Ben Henry-Moreland’s first act was singing opera on stages across America and Europe. Act II: Helping folks financially navigate the feast-or-famine world of freelance work. The certified financial planner knows all about that because he lived it, as he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
Freelance workers have been “ignored” by the financial services industry because they typically own few assets and have complex financial-planning and tax-planning needs, says Henry-Moreland, 34, founder of Freelance Financial Planning in Omaha.
Despite independent contractors’ challenges of unstable cash flow and lack of employee benefits, the CFP’s mission is to guide these workers and business owners to a secure financial future.
He serves a blend of clients who see freelancing either as temporary work between staff jobs or an ongoing lifestyle choice.
After freelancing for five years as a professional opera singer, he saw his dream job failing to live up to its billing and in 2012 moved to a more income-predictable arena: financial services.
Five years later he went solo, joining XY Planning Network, after stints at investment advisors NEPC and Modera Wealth Management, both in Boston. He offers a choice of four pricing options and meets virtually with 75% of clients.
From the small town of Northfield, Minnesota, Henry-Moreland does not hesitate to use his former career as a conversation starter to show his understanding of freelance workers’ issues, needs and goals.
Last year, the CFP realized one of his own longtime goals: Appearing as a contestant on the “Jeopardy” game show. Getting there took six years of online tests and an in-person mock game.
“I wish I could have won and made it last a little longer,” he says, “but it was quite an adventure.”
THINKADVISOR: Being on “Jeopardy” must have been exciting, right?
BEN HENRY-MORELAND: It was an incredible thing to do, a lifelong dream. One of the questions was in my wheelhouse. It was about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I was really glad I got it right. It would have looked bad if I didn’t get that one!
Has your career singing opera helped you as a financial planner?
Financial planning is a great second or third or 10th career — as long as it’s not your first because you need to have some other life experience to have clients listen to you, accept your advice and follow through. They don’t teach that human connection side in school. But it’s what people really value — making this complicated financial system manageable.
Why did you become a financial planner?
One of the reasons was that trying to make a living from singing made me not really enjoy singing anymore. I had no [formal] financial education, but when I got out into the world, I realized there was more to surviving than just being a good singer, and I became interested in finance. So when I decided to move on from my singing career, this was the natural choice.
How do you market your practice?
Freelancers have been ignored by the traditional financial industry. They don’t have a lot of assets to invest, and they have more complex financial-planning needs than the average person. So a lot of my marketing has been trying to put myself in front of that audience with my blog, writing guest posts [etc.], to tell them that now there’s someone who cares about them and their needs.
What are freelance workers’ unique planning issues?
The main thing freelancers struggle with is inconsistent income. So one of the big things I do is keeping clients on track with their savings goals, and paying their bills and taxes.
Are independent contractors’ taxes a complicated affair?
The tax part is a big thing. They’re responsible for knowing how much they owe and for paying [estimated taxes] four times a year. Some wait to pay the whole year’s taxes [in April]. Then they also have to pay a penalty for not [paying] estimated taxes. If you do that every year, it snowballs. And then [the IRS] start[s] adding interest and more penalties for late payment. All that really adds up.