Steve Swicegood, CFP®
Conscious Money Solutions
When Steve Swicegood got out of the Air Force in the early 1970s, he knew what jobs he didn’t want to do. Having grown up in a small mining town in Southeast Arizona, Steve had experience working the mines during the summers. He had no desire to move back to his hometown and become a miner. In the Air Force his job assignment had been a medic, but he was sure that he didn’t want to go into medicine either. With a degree in business he began to think about what the future would look like.
While in the Air Force, Steve earned his private pilot license. Through that endeavor he connected with a fellow pilot who had retired from the military and was working for an insurance agency in New Mexico. As Steve was considering his career path, his pilot friend hired him. Steve describes his first role as “the boy in the basement”. “If anyone had a task that they weren’t sure how to handle, they gave it to the boy in the basement,” he says. Working in insurance taught Steve about risk management and how to ask the right questions. He even got to write the first hot air balloon policy ever issued in the United States. Although he enjoyed the job, it was a big agency and he knew that there wouldn’t be much upward mobility if he stayed. Instead he took an underwriting job in Kansas. Now he was dealing with agents across the country. When an agent in Texas called and offered him a job at the firm, Steve made another cross-county move. This one would stick.
As much as Steve enjoyed his role in high-risk insurance, the opportunity came for him to open his own personal lines insurance agency in Amarillo. He wound up spending twenty years doing personal insurance, adding a securities license to sell mutual funds. He loved the coaching and counselling aspect of the business. However, when the company he worked for pressured him to sell products he didn’t believe in, he decided he needed to get serious about becoming a true financial planner. In 1997 Steve read an article about Bert Whitehead whose approach to financial planning resonated with him. Steve didn’t like that he couldn’t help people without selling them something and here was a way out of that model.
In 2000, Steve sold his agency to focus on financial planning. Although he believed in the tenets of fee-only, he was nervous about making the switch. It would take him a decade to plan and transition to the fee-only model. Slowly, he transitioned from a transaction model to an AUM practice. Forming an RIA and surrendering all of his sales licenses at the end of 2010, Steve joined ACP at the beginning of 2011 and jumped into fee-only with both feet. “ACP gave me the tools to make it official. I didn’t have to invent how to set up a retainer practice. ACP provided the structured process to deliver holistic planning,” he says.
There was only one thing that didn’t work as planned after the transition to fee-only. Steve had envisioned a lifestyle practice. He brought 30 clients with him and he didn’t want to get past 40 clients, but the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. “I think I was the only fee-only planner in the Texas Panhandle,” Steve says. “And I had trouble saying no.” The practice grew so much it began to throw Steve’s work-life balance out of whack, but he hated to turn away clients in need. In 2017, he decided to change gears and go into growth mode. He hired an intern who has gone on to become a CFP and EA and who will now handle the majority of the new clients who join the practice.
ACP not only laid the groundwork for Steve to open his holistic planning practice, the ACP system has made it easy to bring in a new CFP under this model. “The process is teachable and highly repeatable, which is really important,” Steve says. Now with a second planner on staff, Steve is in the lucky position of being able to be selective in taking clients, choosing only people he is truly interested in working with. He embraces the holistic approach. “I tell clients that I want to talk about anything in their life that touches money, which is almost everything,” he says. Of course, this is what sets Steve apart. Almost no one else in the area takes on the comprehensive view of money and wealth.
Steve currently serves on the ACP Board of Directors. Over the years he has also served on the Technology Committee and acted as both a student mentor and a new member mentor. “As someone who came over from the dark side of commissions, I always love getting the call about a potential member I can share my story with,” he says. When asked why he gives back to ACP, Steve talks about what it means to carry the torch lit by Bert. “I want to make sure the next generation understands the work and the philosophy that has benefitted probably tens of thousands of people over the years,” he says.