Vanguard personal advisor career path

The brain of an engineer, the heart of an advisor

Growing up, toy blocks ruled my world. Spaceships, sky scrapers, submarines – you name it, I built it. So… it came as no surprise to Mom when I declared I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. It made a lot of sense why I would choose this profession. I was the kid who was passionately curious about everything. The kid who asked for tools as Christmas gifts. The kid who hooked up the VCR at age 4. I was also the kid who took all the screws out of the dining room table, resulting in us ordering takeout that night. I had the brain of an engineer, the soul of an artist, and a mother at her wits’ end.

Fast forward to 2007. High school was in my rear view mirror and I was heading off to college to study the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Zaha Hadid, and I. M. Pei. When grades were posted over winter break, Mom’s flashbacks of my childhood antics slowly dissipated after seeing a 3.6 GPA. I finished out the rest of my freshman year strong and had one of my designs featured in our school’s newspaper. Despite all of the hard work and long road ahead of me, I was feeling good about my decision to study architecture.

In the fall of 2008, things started to feel different. Internship postings on our school’s career website began disappearing, newspaper headlines warned of troubling times in the housing market, and I could see an uneasiness in almost every adult I knew, including Mom. By the end of the year, the S&P 500 was down nearly 40%, the unemployment rate was on its way to doubling, and the world was in a panic.

Vanguard personal advisor career path

My engineering mind needed to know what was happening and more importantly, WHY? I began reading financial websites, looking for answers. After asking almost every adult I knew “what’s going on?” I discovered that no one, other than those who had a hand in it, knew what was happening. When the market finally bottomed in March of 2009, the mystery was over. The subprime mortgage lending business, the securitization of risky bank products, and Wall Street’s greed led to the greatest recession of our modern world. It would take years for the economy and housing market to recover. My dream of becoming an architect was over.

In the fall of 2009, I did what every logical 19 year old would do after a global financial meltdown. I changed my major to finance. I wanted those around me to have a resource to lean on for financial help. After a few semesters, I learned about the world of personal finance and was again energized to make a difference. It wasn’t until a college professor assigned The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogle that I realized how murky the waters of financial planning were. Virtually anyone could market themselves as an investment advisor as long as they had a nice suit, firm handshake, and knew a joke to put your mind at ease. So what could I do about it?

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I share how I met the man who changed the investment world and inspired me to join Vanguard.

-Gary S.

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