A Year Ago Today

“Two roads diverged in a wood. And I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”  – Robert Frost

Walking away from something that is comfortable and stable is a difficult decision. I did this twice in the last three years.

The first time was resigning from a high-paying tenured teaching position.  If I stuck around another six years or so, my pension would have doubled.

I left to devote myself fully to the fee-only RIA firm my wife, Dina, and I created from scratch:   ATI Investment Consulting.

The second decision was to give up the complete control we had over our own destiny. We decided to join forces with Barry, Josh, and the gang at Ritholtz Wealth Management (“RWM”).

Both decisions were milestone events and came on the heels of one our sons being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. (Thank God, he is fine now.)

This was the deciding factor in both cases. I asked myself: Would I look back in twenty years and be happy that my choice was the status quo? After much deliberation, the answer was no.

Dina and I march to the beat of our own drummers. We don’t “keep up with the Joneses.” Quite frankly, we don’t even know who the Joneses are. Joining something is not something we take lightly.

In the end we found a second home at RWM.

Before joining, I was head researcher, trader, CEO, and strategic planner for our company. Dina handled marketing, compliance, client relations, and all aspects of operations.

In addition, for the majority of the time I was teaching middle school for eight hours a day and Dina was home with twin boys.

I look back today and still wonder how we did all of this?

Joining RWM enabled us to focus on what we do best; talking to clients and solving their financial problems. Our prime goal had always been to build a niche business focusing on teachers.

This plan became a reality because of the tasks that RWM removed from our daily work flow.

In less than a year, we have achieved remarkable things. We managed to work with, of all people, The New York Times, and are on the verge of transforming the entire 403(b) industry.

We have an innovative product ready to go, a growing blog, and an excellent network to help spread the word. A year ago, I never could have imagined we would move this far, this fast.

Amazingly, we accomplished this while simultaneously transferring about $50 million dollars and several hundred accounts to our new custodian, T.D. Ameritrade.

We did not do this alone. In the end what matters most are the people that you surround yourself with.

On that note, I would like to say a few things about our new home.

Erika Mauro has made our lives less complicated. She is super organized and has the mind of a master planner. Erika has been indispensable to the program that we are rolling out, Planning Time.

She just might be Dina’s favorite person in the world. The disappearance of paperwork has made Dina a different, and happier, human being.

Patrick Haley does all our trading, rebalancing, and tax management that used to occupy so much of my time. His efficiency is only matched by the courteous way he treats all of our clients.

Ben Carlson is pure humble brilliance.

Bill Sweet has encyclopedic knowledge of the tax code. Bill has already saved some of our clients a considerable amount of money.

Kris Venne has permanently changed my way of thinking, with his focus on ‘repeatable process.‘  Kris’ guidance and support has been invaluable. In addition, there is nobody better you can have a Walking Dead conversation with!

Mike Batnick is a reading machine. His knowledge of market data is unmatched.

Underneath all that knowledge is someone with a huge heart and wisdom beyond his years. He genuinely cares about people and is a firm believer in the Golden Rule.

Barry Ritholtz is filled with boundless energy. Whenever I speak with him, I literally feel we can conquer the world. I am an enthusiastic person by nature. Barry’s energy is off the charts. From the beginning, he understood the big picture of how we wanted to disrupt the 403(b) market. This is something I won’t forget.

Josh Brown is the best leader I have ever encountered in my life. For those who know me, the last word anyone would call me is a “follower.”

I would follow Josh through the gates of Hell.

He has the ability to inspire people; that would be scary if he went over to the dark side, which he could never do. You just don’t want to let him down.

Josh has truly created a culture that fulfills the most basic human need.

We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. His vision has created a movement from a corporation.

To limit this post I have to stop somewhere. Joey, Alex and Dan are all great people and a pleasure to work with.

The journey is what really matters.

This ride has just begun.




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