george grombacher 0:02
Well, blood blood. This is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Ben Hakama. Ben, are you ready to do this? I’m ready.
Let’s go. Ben is he CFP, he is the founder of illuminate wealth management and a financial advisor. His firm works to provide deep and personalized service to their clients to overcome all the uncertainty that so many of us are facing. Then excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do.
Ben Hockema 0:32
Absolutely, Thanks, George. So yeah, just a little bit about personal life I married you have two kids met my wife, six weeks into college and dated all through college got married a month after and moved to a new city. So we live in the suburbs of Chicago and but I worked with clients all around the country, just kind of fell into my career. And, you know, it was it was a job to start with, and then turned into what it is now. So I worked at another firm for
about 13 years and learned
really how to serve clients and how to work with clients and, and then left to go start my own business January 1 2020. Right before COVID Great time to start a business. And
had some have had some fun challenges, you know, during that time, but that’s actually led to, we really have a remote business where I’ve got employees in a couple different states, we have clients, and I think 15 states now. And you know, it really helps when you start whatever ones at home, it’s easy to keep going that direction. So, you know, really enjoy working with our clients on everything about their life, not just their, you know, investments or their money or anything like that.
george grombacher 1:52
So you make the massive decision to open your own business. And here we go. And then and January of 2020, what yes, you’re like just perfect, or just what’s just perfect,
Ben Hockema 2:07
just perfect. Yes, you know, I had this whole idea that I was going to start slow, you know, build it up, have have some time to get systems in place and try different software all at once, you know, and so I was nice and slow and methodical in the first couple months, and then the world shuts down. And, you know, I was able to bring some clients with me. I bought some clients when I left and, and so I had a little bit of revenue coming in. But it still was a scary time. And you know, people who 95% of the time don’t care about their investments, when the market crashes, and everyone’s at home, and you don’t know if things are going to ever open up again. You know, that’s when you really earn your money, I guess, helping clients through some some time. So it’s interesting, it actually led to kind of that summer. As people, you know, we got out of that initial shock, you know, of this is happening to to the world, right? Then people started, I think, to say, Okay, well, now I can reflect what do I want to do? You know, I don’t want to go through this uncertainty again, alone. And actually, that summer, I got several new clients that just decided, hey, we need someone else to help us with some stuff. So it actually worked out. Okay. It just wasn’t interesting for six months.
george grombacher 3:26
Yeah, you were going through the uncertainty and the same as everybody else. But also, that’s right. It was just just a little extra. So I imagine that you’re working in the financial industry, and you’re looking around and you’re saying, Okay, we’re doing good work, but I think it can be done differently. It can be done better, we can better serve our clients. Talk me through a little bit about that vision?
Ben Hockema 3:52
Absolutely. There’s, if you look at the history of the industry, financial services has been around for 1000s of years, and always taking some money out of the the economy, right. And in the last 50 years, there’s been an evolution in the United States on the way final financial services is done, it shifted from a stockbroker who you called to place a trade for a stock and that was it. That’s all you got for financial services, or it was here’s a whole life insurance policy for you to buy. That was pretty much the only two ways you used to get any service. Then, in the 90s, people started putting together you know, buzzwords, the industry asset allocation, and mutual funds and things that were a little bit different than just buy a stock, but it was still about investments, and it was still about or selling an insurance product. Basically, those are the two options. And in the last 15 years, there’s been a shift I’ve seen in the industry, where people are saying there’s a whole lot more here. That’s not just how do I manage money for people that have millions of dollars? Vers, or how do I sell a product and take a big commission. And that really has been money touches all parts of your life. It’s something that keeps people up at night, it’s one of the biggest stressors in life lead to divorce. It’s something that I know even with my wife, we have disagreements on how to manage money in our house, it leads to relationship relational problems, then it’s you know, then you have money, and then you don’t want to lose it, or you go in and want to keep up with the Joneses and spend on the people next to you, there’s a lot of psychology with money. And there’s a lot of things that money impacts from birth to death. And so every one of those steps along the way, all the transitions that you go through in life, it’s really helpful to have a third party, who can be kind of a sounding board, help you stay rational, be the the rational person in the room, maybe a little bit bit of therapy there at the same time, and find out where the motivations are, and help you make decisions you actually want to make that are intentional, not just reactive, or what somebody else said that you should do. And so that’s how we focus with our clients on literally everything that goes on in your life. Money is a piece of and we kind of help people through that.
george grombacher 6:19
I appreciate that. It is interesting how sometimes it is that transition, or some kind of a change, that gets us out of our rhythm and just sort of our momentum and says, Okay, this is an opportunity to maybe make a terrible decision, or start getting my ducks in a row and be a little bit proactive about it.
Ben Hockema 6:40
Absolutely. Yeah, it’s life is full of surprises, and transitions, and you can plan all that you want, and things will still throw you off. And you know, a lot of my clients that I work with, maybe they had a trigger that something happened. And they they called me and we work with them. But I’ve got clients that between my partner and I, we’ve worked with for 40 years at this point. And there’s a lot that happens in life and 40 years, and there’s a lot of opportunities to walk through. And it’s not that he couldn’t go and handle things himself. It’s once you kind of have that third party that you can bounce ideas off of and gets to know you, somewhat intimately. I mean, money is money is very intimate. If you’re going to share that with somebody. Now we understand his motivations. And we can kind of help him get out of his own stuff to go do it not because he couldn’t do it himself. But it’s just nice to have somebody else and he can go in with confidence and not have it be a factor for anything.
george grombacher 7:40
Yeah, that confidence piece is is is really important. And it strikes me that that’s probably one of the main reasons that you’ve structured your firm as a fiduciary firm. And I know that that’s a buzzword that’s been thrown around for the past several years, not so much anymore. Or maybe it is I don’t know. But it strikes me that that probably does help to instill that, that that confidence or strength in that relationship.
Ben Hockema 8:04
Absolutely. I mean, I, my my least favorite part when I talk to clients is when I’ve talked about my fees, because it shifts the conversation. Every day when I show up and our team, we work with our clients, our motivation is we care about these people, and we want to help have a better situation for them. And so it’s really nice for me to be on the same side. The reason I hate the fee conversation is now now it’s the one time we have a conflict, because obviously I want to get paid more, and they want to pay me less and I struggle with that conversation. So we don’t really talk about it other than initially and then we move on. Because every other communication is we’re on the same side as you or on a team together. Let’s make this happen. And you know, growing up I was on volleyball team and and tennis team. And that team camaraderie piece is kind of a part of what we do both on our team internally, and then just on the same side working together, whether it’s the coach or the captain, or just this the player on the team. That’s kind of how we’re working with our clients on everything. And it’s really nice to be able to go in and say, you’ve done this, we’ve done the work, you know what you need to do. You had to go buy that house you wanted to we saved for you could do it. And actually, you know, when I when I logged on today, I got an email over the weekend, they said we want to buy a house, we found the house we want it’s a little over a budget, can we talk about you know, I know it’s over? Do you give us permission to do that, and a lot of people, they want me to give them permission so they can go and live the life they want?
george grombacher 9:40
Yeah, I think that that’s obviously that’s really powerful. And it’s evidence that that you’re successfully implementing the relationship or the process that you want to have with your clients. Like that, that that that that permission thing is a really, really, really important thing. Because if you hadn’t done the work if I had no idea Uh, about my financial situation. I don’t know, if I have permission from myself or my financial situation to actually do that, then it’s just sort of, I guess I’m shooting from the hip.
Ben Hockema 10:10
Right? Yeah, for sure. It’s, I think people fall into one of two categories, they do no work at all. And just go in blindly and say, Hey, I hope it works out. And maybe they’re stressed, really stressed about it, or they over plan, and then they never can actually go in and do the things they want to do. And I see that a lot, actually, with clients that work their whole life, they’re great savers, and then they go to retire. And they can’t spend money, because they see that no more income is coming in. And they see that they’re not saving any more money, and they actually need to withdraw money from their portfolio. And now they can’t go spend it, even though they planned ahead. Because they, they just can’t shift the mindset on there. And so both I think you’re dangerous of not planning at all, or over planning. And, you know, we try to get people to go kind of in the middle of, hey, let’s be intentional, but what’s the point no one wants to die with with more money than they’ve ever had in their pocket. But, you know, that’s no one’s goal.
george grombacher 11:14
Yeah, I think that that’s a, it’s just, that is a real thing. It’s, it’s lousy to live or to die before you, you know, expect and it’s lousy to live way longer than you expect and bad to blow all your money. But it’s also bad to be so terrified that you’re living hand to mouth even though you have plenty of cash. And I don’t think that is that a function of I just I, to your point, were just terrified of it. And having somebody that you could talk through with it, that could alleviate it.
Ben Hockema 11:49
It’s it’s a combination of things. Depends on the client, it depends on a lot of it goes back to childhood, actually. So my sister’s a therapist, and I actually am in some peer groups with other therapists and financial therapists. So there’s a lot of therapy that’s kind of finds its way into what we do. But a lot of things, you know, if you go to therapists, they’ll probably talk about Tell me about your childhood, right? Well, we come into that with our clients, when we’re starting the conversation, the first time we meet with you, because I need to know, what is that foundation you don’t even know is there. And I remember stories from people who talk about their uncle would, you know, make them jump through hoops just to get a dime, when they were growing up or, you know, child of depression parents that look like or on the flip side, I never worried about money, my parents had more than enough, but we never talked about money. And then the all those kind of lead to its own thing that the rest of your life, those those things in childhood, are foundational things that last, and how you approach your relationship with money on an ongoing basis. And so for some people, it’s terrified of running out, they remember a time that they didn’t have money, and they never want to go through that again, or for other people, it’s pride, I don’t want anyone to know that I may need them, or I don’t want my adult children to take care of me, which is a big thing. I hear from a lot of people, I don’t want to have that be a problem. I don’t want to burden somebody else. It all comes down to kind of how you view yourself and how you view money and then leads through honestly the rest of your life, my oldest clients 97. And I know things that happened when he was growing up still affect him today. And he’s almost 100 years old.
george grombacher 13:44
That’s that’s, that’s pretty amazing. I think probably surprising to some people. So how do I know? How do I? How do I start sort of exploring around to figure out how I’m wired?
Ben Hockema 13:57
It’s a good question. You know, the most obvious answer is go talk to somebody who is willing to talk to this about with you. So whether that’s specifically about money, so you go to a financial planner, who cares about this stuff, or a financial therapist, if there’s a big problem that actually is a niche within therapy that you If money is your biggest problem in your relationship, you can go to financial therapist, or it could be people that know you and care about you. So whether it’s mentors or pastors or whoever’s in your life that you can kind of help dive into I think there’s a lot there. But it starts with kind of knowing yourself. And so either you do that journey yourself or you bring in somebody trusted that you can do that for as you if you want to go the financial planning route. There are there’s some organizations I’m a part of that I think are really great. People that that approach it the way that I do from this is about your whole life and not just investment, you know, build the biggest nest egg that you can think of Just like that. And so whether that’s going to the XY Planning Network, there’s people all around the country that are fee only fiduciary financial planners and not going to sell you any products. And they actually want to help you with the planning. I think that really helps to go find somebody. But at the same time, you need to make sure you get the right persons have asked the questions, like, Tell me your process, what does it look like? As you’re walking through this? What are you trying to provide? For me? How is this going to look when we’re done? How am I going to feel a year from now? Those are some questions that a good financial planner should be able to answer, because they’ve done it before. And they can pull some experiences and say, Hey, here’s how I’ve helped some people in the same situation. Here’s what it looks like, here’s our process. think so many people are like, Oh, great, I found somebody. And then they don’t do the due diligence, because they don’t know the questions to ask. And they’re, and so there’s this issue where you have this person who knows a whole lot more than you do. And you just do their expert, they know what they’re doing. And then you don’t know what you don’t know. So asking good questions about the experience that you can understand, even if you’re not going to know Ks, this is this way you do cash flow the right way. You’re relying on them for that. But the experience itself, you can get a good feel for I think, yeah, I
george grombacher 16:23
think that that makes a lot of sense. And those are they a lot of the time we twist ourselves up about why need to ask the right question. But just asking, you know, what, what is our relationship going to look like? How often are we going to be meeting? And if everything goes great, how’s that going to look? And those are really important questions.
Ben Hockema 16:42
I would add, and in addition, I hear the question all the time, how often we get to meet and people don’t want my answer. My answer is, it depends how much we need to meet. So it’s either one time a year or 10 times a year. I don’t know. But here’s what it looks like. And I think the second part is the more important part, if you’re going to ask that question how often you’re going to meet? The second part is, and what do we do in those meetings? What is that? What is the conversation? Is it we’re sitting across the table, and you’re showing me these 20 pages of documents that I don’t understand. And now I’m supposed to feel good about it. That’s how most financial people talk to people. It’s condescending, and talking down and saying, here’s 20, report 20 pages of words that you don’t understand, so that you somehow feel confident? Or is it actually conversation, I actually like to go to meetings without an agenda. I have in my head of what I think we’re going to do, but I don’t know where the conversation is going to go. I don’t want to stick to a script just because we have to. And so we go in and we let it we’re prepared. I can go any direction you want. But our meetings take a life of their own because it has to do with what’s going on in your life, not mine.
george grombacher 17:58
But what about the amazing spreadsheet you put together, then you simply show this,
Ben Hockema 18:04
you engineering clients, so they liked the spreadsheet, but pretty much nobody else sees it.
george grombacher 18:10
It’s a funny, I appreciate that very much. And those are I mean, it makes sense that the people are when they do finally make the decision to interact or engage with a financial professional of some kind, that they want to make a good decision. They want to get everything that they’re, you know, to achieve the things that they want to in life. And I could see where they would want to, or make it easily to make a bad decision and just not ask the right questions. And oftentimes, to your point, the right questions are the simplest questions. Yep, for sure. I love it. Well, Ben, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you?
Ben Hockema 18:51
The easiest way to find out more is just go to our website, illuminate wm.com. And there’s all sorts of stuff on there. Just some some nice free materials. We write blog posts about all sorts of different topics, easy contact us, as well that you can subscribe to get more information as well. So just a lot of we try to put out there as much content, I can only work with so many clients, we only have so much time in the day. And so part of what we try to do on there is just give more information. And people can read it because there’s so much you Google something. And who knows if the answers right, we want to be a nice resource that people can turn to as well. So going to eliminate wm.com is a good way to learn more about us. And then like I said, I would also recommend going to the XY Planning Network. If you want to get more, you know, find somebody local or find somebody else to compare to, I guess, in your own kind of backyard.
george grombacher 19:50
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, shut down your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to illuminate w m.com Mmm and check out all the great resources read the blog subscribe and stay in touch and find out if it’s an opportunity for you to reach out and engage with Ben directly thanks again Ben
Ben Hockema 20:11
Thanks George and until
george grombacher 20:13
next time remember do your part by doing your best
Transcribed by https://otter.ai