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“Simplifying Financial Matters So You Can Focus on What Really Matters.”

Stephen Rhodes began working in the financial industry in 2003. Stephen was an educator prior to becoming a wealth strategist and many of his initial clients were also educators. Wanting to serve his clients in a manner they deserved, coupled with the desire to provide comprehensive strategy compelled Stephen to found Strategic Partners Wealth Management.

Strategic Partners Wealth Management is a fee based Registered Investment Advisor serving the needs of retirees, employer sponsored plans and professional athletes. Securities are offered through National Planning Corporation member FINRA/SIPC, which is separate and unrelated to Strategic Partners Wealth Management.

MO: What inspired you to launch your own company instead of working for a more established firm?

Stephen: I was captivated by the idea of helping people to simplify their financial matters so that they could focus on what really mattered. To truly help people accomplish this meant that I had to help them with comprehensive financial planning. I discovered that my existing firm already had a vision for the type of company that they wanted to be and how they wanted to care for their clients. Over time I realized that there vision was very different from mine. At which point I realized that I had a decision to make, either embrace the company vision or find a place who’s vision was in alignment with mine. I spent a lot of time thinking and praying and decided that starting my own firm would afford me the best opportunity to carry out my vision.

MO: How did you make the leap from being an educator to becoming a wealth strategist?

Stephen: I started by teaching my students during the day and then meeting with clients at night. Since I was an educator, the majority of my new clients were educators as well. I used this period to really learn the business and how to best help clients. When things started to pick up, I reduced my teaching hours to part-time to give me more time to build the business. Eventually, I stop teaching in the classroom altogether and went full time as a business. Although I am no longer teaching in the classroom, I still teach every day. The difference is that my students are older than before and I am my subject matter (money) is one that they are really interested in.

MO: What are some tips for people who need to start putting together a retirement plan but haven’t started due to financial constraints?

Stephen: The first thing is you must do is get clear about what retirement is and is not. I don’t use the term retirement, instead I prefer 2nd Chapter because this accurately describes what happens. You close one chapter of your life when you “retire” and open another. Why is this important? Because we work for what we want. If you see “retirement” as the end, as a point in time when you begin to waste away because your best days are behind you, then you will not be motivated to do what you need to get there. I mean who really wants to prepare for that type of life? I most certainly don’t. The most important step in preparing for your 2nd chapter in life is to spend some time dreaming of what it will look like and why you are looking forward to it. Friedrich Nietzsche said it best “He who has a strong enough why, can bear almost any how”

MO: I liked the thought provoking questions you have on the homepage of your website. I am going to steal one and ask ‘what makes you feel alive?’

Stephen: I feel alive when I am fulfilling my calling and I believe that I am called to help others discover and live our their calling. I am convinced that one of the most disheartening things is to go through life without a purpose. Even if we know our purpose, life is so busy, hectic and complicated that often the things that matter most to us get lost in the shuffle. I feel alive when I am helping others clear away the distractions so that they can focus on what matters most.

MO: What sets you apart from the competition?

Stephen: I would love to point to what we do or even how we do it as the thing that sets us apart from the competition (I do believe our approach is unique), but honestly I don’t think it is either. I think what truly makes us different is why we do what we do. We provide comprehensive planning because we truly believe that this is what everyone needs in order to simplify their financial matters so you can focus on what really matters. We know that the work we do has true significance because it helps to remove the financial distractions so that our clients can focus on the things in life that that are most important to them, the things that make life worth living. Thus to borrow a concept from Simon Sinek, our clients don’t buy what we do but why we do it.

MO: Can you talk about the book that you’re currently working on? What inspired you to start writing and what has your creative process looked like so far?

Stephen: I started writing this book to be a resource for people who don’t want to retire but to instead start their 2nd Chapter in life. It amazed me how many people were not planning because they were not motivated to do so. So I started to write a book that I would want to read, one that would make me excited about preparing for my 2nd chapter. So far it has been going well although I must admit is is tougher than expected. By nature I don’t prefer to write. I would rather have an hour conversation with a client rather than type out an 30 minute email. But writing this book has been a great way to untangle my thoughts.

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