Years ago, I heard the late Tom Gunnels, a career insurance agent and author of the book “Keep Your Lights On,” speak about the people in his life “gallery.”
Gunnels was referring to his parents, and to teachers, supervisors and friends, living or deceased, who had a positive, life-changing impact on him.
This year, two members of my life gallery have left this earth. They, along with my late father and father-in-law, had tremendous impacts on my relationships with work and money.
Heavily influenced by his upbringing in a military-base town, my father was an intense role model of a disciplined work ethic. He was a lifelong learner – completing his master’s degree in night school, being the first candidate for the Certified Financial Planner designation in 1972 and later completing one of the early distance learning Ph.D. programs. I remember watching him keep the family budget on green accounting ledger sheets.
My father-in-law left school after the eighth grade to travel, work and then join the Army. He knew how to stretch a dime. He didn’t have expensive hobbies, preferring to simply hunt and fish. He always grew a big garden to feed his family. He maintained his own cars and home. After a career delivering milk door to door, he retired in his 50s with a smile on his face and a fishing rod in his hand.
This past March, my friend Richard “Dick” Wagner, CFP, passed away. To describe him as a thought leader in the financial planning profession seems like an understatement. He was a professional giant. Back in 1994, when my father died, it was Dick who called to check on me and who sent his business partner to Knoxville from Denver to counsel me as I took over a financial planning firm. It was Dick who invited me to join his fledgling movement, “financial life planning” – setting an intention to show people how to use their money to support rich lives. In his intellectual quest to promote financial planning as a profession, he wrote an influential article, “To Think Like a CFP,” that should be required reading for any new Certified Financial Planner practitioner.
Several weeks ago, my community tragically lost coach Lendon Welch and his wife, Charlotte. In high school, as a freshman, I remember Welch putting his arm around my shoulders to encourage me at my first big track meet. As a senior, he put his arm around me again and gave me my first leadership role, captain of the high school track team.
Even 36 years later, I would see him on a football Friday night, and he would look me in the eye, put his hand on my shoulder and ask me, “How are you?”
Then he would proceed to offer me some (unsolicited) life advice.
Who are the people in your life who have shone a light on your path? What advice about work, money or relationships have they imparted to you that you can pass along to your circle of influence? Thank them. Remember them. Keep your light on.
This article was originally published in the Knoxville News Sentinel on August 27th, 2017.