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Michael Markey

Portfolio > Economy & Markets > Economic Trends

Ex-Advisor Running for Governor Says 'Economic Torpedo' Headed for His State

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Michael Markey Jr., financial advisor-turned Michigan gubernatorial hopeful, sees “an economic torpedo headed” toward Michigan “right now,” he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.

This disaster will hit because of the “shift from an in-person workforce to a remote workforce,” argues Markey, co-founder and managing partner of Legacy Financial Network.

When General Motors, Chrysler and Ford drove auto manufacturing overseas, it triggered massive job losses, small-business failures and sharp increases in crime in Michigan. 

“All that is about to happen again” because of the change to remote work, Markey warns. In the interview, he offers some solutions to the problem, mainly tax-related.

Markey, 38, launched Grand Rapids-based Legacy Financial in 2009. He is now in fundraising mode on the campaign trail, intent to qualify for a crowded Republican primary, on Aug. 2, to challenge incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in the November election.

In stepping into the political arena, Markey had to step away from his advisory business, which has three locations and manages more than $100 million, including assets in a trust business that the firm acquired.

Legacy Network has three units: an insurance organization, an RIA and Legacy Network Properties, which owns the buildings in its branch locations.

As an advisor, Markey has put the focus on preparation. His book, Fireproof Your Retirement: It’s Your Money. Learn How to Make Your Advisor Work for You” (2014), discusses the inevitability of external events affecting a portfolio and how to protect it.

Markey was also a ThinkAdvisor contributor.

Contingency planning for clients has been one of his high priorities. In addressing that concept, he finds similarities between a sound financial plan and the strategies of baseball — he was a catcher for the Eastern Michigan Eagles in college — which he explains in the interview.

As for his mission to unseat Whitmer, he vigorously faults the Democrat for her use of executive orders.

“There’s no better way to create haves and have-nots than to shut down schools,” he argues, alluding to Whitmer’s 2020 school closing orders amid the pandemic.

Fifteen years an advisor, he was previously with LFN Advisors, Brokers International Financial Services and Northwestern Mutual.

ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Markey, who was speaking by phone from Grand Rapids.

“The role of government is to stay out of your way but to encourage outcomes that are positive and are likely to happen,” the Republican candidate maintains.

Here are highlights of our conversation:

THINKADVISOR: What’s your forecast for Michigan’s economy?

MICHAEL MARKEY JR.: There’s an economic torpedo headed our way right now.

When the Big 3 — GM, Chrysler and Ford — shifted U.S. manufacturing overseas, jobs went away, and so did the infrastructure that was dependent on those workers: restaurants, shops [and so on].

When those businesses closed, there were empty storefronts and increasing crime.

All that is about to happen again because we’re having a shift from an in-person workforce to a remote workforce.

Who will be the most negatively affected?

Those in lower socioeconomic careers.

So there should be a tax incentive or tax rebate for that population. 

More in-person work should be encouraged. Tax incentives should be given to businesses to continue to employ people in person.

The role of government is to stay out of your way but to encourage outcomes that are positive and more likely to happen.

How do you feel about having to give up being a financial advisor because you’re running for governor?

I stepped away from my firm officially on the last day of March.

It’s really hard to [face] the realization that the firm doesn’t need you on a day-to-day basis. That’s a good thing, but it’s a hard reality when you’ve spent so many years building the business and being part of it every day.

I have two people in leadership. Another advisor is taking on the clients I was working with.

So now it’s a full head of steam on the campaign trail. We even have a 45-foot tour bus!

Why did you decide to toss your hat in the ring?

It was a collective collage of small events that added up. Running for office has always been something I talked about, even in high school.

I enjoyed having conversations with clients about politics and religion, even though I know they’re taboo.

When we got to this year, I remembered what a friend of mine used to say: “Would you rather be right, or fix it? You can’t do both.”

I looked at a lot of people running [for governor] who are so busy trying to be right. I thought they lost the idea that we need to fix it.

Why should you be governor? 

In politics, what we need right now is more working across the aisles — more cooperation.

Our current governor [Gretchen Whitmer] didn’t work with the other side of the aisle at all. She says she’s a bipartisan, but she legislated everything through executive orders, which is 100% non-bipartisan.

I absolutely dislike executive orders on all levels of government because they take away the balance of power. [Whitmer has] overused executive orders.

When we went through COVID, we didn’t have everyone working together. It’s not entirely her fault by any means, but it all starts with the top leadership.

What do you think about the way Gov. Whitmer handled the schools issue during the pandemic?

She shut down the schools [in March 2020 through the end of the school year]. There’s no better way to create haves and have-nots than to shut down schools.

Now there’s a whole group of kids that are fundamentally behind their peers. I don’t think they’ll make up that gap completely.

A lot of issues we face right now aren’t race issues — they’re class issues. One of the best ways to start minimizing differences between classes is education.

But I applaud that, during the shutdown, she closed parts of major retailers, like Home Depot, to only the essential departments so that smaller, local businesses that didn’t have both essential and non-essential products weren’t harmed as much.

As governor, what would you initiate to benefit retail investors?

I’d like to work with our legislators to see if we can get people coalesced around the idea that everyone should have an optional “digital wipe” once a year — all the tracking that Amazon, Facebook, eBay has on you for the year would be wiped out.

The search engines and [those types of] platforms are free, but that means they aren’t the product — you are. Facebook isn’t selling you a product — you are the product they’re selling.

With a digital wipe, you’d start to see that people wouldn’t get pigeonholed as much in [terms of receiving] news content.

Those algorithms put you into a funnel like a lane on a 10-lane freeway. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get on another lane. So all you know is what’s in that one lane.

You wrote a book, “Fireproof Your Retirement: It’s Your Money. Learn How to Make Your Advisor Work for You” (2014). What was a main thrust?

I used an analogy about the [sinking of] the Titanic, and then I started talking about that to clients:

There are icebergs in the water. We’re going to try our best to avoid them, but it’s inevitable that sometimes one of them will come up in the middle of the night, and we’ll collide.

So, to prepare [financially], we’ll have lifeboats and life rafts. 

That’s what we do in financial planning. We don’t assume we’re going to be able to avoid the iceberg. Instead, our assumption is there’s going to be an iceberg that will come out of nowhere. 

But we’ll have enough safety and trained staff so that when it happens, you’ll be OK.

What do you think of the way most retirement planning is done today?

The idea that we’re giving consumers more transparency by giving them more disclosures is just having more overwhelming paperwork.

And we need to come up with a different word for “fiduciary” because there are two levels of fiduciary now: a watered-down fiduciary and [the legal definition of] fiduciary.

It’s unfair to mislead consumers. 

You use prayer to help make important decisions. Did you pray in deciding to run for governor?

Yes. I often pray for the answers. I don’t always get them; maybe I get more of a nudge. But I made a lot of big decisions in my life through prayer.

We opened the doors of the advisory at the end of 2009, when everybody was saying you don’t open a business at that time. 

But it felt right. I prayed about it, and I felt being led in that direction.

I also try to lean on family and friends to debate pros and cons.

Throughout college, you played baseball as catcher for the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Do baseball and finance have anything in common?

There’s a great analogy between baseball and financial planning. 

Before a pitch, after the catcher gives a sign, the shortstop will put his hands behind his back and tell what kind of pitch is coming.

For instance, if it’s a fastball, the outfield is going to shade a certain way.

If there’s a hit up the middle, the shortstop is going to be the one who goes to get it.

The second baseman will come behind him, and then you’ll have the center fielder running as hard as he can.

The right fielder will run as hard as he can to get behind first [base] in case of a bad throw. 

So, you’ve got all this communication going on and contingency plans: If it’s not B, then it’s C.

A sound financial plan should be [created in] the same way.

It will assume there’ll be errors. And when those errors happen, what do we already have in place that responds to them?