• Jake Morris

What Brought Me To Financial Planning, Part One

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

Part One: Getting The Call

To be honest, the seeds for what brought me to financial planning were first sown years ago in 2013 when I was still living in Brooklyn. I had just started a new position at Ralph Lauren’s West Village haberdashery shop on Bleecker Street, selling $1,000 suits to celebrities and international tourists. I had been working previously at Brooklyn Tailors where I ran the made-to-measure suiting appointments and was grabbing the opportunity to “upgrade,” lured by the prospect of company-discounted health insurance and a 401(k). I remember my mom bursting into tears when I told her I would have health insurance at my new job, something that I had never had in the 15 years I lived and worked in the city as a musician and suit slinger. She asked me to send her photos of myself dressed in my new suits.

It was about a week before Christmas when I got the call. The fall/winter suiting season had gotten off to a late start that year due to a long, warm fall, but people were finally out and about buying their heavy threads. Now, the Christmas shopping season was rolling, and I had an appointment with a client that afternoon to pick up and try on five or six suiting options that he had purchased for his wedding, my biggest sale to date up until that point.

I had been out the night before with the brand’s store managers at JG Melon on the Upper East Side and had missed the voicemail, being groomed as I was to eventually run the haberdashery and suiting shop. Stuffing my face with burgers, acting manly and managerially, desperately trying to fit in with new work colleagues, I hadn’t noticed the call until I checked my voicemail the next day.

“Your mom took a fall and was found in the basement. She’s in the hospital now, and we’ll let you know how everything progresses.”

Suddenly, my big suiting commission and client appointment seemed a lot less important than they had a few minutes before, my Christmas shopping plans a little less urgent in light of this news. As worried as I was, I had a job to do and didn’t want to let anyone down or let anyone know what was happening back in Vermont. It wasn’t until my brother called and left a message that things started accelerating.

“Mom has pneumonia now and isn’t doing well. What should we do?”

I called my brother back. “Let’s go get Mom.”

For the first time that I can ever remember, I had to leave work mid-shift, my co-workers covering my fitting appointment. As I rode on the JMZ towards my girlfriend’s, now wife’s, place in Williamsburg, I broke out in tears on the train, the enormity of what was happening starting to set in.

I was taking it all so personally. My brother and I would be in Vermont in a week for Christmas and were having presents mailed to Vermont in anticipation. What if she had fallen carrying one of those packages down to the basement? Hot, uncontrollable tears rolled down as the train slowly clanked along, an above-ground train full of people pretending not to watch the young man in the three-piece suit crying his eyes out in broad daylight, all aboard thankful that they weren’t me in that situation.

My brother and I embarked on the five-hour drive to Vermont and made it to the hospital late that evening. Our mom was in an unresponsive state when we arrived, although we were told she could hear us. We left the hospital later that night scared and shaken but optimistic that she was in good hands and getting the help she needed.

Our mother passed away the next day. She didn’t make it. We made it in time to see her one last time and to say our goodbyes, and then she was gone. It happened so fast.

The night before, I had worn one of my new three-button tweed sports jackets to the hospital, the kind with the aspirational suede elbow patches. I thought the jacket made me look grown-up and somehow stupidly thought that Mom would be sitting up in bed when we arrived and would compliment how handsome I looked. I wore my new expensive sports coat to the hospital again the next day, my brain still fishing for compliments and hoping Mom would wake up.

When the final moments started approaching, I took the jacket off and folded it into quarters, laying it across the arm of a hospital chair. I didn’t want to remember which jacket I was wearing when my mom died and I was about to do a lot of growing up really fast. I didn’t need a piece of clothing to help me feel grown-up anymore.

I ended up wearing my new three-piece black herringbone suit to her memorial service a few months later, the one I had taken a photo of to send to Mom for Christmas.

To say that death changes you is as old a saying as time itself. I just wish someone had told me that everyone has to deal with this someday and that you are better off being ready and prepared for when that day comes than being unprepared and stumbling in the dark.

What follows next is what I like to describe as “my crash course in financial planning” period and the beginning of what led me to this industry. Dealing with my mom’s estate, and grieving her loss, I spent all of the next year engrossed in self-educating myself about finances, and by 2015, I was involved with the Financial Planning Association of New York and had enrolled at NYU taking classes towards the Certified Financial Planner™ certification. I had been bitten by the financial planning bug, and my passion for financial planning’s potential to change lives for the better has been highly contagious ever since.

Click here for Part Two of What Brought Me To Financial Planning

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