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DeAndre Coke’s childhood memories don’t involve being surrounded by toys or other material possessions. Instead, they revolve around trips he would take across the country with his parents, who emphasized the value of experiences — as well as how to save to afford them.

That’s a tradition that Coke, a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual in Virginia Beach, Virginia, continues to this day. Whenever he’s not working he’s playing hard, whether that’s doing CrossFit, snowboarding, DJing or traveling — a lot of traveling. Here, Coke talks about his passion for life and how his upbringing helped shape it.

How did your love of travel start?

We spent a ton of time traveling as a family. My parents are both immigrants, so we spent a lot of time in their native countries, Panama and Jamaica. But we went on road trips up and down the East Coast, going to national parks, caves, caverns. I didn’t have a lot of toys or game systems, but I had memories. That became very important to me — to get out and enjoy the world, to meet people and have those experiences. Travel is my number one goal in my financial plan and I still do it, a lot! This year alone, I’ve gone to St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Panama, Barbados, Puerto Rico and St. Kitts.

Why do you think having those experiences was important to them?

My dad is from Panama and my mom is from Jamaica. They met in New York City. My dad lived in an American-controlled part of Panama, which allowed him the ability to come here. He left because he wanted to see the world and travel. He joined the U.S. Navy as soon as he could. Eventually my parents settled in the Virginia Beach area, which is where I grew up as an only child. My dad was a firefighter and my mom worked in community services here.

They’re retired in Panama now, but they travel frequently. They have a plan to go to Greece this year.

Coke, left, about to go ziplining with friends in St. Maarten. Traveling is so important to him that it's one of his financial goals. Courtesy of DeAndre Coke

Was money a taboo subject in your family?

It was never hidden in our house. I remember my mom used to sit at the dining room table once a month and balance the checkbook. At one point, I asked her what she was doing. She showed me and taught me how to read bank statements. She showed me an account that they opened for me. They were making small contributions every month, and I saw how that was adding up.

As I got a little older, my friends started to get allowances, so I asked for one. My parents agreed, but my dad was really strict. I had to do chores and if I missed one, I got docked a portion of my allowance. I remember at a pretty early age knowing how to use Excel, and I created a spreadsheet where I projected how long it would take me to save for different things I wanted. I factored in not getting my full allowance each week because I knew I would miss chores.

I didn’t grow up in a fancy neighborhood or anything like that. My parents provided well for me. But I definitely learned the value of a dollar.

How did their teaching change as you got older?

When I was 18, my parents sat me down and took me through all their financial planning. They were going on a trip and trusted me enough to leave me home alone. But before they left, I remember them showing me how to find everything I needed if something were to happen to them. They opened a briefcase and showed me what they had; they had life insurance and their documents all in order. I remember it wasn’t a big shock for me, just fairly matter of fact.

What’s your most satisfying moment as a financial advisor?

It’s seeing my clients make progress on their goals. One example that comes to mind is a husband and wife who I first met with about five years ago. They had a new baby at the time; in fact, I think she was nursing him through our first meeting. I just met with them recently, and that baby is now five. He was so excited to see me; he asked me to sit next to him at the table. His parents and I have been talking about funding his future and they’re making progress on that goal. So I’m sitting next to him, this beautiful, bright-eyed kid, and I’m just so excited to see him grow up and know the legacy he’s going to carry on as well.

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