When it comes to investing, just get started. Size doesn’t matter, it is better to start small than to not start at all. Time is the greatest commodity when it comes to investing, so don’t waste it.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Desepoli. Mike is a financial advisor, investment fiduciary, and the vice president of Heritage Financial Advisory Group. He serves as a wealth management resource to business owners and executives, assisting them in making proactive, personal financial decisions, and empowering them to live a life they love. Mike works to establish a close relationship with those he works with, striving to anticipate their needs before they realize a need exists. His vision is to change the perception of the financial industry, and aims to do so by providing as much education and transparency as possible so people can feel comfortable about decisions they make with their money. He also created AskTheAdvisor, which focuses on providing financial literacy and investment guidance to the people who need it most.
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?
Growing up I always had an affinity for numbers as math came easy to me. My father was an investor and always kept an eye on the financial markets, and I used to enjoy watching the closing bell on CNBC to see how markets did that day. Initially I explored accounting, but quickly learned that finance was much more my flavor. My father worked in the financial industry so I was always predisposed to the world of money. I joined my high school’s stock market and economics club, and immediately realized that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Helping people use their money as a tool to build a life they love has been extremely gratifying and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I started my career in January of 2008, literally 8 months before the biggest financial crisis this country has seen since the great depression. It is challenging enough being young in the business and trying to convince people 20–30 years your senior to entrust you with their hard earned wealth, and it is twice as challenging to do that in a global financial crisis. This experience was invaluable for me, as it certainly taught me the power of passion and perseverance. While it caused my career to get off to a slow start, it also allowed me the time to develop and expand my knowledge. It also forced me to be a quick study in evaluating and responding to human emotion, which was running high during times of the financial crisis. To this day, the ability to connect with people directly and understand their emotions around money has been the single greatest factor in growing our firm.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
For quite some time we have observed that there is a financial literacy crisis in America, and we were determined to learn more about it. Through our research we found that the biggest culprit contributing to lack of financial education, is lack of access to information. Many firms like ours, employ asset minimums. The problem with these business models, is they prohibit those who most need the advice (folks with no money), from accessing the help they need. In response to this, we created AskTheAdvisor. The mission of AskTheAdvisor is to provide financial literacy, education content, and investing tips through our digital platform. We utilize video as a medium to convey important topics and actionable items to our viewers, in an effort to motivate them to get on the path to achieving their financial goals.
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?
As I was alluding to before, I think one of the biggest hurdles for financial literacy is lack of access to education on the subject. By nature people tend to avoid what they don’t understand, and finances are no different. Studies have shown that a majority of people who opt not to participate in their workplace 401k, do so simply because they don’t understand it and are too embarrassed to ask. I have always been a proponent of having financial education in a K-12 curriculum. It boggles my mind that our schools systems prepare kids for careers in the real world, but literally spend zero time teaching them how to be smart with their money. This flawed system has led us into the literacy crisis we have on our hands today.
If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
1. Make financial education a permanent part of elementary and high school curriculums.
2. Auto enrollment in workplace retirement plans should become mandatory, requiring employees to “opt out” as opposed to “opting in”. This would dramatically increase enrollment statistics.
3. I would attempt to engage younger people in this endeavor by utilizing an influencer campaign. Our youth idolizes athletes, movie stars, and social influencers, and if we can use these icons to make financial literacy trendy I think it would have a tremendous impact.
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 5 non intuitive essentials for smart Investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
Managing finances can be stressful and overwhelming for many people, and since we have a tendency to avoid what we don’t understand this fuels the fire of procrastination. Here are my 5 tips for my adult child.
1. When it comes to investing, just get started. Size doesn’t matter, it is better to start small than to not start at all. Time is the greatest commodity when it comes to investing, so don’t waste it.
2. Don’t invest in companies or products you don’t understand. If you can’t explain it, don’t put your money anywhere near it. Everybody wants a get rich quick plan, but I would rather get rich slowly than not at all.
3. Never, ever fall in love with a stock. They will never love you back, so don’t get emotional about your investment selections. Focus on fundamentals, not feelings.
4. Don’t run with the crowd. A herd mentality has never led to financial success, so it’s important to be able to think independently. If you have a long term outlook, and the stomach to buy when everyone else is selling, do it. Your future self will thank you.
5. Learn from your mistakes. No one is perfect, and you won’t get every investment right. Protect your capital and know when it’s time to move on. A bad investment can teach you a lifetime of lessons.
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?
This may sound cliché but it is most definitely my parents. They gave me all the tools to succeed and more importantly instilled a deep level of self confidence in me. They have always challenged me to push the limits of what’s possible, and I owe all of my success in this industry to them. They say having a mentor is in valuable, it just so happens I was raised by both of mine.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whether you think you can or cannot do something, you’re right” — Henry Ford
This quote has always been important to me since I was in high school. My parents used to tell me this one all the time, and it was imperative in helping me build up confidence and self-esteem. They taught me that no goal is unreachable if you believe in it, and work you butt off towards it. I carry this mentality with me every single day, and it is the core of our beliefs in our firm. We face every challenge head on with a belief that we can make a difference.
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. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement towards financial literacy I think it would be a game changer for this country. Lack of financial literacy costs Americans billions of dollars every year, as well as holds back economic growth. If we can inspire Americans to be healthier financially, in turn it would improve our fiscal health as a nation.
Thank you for all of these great insights!