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Knowing Your Why


Article by John Zendrosky

Photography by John Zendrosky

In 2016 I had the amazing opportunity to take a flight to London and embark on a two month long backpacking trip across Europe. Pictured above is the drop-dead gorgeous city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, which may look familiar to any Game of Thrones TV fans (Hint: Think King's Landing). I had only ever left the country before on a short term missions trip to the Dominican Republic, so this trip was going to be wildly unlike anything I had ever done before! That trip, up to that moment, was one of the most shaping and memorable things in my life.

Back home, my father was masking his illness he had picked up in 2015 and did not let us kids know how bad things had been. What was a routine work commute to Florida on an airplane became anything but when something infected his lungs on the flight. We didn't know it at the time, but my father would never be able to work again.

Though my parents were divorced before I was a year old, I was able to stay close to both of them. My father was a financial example of someone that I wanted to emulate. He was in no way, "wealthy", but lived well below his means and was a great saver. He did not directly teach us much about finances, but led by example.

Fast forward again to 2015 and my father was age 60, probably had most of his retirement taken care of, and was set up to be in a good place financially. It only took three years for him to use every last dollar he had on living with bills and medical costs while no longer earning an income. We finally realized how bad things had been when he moved in with my older brother until he got back on his feet. His story continued to follow that same blueprint until he, while living on his own in a retirement community in a small, junky unit, was found dead on his bedroom floor.

His story took me to the world of financial advising and I will share his story with anyone that will listen. His story fuels my conviction around the basic ideas that I look to implement in anyone's plan when we talk.

  • Plan for the worst and hope for the best. No financial plan is complete without thorough stress testing. Surprises can be a fun thing. Surprises financially or medically, however, usually are not.
  • Diversify. When all of your eggs are in one basket, you're only one move away from disaster.
  • Have a plan where you control some steps. If everything you have relies on Good Ol' Uncle Sam, you're one policy change away from a drastically different outlook. The same thing with employer provided benefits. They're fantastic until you're out of a job.

I hope my story was able to impact you in some way. I would love to hear what you've taken away from what I've shared today!