Many businesspeople have wondered how they could help during the coronavirus pandemic of the last 11 months. For John Grace, who has a financial planning business in Westlake Village, the answer seemed obvious: He started giving free financial planning advice to essential workers.“We are not able to build PPE equipment, create a vaccine, or make masks that work,” Grace said, “but we can spend 90 minutes working with essential workers to plan their financial success at no cost.”The typical cost of such as plan is about $2,000 in the United States, he added, but he figures that’s the best gift he can give, “since front-line workers put their lives in peril every day to keep us safe.”Grace is a longtime personal financial planner, “working with one client at a time since 1979,” as he put it. His firm, Investor’s Advantage, strives to create plans with three attributes: They are strong, safe and simple. That is, they must be strong enough to weather market uncertainty, safe enough to protect investors from undue risk, and simple enough “so that clients know what they own and why.”One challenge he faces in his business is that some people are too optimistic. “Blind optimism is not a good thing,” Grace said. “When investors put their heads in the sand, they are exposing some very dear parts to nature.”But a personal challenge stemmed from his own belief system.
“In talking with other minorities, I came to understand we often wonder if we will ever be good enough,” he said. “I discovered that was a bad question because it is a question that is closed ended. Just give me enough time to go through my long list of well-rehearsed reasons for my inadequacy. So, I created a simple open-ended question: What do average financial advisors do? Now, do better than that.”When asked what advice he might give an aspiring entrepreneur, he cited a favorite quote: “You should do something because you love it, not just because you’re good at it.” Grace said, “I think we all came here knowing exactly what we are here to do.
Then we forgot and we spend the rest of our lives either searching for it or marking time.”Being Black has been both good and bad for his business, Grace said.
“But, so what? I will do what I came here to do.”Grace got his start as a financial planner in a nontraditional way. “Sometimes it’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you.”He explained that he was best man at a wedding in Marina del Rey, and the groom’s father started talking to him about his career as a financial planner. He became a mentor who “schooled me in preparing to pass various insurance and securities exams, followed by introducing me to a securities supervisor who taught me all about the financial planning process.”Then, Grace said, “Coming full circle, just last year I experienced the joy of talking to the son of my friend about his becoming a financial planner.” Since the grandson had never met his grandfather, “I was able to share some of my experiences with the young man.”