Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profile series.
Mark Masliah took a roundabout path to becoming a financial advisor. Born and raised mostly in Los Angeles, he was a television and film major at San Diego State University and went on to work on some of television’s biggest shows. But after growing tired of the constant backstage drama, he decided to change careers in 2006.
Masliah’s next professional steps included doing freelance PR, becoming a marketing coordinator for an investment bank and joining a short-lived commercial real-estate tech startup. That’s when a check-in call with his Northwestern Mutual advisor helped him find his true calling.
“He convinced me to meet with him, saying, ‘I think you’d be really good at what I do.’ Well, one meeting turned into four, and here I am.”
Today, Masliah lives in West Hollywood with his husband, Nicholas. Below, he shares the lessons about money he learned early on, how he gives back to his community, and why he believes focusing on retirement planning for LGBTQ+ community is so important.
How did you first learn about money?
My mom said she once went to a psychic for fun when I was a baby and asked about me, and the psychic said, “I just see money behind him — lots of money.” But the truth is, I have always liked money — I literally enjoy watching the numbers grow. My parents got divorced when I was very young and both remarried. Money was a frequent conversation topic. As far back as I can remember, we all always talked about finances.
My parents were also happy to teach me how things worked. For example, my stepdad used Quicken for tracking business, so I understood early the importance of having insight into your financial world — both present and future. I worked in high school and I was always putting some money into the stock market — I did that with my bar mitzvah money, too. I would use Quicken or Mint to track it.
Who would you say was your role model?
I remember my mom talking about the importance of knowing if your business is working for you, or if are you working for your business. She meant to make sure it’s supporting you and not the other way around. She also used to work for Delta Air Lines and traveling was always a big thing for us. She would say, “I would rather give you the world than all the money in the world — because money comes and goes.” Those lessons have always stuck with me.
Did that financial grounding help you transition to this career?
My friends always saw me as someone who was more knowledgeable than they were about money, and they would talk to me about their finances and budgeting. But I was strategic in how I launched my career — I reached out first to those beyond my inner circle because I understood that people needed time to start seeing me in this role.
I was also fortunate because I do think there’s a big difference in planning with a gay advisor if you’re working with gay clients, because you may have a higher comfort level sharing different life experiences and maybe variations in priorities, awareness and sensitivities.
Are there any issues in particular your LGBTQ+ clients are concerned about right now?
Federal legalization of marriage is only six years old. So they want to know the legal differences between getting married and being in a domestic partnership. People in relationships may also want to maintain some independence. So, how do they best structure their financial planning? Not everyone wants to merge their finances, but they’re still committed to each other and want to protect and provide for their loved ones. Others have concerns about funding for surrogacy or adoption but, mainly, we focus on retirement.
I’ve read that the LGBTQIA+ community is one of the wealthier pre-retirement populations, and yet they’re one of the least prepared in retirement. It hasn’t been a priority because they didn’t tend to have the same family triggers, such as having kids to protect, that might spark a larger discussion. So they didn’t appreciate the importance of planning for the future, but I work with them to identify their goals and create a personalized plan.
How do you like to give back?
I cofounded the LGBTQIA+ and Ally Diversity & Inclusion Council for my Northwestern Mutual district. We want it to be inclusive of everyone. I pushed for putting a name to the group so that we could market it and provide more visibility.
The council also helps fellow financial advisors better serve clients in the LGBTQIA+ community. COVID has been a weird time, but we’re identifying allies and have done two charity fundraisers so far. We’re establishing relationships and trying to build up a bigger community impact.
What’s been the most satisfying moment you’ve had as a financial advisor?
There is a couple who are dear friends of mine and, when I first met them, they had no life or disability insurance and barely any savings, even though they were both very high-income earners. They just had no guidance. Today, if either one of them were to get hurt or die, they would be completely covered. They have a savings plan in place and they have set goals that they’re starting to hit. I helped them and have helped hundreds of other people now. That feels really good.