Honor your elders. History tends to repeat itself, so why not consult with those who have already gone through some of these life experiences? Marriage, investing, raising kids, getting jobs — they’ve collectively done it all. Listen to their stories and learn from them.
As a part of my series about the The 5 Essentials of Smart Investing, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert J. Gordon.
Robert J. Gordon is a seasoned financial advisor with 25+ years of personal and corporate financial planning experience. He currently serves as Partner & Senior Financial Advisor for Investor Solutions, a 1 billion dollars AUM investment advisory and financial planning firm based in South Florida. At Investor Solutions, he focuses on 401(k) plan establishment, portfolio construction and financial planning.
In addition to extensive financial planning experience, Rob has served in Microenterprise Development with the U.S. Peace Corps — Costa Rica and as a Futures Trader for British Petroleum (BP). He also founded and operated Grupo Empresarial Tropix, a web development firm in Costa Rica.
Rob is a Certified Financial Planning (CFP®) practitioner, Certified Public Pension Trustee (CPPT®), an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst (AIFA®) and a Chartered Retirement Plan Specialist (CRPS®). He holds an MBA from Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Rob is fluent in both Spanish and English.
In addition to his financial services experience, Rob dedicates himself to charitable and community causes. He founded and serves as President of Robotics for All, a STEM-focused non-profit organization that strives to make robotics competitions accessible for school-aged children and their families. He is also a trustee of the Miami Springs Police & Fire Pension Fund and an Advisory Board member for Teach for America Miami-Dade.
Investor Solutions: https://investorsolutions.com
Thank you for doing this with us! Our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?
I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY, to immigrant parents from Jamaica. My interest in finance started at an early age. In fact, I started investing when I was just 14 years old, and I loved reading the Wall Street Journal. I used to skip class and go to the visitor’s gallery of the New York Stock Exchange. After graduating from high school, I attended Dartmouth College, where I focused on economics and computer science. New York is an interesting place to grow up as I saw how the very wealthy lived and the very poor. I have always been interested in how wealth is earned and accumulated, so my profession fits my interests and curiosities very nicely.
While in college, I started and ran Ivy Images Specialty Company. We sold college-branded letterman jackets in addition to other advertising specialties for fraternities and college students. We even provided letterman jackets for Spike Lee’s movie School Daze when that was released, which was pretty neat!
My entrepreneurial spirit drove me to help my parents with their real estate investments. After my time in the U.S. Peace Corps, I stayed in Costa Rica for another 2 ½ years to start and run a company that built and managed websites.
Once I moved to Miami, Florida, I joined Investor Solutions. I have been at Investor Solutions for 14 years and now serve as Partner & Senior Wealth Advisor. Investor Solutions is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), which is very different from being a broker. RIAs are fiduciaries and are sworn to serve the client’s interests first and foremost, so there are no commissioned product sales. We are free to recommend strategies that enhance a client’s wealth.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
It’s difficult to choose one thing since my career has been varied and exciting. I will say my time in the U.S. Peace Corps in Costa Rica was probably my most interesting. The US Peace Corps, founded in the early sixties, really develops leaders. We are placed in mostly developing countries with very little in the way of hard resources. The U.S. Peace Corps has three fundamental tenets: be an emissary of our country/culture to a different country, learn about another culture and bring back to the US a sensitivity and understanding of same and provide technical skills to the host country/community. I was located in a remote part of Costa Rica, where I was charged with serving a growing tourist industry. This was on behalf of the microenterprises and small entrepreneurs indigenous to the country/area/village/town. It was fantastic, and I was successful in helping to organize and mobilize the teenagers of the community to form an eco-tourist guide association to serve as guides for foreign and domestic tourists coming to the Southern Pacific Region.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Currently, I am working on a new podcast called ReThinkRichNow. The podcast covers life tips about money. With my new podcast, I hope to help people learn how to save, invest, protect and spend their money effectively. Oftentimes, money tips are passed on generationally, or people have to seek it out on their own, so I want to be a helpful resource for people. Also, the most relevant or actionable money tips are those which fit with your current lifestyle and worldview. That makes them easier to implement and thereby more effective.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience, what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers?
Finance is mysterious and sometimes scary to many people. First, it involves math, and we all know how our society thinks about math — it’s scary and hard! They don’t realize that while there is math, it’s no more difficult than the math they use in cooking or understanding their mobile phone bill. Typically, these services are offered by people and institutions that appear to be unapproachable or intimidating. The practitioners have traditionally adorned themselves with nice suits, fancy cars and expensive watches — typically at their client’s expense in the form of high fees. Finally, let’s face it, most people find it boring. People are far more interested in their families and their communities. This is one of those relatively boring areas. The internet has done a lot to democratize information, and that has made this area more accessible.
If you had the power to make a change, what three things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
I would recommend the following to improve these numbers:
- Simplify the language and give access to everyone who is out there. The internet has helped improve this to some degree.
- Encourage people to take risks. Many people grow up thinking the stock market is risky, and you can lose all of your money. Those things are true. Yet that is also true of real estate, but people are trained to think of real estate as safe and consistently makes money. Neither is true.
- Be open to making mistakes and understanding that those mistakes don’t define your entire investing career/experience.
Ok, thank you! Now to the main question of our interview: You are a “finance insider.” If you had to advise your adult child about five nonintuitive essentials for smart investing, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
My five essentials would include the following.
- Find a job. Once you have that job, open a Roth IRA, an individual retirement account that is tax-free over time, to save for your future.
- Be comfortable with risk. Think about business and side business opportunities. You don’t have to settle for doing just one thing or one job in your life.
- Educate yourself. Learning spans over a lifetime, so pursue ongoing education and understand the value of education.
- Be an intelligent consumer of technology. There are so many options out there, so it is vital to make wise decisions. Compare your options. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage; for example, social media can be leveraged for your benefit if used well.
- Honor your elders. History tends to repeat itself, so why not consult with those who have already gone through some of these life experiences? Marriage, investing, raising kids, getting jobs — they’ve collectively done it all. Listen to their stories and learn from them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I give credit to my parents for being great role models with their hard work ethic. Both are fortunately still alive and in their 90s.
I also admire Frank Armstrong, who started the firm I’m with now. He’s a compassionate man and a strong thinker. I believe that you should always try to work in places or surround yourself with people who are more intelligent than you, so you can soak up their knowledge and learn from them. I don’t mean to omit anyone, there are many, and I am grateful to have had or to have them in my life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is from a friend of mine, and he said, “Don’t mistake something little for something big. Big is big, and little is little.”
In my life, I’ve learned that sometimes what I may have considered being big was actually little. I had to open myself to the world and see that there were bigger opportunities and perspectives. I couldn’t limit myself. I experienced this in my career, where I worked with clients who had the earning or investment potential of X, which I may have thought was big at the time, but then as I worked with more clients, I saw that the potential was even more significant, and big was starting to look really big. It’s about knowing there’s so much more out there in the world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I started this non-profit called Bots For All to involve students in robots and inspire them to be curious about the world.I wanted to make it accessible for students of various backgrounds to understand the world around us. Bots For All connects STEM with the community and is intended to foster growth and wealth development in all of those areas.
I am also focusing on inspiring others through ReThinkRichNow. It can be very empowering and liberating to understand your world and finances better.