Jim Ludwick’s Legacy
Twenty years ago I was working for a very famous money manager but things weren’t going well. The market was down, and nobody wanted to sign up for money management. This was just after 9/11 and that had followed the dot com bubble bursting.
I started looking around to see what kind of work I could do that I would like. I’d already been a hospital administrator, a commercial real estate broker, a life insurance agent, and a bank trust department business development officer for two different banks. None of those roles appealed to me. It would be like going backwards.
I had a nice pension from the Air Force and our kids were launched. So, I started to look around and found a lady named Sheryl Garrett on the internet who was starting a network of hourly financial planners who would not sell products or manage people’s money. It was called the Garrett Planning Network. I was intrigued. She had written a book on how to become an hourly financial planner. I read it and I was hooked. So I joined.
After paying several thousand dollars I headed to Kansas for three days of training. That was September 2002. On November 9th that year, I opened my company, MainStreet Financial Planning, Inc. which was approved that day by the state of Maryland to start giving financial advice.
As with most new businesses, things started off slow. I bought yellow page ads and ads in the base newspaper at Ft. Meade (home to 5,000 military and 25,000 civilians) which was in the same town (Odenton, Maryland) where we lived. Nothing happened. No calls. No Facebook or LinkedIn yet, so it was word of mouth, and I didn’t know a single person who could send me clients.
I joined the other fee-only organization, the National Association of Fee-Only Financial Advisors (NAPFA) that November also. Now I belonged to two organizations that listed our firm and its location in Maryland. I started to get a few calls, but my first client was a referral from another Garrett planner who couldn’t handle them. It was January 2003 and I had my first engagement.
The key to ramping up my business was offering to help revitalize the local Baltimore-based group of NAPFA planners who came to know me and then started to refer clients their business model of managing assets didn’t accommodate.
My business started in the recreation room of our three-story townhome. After several part-time assistants, I consented to hiring Anna Sergunina full-time since she insisted on a large salary but promised me she wanted to be a Certified Financial Planner practitioner and see clients too. This goal of Anna’s offered us the opportunity to expand our company.
Our first expansion was to the District of Columbia. The rule was after more than five clients in one state you must be registered in that state (DC too). We were getting a lot of clients who lived in DC but would come to our office in Odenton. Anna helped me find a DC office based on the way the people treated her (the “assistant”) when she and I arrived for interviews. It was the most expensive option, but I knew our clients would be treated very nicely too. We are still with Intelligent Office in DC 16 years later. They are fabulous.
Soon thereafter, we had to register in other states and open other part-time offices. First California and then New York. Business was booming. Since Anna became the owner in 2014, we expanded registration in Texas, Florida, and Nevada (because I moved there in 2016).
The world was changing and in 2006 I discovered Skype by engaging a lady in Sardinia, Italy to do research to see if enough American ex-pats living in Italy for me to make that a niche financial planning business. We did get some clients but never enough. We liked to vacation in Italy and had lived there in the 1970’s where both of our sons were born while stationed with the Air Force.
More remote work followed as clients become more comfortable with internet audio and video meetings. I started staying longer in Italy and increased working remotely. I even invited clients to come to stay with us for a few days. Several clients took us up on the offer.
When the pandemic hit, I was already working primarily remotely from Las Vegas where we had moved. Up to March 2020, I flew to New York monthly for a couple of days, took the train to Maryland and DC offices for visiting clients there, and then drove to Santa Barbara to see clients in the town that still contained our older son and his family. Ten days traveling and twenty days in my home office in Las Vegas. Life was great.
Now, as I enter retirement it’s been 100% remote work for two years. Not the best, because this is a people business and it’s nice to visit with people in person at some point in a relationship. Many people want to meet you in person first and then are fine with remote meetings after that. If you are a newer client reading this, I apologize we didn’t get to meet in person.
I am excited and proud to see what this business has become over the years. Together with Anna and all of you wonderful clients who entrusted us with your finances we’ve created an amazing team of caring, talented, and smart women (Liz, Cynthia, Jennifer, Vida, Kassy, Meggan & Desiree) to continue the mission of helping everyday people Make Smart Financial Decisions!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with what I plan to do in retirement:
- Become an author (already have two books on Amazon this year)
- Become a financial coach who talks procrastinating people “off the fence” (that business starts April 1st, 2022. Procrastination Junction.
- Speak at Las Vegas conventions (TBD);
- Become a 180-pound person (half way there);
- Live as a first-class traveler;
- Hone my hobby as a good landscape and street photographer
- Act as President of a virtual Rotary Club (effective July 1, 2022).
Thank you all for being a part of my journey!