Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

A financial planner shares his thoughts on financial wellness, what drives him, how showing up for yourself allows you to help others and why the right perspective leads to greater peace of mind

A financial planner shares his thoughts on financial wellness, what drives him, how showing up for yourself allows you to help others and why the right perspective leads to greater peace of mind

I love to learn. And I am constantly searching for new ways and opportunities to do so, which is why I’ve decided to introduce an interview series on the blog, where, as often as I can, I’ll share conversations with friends that I look up to and believe we can all learn something from.  

I’ve always been drawn to and a bit fascinated by individuals who think or behave differently. Conversing about their bits of wellness is a real thrill for me and I love to learn from the example they set and use it as an opportunity to improve in my own life. 

From morning routines and exercise habits to stress and time management tricks, I hope to uncover the philosophies, tools and tactics that these individuals rely on to excel both mentally and physically - and share them with each of you.

To kick the series off, I’ve chosen someone very special to me. He’s an individual that I have looked up to my entire life and someone who I am constantly learning from. He’s my oldest friend. He’s my brother, Andrew. 

I chose to interview Andrew because I have always admired how he lives his life and the values that he adheres to, both personally and professionally as a financial planner promoting financial wellness. And in this post, he shares with us a bit about what drives him, how showing up for yourself can help you to show up for others, why the right perspective leads to greater peace of mind and so much more.

So without further delay, meet Andrew.

Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Andy - I appreciate it! Before we jump in and get started, what is the one thing about you that readers of Bits of Wellness should know?

It’s my pleasure and thank you for the opportunity! The one thing that I would want anyone who is reading this to know is that personal growth is a big motivator for me in everything that I do. I am (and will always be) a work in progress and I try to be very accepting of that fact. If I had everything figured out at 37 years old I think I’d be quite depressed, actually. What else would I have to strive for? How can I continue to grow? There’s this quote I love and it goes something like ‘you’ve never arrived, you’re always becoming’. So I’m always looking for ways to get better or be better. With that said, I am very grateful for what I do have - my health, an incredibly loving and supportive family, a wife who is also my best friend and a career that I’m very proud of. 

You’ve always had a very healthy mindset…where does it come from and how has it evolved over the years with new opportunities and challenges that come your way?

My mindset is really just trying to find the right balance of never being satisfied and always striving to improve, being grateful for what I do have and maintaining a healthy perspective about the world around me. It’s not always a flawless formula, but for the most part, it keeps me grounded and level headed in most situations. I’d attribute my mindset to two things, really - my love of sports and my dad. There’s so much to learn from sports, but the one or two things I’ve really come to appreciate over the years is the discipline one needs in order to reach great heights in whatever they do and the important role that the right team/teammates plays in an individual’s success. And from my dad, I learned never to complain - ever. He never missed an opportunity to remind me that as long as I have my health and my family, I have it pretty good. And it’s true. When I’m down or disappointed, I try to remind myself of this. In a lot of cases, I’m sure we’d all agree that, if everyone threw their problems in a circle, you’d take a look at that pile and probably ask for yours back. 

It’s true - never complaining was a big one in our house growing up. That said, we’re all allowed to feel down on ourselves the odd time. One thing I’ve noticed about you is how quickly you’re able to lift yourself out of a funk. How do you do it?

I think I’m able to snap out of a funk fairly quickly because I’ve become really good at spotting when I’m in one! My energy levels become low; I’m not as excited about things that usually excite me; I procrastinate on things that are typically a priority in my life such exercise; and my days tend be all over the place, where they’d normally have a lot more focus. Look, there’s nothing wrong with being in a funk or feeling down. I think it’s perfectly normal to see a dip in your enthusiasm and motivation for certain things, from time to time. It’s also unrealistic to think that every day or week is going to be full of excitement. But the reality, for me, is that I don’t enjoy feeling like crap. So that’s motivation enough for me to turn things around.

When I need to get back on track, I like to try doing something new because doing the same old tricks don’t usually lead to the results we’re looking for when we need to be better or feel better. For me that means challenging myself to get up earlier than usual, going to a fitness class where I know I am probably the least experienced in the room, or meeting new people socially or professionally. Getting out of my comfort zone always gets the juices flowing again. I also try to remind myself that a funk can only last so long, and that I’ve got to ‘show up’ for the people in my life that I’m committed to - my team, my family, my clients, etc.

I know from working with you for so many years that you feel best when you’ve made the most out of your day. Can you share what an ideal day looks like for you?

Sure. I think more than anything else, getting off to the right start each day is the biggest difference maker. For me, that means rise and shine begins at 5AM - at least that’s what I aim for every day. 

Once I’m up, I spend the first hour or two focusing on areas of growth for myself and my business. Usually that means journalling, brainstorming ideas and meditating. I follow this with some form of exercise, usually a workout at the gym. In my experience, if you don’t take the time for yourself at the beginning of your day, it becomes very difficult to find the time and energy to do so as the day goes on. But the best part of an early wake up call is that by the time 8AM or 9AM hits, I already feel very accomplished and I haven’t even gotten to the meat of my day yet. 

The rest of the day is spent focusing on our practice and clients. I like to schedule no more than 2 client meetings or engagements a day. For me, this is the right amount because it allows me to really give whoever I'm sitting down with the time and attention to detail they deserve. I deal with finances for a living so that’s very important. When I’m not in meetings, I’m working on client files and financial plans. Our practice services about 150 households, so our day fills up quickly. An ideal day also involves working on my business, with you, Jen. Our strategy sessions always provide me with a huge energy boost because the ideas that flow in those meetings usually always lead to both professional and personal improvement. Some days I find myself working into the evening, but ideally I have some free time at home with my wife, Nicole. Nicole is also a business owner and she works extremely hard, so those days that we have a few hours of downtime to relax and hang out just the two of us and watch a couple of our favorite shows (Suits and The Bachelor - don't judge!) is important.  To end the day I always work on my Productivity Planner, which lets me map out the most important tasks for the following day and then I spend 30-60 minutes diving into a good book.  

Let’s talk about your work a little bit. For starters, how does health and wellness influence your work?

My own health and wellness is extremely important to me. Because I am someone who truly values excelling in all facets of my life - not just my work - that means I have to establish good habits in order to operate on all cylinders. When I take good care of myself, that means that everyone that I am engaging with gets the best version of me - which I think is really important in my line of work. It’s a big responsibility to have a seat at the table when it comes to someone else’s finances. In order for me to support, encourage, advise and engage meaningfully with people, I rely heavily on having a healthy foundation.

Money matters tend to cause a lot of people, most people, stress and anxiety. How do you help clients overcome those emotions?

That’s a great question. It’s true that most people become stressed or anxious when they think about money, but it’s been my experience that each client’s feelings, needs and relationship with money is completely different. Because of this, financial planning can look a lot like therapy sometimes. So the key, for me, is to take a very personalized approach. I like to understand an individuals relationship with money before I make any recommendations so that we can develop strategies that address their most urgent needs and wants right away. I can prepare what I believe to be the best financial plan in the world for someone, but if they don’t understand it or hesitate to act because they’re out of their comfort zone, then that plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. I’m also well aware of the fact that money angst isn’t just about investments. In fact, things like debt, cash shortfalls, major purchases, survivor income, etc. tend to cause people the most worry. So I look to be a resource on all fronts pertaining to either personal or corporate finances. My clients bounce questions and ideas off of me all of the time, and I find that helps to alleviate a lot of their stress and anxiety - just knowing that someone with expertise is there for them whenever they need help or guidance. 

If there’s one piece of financial advice that you would offer anyone, regardless of their age, what would it be?

Do what you can to avoid unnecessary debt. The biggest fee you will pay is the interest on your debt and the opportunity cost to pay down your principal. The gratification that comes from buying that new shiny, big ticket item on one of your credit cards is so short-lived and it will pale in comparison to the long-term agony you’ll feel on your uphill battle to pay it off. Most people don’t use credit for just one item; relying on credit often becomes a habit in order to fund simple lifestyle expenses. Racking up debt is the thief of financial freedom. That being said, if you’re reading this and can relate - don’t panic. The best time to start a new habit is yesterday, but the next best time to start is now. No matter what your financial situation is, don’t waste time dwelling on what you do or don’t have. Spend the time strategizing on how to get what you want and then start to tackle those goals now

I’m going to end things on my personal favorite topic - books. Do you have a favorite that comes to mind?

A favorite? That’s tough - I read a lot! If I have to go with one, I think it’s Rework by Jason Fried. I really recommend it to anyone running a small or owner-operated business, looking to increase productivity or enhance the client experience using sweat equity as opposed to just pouring endless capital into every initiative you can think of. We live in world where expansion and growth has become synonymous with success, but this book is a great reminder of the virtues of sustainability and profitability - both of which can be hard to achieve when you’re constantly pouring money and energy into trying to get bigger. 

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