An Anchor, a Stripper and a Goat-Hair Collector: The World From Different Points of View

An Anchor, a Stripper and a Goat-Hair Collector - picture of sunrise over earth in space

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Joe Saul-Sehy was a financial advisor for 16 years. His new website, Stacking Benjamins, launches today. What’s it like to be financial planner for people from diverse walks of life? Our guest blogger shares some “unique” stories…


What did I hate about being a financial advisor? That’s easy: Neurotic clients who knew nothing about the financial world and didn’t want a teacher…they just wanted someone to blame.

My second favorite question? What did you like best? That’s nearly as easy: I loved the diversity of people who walked into my office every day. One hour I’d be sharing my client’s vacation pictures of India or the Canadian Rockies, and an hour later, I’d be hours away from another client’s retirement, reviewing pension documents.

What I didn’t understand initially (but also why I loved the job) was just how absolutely diverse the job would become. Here are five of my favorite examples:

The Stripper

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: she was extremely attractive, even without makeup. When she walked in, she didn’t want to tell me what she did for a living. In fact, for the first several minutes, she lied about working for some machine shop. When she didn’t know anything about “tier 1, 2 or 3” or the major auto manufacturers in the area I knew it didn’t add up. That’s when she came clean: she worked as a dancer in a club and made uber amounts of money. Mondo money. Mucho money. She’d been wasting every dollar like every other dancer in the club but wanted out. She wanted to get her financial house in order.

A boyfriend came with her. They’d met at the club. He was a complete tool (surprised?), and in discussions with him later, he talked about trying to get his act together. Sadly, as part of this project to find himself, two years after we initially met he joined the army, was shipped out to Afghanistan and was killed in his second week. He and the stripper had already broken up long before. He had been heartbroken by the breakup, but she had moved on.

Her name was Sarah but she went by the stage name Alexa. She slept in every day and felt bad that she had to tan because she missed the sunlight. Most of the time, she said, she felt like a vampire because she finally opened the curtains just a few hours before the sun went down…and then only long enough to get ready for work.

One good story about Sarah and her boyfriend: we were reviewing their budget and trying to clean it up. One $400 line item said “entertainment.”

Me: What’s this, cable?

Sarah: (shifting in her seat) No. It’s just entertainment.

Me: Yeah, but it’s $400 and we might be able to lower that number. Let’s break it apart. What’s in that $400.

Dude: Should we tell him?

Sarah: (withering look to dude)

Me: Tell me what?

Sarah: I told him you’d wonder what that was.

Me: What is it?

Dude: Well….

Sarah: I don’t think….

Me: Is it like every subscription channel on earth plus XM Radio? What is it?

Sarah: It’s pot.

(I’m painfully slow. I shook my head. Clearly I was lost. What in the world was she talking about?)

Sarah: (Slower) It’s pot. We spend $400 a month on weed.

At least they’d budgeted the weed. I’d never seen that before.

The Goat-Hair Collectors

Speaking of pot….

“So, what do you do for a living?” I asked the absolutely bizarre couple sitting across the table from me. They wore Jamaican style afghan caps and he had on a brightly colored rock and roll tee shirt. The guy had an unkempt dark beard and the woman was frail and wore a flowery sun dress. I was sure they made a living following the Grateful Dead.

Boy was I wrong.

I was a new advisor. In those days we’d go into meetings with a trainer who’d been in the business for at least a year or two (VERY experienced). Initially they did all the talking. Later on, I talked and they only interjected when it was clear I was spinning my wheels.

Kelly was a good trainer who knew what she was doing in meetings. She was also absolutely hilarious and loved a good joke.

In this meeting I’d presented Kelly as “an associate” who’d be in the meeting because getting two opinions was better than one. I was pretty good at “the pitch.” Here’s the way it worked: you started by asking about them and their goals and then listening. I knew (from my training) that this was a competitive advantage of good advisors. Most of the hacks talked first, selling a bunch of stuff that the client had no interest in purchasing. First you asked questions and listened, then, when you made your pitch, it was shortened to only the parts clients were interested in hearing.

I still think it was a pretty brilliant approach, and it’s still the reason why I prefer to listen first whenever I’m pitching anything….ever.

Jamaican cap guy: We help make wigs. It’s a living.

I looked at the sheet he’d given me. It was a good, nearly six figure living. “Wow! I’ve never met anyone in the wig industry. How do you make a wig exactly?”

Flowery woman: We don’t make them. We just collect the stuff for them.

I looked up. I could feel the eyes of Kelly, sitting next to me, lift also.

Me: What do you do, go around to barber shops?

Jamaican: No, we go to fields and barns.

Kelly: (not able to control herself) For wigs? BARNS?

Flowery woman: Yeah. We collect goat hair.

Kelly: Not human hair?

Flowery woman: No, goat hair. We have a bunch of different farms we visit and get the goat hair for wigs.

I can’t really remember the rest of the story because Kelly kicked me hard under the table. She was trying hard not to laugh at these people’s career, but even more, she was hoping to make me laugh out loud. I know what you’re thinking. It was rude and I’m still embarrassed that we were acting like 15-year-olds. But the rest of the meeting as we talked, Kelly kept kicking me under the table, trying to get me to laugh.

Believe it or not we didn’t proceed very far with that couple.

The Farmers

I worked with a farming family that everyone in the area knew. Not only did they operate a working farm, but they had this huge retail operation, complete with a retail store, a tractor to ride on and pick your own pumpkin, a corn field maze, and petting zoo. Families and classes made field trips to this place. It was neat. I couldn’t believe they were in my office.

When I asked about their budget, they frowned.

Mrs. Farmer: Budget? We just spend money as we make it. We really don’t make much money.

Me: About how much do you spend?

Mr. Farmer: I play a little golf, especially in Florida.

(Florida? We were in Michigan. Golf? No money?)

Me: Florida? That’s nice.

Mr. Farmer, with a look at Mrs. Farmer: Well, we manage to scrape by and go. The golf is cheap.

Me: How about investments?

Mrs. Farmer: That’s why we’re here.

Mr. Farmer: We don’t have many investments.

Me (thoroughly confused): You have this huge operation at your house. Heck, I’ve taken my kids to your place every year for the last three Halloweens. You don’t have any money?

Mr. Farmer (glancing quickly toward Mrs. Farmer, who is obviously avoiding Mr. Farmer’s glance): You’ve heard the joke about the farmer who wins the Powerball?

Me: No.

Mr. Farmer: He farmed it until the Powerball money was all gone. We lose money every year.

I couldn’t understand it. How did they stay in business?

Oh, did I learn how they stayed in business. Never officially…but I soon realized they were living on hard, cold cash, scraped out of the till! These people made uber-amounts of money! They had cash all over the place! I soon figured out that money magically appeared whenever we needed it. New car? Cash (salesman’s dream). Florida? Cash. That swimming pool behind the house? Cash discount.

I never felt completely comfortable and was glad when they moved away after selling their farm a couple years later.

The IRS Negotiator

How’s this for a cool job?

Me: What do you do?

Client: I interface with the IRS every day for (major car manufacturer). We negotiate on taxes.

Me: Wow! Really? That’s gotta be fun.

Client: It actually is. We get to work in the grey area of the tax code. Most of our discussions end at, “I’m going to have to sue you to find out where the line is here”…so we spend a fair amount of time in court.

Me: With the same people at the IRS?

Client: With the same people. This isn’t like suing your neighbor. There’s no animosity. We’re just asking the court to figure out the line between what we owe and what we don’t.

I couldn’t figure out why in the world this client hired me. They were beyond competent with their money. Heck, I couldn’t figure out why many of my executive clients hired me…until I realized something I’m still proud of: they wanted a competent person in their corner because they didn’t have time. Sure, they had the expertise, but they couldn’t do everything…so they hired me.

The Television Anchor

During the nine years I was at the television station I made friends with many people there, and several of the personalities became clients. What I saw appalled me.

Me: How much is your lease payment for this (big nice car)

Anchor: $950 per month

Me: (cough)

Anchor: I know. They told me I was going to get a deal. I got sold.

Me: Yeah. Let’s get out of it.

Anchor: I’ve already tried. I’ll be upside down on the thing.

Me: That huge payment is mostly interest?

Anchor: Yeah. I was in a hurry. It’s awful. Take a look at my mortgage….

Me: (after reading the contract) Who sold you this thing?

Anchor: My brother-in-law.

Me: He socked it to you good. You have a prepayment penalty and a huge interest rate you can’t get out of.

In short, my anchor client was being used by incompetent family members and friends. Because the anchor was in a hurry but was famous, people agreed to “help” all the time. At some point, the anchor had to trust someone, right? Unfortunately, these “advisors” were cashing in at my new client’s expense. Even after we sorted out their financial situation, I still felt bad when I left financial planning…more than many, these people really needed my help. The IRS agent would do fine on their own. This celebrity? Not so much.

I’d hate to live in that world. You’re busy, making a ton of money, and because you’re a local celebrity you’re a target for every hack around. I started off in television wishing I could be that person and later realized just how miserable an existence this must be. You really do live in a fishbowl. I can’t imagine how film stars keep their sanity.

You Don’t Have It Bad!

I felt lucky to work with people from many, many walks of life. My job was a constantly revolving door of new, interesting situations. I never knew who was going to walk into my office next, and whether we were going to talk about pot, expensive leases, farming, or goat hair.

The next time you think you have something weird going on in your life remember these people…..maybe your stuff isn’t as messed up as you might think!

What’s your craziest money madness story?

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  1. Wow, fascinating people. It sounds like the stripper maybe had it together the most. Budgeting for weed! Why did you end up leaving financial planning?

    1. I had a friend who left to climb mountains. I was 41, had made good money, and wanted to find my other “mountains.” It was a rewarding career, but not all I wanted to do.

  2. Nice one Joe and very true about the people you get. I worked at T. Rowe Price and several banks and you wouldn’t believe the characters that walked through the door. Though they knew nothing they thought they knew everything. I had several strippers (exotic dancers) as they liked to be call come to the office. In banking they couldnt get approved for anything since they never file taxes. No credit just all cash. At least this one had a budget though it was for pot. Just too funny.

    1. I forgot that! She liked to be called a “dancer,” too. Isn’t it amazing who walks through the door? It was a career where you truly never knew what was around the next corner. Some days I was up for it and other days I wanted to hide under my desk.

  3. Very interesting. I can only imagine that when you work with clients day in and day out you will have a few interesting stories. Kind of funny how you didn’t catch on to the $400 pot budget right away haha.

    1. DC, you’ve known me for how long now? Over a year? Of course I wouldn’t notice!

  4. Six figure income collecting goat hair. I’m in the wrong business. I’m also in the wrong county. We raise cattle out here.

    Looking forward to your new site!

  5. HAha the $400 budget for pot is pretty funny. I can only imagine the facial expressions during that meeting.

    1. It was probably one of the most awkward moments ever. Actually, the most awkward moment was when I asked my client from Ireland why they had a different flag during the Olympic parade and he informed me that it was because Ireland is a different country. The sad part is, I knew that, and was having a completely awful day and was only half listening….horrible.

  6. Joe you are full of crazy stories! Sometimes I wonder if these were crazy dreams… then I remember you were a financial advisor. Who knew they take so much abuse of crazy people!

    1. Sometimes they feel like dreams, they were so surreal….or nightmares 😉

  7. Wow! You know it’s crazy when the stripper is the best of the bunch. 😉 I love it though…$400 on pot, Lol! I have some crazy stories myself…hey, maybe a post idea. 🙂 One that comes to mind right now is a client I spoke with who was a government conspiracy nut. She claimed that we needed to build solar powered jets so the government could not track them. I was stupid enough ask what would happen when it was cloudy…boy the craziness just came out!

    1. I had clients that wanted to talk politics all the time. It was difficult trying to hide my own political thoughts while still seeming agreeable with some of the people I met….

      I’d love to read some more of your war stories, John (I’ve loved what you’ve written so far about your experience). Bring it on!

  8. I really enjoyed this post. Not the first time I have heard about somebody budgeting for pot. I know a few people who won’t go without it and will budget $75 a week for it. To each their own!

  9. Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries says:

    Wow! Sounds like you had some really crazy stories, I’ve always been interested in the world of personal finance from a financial adviser’s perspective. I’ll definitely be checking out your blog!

  10. These stories are very funny! You should definitely tell more. Can’t believe the Jamaican guys had 0 expenses, since they went and picked up the goat hair. Talk about an awesome profit margin!

    1. What a great job, huh? All perfect except the actual job. I can’t imagine spending my day with goat hair, but there are probably others who can’t imagine sitting all day typing at the computer, either.

  11. That must have been fascinating. I hate to be a voyeur, but I’m sure there was plenty you were able to learn from everyone’s different situations

    1. Great point. It made me far more tolerant of differences of opinion. It also showed me just how diverse the world really was, and how your point of view clearly shades your opinions of events around you.

  12. I love theses stories Joe. You never know what people do with their money (or don’t do). Nice to see the stripper budget her extra-curricular activities. That is nice of her!

  13. These are really interesting stories! I liked the “entertainment” section…so funny. Way to show financial advising can be so much more than most people think it is! I look forward to reading your blog and listening to the podcast.

    1. My advising was a little different than many stories you hear because I was a comprehensive advisor. I’d go over your budget and show you how to save money on your utilities, groceries, etc, before we moved on to investments. I wasn’t for everyone because it was a really intimate relationship….so I was probably one of the few who was going to ask about the $400 entertainment budget.

  14. That is really sad that the anchorman’s own family members swindled him! How do people like that sleep at night… and that’s really gross about the goat hair, but kind of funny.

    1. I felt bad for my anchor client. They really didn’t know where to turn for help. I was at the station for a few years before they finally turned to me. I think they’d been burned so many times that they wanted to make sure I was credible, first.

  15. Dealing with the public is always interesting! When I was consulting, I thought I encountered everything. When I owned a restaurant, I know I encountered everything. One of my customers was a Penthouse Pet and her brother used to promote her private strips. Late night at my restaurant used to bring out all the weirdos! Halloween was the best!

    1. Her brother! I couldn’t imagine promoting my sister’s err…..talent. Have you read Kitchen Confidential? That has some GREAT late night restaurant stories.

  16. Budgeting for weed…LOL! Now I’ve heard it all. Hey, at least they were planning for it. Probably should have coded it as a health care line item in their budget though. 🙂 Great stuff!

    1. Health care! That’s so much better! Why hadn’t I thought of that….

  17. haha, they really did turn their financial life around if even pot was budgeted for! so much you can do though, with the extra $400 and the extra brain cells…

  18. I can say with absolute certainty that none of my clients ever had weed listed as a line item in their budget. I’m … ummm… glad she takes her budget (and her weed, apparently) seriously! Clients are always fascinating. 🙂

    1. I’m SURE you would have remembered that one, Shannon. That said, I’m also sure you could have written a similar story about some of the stuff you’ve witnessed…..

  19. You had a very entertaining job! Maybe back in the 40’s the Rasta hat couple should have listed their weed as entertainment, but now that marijuana research is freely open to the public, it’s widely known to be medicinal (which is why it’s being legalized throughout the country). Though, I can understand listing alcohol and tobacco as entertainment.

    1. Ha! You’re right, Joshua. This was in the mid ’90s, and I’m pretty sure they were using it as entertainment. Maybe self-medicating entertainment? 😉

  20. I’ve worked with many, many farmers and they all act like they’re broke until they pull out the wad of $100 bills to pay. They are a retailers dream… One of my favorite patients owned a junk yard. My receptionist was all set to sign him up for the indigent clinic because he was dirty and had dingy long hair and a long beard. He’s probably worth millions. It’s never boring when you work with the public.

    1. I learned early on to NEVER trust what a person thought by how they looked. I had some clients who looked absolutely destitute and were full of surprises.

  21. Hey
    This is fun article and quite an eye opener into how different people manage their finances – ranging from cash everywhere to an already expert who doesn’t have the time to manage their own money so hands it over to another expert.

  22. haha, we had a potential tenant that when Mr. PoP googled her email address we discovered she was an amateur porn star. She ended up not having the credit check to get the place, so that’s about as far as that tie went.

    1. I’m not sure what “amateur porn star” means. Does that mean she’s just an exhibitionist?

      Probably was best you left that one alone, huh?

  23. Fascinating stories! I loved working at a bank in the past for similar reasons, you never know who you’ll meet! Thanks for a good laugh!

    1. At the bank the customers come fast and furious. I’m sure you have some interesting stories from that experience, Alex.

  24. I’m pretty sure I know a few people who budget for weed out here in Colorado. It’s pretty much everywhere. I am glad to know I save $400 or so monthly by not smoking it. However, we now have pot tourism and I’m pretty irritated that pot heads thought of it and I didn’t.

    Best of luck on your new site!

    1. I know! Why are all of the best ideas taken by someone else!

      I’m sure budgeting for weed is far more prevalent now with changing laws than it was in Michigan in the mid-late 90’s.

  25. Mr. Bonner says:

    Posts like this remind me of Patterson books…fast, entertaining reads. The more I hear about crazy clients the more I think my job, where I don’t have to deal with clients, is perfect for me.

    By the way, the new site looks great. I wish I spent more time putting my site together before it went live. I guess it takes more than an evening 🙂 One of these days I’m going to do a major facelift.

    1. Clients were definitely my favorite part and my least favorite part of the job. I’m glad to be done.

      Thanks for the thoughts on my new site. I decided to bite the bullet and work with a designer because I’m going to be spending lots of time in this site. She did a great job of listening to ideas I had based on sites I really loved, then put together something I couldn’t have done alone in a million years.

  26. How’s that for diversity. It’s interesting to meet all of these kinds of people, know their story, and being bale to help them. I can imagine your face with stripper and their pot and the goat hair collector. lol

    1. Yeah, KC, it isn’t difficult to imagine the look, is it? I really didn’t know what to say once I got the “big reveal.” What DO you say? “Wow! That’s a great pot budget!” or better yet, “Can I come by your house some evening?”

  27. MrMilitaryMoney says:

    Great story. Its interesting to see that each one had a completely different set of issues and priorities but they were all clueless on how to deal with them.

  28. Wow- those sure are some interesting people, stories, and ways to make a living. I really wonder what the farmers were up to, that story seemed the strangest to me. What I really want to know is in that profession, how often do you just feel obligated to step in and start making orders about how people spend their money? I realize that’s not what you’re hired to do, but I’m sure there are people you just have to do that with…

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