The recent pandemic has certainly changed our perspective, making us reflect on how we lived our lives, our goals, and what is important to us. If you are going through transitions in life and are in pursuit of financial freedom, you cannot miss this episode of Learning from Leaders!
Sandi Bragar and Cammie Doder from Aspiriant, a leading wealth management firm, join Patrick Veroneau to talk about money and leadership and share their strategies for achieving financial independence. So before you take the plunge and make that shift, tune in and get valuable tips to prepare you for what might be the biggest decision of your life.
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Managing Wealth And Achieving Financial Independence With Sandi Bragar And Cammie Doder
We are going to talk about finances with Sandi Bragar and Cammie Doder. Sandi is the Chief Client Officer and a Certified Financial Planner. Cammie is the Chief Marketing Officer for their wealth management company called Aspiriant. They also host a great podcast called Money Tale$, and that is where I was first introduced to them, where they provide such valuable information for people that are trying to figure out how to manage their wealth.
In this episode, we tie that in with leadership. The two are intertwined because if you are not in a good place financially and worried about finances, it distracts you from being able to lead other people effectively. We talk about that as well. We are looking in terms of people that might be retiring, what things are important for them to take into account, people changing jobs, what is important for them, and if you have got an entrepreneurial itch, what things do you need to be thinking about as you start your journey as an entrepreneur.
I would encourage you to take a look at their website. It will quickly come out as we have this conversation on how much they care about what they are doing and the mission of helping other people to manage their wealth. I would say also make sure or help people to understand how to create wealth. Let’s get into it.
Cammie and Sandi, thank you so much for being on the show. I had fun when I was on your show. I was like, “How can I not want to return the favor and do this all over again?” As I mentioned ahead of time, “I am going down to Florida. I still have not played Pickleball.”
It is a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having us. We are excited to have this conversation.
As we talked about before, the idea of leadership and finances goes together. My perspective on it is that if I am not in a good place financially myself, the stress that that can provide is going to bleed into how I interact with those around me. That is such an important perspective for us to talk about. Something else that I would love your perspectives on is how COVID has changed many things in terms of how people reflect on what they want themselves.
The Great Resignation is one thing that has come to mind. I hear from the standpoint of people leaving organizations to start their own businesses or they have finally gotten to the point where it was earlier than they wanted to but they said, “I am going to retire now.” They feel like they have got enough.
I think about it from the opposite of I know how difficult it is to run a business financially. How do people make sure that they are set up to be able to survive the uptake of that? If I am one of those people that is retiring, how to make sure that I am stable enough that I can do this? That is a loaded question, but I thought we could pick away at those things.
Why don’t I start, and Cammie, if you would like to add in afterward, we will move forward that way. The pandemic has been a great trigger of transitions for many people, changing jobs, starting something new, and retiring. We have also seen divorce happening, which is another big transition. Regardless of what the transition is, the best way to prepare for it is to give some thought in advance before taking action, envision what you want the future to be, and have crisp vision goals that are aligned with your values.
That is important, Patrick, for everyone because it will help you through the challenging times. With the transition, there is a big passage period. You get ready to make a decision. You make the decision, but there is a lot that is happening in your life to go through that transition of big passage phase. That is usually where there is a lot of redefining of identity, and ultimately, you get to the new normal.
To prepare, not only do you want a clear, crisp vision that is aligned with your values and encapsulates your goals, but you want to understand where you are heading into the transition financially. What does your balance sheet look like? How are you going to pay your bills during the transition time? Changing careers or doing something different career-wise is a lot different than retiring.
We can talk about those two separately, but the beginning phase is the same in terms of taking stock. What do you have? How are you going to cover your expenses? If you are making an investment in a new career venture, how are you going to fund that investment, and what pathway do you have? How long of a runway do you have to prepare and keep you financially afoot while you are building something new? Those are the key parts to getting started.
Patrick, you talked about the stress that comes with if you are not in a good financial place and what we hear clients who are hiring us. It is not necessary lacking money. Sometimes, there is a lot of wealth, but the stress comes with not understanding the wealth, what it is, and what it is for. That planning can be powerful.
I will add one more thing that I have heard, “It is not the Great Resignation. It is the Great Redirection.” It makes a lot of sense. That is the change that Sandi was talking about. One of our podcast’s guests talked about having a plan A but also having a plan B and C. Thinking through what options are and how do you prepare for them. It will help with that stressful feeling.Sometimes there's a lot of wealth, but the stress comes with not understanding the wealth or what it's for. Click To Tweet
It is funny you say plan B and plan C. It all depends on who you talk to because you will hear some people say, “I do not have a plan B because when you have a plan B, you are going to lean on that and not stick with plan A.” I am not in that camp. I am a plan B person. I like to have a little backup something, but I do think that is important.
To your point about the Great Resignation or Great Reshuffling, look at this. I am one of those that when I hear the word the Great Resignation, will often say that we have missed the biggest heart of what is going on. We have named this the Great Resignation. We have missed the real count on people that have left organizations because this has been going on for more than a decade. People have left their organizations in record numbers mentally and emotionally. It is only now that they are finally at a point where they are physically leaving the organizations. They have been thinking about this or wishing they could do it.
All you have to do is look at the Gallup surveys that have been done over the past decade that shows that 1/3 of employees are engaged with organizations. Those are all people that were wishing they could get out and go somewhere else, but there were no options at that point. That is the difference now. Now there is, “I am going to start my own business. I am going to retire or I am going to go work for a different location.”
I find it all to be quite thrilling. There is nothing better for me than working with a client at Aspiriant. We work with corporate executives, family business owners, and entrepreneurs. There is nothing more exciting for me to see a client achieve that vision that they have set for themselves. A lot of the vision has to do with lifestyle.
It is doing work that they are not only passionate about but achieves a purpose that drives their life or when they are retiring, having that vision of what they are going to do and what is going to bring purpose to their life when they are not going to an office or wherever they were going day-to-day. It is thrilling. I believe that people should be spending their time and their productivity doing the things that add the most meaning to them. The pandemic has crystalized the fact that life is fragile, it is not limitless, and it is not important that we do what’s driving us.
I did a show in 2020 and it was in this looking at all the things that have gone on. We had experienced an impeachment, social unrest, a health crisis with COVID, and a financial crisis as a result of COVID. All of those things in a period of a year that many of us had not experienced over a period of our lifetimes.
I was saying this back then, “This provides us an opportunity to look at our financial health.” What do we want in our careers, environment, and personal health? What do we want for ourselves in terms of taking responsibility to make sure that we are strong enough to be able to fend off some of the outside diseases that we are impacted by? Since 2020, I would agree it has provided an opportunity for people to have a lot of time to think about, “What do I want?” You guys play such an important role in that because, let’s face it, financially, you got to pay the bills.
You have to pay the bills and you want to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. If you have a family, you want to make sure they are protected. If helping support your community is important, you want to make sure that you are dedicating resources, whether it is financial time or your human capital, toward helping your community. All these things you mentioned, Patrick, are interrelated.
What is important, and this is why Cammie and I started the Money Tale$ Podcast, is in all of this time of transition, it is important to talk about money. Not only to think about it and plan with it but to be talking about it with your partner, family members, whether they are your parents or your kids, and with your friends.
We need to be in this conversation because a lot of people have been afraid to take action because they are afraid of the money implications, “My paycheck is going to go away. What is it going to be like? How am I going to survive? How am I going to pay this bill? What am I going to do about this debt?” For in conversation, it helps normalize a lot of the emotions around money. We can learn more about ourselves and find ways forward.
Another thing we hear a lot is by talking about it makes this elephant in the room, this thing that feels big, becomes smaller. People realize, “This has happened to many other people, this thought, financial decision, or concern. Others have felt it before. It is not just me in this burden.” We hear through these conversations that everyone feels this stuff and thinks these things, so we think about that.
When you liken it to physical health and mental health, that being financial health, as you are having these conversations, is your working on it. You do not tackle it all at once. These are bite-size. You look for partners, coaches, and mentors. That is what I love about Learning From Leaders. You are talking about how do you help people? We do not have to do all this by ourselves.
I always chuckle when I hear somebody say, “This person is self-made.” It is impossible. If you think about it, unless you birthed yourself, made your own clothes, schooled yourself, and made the roads that you drive on the car that you drive in. None of us are self-made. Self-motivated, yes. We can be that, but that still requires other people to be able to help us and we need to help other people too.
It makes life so much more rewarding to be collaborative, to be able to rely on one another, to rely on someone else’s expertise or someone that they know. Whatever the case is, achieving your goals when you have a team of people, a group of friends or a huddle around you makes life much more rewarding.
From your perspective in terms of the leaders that you are working with, are there any things that you have seen over the last couple of years that have weighed on individuals more as it relates to finances?
What I have seen with clients is a deviation of attention from the investment portfolio and more of a focus on how are we using the money in our life? It has been less about maintaining the wealth that has been created and more about how best to use it. It has been interesting. We work with individuals, couples, and families.
In the case of the families, there has been a lot of conversation about getting the rising generations, the family involved in the conversations and help make sure that they have the right competencies, that they are engaged in conversations about family wealth. Have a sense of what is expected of them, what they should expect, and help them stay motivated in building their own lives with the support of family. Not necessarily financial support but with the support of the human capital, the spiritual capital, and intellectual capital.
Have you seen more on the leisure side where people are spending money on taking trips or more experiential type spending?
There has been a lot of pent-up. Certainly, there are many clients who have continued to travel. We are still seeing a lot of energy and financial focus dedicated toward a second home or a family home. A meaningful place where the family can aggregate together and spend time together. You raise your hand, Patrick, because you are heading down to Florida.
I don’t mean to gloat or anything.
Where we spend our time, and how we spend our time, all of that is super important to all these aspects of our overall health that you have been talking about. We have been working with clients to help figure out the best financing plan and how the home is going to be maintained. In some cases, there are more than two homes, and that is always fun and interesting. I have learned a lot about different strategies for that.
I will share one because it might be interesting to you. I think you are about to furnish your place, a client who has a couch that they adore. It is comfortable and big. They have a large family. Everybody is comfortable. They have bought that same couch and have it in their various homes because that helps make it feel more homey. I thought it was a brilliant idea in keeping certain aspects of your wardrobe in different locations. You are not always having to pack and making it a big deal.The pandemic has crystallized the fact that life is fragile and not limitless and that we must do what's driving us. Click To Tweet
As we have talked to guests since 2020 and there has been this pent-up demand, the energy has gone into whatever they are pursuing from a career standpoint or growth standpoint that might not have been travel or buying a second home but was, “Where do I want to spend my energies?” They all weave in together.
That is a good point because there also has been an even greater focus on philanthropy. We have seen clients who are wanting to be much more strategic in how they are giving. When I say strategic, they have goals in mind, there is an impact that they are wanting to have, and they are figuring out how best to align their financial capital that is earmarked for charitable giving. As well as their skillsets, their networks, and trying to pour into organizations, make a difference and make the world better for all of us, which is exciting to be part of from an advisory perspective.
I read an article and it was fascinating to me. It was in the Wall Street Journal. It was talking about couples that were buying larger houses. These were couples that were of the retirement age. They were going from a 2,700 square foot, and now they are buying a 6,000 square foot home. This trend that the Wall Street Journal was trying to talk about. I did not read the whole article about wanting to expand to be able to have places where if they have got kids or extended families that can come back. They are not empty nesters as much anymore. They have enlarged the nest to make it more comfortable for people to come back.
Especially in the pandemic where there has been such a moratorium on being able to be with large groups of people to create a space where you can have the people that you want around you to be with you, feel comfortable and not have everybody stepping on their toes. That is a great solution for people who can afford to do that.
That was what I was thinking as I was scanning that article. Taking a step back, let’s say I am one of these soon-to-be Great Resignation individuals, and I am thinking, “I have got a great idea for a business. This is something I have always loved to do. I am going to go off on my own.” If they were to come to you too and say, “Here is what I want to do.” Is there any checklist that you would say, “Make sure that you get a good handle on these things first before you do it?”
For someone who is leaving a job, it is important to think about what are you dependent upon your job? That is where many people get their health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits. You want to be thoughtful in making sure you have a plan for continuing whatever benefits you will need in the foreseeable future.
A lot of people will go on to COBRA, for example, to extend their health insurance and retirement plan contributions. To the extent that you have not maxed out your contribution and you have the capacity to do that, making the contribution and maximizing as much as you can before you leave was a good idea because you might not have some income for a while if you are starting something new.
A lot of people purchase life insurance through their companies. Sometimes, if they need that coverage, they can continue it. A better idea is to get life insurance coverage somewhere else if it is needed because you can control the cost and the time period in which you have it. Getting organized on what you have that you are relying on your employer for what you need, figuring out a plan to continue what you need in some way, whether it is with the employer coming up with something new, is important.
Doing some cashflow planning. If you are starting something new, it takes new businesses oftentimes a while to get up and running. You can talk a lot about that, Patrick. You have been there before. It is important to make sure that folks know how they are going to cover their bills in the meantime. Sometimes, making sure that you have enough cash on hand or determining and advancing what expenses you are going to cut back on. Being aware of what your current lifestyle is and what levers you have to control during the transition period to the new business is super important.
Understanding what is required from a financial perspective to launch this new business. Are there capital investments that need to be made? Oftentimes, there is at least buying computer equipment, maybe some office equipment, and understanding what the new expenses will be. Again, how you can cover those expenses in the meantime are the key pieces from a financial perspective.
There is one other that we have heard from clients that there is value before people step away from something. Maybe they are even downsizing their work, they are retiring, or they want to do something on a much smaller scale. It is understanding the value perceived that you got from having this company and these people to work with.
I am about to say, “Go to the office and have this community.” We are not going to the office these days, but we are still in this valuable community when you are at the job and understanding when you give this up. We spoke with someone on Money Tale$ who did not realize how they may be a little bit of an island or feeling a little untethered as a result of not having this place that he got such value from working for.
One of those things is that if you are not used to being by yourself, it can be lonely at times when you are doing this. If you are not in an office anymore, you are all wrapped up and trying to make this thing stay afloat. It is like the Maytag repairman. I don’t know if you remember those. You are on your own.
I had the good fortune that I had an office out of my house for all the years that I was working for an organization. I had that ability, but even that, I was still going out and meeting with a lot of individuals on a regular basis. That is where I got my socialization. It was not until I went on my own that it was less time. I was more time by myself so you better like yourself.
That brings up a good point of what I was talking about earlier about vision. Thinking through what is it going to be like on a day in and day out basis when you make the change because you never know until you do it. If you think through all the different aspects of your life in your current routines and how they might be changing as a result of a transition, it gives you an opportunity to try it on and prepare yourself for certain things that you know will shift. You can decide whether you want to do something like having a networking lunch on the calendar every day for the next month so that you have someone else with that you are interacting during the day if you are going to be on your own for a while.
It is easier now to have a side hustle. There are many more opportunities to branch out and give it a test run without having to jump in completely. You can nibble away at it and see how it works.
It is a good point to side hustles and test. The younger generations talk about the fact that if you do not have a few things going at once, you are crazy.
I do think there is a lot of value to that.
From a financial perspective, once things start kicking into gear and the revenue starts coming in, there are a lot of great planning opportunities, especially on the side of setting up self-employed retirement plans that a lot of entrepreneurs miss. I will mention that so your readers can put a pin on that idea.
What about the people that are in organizations who are tired of what they are doing? They say, “We have got enough to be able to pull us off right now and retire early.” I am imagining you are seeing a fair amount of those that are saying, “We want to travel now. We want to do whatever, but I want to go to the office.”
Retirement is another one of those words that probably does need to change because most people think about retirement like, “If you stop working, you spend some time traveling for a little bit, and life is over.” That is not what we see from our clients. When we talk about it with our clients, we will focus on financial independence.
Financial independence is a point when clients have created in amassed enough financial resources to take care of funding all of their goals for the rest of their lives. We do a lot of detailed long-term modeling to help clients make sure that they are at that point where they are financially independent. We can look at it under different stress testing variables. What happens if returns are lower than we expect? What happens if inflation is higher?The best way to prepare for change is to give some thought before taking action, envision what you want the future to be, and have crisp vision goals aligned with your values. Click To Tweet
We help people through a modeling exercise to get comfortable that they have achieved financial independence. When they stop working, that is a big change. Some of the things that Cammie was mentioning about people who stop working and start their own thing are true for people who stop working and achieve financial independence.
From our experience, it helps to have a plan in place for how you are going to spend your time, who you are going to spend it with, and what you are going to be doing. Do those activities require more money than the lifestyle that you spend? That is another thing. Clients think, “We will retire. We are not going to spend nearly as much.” That is not true in our experience because people have more time. They want to travel and do things that they have not had the chance to do. We usually see a spike in spending for the first several years. Ultimately, it does start to trend downward again.
Having that purpose of what is my identity as someone who is no longer working, what is going to feed my soul, how am I going to spend my time, and what impact do I want to have on the world? If people can answer that question, in my experience, they have a much better “retirement period.” It can be decades because some people do not want to work. They stop working when they are quite young. Being able to project out what is the time period in this stage of financial independence and is work going to fall off completely?
What we see with our clients is oftentimes, they will join corporate boards or they will do advisory work. There is still come coming in and they are working on their own schedule. Clients who do that enjoy those opportunities to stay engaged and use the careers that they developed during their careers this time in a different way.
I would agree with that in terms of what retirement looks like. I know for us, in 2022, our youngest will be a sophomore in high school. We have still got some time to go here, but I don’t think of ever retiring. I am going to cut loose with everything, and I don’t have to do anything anymore. I would go crazy doing that. I would imagine it is people having the flexibility to decide what they want to do as opposed to what they need to do.
The point is it is important to ask yourself those questions before you stop working or reduce your work life a lot. Especially with married couples, it is like, “Will you go back to work? You are driving me nuts.” It can take some time to figure out. It is best to go into that period with some ideas.
I would think, whether it is retirement or entrepreneurship, that coming to speak to experts like the two of you is like a coach. You see things that I am not going to see myself. I am going to take the optimistic side generally of why I am going to do something. I miss the nuances of what this is going to mean. That is where an exercise of coming and speaking to you about what I want to do. You help make sure that I am on the right track.
You are emotionally tied, so it is helpful to have that external. We all have blockers. We can’t see certain things. That is where the beauty of coaches. In our case, we are wealth managers coming in and have that expertise. Each client is unique. Some of the circumstances and situations overlap. We can bring that to the relationship, which is powerful.
The only thing that I remember of the first time I went out on my own is related to healthcare because Sandy, my wife, was not working at that point. Our healthcare was not something that I had fully comprehended. We were spending $1,500 a month, and we had a $10,000 or a $15,000 deductible. We had catastrophic insurance. That is all that we had it for is that if something went bad, we were going to be covered. The first $25,000 was going to have to be out of our pocket at a point when we didn’t have $25,000 to be rolling around that easily.
It is important to understand all those different coverages that you have because people do not understand. When something happens, you get that big doctor’s bill and you are like, “What?” They can be avoided.
If I wanted to reach out to you, what is the best way to do that?
For me, I think LinkedIn is always great.
The Aspiriant website is a great place to go to because you can always start a dialogue with us there. We enjoy that.
As always, it has been fun having you guys on the show and also leaving some great information in terms of the environment that we are in now. There is so much opportunity here for people to expand where they want to go and the things they want to do. With your help, it provides freedom for people to be able to do that. Thank you for that.
Thank you, Patrick. It has been a pleasure.
I hope you enjoyed this episode with Sandi and Cammie. Please have a listen to their podcast, Money Tale$. You will enjoy it. I would like to make you aware that my first book will be available. There is a pre-launch to it. The title of the book is The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence.
This book is the culmination of years of personal experience and research observation. It is something that I believe has the ability to make a difference in terms of how you create bridges with those people that you are asking to follow you. That is all it is. We build bridges and that is what this book is intended to help people do. Build better bridges, not only with those people around you but also build a better bridge with yourself. I hope you have an opportunity to read that. Take care.
- Money Tale$ Podcast
- COBRA Insurance
- LinkedIn – Sandi Bragar
- Cammie Doder – LinkedIn
- The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence
About Sandi Bragar
Sandi is the Chief Client Officer at Aspiriant and leads our Planning, Strategy & Research team. The group is responsible for our state-of-the-art wealth planning platform that fosters intimate client relationships and helps families navigate the complex facets of their financial lives. Sandi also co-hosts our Money Tales podcast. Sandi joined Aspiriant in 1999 and became a partner of the firm in 2002.
Sandi began her professional career in 1993 at Ernst & Young, where she spent two and a half years as a senior tax consultant in the firm’s Personal Financial Counseling practice.
Sandi is a member of the Financial Planning Association and serves as a mentor in the Financial Planning Association’s Residency Program. She is also an active member of the Purposeful Planning Institute and chairs the Vision Expedition that is planning the organization’s annual Rendezvous conference. Sandi has been frequently quoted in the media, including CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Radio, Fox Business News, Yahoo! Finance, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Among other accolades, Sandi has been named one of Forbes America’s Top Women Advisors and Best-In-State Wealth Advisors in 2021.
Sandi holds a B.A. degree in Business Economics from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She earned her Certified Public Accountant credential in 1996 and her Certified Financial Planner™ credential in 1999. Sandi is Treasurer of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco. She also serves on the Investment Committee of Kiddo!, the Mill Valley Schools Community Foundation.
About Cammie Doder
A marketer at heart, Cammie is currently the Chief Marketing Officer of Aspiriant, a leading independent wealth management firm serving an elite clientele. she joined Aspiriant in 2005, originally responsible for sales and marketing. In 2016, she was chosen to take the firm’s marketing direction to a higher level and lead a team of professionals on a variety of initiatives to build the brand and grow the business.
Cammie is passionate about empowering our current and prospective clients by helping them navigate the murky waters of the industry to make informed decisions about their financial lives. Working in a client-centric, fiduciary-focused firm, means the she is a listener, educator and advocate, first and foremost.
As the Chief Marketing Officer and a partner of Aspiriant, Cammie works to ensure consistency across the Aspiriant brand, highlighting the warmth, passion and forward-thinking approach we bring to wealth management. Her role spans across branding, digital, content, client experience, inbound marketing, automation and messaging. Cammie believes the Aspiriant secret needs to be shared with more people and looks to connect with the next client whose goals we can help them achieve.
Cammie holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern California and a Masters of Business Administration from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. She spends her time outside the office with her husband and two daughters. They are either enjoying their local environs or visiting family in Southern California, on the East Coast or in Ireland.
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