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Making a Good Life Happen – How Did I Get Here? (Part I)

by Jim Bell, CFP®, President and Founder

February 2010

Lately, I have been meeting one-on-one, in my office, with college students. In many cases, they are the children of my investment management clients. They are beginning to wonder about their careers after college, and this is what they all ask: How did you get here?

So this is my story. Thirty years ago I finished graduate school and was working full-time as a computer operations supervisor in Evans Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. I no longer had to go to classes, write papers, or prepare for exams so, for the first time, I purchased season tickets to the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in San Francisco and the Oakland Symphony. There were many nights on the town, and I soon realized that I was living beyond my means. I had never done a personal budget before, and I knew that I would get a handle on my spending problem sooner if I hired a professional.

I Got Professional Help
I think that one of the questions behind the question, How did you get here? is How did you find your way to success? I have no doubt that one of the chief qualities that has made me successful is my willingness to find and pay for competent professional help. The very positive experience of working effectively with a financial planner to design a prudent, sustainable, and enjoyable spending plan opened my eyes to a career I could enjoy.

As a computer operations supervisor I worked 12-hour shifts usually three days per week. Because I was always off on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, my financial planner suggested that I could pay off my debts sooner if I found a part-time job on Thursdays and Fridays, and she even had a referral for me. She knew a stock broker at Dean Witter Reynolds who was looking for someone to tutor him on computer technology and data processing. Believe it or not, this was before personal computers were on the market! The Dean Witter stock broker and I hit it off, and I discovered that I not only enjoyed learning about and working with other people about financial matters, but I was good at it. Within two years, I was fully licensed and began working full-time as a junior investment advisor, which then led me into a life of continuing education that continues to this day.

By far, my willingness to seek and find competent professional help has always yielded more than I could have expected. Little did I know that when I sought the services of a financial planner to help me with a budget that I would find not only a mentor, but a satisfying career. This leverage has repeated itself many times in my life. I know I need help. I am willing to pay for it. I am a good student, and people help me way beyond our initial engagement. While it may not seem like a principle of building power, I have found it to be so. It is something not only college students need to think about; adults do as well.

In my next column, I will continue my story about how I got here, which includes 1) following my YES energy, 2) being a lifelong learner, and 3) how cultivating patience can lead to success.

Jim Bell, CFP® is President and Founder of Bell Investment Advisors, Inc. 1111 Broadway, Suite 1630 in downtown Oakland where he co-manages the business with his wife Bonnie. The firm has been providing customized financial planning, investment management and life coaching services since 1991. 510-433-1066

Published in Piedmont Post on February 17, 2010

Piedmont Post

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