Matt Sapaula, a Chicago-based financial advisor, coach and a former host of MSN Money’s personal finance show The Invested Life, has made a career out of serving middle-class households whose annual incomes do not exceed $100,000, and he is determined to continue doing so.
“There aren’t many firms that reach out to that client base, because the financial services industry in general still targets the most profitable clients,” he says.
But Sapaula, who began his career at a large brokerage firm in Southern California, realized that middle-class communities were in far greater need of financial education and planning tools.
More importantly, he says, “If I’d continued where I was, I wouldn’t have been able to help my mom.”
Sapaula, who used the GI bill to attend DePaul University’s financial planning program, strongly believes that middle-class families in America need personal and professional mentorship to get ahead in life. His goal is to redefine his clients’ future by giving them the information, tools and guidance they need to take charge of their finances — in particular managing their personal debt — and create a better life for themselves and their families. For more than a decade, he has proactively educated the community in financial strategies, helped clients identify hidden assets and he encourages his audience to turn missed opportunities into second chances.
“So many Americans are sitting on trillions of dollars of debt and they pass this onto the next generation,” he says. “Then, there are the issues of stocks and bonds, but also insurance, estate planning, disability and so on. Wealthy Americans have been talking about these subjects for a long time, but for middle America, the conversation is completely new.”
His goal is to be able to help people undergo a financial transformation through education and mentoring, so that they can experience a heightened sense of financial clarity and confidence.
Sapaula’s own experiences have greatly inspired him professionally.
“In 1996, I went through my own personal bankruptcy, and after going through a personal financial pitfall, I promised myself I would never repeat that again,” he says. “As an advisor, I have allowed myself to be transparent with my clients by telling them I have made the same mistakes that they have made, and this level of transparency, I think, is what has continued to attract more clients.”
Sapaula’s parents came to the U.S. from the Philippines, and he works with many different minority clients. He believes that it’s important for second- and third-generation minorities to learn how America works, and he dedicates a large part of his mentoring to this.
“A common problem that a lot of first- and second-generation minorities face, no matter where they came from in the world, is that their thinking hasn’t been upgraded,” he says. “In the Philippines, for example, your ticket to success was education, but here, it is capitalism. My challenge is to change peoples’ vocabulary and their expectations in order to become self-producing citizens of this country and entrepreneurs.”
Sapaula, a single father of three children, also mentors young professionals who want to become financial advisors, focusing in particular on how their career can help individuals achieve a degree of financial independence while maintaining a high-quality personal life.