Mom knows best, and she always will


Jeffrey Levine, Buckingham Strategic Wealth Chief Planning Officer

We’ve all heard the saying, “everything I learned, I learned from my mom.” Surely this is a bit of an exaggeration for many, but much less so in my case! As we approach Mother’s Day, I am reflecting on how grateful I am to have gained so much inspiration from an amazing woman who unknowingly inspired my career in the financial industry.

While many people may view being labeled a “mama’s boy” in a negative light, but call me that today, and I’ll wear it as a badge of honor. You see, my mother, Laurin, is one of the most hard-working, dedicated and organized people I have ever met. These desirable traits put her on an unexpected career path that would forever shape her future … and mine.

When I was in my teens, finances were a bit tight. To help make ends meet, my Mom decided to find a job. Even though she was a professionally trained stenographer (and a darn good one at that), fate had other plans for her. In one of those instances of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” Mom found employment in a neighborhood CPA office, Ed Slott and Company, LLC.

At first, it wasn’t glamorous work. Far from it, in fact. You might even call it menial. But it allowed Mom to be close to home and school, so that if my brother or I needed anything – and we often did – she could be there. As an administrative employee, Mom mailed letters, made phone calls and scheduled appointments. While she was very good at managing the front office, Mom’s real gifts were developing meaningful relationships, attentively listening to others and communicating effectively. She is what we like to call a “people person.” And she is one of the best.

Over the years, Mom put those skills to good use as she moved from stamping envelopes to helping Ed Slott grow his company. First, it was helping expand the business through estate planning seminars. Now, she’d be the first person to tell you that she didn’t know anything about estate planning, but she knew how to connect with people. By the time the seminars were over, there were people booking appointments for estate planning consults just to talk to her at the front desk again! At least that’s what Ed tells me.

Later, she was instrumental in helping Ed start an ongoing study group focused on the ins and outs of IRA tax planning. More recently, she helped Ed establish a series of financial education specials for public television that have become among the most successful fundraisers in public television history.

By anticipating Ed’s needs, Mom became a driving force in the future of the firm. Today, she is the Managing Partner of the office that planted the seeds of my passion and profession. When people learn about my mother’s unique story, they often assume she is the reason for my success in the financial industry. The answer is a resounding YES! But it’s not because she pushed me into the financial world or because she taught me everything I know about tax, estate and financial planning. Like I said, she didn’t and still doesn’t – have a technical background. She’s not a CPA or a CFP like I am, but that doesn’t matter. The really important things I learned from her could have translated to any profession. To that end, here are the top three lessons I learned from Mom that helped make me the person I am today:

  • If you do something, give it 100%. Nothing less. (With my Type-A personality, this lesson may have stuck with me a little too well.)
  • Many skills such as an ability to learn, adapt, think strategically and adopt a strong work ethic can’t be taught in a classroom. You may not know the technical aspects of a job, but these intangibles can be successfully transferred to almost any position.
  • Do the right thing for other people. Both in her professional and personal life, Mom always goes that extra mile and anticipates the needs of others.

So, how did I wind up with a career in the financial world? If you had asked 17-year-old me, a financial career would have never been on the top of my list. I thought I’d be a doctor. Yet, when I decided that wasn’t the right trajectory for me, I had to figure out a Plan B. I thought about my intangible skills and what Mom had taught me. I asked myself, what do I enjoy? I have always loved math, and like Mom, I am a “people person.” With those two qualities in mind, the answer was right under my nose – financial advising. The rest, as they say, is history.

I may not have understood my mom’s tireless drive in my younger years, but today, I thoroughly admire and value her principles. In the same vein, I aim to offer my sons three tips of advice:

  • Find something that makes you excited to wake up and go to work.
  • Give yourself the freedom to explore new things.
  • You don’t have to make a billion dollars to be happy – do what you love to help support the lifestyle that you love.

My message is this: take the time to think about and appreciate the value of your intangible skills. And if you are not happy with your work, make some positive changes. I am grateful every day that I work with a group of people who are truly passionate about their job at Buckingham Strategic Wealth. This kind of team creates an unbeatable culture and infuses each day with energy and purpose. And as always, thanks to my Mom for such invaluable life lessons!

About Jeffrey Levine CFP®, CPA/PFS, CWS, AIF, BFA

Jeffrey is the Chief Planning Officer of Buckingham Strategic Wealth, where he serves as a technical resource for advisors and an authority on evidence-based planning concepts and strategies. He excels at distilling complex financial laws and policy into understandable resources. His work at Buckingham gives him the ability to train and educate hundreds of advisors and support them in their pursuit of helping clients fulfill their financial dreams. Jeffrey is also a nationally recognized thought leader, and travels the country each year to educate thousands of financial advisors, CPAs, and attorneys on complex planning strategies.