Straight Talk: A Discussion with Eric Powell, Part 1

Eric Powell interview still 2 edited

We were fortunate to sit down with Eric Powell, founder of RightPlan Financial and the Future Mill, to discuss what registered investment adviser (RIA) firms can do for their clientswhat it means to build trust, how to leverage technology to manage compliance, and other fun stuff like what roles firefighters and personal trainers play in the financial services industry.

What originally made you want to be a financial adviser?

At 21I had an interest in investments and started trading a little bit myself on the side. It was before Robinhood or any of these fancy digital platforms were out. I used E-TradeThat was 13 years ago. I never had any intentions to work in the financial arena. I was a fireman with a small business that I did on the side. While doing that, I used a financial adviser, and honestly it wasn't a positive experience.

Fast-forward quite a few yearsI left the fire service, and mwife and I moved out to Los AngelesI was really trying to find myself, figure out what my next step was. When I left the fire service, I had met with a couple financial advisers, which didn’t go well. I didn't have the money they wanted and I got this vibe like, Well, hey, we're gonna put you into a mutual fund, you know, just let it sit, that's the best thing to do, and I was like, “What should I be doing in general?” Another adviser tried to sell me an annuity, and in my 20s I had learned enough that I didn't think an annuity was the right fit for me.

While in Los Angelesmy wife and I developed a friendship with a doctor that had an addiction to Amazon. She was continuously spending money. She was a great friend of ours, and one day I told her, “You know, you really need to talk to somebody and find out what you should be doing with your money and start putting it away. She was like, You know, I just wish there was somebody like you I could trust.” Bells and whistles went off, and at that moment in time I started forming a plan to join the financial services industry. My hope and goal with doing that was to be the type of adviser that my friend wanted.

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That's a great story. I love how you focus on the word “trust,” like it really sparked something for you, and you knew you could provide that to others. So, at one point, you moved into an independent adviser role. Could you talk a little bit about that shift?

When I started, I worked for an insurance company that offered other financial products. I then started managing money, but I wasn't client-facing; I had to get to a certain level to do that. It was almost like a reward. The business model wasn't a good fit for me. I felt like what I was doing was exactly what I didn’t like about the advisers that I had met, who were kind of guiding me on things that didn't seem in my best interest.

It just didn't sit well with me, and after a while I stepped out and had a great opportunity to work for a local independent firm. And it was there that I learned about asset management, though the firm’s focus was primarily high-net-worth individuals. I would put myself in that older millennial generation, I guess you could say. So high-net-worth individuals really weren’t the people I knew. And I knew I could try to chat with them, but I wanted to help my friends, people I grew up with. And so I stepped away from there, and that's where RightPlan Financial and the Future Mill came from.

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Tell me more about that and how you transitioned into founding RightPlan Financial first and the Future Mill second, and how they differ from each other.

RightPlan Financial was my original financial firm when I went out on my own. When I did that, I had some clients I brought with me, and some of them were retirees and people close to retirement, or pre-retireesSo the idea was to create something within RightPlan Financial to help younger people as well.

What I ran into is that, as much as money management and financial planning are similar for everybody, they’re also a lot different for everybody. I found that younger people were looking for a different take, a different viewpoint. People close to retirement looked at money one way, and younger people looked at money in a completely different way.

I found the need to develop something from RightPlan that was more appealing to younger people and that could be monetized from a business standpoint. There must be buy-in from young people, but there also must be buy-in from advisers. When the only optionfor young people are to either get low fees but no service, or go talk to somebody but potentially get sold a lot of products, neither of those are always the best fit. Sometimes they need coaching instead; they need to bounce ideas off someone. And so that's how the Future Mill developed.

It's really interesting that you met that very specific need in the market. So describe a little bit what you do specifically and what a typical workday looks like for you.

A primary goal is always to make sure that clients are getting what we’ve offered from the beginning. My biggest thing is if I tell somebody I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. Some of those requirements are a little different for pre-retirees and retirees. On the flip side of that, the young professionals are a bit different because it's not as much a matter of checking in with them. I found a lot of young professionals don't want that as much. I usually say something like, “You don’t have to talk to us, but we're here when you need us.” At prior firms, I would call people and could hear them think, “Oh, gosh, what are they wanting to talk to me about this time?”

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So with the Future Milltypical day is working on content creation for young professionals along with the daily duties of talking to clients, looking at portfolios, and making sure all cash is invested. Beyond that though we've got to find the time to do the content creation, to really push out that content because that's the demographic the Future Mill is after, peoplon social media, whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, or TikTokthough I haven't gotten on TikTok yet, but there are quite a few people building a following there, so I'm considering it.

Read more from our conversation with Eric Powell.


In our Part 2 post, we'll continue the conversation with Eric Powell on various topics, including compliance technology, marketing, and social media.

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