What do you enjoy most about wealth management?
Engaging clients to use their unique background and resources to proactively create their best biography.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Staying grounded and focused on each client’s big picture or vision amidst the distractions of irrelevant noise.
What do you love most about being part of Aspiriant?
The unique think-tank of wealth management talent, many with CPA origins, focused on doing what’s best for the firm’s clients. I don’t have to be the best in each of the disciplines of wealth management, but someone in the firm will be. I also like that they are thoughtful. That seems to be missing in the rest of the financial services industry.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
Inventing a process that helps clients clarify the purpose of their wealth so that they can make financial decisions with confidence.
What quality of yours makes you best suited to what you do?
The ability to be both an advisor and a coach. To be able to provide the answers of an advisor to technical and analytical questions, while also asking clients the deeper questions that help them discover clarity.
How should people think about their wealth?
Money should have a purpose. That typically follows Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It starts first with making you feel secure and as your wealth grows its purpose moves toward self-actualization and legacy.
What do you love to do outside of work?
Golfing, taking cruises around the world with my wife, reading, and meditating. Giving back to my community through volunteer work. Playing the drums with other musicians, especially bee-bop jazz. One day learning to play the piano and composing my own music.
What would you be doing if you weren’t working for Aspiriant?
Being a philanthropic coach, helping people who have achieved financial success discover and implement their unique legacy.
- My first professional job on the audit team as a CPA for the Chicago office of Grant Thornton, confirming that I could set a goal at a young age and achieve it.
- Starting my own wealth management firm with just my vision that everyone should have a CFO.
- Helping clients stay grounded during the 2008-2009 great recession.
- Being elected by my peers as the first President of the Financial Planning Association of Los Angeles.
- Being recognized repeatedly by Worth Magazine as a top wealth manager.
Education and accreditation
- B.S. in Accounting and Computer Science, Northern Illinois University
- Masters in Business Taxation, University of Southern California
- Certified Hudson Institute Coach
What was the most influential book you’ve read and why?
I love learning a person’s life story, so I read biographies. The one that had the most impact on me recently was Walter Isaacson’s account of Steve Job’s life. It is amazing how one man can create so much so well with his imagination and determination. It makes me think twice about what at first looks impossible.
What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?
Being a self-made person, putting myself through school, moving away from the Midwest in my early 20’s, discovering my unique abilities, finding my own path, starting my own firm and building it to a level that was attractive to a top national firm like Aspiriant.
Michael has over thirty years of financial, investment and tax planning experience. He began his career as a Certified Public Accountant with Grant Thornton, the fifth largest national accounting firm in the U.S. Subsequently, he was a CFO for a real estate company, a start-up venture and a family office.
After founding his own firm, Michael felt affluent individuals could benefit from more sophisticated tax planning. As such, he earned a Masters in Business Taxation from the University of Southern California. In 1992, long before many of his peers, he earned the professional designation, Certified Financial Planner®.
Years ago, Michael saw that affluent individuals were craving guidance around their broader intent for the use of their wealth. In 2002, he studied at the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara and became a Certified Professional Coach. This provided him with a structure for integrating coaching with financial disciplines.
Michael also holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and Computer Science from Northern Illinois University.
As a staunch believer that consumers deserve fee-only, non-commission based advice, Michael has allocated substantial personal time toward advocating this cause. He is the Chairman of the Capstone Study Group, a national think tank for preeminent fee-only financial planners. Michael also serves on the Board of the Personal Financial Planning Committee of the California Society of CPAs, and is a member of the National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA). He has been the Chairman and President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Financial Planning Association (FPA), and has served the FPA on a national level through various committees. He is also a current member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).
Michael is currently a member of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation's Professional Advisory Council in Los Angeles; Chairman of the Planned Giving Committee of United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties; a member of Advisors in Philanthropy, and a member of Partnership for Philanthropic Planning. He also serves on the Board of the Spastic Children's Endowment Foundation.
Michael is a contributing author of: The Complete Guide to Estate & Financial Planning in Turbulent Times, and Financial Intelligence. Since 2009, he has authored articles relating to the management of affluent wealth for Worth magazine. He was also recently a guest wealth advisor on the Fox Business Channel.