Compass (Credit: Thinkstock)

After nearly a decade of helping hundreds of families step confidently into retirement, there are many mornings I reflect on just how I was able to put myself in a position to be afforded the honor of doing so.

How I got here is very easy to map out with the benefit of hindsight.

Yet I dare say that without my why, I wouldn’t be in the field of retirement planning at all.

I grew up as an only child during the ‘90s in the middle-class suburb of Mukilteo, Washington.

My formative years were spent riding my bicycle a mile up the road to “shag” golf balls from the woods at Harbour Pointe Golf Course to then sell those balls back to the golfers at the range at a discount; while my friends’ parents were driving newer, fancier luxury cars and buying bigger, fancier houses — my first car was a ’78 Cadillac Seville with a bum alternator.

Even so, my childhood was mostly ideal, and I planned to go on to attend college at Gonzaga and study medicine.

Then on May 16, 2002, my father passed away. Thank God, my dad lived below his means. On top of the loss of my dad, the family lost $100,000 in annual income, and needless to say, I wouldn’t be going to Gonzaga.

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With my dad gone, I felt the need to step up and be a real partner for my mom. With this understanding, I took on two jobs in high school, and I paid my way through community college before transferring to a University on grants.

In the meantime, we had a family friend, a principal at a major brokerage house managing the family savings.

We all know what happens next. The Great Recession wiped away trillions of America’s wealth, and my family was no exception. At the low, my mother had lost over 60%. The answer she received from our family friend, the principal at that major brokerage firm when she was terrified for her future, was to “ride it out.” Even at that stage in my life, and with the limited financial knowledge I possessed, I knew that answer wasn’t good enough.

That was the day I decided to take the future into my own hands.

I never expected that my burning desire to redeem myself for my own perceived inadequacy in helping my mother as a teenager would lead to a full-fledged advisory practice, but it has.

My ‘why’ is that every day when I wake up, I’m granted the ability to live vicariously through every single client that comes through my doors and ensure that with the proper planning, they will never experience the fear and uncertainty that our family endured.

Recently, my mother and I were speaking on the phone about the growth my firm has enjoyed, and I recalled a low moment in 2012. I had just moved to Denver to pursue my business, and things weren’t going well; I had just enough money to pay for rent. In my possession were two fully-matured Series EE Bonds my dad had acquired in 1986, worth $1,000.00. It broke my heart to cash them, and I pictured them someday framed in my office as a reminder to remain resilient.

On the call, my mother, in tears, asked, “what happened with the bonds?”. The next day, I sent her a photo of the framed bonds in my office at Crown Haven.

Her text back said: “It Can’t All Be For Nothing.” I agree.

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Casey MarxCasey A. Marx, RICP, is the chief executive officer and founder of Crown Haven, an independent and fiduciary retirement planning practice.