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A Conference, a CEO, and My Grandfather...

A Conference, a CEO, and My Grandfather...

March 03, 2023

Day One: 2023 AssetMark Gold Forum  

The theme of the conference was LIMITLESS and “Ode to Joy” played at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning as CEO Natalie Wolfson took the stage. 

And I immediately thought of my grandfather. 

Papa Chet lived off of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn and as a kid, I was only allowed to listen to classical music and opera on his reel-to-reel recorder. But I was permitted to play with blocks or trains on his floor and we listened while we ate dinner together in that studio apartment. I spent weekends in his home where he not only taught me about music, he taught me t shave, He was a stubborn, structured guy who had a 7-day menu which he ate on repeat. Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce from a can on Friday. No Meat. It was not good but as a kid, I thought it was the best. Saturday dinner was ham. I loved using the metal key to open up the can. He was one of my heroes.  

Papa Chet was an avid reader of the classics. He read Shakespeare’s complete works numerous times and he told me the complete story of Robinson Caruso and Treasure Island from memory. When I read the books on my own later in high school, I was blown away how he was able to share all the details of these great books.  He was a devoted Baltimore Catechism Roman Catholic and loved playing the piano and listening to all classical music including Beethoven. He actually didn’t like the 9th Symphony. He thought it was too much. But he listened to it. His favorite Beethoven Symphony was the 5th. 

My grandfather on my dad's side, Papa Chet was one of my early idols and mentors. He was a Great Depression survivor and first generation American, WWII vet. He dropped out of high school and got a job at Manhattan Bank to support his family because his father - a steam fitter - was out of work.  While in the Army his unit trained to be paratroopers and trained to be jump into Africa to face Rommel. He was removed from that troop to help the Army Air Corp - the predecessor to the United States Air Force - run their books and banking because of his background at the bank. His platoon never made it out of Africa.  

Back to the conference...

Limitless opportunities. Abundant mindset. Always be growing…intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and experientially are the lessons I brought home from another first-class conference of 600 top Fiduciary Advisors from all over the country. We gleaned that adversity and failure are simply learning experiences which allow us the opportunity to grow as human beings and provide perspective and wisdom not always realized at that exact moment but become the raw ingredients we need when opportunity presents itself.  

Day One we not only heard from AssetMark’s CEO but also an MIT Professor, world renowned economist, and portfolio managers on current and future market outlooks, the ever-evolving landscape of the financial Industry, and the study of human behavior and longevity that our clients are facing.  

The financial industry… as all industries… is still reacting and transforming since the COVID pandemic. Financial advisory is at the forefront of the change because we recognize being connected with our clients and meeting them where they are is the key to helping them stay ahead of the curve. We are the navigators for the families we serve, helping our clients prepare for the life transitions chosen or thrust upon them out of the blue.  

Navigating the roller coaster of the financial markets has been our core focus since February 2020.  We all have the ability to walk onto a roller coaster but also walk off of a roller coaster for the reason that it starts and stops at the same place. In the 1st quarter of 2020, the outlook was an expanding bull market with low interest rates and slow economic growth. We will get back to that station.  

The current economic opportunity is to invest while things are on discount in both the stock and the bond markets. The bond market in particular is on discount and yields are high. An analogy that can be used is investing in low-cost rental properties that are producing great positive cash flow. The money currently invested is being actively managed and moves are being made in the portfolios to take advantage of the discounts available.  

The planning and coaching side of being a fiduciary is the ability to look around the corner of our clients’ journey/transitions and knowing how to develop resources around business succession strategies, tax preparation, estate and longevity planning and cash flow management/budgeting. Holistic planning is critical to ensure we are helping the families and business we serve are focused on their purpose and what brings them joy so they can have limitless success. Every client has a unique set of circumstances and perspectives and we attend conferences like Glod Forum to absorb industry insights and engage in peer-to-peer sharing so we can meet our clients where they are and enthusiastically encourage and support them to arrive where they want to go.   

Papa Chet saved and amassed some wealth. He didn’t spend a dime. Monday through Saturday he would travel to Manhattan via the Subway with a sandwich in his pocket. He would stop by his bank, now Chase Manhattan Bank downtown NYC, once a week to check on his accounts. The other days he would plan around the free musical performances hosted in various building lobbies or churches. The World Trade Center Lobby performances or Trinity Church were always my favorites.  

He had routine and a purpose. He did this until he was 80-years old before getting sick with Tuberculous and dying within a few weeks.  

Why? Because Papa Chet refused to pay for doctor visits or a dentist. Vicks Vapor Rub, chicken soup, and mind-over-matter cured all. He was happy living his life his way. I wish I had the knowledge I have now and the influence to possibly help extend his life a few more years. I wish I could have been his hero. He did get to meet and hold Courtney - his first great grandchild and my daughter - but he did not get to meet his other great grandchildren. Including my son and his namesake, Chet. 

Papa Chet faced adversity at a young age but did what he had to so his family could eat. He did finish high school and later finance courses in college. But he didn’t believe he need to take “basket weaving” … and he lived. He lived because he had a skill the military needed and it saved his life allowing him to have his son – my dad - and the rest of the story is LIMITLESS. Ode to Joy!!!