There aren’t going to be classes for if you’re going to be helping the middle-class or the lower middle class. You have to try to be a problem solver. So I studied issues on poverty. I read books. There were no conferences. The conferences were outside the scope of the financial planning profession. Right now, for example, you have the financial therapy association, right? There wasn’t that back then. You just have to be a student. You have to be curious and wanting to help people and seek. Try to find information of how you can take information that you can process and then merge it with the financial planning information, so it creates an impact on the individual and really changes their lives. But can I make a comment?

Alexandria: Yes. Please.

Louis: I just want to make a comment because I know we get a lot of these people and I get so many phone calls from a lot of young financial planners, gen xers who are trying to make a change, but they get so frustrated. I’m going to share with you 35 years what I’ve learned and what I know for sure. I think I only know one thing for sure, is that I cannot help people who do not want to be helped. When I was young, when I was in my late twenties, early thirties, when I saw people drowning, not literally drowning, but drowning in debt. They needed help. Obviously when you go into a community, be your own community, you can say,” Oh my God, I want to help. They need so much help.” But there was a confusion on my part. The confusion was that I always thought that people who need help, want the help.

Louis: And so there was a frustration in which I tried to help people and I didn’t see that they wanted to be help or they would not follow up and follow through with the advice. And I would see them year after year not getting any better. And then I realized that they weren’t ready for the advice. So it’s a lot of people who are listening to us who are just starting out and can actually see the need in their communities to help others and don’t feel the love. Don’t get frustrated, you just move on to the next person because there’s so many people that do need you to do want you. But the hardest thing for me to realize was that when somebody who drowning and I throw the lifesaver out of the boat, that they would push the lifesaver out and continue to drown.

Louis: And that’s a visual that I see. And there’s nothing I can do at that point. Because I need people to understand there’s so much purpose and so much meaning in what I do, but I had to learn that sometimes I have to step away from clients who needed help more than anyone else, but they didn’t want it or weren’t ready for it. And so, when you’re in your 20s and 30s, sometimes we come with a very idealistic notion that we can help the world, but sometimes we just need to help the people in front of us who actually want the help.

Alexandria: Thank you so much Louis for your time today. I mean everything that you shared, there’s so many good tidbits that people can really go and do something better for tomorrow. And especially with what’s all going on today, community is important. And so, I’m glad that you were able to share with us what you’re involved in and how we can be better planners as we begin our journey on our 30 years of being in the profession. So I just want to say thank you so much for everything that you shared with us today.

Louis: No. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity.

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