Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profile series.
After graduating from high school in a small town in Michigan, Chase Vedrode moved to Lansing, the state capital, where he took a job selling cars through an automotive group. He had worked his way up to dealership owner when his mentor, who had urged him to go to college, passed away.
“To honor my friend, I signed up for one college course and I was hooked,” he says. “I had a really tough time in high school so I was surprised to find that I loved the entire collegiate experience.”
Vedrode realized he was feeling stuck and unfulfilled in the automotive industry, so when the opportunity to move to Chicago presented itself, he took a leap of faith. “I quit my job, sold my condo, packed everything into a U-Haul truck and moved to Chicago—with no job and no acceptance letters from any universities yet,” he says. “My mindset was, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ I thought if I could just get there, the rest would fall into place."
He was right. He enrolled as a full-time student at Loyola University where he majored in business management and entrepreneurship. After returning from studying abroad to complete his final semester, he attended a presentation about paid internships at Northwestern Mutual that sparked his interest in becoming a financial advisor.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do post-graduation,” he says. “And here was a career that would allow me to be my own boss and live a life by design rather than default.”
Today, Vedrode lives in Chicago with his husband, Jason. Below, he shares the challenges he’s faced in building his career, the biggest concerns he hears from his LGBTQ+ clients and why he believes establishing trust is the key to successful financial planning.
What challenges did you face when you started out?
At the time, although there were a lot of people who looked like me, there were no openly gay advisors or staff—even at my Chicago office. So I did recognize a tremendous gap there and a need for planning specifically geared toward the LGBTQ+ community.
How did this shape your practice?
I specialize in planning within the LGBTQ+ community. That means there’s not that added layer of explanation around big life events such as the steps we will have to take to have children or get legally married. I bring a specific emotional intelligence from my life experience. If I’m speaking with somebody and they're male, I’m not assuming that they have a spouse who is a wife. So I’m conscious to use words like spouse and significant other as opposed to wife or husband. I also ask critical questions such as, “How old were you when you came out?” and “How did that impact your relationship with money?”
But no matter what your socioeconomic class, color, race, gender or orientation, everybody wants to work with somebody who makes them feel comfortable and safe so they can feel free to open up.
What are some of the challenges men and women in the LGBTQ+ community face when it comes to financial planning?
I work with a couple—one is HIV-positive, the other is HIV-negative—and health care planning was one of the questions came up in our initial conversations. They told me that was their biggest fear, but they hadn’t felt comfortable sharing this aspect of the one husband’s health status with their wealth management advisor. Something this significant needs to be addressed in financial planning, and having them feel comfortable opening up about it allowed us to help them more.
In addition, mental health issues disproportionately impact the LGBTQ+ community. Of course, this is a global issue and it does not discriminate. When it comes to long-term planning, depression and anxiety can really cripple people who need to make short-term decisions for long-term plans. Being their trusted resource and empathizing with what they’re going through can be invaluable.
What are your clients most concerned about right now?
Long-term care is a big concern for my older clients who are realizing that they're not going to have children. The statistical probability is that they will need to pay for long-term care, which can be expensive. Do you want to hire someone to come into your home? Or do you want to be able to choose the location and the facility that you may need to be in—rather than relying on a state-funded institution? So having the independence and dignity to get to and through retirement is a big concern for everyone, but specifically for those within the LGBTQ+ community, and especially those who aren’t having children.
What is the best piece of financial advice that you ever got?
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint but when I speak to parents today who are struggling to save for their own retirement, I advise them to encourage their kids to start saving 10 percent of their incomes right out of college. If they can do that, they’re going to be fine. Instill good habits early because it’s hard to rewire and change 30 years of bad habits. Plus, you’ll get to break a common generational taboo around talking about money and learning about how debt works.
What do you love most about your job?
The people: I have the best clients in the world. I don’t get the Sunday scaries. I’m excited to get into my craft on Monday morning because I love the people that I work with. That includes my peers as well as the actual clients that I get to do the deep work with. What’s really starting to evolve for me is the complex problem-solving involved. The more I learn, the more I can use my experience to tweak someone’s plan and say, ‘Here’s where you currently are, here’s what we can do and here’s what life can look like for you.’
Having people thank me for explaining financial planning so that it makes sense to them makes me feel that I’m a good teacher. That invigorates me. And even if a client doesn’t recognize it yet, I know the value of the work that we’re doing.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence about financial planning?
I’ll often make light of it, but if someone’s finances are in disarray, I’ll be clear: Math is math and, right now, your equation doesn’t work. A plan happens in your time, so you don’t have to do everything right now—just start piecemeal. There’s always going to be something going on so choose one thing you could do now and build from there.
What might your clients be surprised to know about you?
I have a true passion for music and making music. So I visit New York every chance I get because there are so many underground DJs and so much new musical talent. I DJ a bit myself. I have a whole setup and sometimes I put on shows for friends. That’s my jam.
How do you like to give back?
I focus on being a mentor to fellow advisors. It’s important to me to foster a positive mental outlook, instill optimism and help people who are struggling by talking with them rather than at them. My goal is to help people become better leaders just by showing up authentically. This also includes my straight counterparts who will call me up and ask for advice. We all stumble and make mistakes; I try to provide a safe space for all types of sensitive conversations. I strive to be available and to raise the energy and optimism in any interaction that I’m in, whether it’s with colleagues or my friends and family members.
To learn more about Chase, visit his website: https://www.northwesternmutual.com/financial/advisor/chase-vedrode/
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