Chances are most country music performers don’t routinely gobble up The Wall Street Journal while traveling on tour buses from gig to gig. But that was the norm for Troy Von Haefen as guitar player for the singer Lee Ann Womack and a host of other country music entertainers. It was, in fact, an obvious clue to an upcoming major life change.
Fifteen years ago, Von Haefen left his decade-long show biz career to become a financial advisor in Nashville, Tennessee. “I always had a money mentality,” says the certified financial planner in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
Von Haefen, 50, already had notched informal FA experience: He helped fellow road musicians sort out their finances and investments. That was even before he started coursework to be a CFP, studying assiduously backstage for the accreditation.
By 2004, he had departed the music industry and launched Von Haefen Financial Management, a fee-only holistic, tax-centric solo practice focused on helping people spend less and save more.
Entrepreneurs comprise most of his book; a quarter of the clients are in the music industry. Von Haefen also serves Vanderbilt University employees, and military widows and widowers.
He grew up poor in tiny Victoria, Texas, but by high school had his own band working proms and local taverns. Making music and money in college, he enjoyed success regionally, then hightailed it for the big time in Nashville. There, he moved up to accompanying marquee names and eventually worked as a guitarist in Womack’s employ.
That was yesterday. Today Von Haefen is a member of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, serves 71 financial planning clients on annual retainer basis, and obtains all new accounts through referrals.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed the RIA and ex-country guitarist, speaking by phone from Nashville.
Here are highlights of the interview:
THINKADVISOR: From childhood, you were into making music. How did you become interested in finance?
TROY VON HAEFEN: I always had a financial mentality: I was the manager of the band I had in college — the money guy who booked the shows, budgeted the money, made sure we got paid.
How did you get to talking about financial planning with the musicians you worked with once you were a professional guitar player?
For the last five years of my music career, I’d read The Wall Street Journal in the tour bus as we traveled down the road. Other musicians would sit down next to me and ask questions like, “How much can I put in my IRA this year, and where should I invest it?” So it was very logical for me to make the transition to being a financial advisor.
But why did you want to leave show business?
I had accomplished 95% of what I dreamed of as a kid. The music business is a very difficult industry to grow old in. And being on the road all the time was hard on my family.
Are any of those musicians from the old days your clients?
A handful. While I was designing my exit from the music industry, they were right there asking me questions. So when I opened my doors, they said, “I’m in.”
Has being a musician helped you as an advisor?
It really helps with my musician clients because I speak their lingo and understand the industry’s inside baseball. Even my highly paid, very successful music clients can get a $4,000 royalty check one quarter and a $150 check the next. I understand all that.
Anything else that helps you as an FA?
Being creative — a musician — makes it easy for me to be touchy-feely and dig in. That’s helpful in finding out what clients’ real goals and values are. Organically, I get to know what drives them without having to go through a checklist of questions.