This month's Spotlight on the Team is on Partner and Client Advisor Geoff Gaggs. In this interview, he tells us a little about his outlook on life and how he started working with Mission Wealth way back in 2000. We also learn about his enjoyment of sports with his kids, travel and wine.
Tell us about yourself.
I'm grateful that I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. My Mom was a homemaker and my Dad was a CPA. My parents had three kids - two boys and a girl. I’m the oldest.
After college I was fortunate to get a job in my hometown. I worked for five years for a national financial planning firm. In 2000, I joined Mission Wealth. The firm was just starting out, consisting of the two co-founders, Brad and Seth, and an associate. Fast forward to today, we are an established firm with 30 members, helping 800 families and managing over $1.7 billion. It is a little different from the early days when we had one phone line and we all took turns answering the phone and my office doubled as the file room!
I remained with the firm ever since, which makes me the longest-serving member of Mission Wealth (not counting the two co-founders). About 10 years ago, I made Partner, and I am proud to be an owner in the firm.
What are a few childhood experiences you had that formed who you are today?
Two come to mind. When I was in the 6th grade I was able to travel to Russia. When entering and leaving the country, I remember our passports being heavily scrutinized. When touring the country, we were not free to roam where we pleased and the people seemed very solemn and looked down while they walked the streets. This made me realize the freedoms we enjoy are not experienced by everyone.
Losing my sister when she was only 13 years old was hard to come to grips with. She was born with Cystic Fibrosis, which causes mucus to slowly accumulate on the lungs until the body can’t handle it anymore. It was hard to watch such a loving, witty and gentle person go through so much. It taught me that life isn’t fair. It also taught me to appreciate being about to take a deep breath of air because not everyone is so lucky.
What about experiences as an adult?
Losing my mom when I was in my early 30s was a tough time in my life. We used to talk every morning while I commuted into work. To this day I really miss those talks. What I also miss is being able to tell my Mom "thank you" for all she did helping to raise me. My mom died before I had kids and going through this experience myself really makes me appreciate all that she did. I wish I could tell her in person!
Another traumatic adult experience was the breakup with my then-girlfriend, Roxanne. It was a difficult time because Roxanne moved away for grad school and long-distance relationships can be challenging. Being apart made me realize how much I missed her and that she is the one for me. Fortunately we were able to get back together and I’m proud to call Roxanne my wife. This experience stays with me today as there are plenty of challenging times, especially when raising kids, and there is no one else I’d rather partner with!
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I love to coach my kids. I have two boys, ages 11 and 8. In The past I have coached a lot of soccer. Recently I have been coaching each of their basketball teams. It is a way to stay involved in their lives and to spend time together practicing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
I like to stay fit. Right now I’m on a group fitness class kick. I change it up when I start to get bored. I also enjoy running and try to do a couple of half marathons each year. I have a buddy who I run with every Sunday morning and we push each other to get out there and get it done.
The entire family enjoys traveling. Every year we go to Yosemite and spend our days hiking the trails. Every year the hikes are getting longer and steeper as the boys get older and can handle more. Yet another reason for Roxanne and I to remain active to keep up! We also enjoy skiing and snowboarding. I’m slow and steady and the boys are fast and fearless. On the bucket list is to do a biking trip through parts of Europe.
Are you a raving fan of anything?
Does wine count? Roxanne and I enjoy a good bottle of wine together. When I say "good," let’s not get carried away. We have graduated from the Two Buck Chuck and now we target bottles in the $10-$20 range (and of course, buy 6 at a time for the volume discount!). Those who know me know I’m pretty frugal, but this is one area where I will splurge.
I wouldn’t say I am a raving fan of any sports teams, but I do have teams that I follow. While growing up a childhood friend got me into our closest professional sports teams- the L.A. Lakers, L.A. Dodgers and the L.A. Rams. I've stayed loyal all these years, even through the bad seasons and the relocations (Rams).
Do you have any pets?
I enjoy dogs. I’m not a fan of cats because I’m allergic to them. Growing up we had a Poodle and a Beagle and they bring back a lot of fond memories of cuddling with them. About 15 years ago, Roxanne and I rescued two Wheaton Terrier Poodle mixes. They brought a lot of joy to our household. They protected our kids with their affection and protected our home with their barking. Unfortunately, they passed from old age. There has been recent talk to introduce another dog to our family.
What's something interesting about you that others don’t know?
When I was 16 years old I got in a car accident that was my fault, and my parents said I had to pay for the damages with my own money. I juggled high school and working part-time in the evenings as a dishwasher in a restaurant. I learned the value of a dollar and how hard it is to earn money, and I’m proud to say that I eventually paid off my debt!
If you could offer advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t be quick too quick to judge people. Take me as an example. I was a mediocre student, I was cut by my high school JV basketball team (which ended my high school sports career) and I attended junior college. Some would label me as second tier. I like to think of myself as a late bloomer! Everyone has their own journey. Be open-minded and look to the character of the person.
Do what makes YOU happy. My happiest clients spend their time on THEIR interests and hobbies. My unhappy clients don’t. My unhappy clients are doing what their spouse/partner wants them to do and/or they are doing what they feel they should be doing. But they are unfulfilled and their relationships suffer and their health suffers. Treat yourself as the number one priority. Pursue YOUR passions and make time for YOUR health. Everything else will fall into place. You’ll be a more loving and understanding person and you’ll likely be a lot happier with your life! My Dad is a good example of this. He is in his 80s, living life as he wants. He loves travel, aviation and history and he pursues these with incredible energy and enthusiasm. He is happy and is one of the kindest, most caring person that I know!
What makes you well suited to do your job?
First, I like to think I’m a good listener. I genuinely enjoy listening and it comes easy to me. It is paramount for me to know my clients and understand what is important to each. This helps us focus our attention in the right areas.
Second, I enjoy solving issues. Frequent questions include: “When can I retire?” “Can I afford to buy this?” “Am I spending too much?” “What does it look like if I sell this home and buy this one?” “How do I give to my kids and grandkids without jeopardizing my own plan?” The list goes on and on. I truly love these questions. I love rolling up and sleeves and figuring it out and discussing the options with my clients. Sometimes, with the help of my colleagues at Mission Wealth, we can solve the issue. Other times I’ll be collaborating with my clients’ other professionals, such as their CPA, estate attorney, pension administrator, mortgage broker and the like. This gives me the opportunity to work with - and get to know - a lot of people and I enjoy this.
Last, it is important that I can relate to my clients and their needs. This is not a one-time transaction but a long-term relationship. There is an art and a science to this profession and you have to be able to do both. The science is the knowledge. This is gained by education in the field and experience. The art is the ability to connect and relate with people. True success is being able to weave the two together, and the result of this is the creation of a strong bond.
What do you think are the most important things people can do to improve their finances?
If you follow the following three things, you’ll be well on your way to a successful financial life.
- Live within your means. Think “The Millionaire Next Door.” If you have not read this book, I strongly encourage it! It is hard to accumulate wealth if you’re spending it too quickly! I find that having a “plan” can put context around this and give the direction needed to help with living within your means.
- Resist being spontaneous with major financial decisions. What comes to mind is the client calling me from Hawaii in the middle of a time-share sales pitch asking if they should buy? Well, at least they called and we could talk through the pros and cons. Let’s talk it through before you pull the trigger so you can make informed decisions. Have a well-thought-out plan before making that real estate purchase or retiring or any other big decision. By the way, the client who called about the time-share opportunity decided to pass after our discussion.
- Resist acting emotionally to the stock market. The stock market will go up and it will go down. Your “feeling” about the current and future economy will fluctuate over time. The "experts" will forecast, share their thoughts and continue to revise them. The best thing you can do is ignore it all! Studies show the “average” investor has horrible results. Why? They think they can outsmart the market – get in and get out – to improve their results. It sounds enticing. In fact you may expect this from your professional investment manager. The reality is, market-timing can’t be successfully done. You can get lucky in the short-term, but over time you will get burned. Having a well-thought-out asset allocation and staying the course is the key to long-term investment success.