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CFP of another kind

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My family and I had a big year in 2018. I left Merrill Lynch, earned my CFP and bought my first home. But, the biggest change happened in February when I became a foster parent.

Becoming a foster parent had only crossed my mind a few months prior, after my wife brought up the idea. Over the previous year we were also able to watch our close friends on their fostering journey with two young girls. I viewed these people as a special and a rare breed of selfless individuals. Certainly not someone like me, who had never been a parent. But, I realized something after watching our friends, meeting other foster parents in our certification classes and support groups and learning more about foster care in general.

Foster parents are normal people who are willing to step outside their comfort zone for the sake of the kids. It showed me that you don’t have to be a superhero to change a child’s life.

As advisors we see this mindset all the time with clients who are nearing retirement. They often look at retirement as an insurmountable goal that they’ll never fully achieve. Then we get to come along and help clients go from overwhelmed to confident that they can live the retirement of their dreams.

My wife and I received our first placement call within 24 hours of becoming certified foster parents. There were seven children that needed a home as soon as possible. We ended up with a one-month old baby boy, who was born premature and had substantial medical needs.

The baby had been abandoned shortly after his birth and was still living in the neonatal intensive care unit. Even looking back now, I feel overwhelmed by his situation. But, the nurses told us all that he needed was to be held, fed and loved.

In short, he needed a family. My wife and I looked at each other and said: “We can do that.”

We fell in love with the baby instantly and were able to take him home after he spent another two weeks in the NICU. The next two and a half months flew by.

We had tears in our eyes when on May 2, 2018, we had to say goodbye as he moved to his adoptive family. Coincidentally, two days later my business partner and I resigned from Merrill Lynch to join True Private Wealth Advisors. Merrill’s lack of transparency around costs and excessive conflicts of interests had driven us to a more client-centric firm.

On May 11, still heartbroken and in the middle of moving clients to the new firm, my wife and I received our second placement.

We went into it this time with our eyes wide open. We were still grieving, but we were also able to see the benefit that even a short amount of time can have on a child’s development, and we started to make peace with the temporality of the process.

That’s what gave us the strength to keep going. I’ve seen similar emotional evolutions with clients as they start to reap the results of financial changes they’ve made. When the hard work to reach their goals starts to pay off, it empowers them to continue making those small sacrifices now, for the big reward later.

We have had our second baby boy for seven months and seeing him bond, develop and thrive brings us so much joy. However, we are overcome when we think about the day when he will move on from us.

As advisors we spend most of our time planning for the future. We plan for our client’s futures, our firm’s future, and our own future. But, being a foster parent has taught me that it’s essential to live in the present.

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