Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profiles series, where you’ll get the inside scoop on their best money tips.
As a longtime entrepreneur, Roberto Espinosa has experienced both success and setbacks.
Espinosa, who is now a wealth management advisor with Northwestern Mutual, lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Lourdes, and their two children (one in high school and the other in college). He believes saving money is important, but there’s something he values even more.
Here, he shares how his upbringing and rollercoaster ride through the business world have shaped his views about money.
You were born in Mexico. How did you wind up in the U.S.?
A year after my wife and I got married we thought we’d come to the U.S. for a year for a business venture. We’re now citizens and have turned one year into a 22-year adventure. The rest of our family is still in Mexico and we’re still very close.
What drew you to start your own business?
I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father owned a small woodworking business in Mexico. I saw firsthand what it means to roll up your sleeves and work because something has to get done. I also learned quickly how important it is to understand money in business. My father knew his business, but he didn’t know as much about money or planning. We never suffered through extreme poverty, but there were times when money was tight. And it was hard on the family. My parents got divorced when I was 14, and I know that money played a role.
While I watched that growing up, it took going through my own difficult times in business to truly understand the importance of financial planning. I had some success and some failures as an entrepreneur in the furniture and restaurant businesses. But I made some of the mistakes that I see Americans making with money today.
I thought money was always going to be there. And I thought I could always just make more if I needed it. I was in my early 30s, and I thought I was invincible. I had just opened a restaurant on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. I stepped into a service elevator at the restaurant, and it gave way. I fell 30 feet and landed on a concrete floor. I spent months recovering. I wasn’t invincible.
At that time, the industry was entering a downturn. Because of my injuries, I couldn’t focus on the business, and we had to close it. I hadn’t planned enough financially, and we weren’t ready for that kind of a shock. Those were some of the most difficult months for me and my family. I remember walking up to the checkout at the grocery store, wondering if we’d be able to buy food that week because I wasn't sure my credit card would go through.
What inspired you to become a financial advisor?
I had recently become a client of Northwestern Mutual and my advisor spent a considerable amount of time with me. Eventually, he inspired me to make this my career. Because of my own experience, I have a passion for helping other business owners plan for the good times and bad. I’ve certainly been through both.
After 14 years, I’ve seen clients thankful in both good and bad situations. That includes paying insurance claims and knowing that families will be OK financially even though something bad happened. I’ve also had people tell me how excited they are to see the progress they have made with their finances over time.
What are you teaching your children about money?
I’m teaching them the basics, like spending less than what they earn, the power of compound interest and how to be careful with debt. But I also want my kids to know that money isn’t a scorecard of success, and that it’s nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of. I want them to know that it’s OK to talk about it. We teach sex-education in school, but we don’t teach about money. It’s still a taboo. I want them to understand it and be able to talk about it. But most importantly, I want them to know that there is so much more to life than money.
You’re about to celebrate a milestone, right?
Yes, I turn 50 next year. My wife and I have set a goal to eat 100 Michelin Stars at the world’s finest restaurants. We’re through about a dozen so far. We want to enjoy great meals with friends and family. We’re planning a big party to mark the day itself.
I’m also making a list of 50 people who have made an impact on my life. I’m planning to write each of them a letter to thank them for what they have done for me. It may be something they did 20 years ago, but it had an impact.
What’s your biggest financial goal?
I want to know that if something happens, my family will be OK financially. So we have a lot of savings. But that’s not really my biggest goal. Financial planning isn’t just about saving money. It’s about spending it, too. So, we have goals about family travel, fine dining, community and faith. I don’t want my life to be measured by money. I want my life to be measured by the experiences we shared and the impact I had on others.