Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profile series.
Growing up, Rob King liked to learn everything he could about how money works and dreamed about owning his own business one day. He majored in economics at Kentucky’s Centre College (where he was also a member of the basketball and track teams) but wasn’t sure what would come next after graduation.
“Getting to Northwestern Mutual was 100 percent fortuitous for me,” he says. “I was just like every college graduate trying to land a traditional job when I finally put my resume online. I got called by three insurance/financial planning companies that same day and interviewed with all three.”
King says Northwestern Mutual was the standout. “They said I wouldn’t ever have to apologize for the company and that I could make a living by meeting people,” he says. “I had no idea there was a job for that! And the rest is history.”
Today, King works as a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor in Louisville, Kentucky, where he lives with his wife and their 16-month-old son — and they have another baby on the way. Below, he shares the knowledge he’s hoping to pass on to his children, why he’s passionate about community education and how he believes learning is the key to every individual’s personal financial wellness.
How did you learn about money?
My parents taught me about money at an early age. I can still remember going to the bank with my mom, opening a traditional passbook savings account and learning how to put the debit and the credit entries in. In fact, I still have the same account number for the checking account I opened then. I have stayed with that same bank even though I’ve moved and established other banking relationships just because of my emotional tie to that experience.
How are you planning to teach your kids about money?
I have started teaching my son with Cheerios, but he doesn’t quite get it yet! But I’m excited to eventually teach both of my kids about how money works and how leverage works. I have bought a life insurance policy for my son and nephew and, when they are both a bit older, I’m looking forward to them asking, “How does this work? Why am I getting this dividend? What else can I do with this?” I also plan to teach them all about what generational wealth looks like and how you can use financial tools to establish that.
What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve ever gotten?
To pay myself first and to save 20 percent of everything — and it’s so interesting when you put it into an actual plan. It cures a lot of woes.
What would you say most of your clients were concerned about this past year?
Overall, I’m hearing that the Black community feels underserved and unheard. We are having deep conversations about building generational wealth and what that means to them. People want to understand financial tools and they all want a very detailed plan. I continually hear that they don’t feel like they have a plan and they want help to get to where they want to be.
How do you go about helping to educate your clients?
My website header is “Help One. Help Many.” That was sparked by some studies about the lack of financial education in the African American community compared to other ethnic groups. Prior to 2020, my team decided we needed to do something. We couldn’t sit by and let the lack of education persist without trying to help.
We decided to do a series of “fireside chats” where we rented out a private room in a restaurant and I invited clients from all ages and professions, as well as people I only knew socially. Common themes heard were managing debt, building credit, saving for retirement. Many said they were the first generation to be successful and they were struggling with the possibility of having to support some of their family members financially. So this huge table of people who thought they were the only ones suddenly realized, “Hey, we’re all in the same boat.”
We held multiple events where we made it clear that it was purely for the education of the community. The ongoing understanding was that if you came to learn something, you would do your best to teach somebody else what you learned; it has become exponential. I am a firm believer there is always room for one more seat at the table. And many of the people within this growing community have formed mentor and mentee relationships.
Has this focus on education informed your view on promoting financial wellness?
Being in a good place physically, mentally and financially — all of that goes into your total sense of wellbeing. It is often apparent that those who are at the beginning of the planning process do not have financial wellness. That can lead to mental stress, which can take away from your ability to go work out and take care of your personal fitness. It all goes hand-in-hand.
What would you say to people who are still on the fence about financial planning?
You have zero downside. If you’re having a conversation with someone who doesn’t charge a fee for the plan, you’re still going to learn a tremendous amount about yourself. You will come away with a document that tells you where you are and shows you where you want to be — it’s going to connect the dots. Of course, I think the magic happens with our level of accountability. We can walk with you every step of the way to help ensure that as the tax law changes or new legislation is passed, you’ll be aware of them, and we can amend your plan as necessary.
What do you love most about your job?
I absolutely love getting to meet a complete stranger, having a conversation with them about something that they really don’t want to talk about — their finances — and at the end of an hour or two, hearing them say, “thank you.” It’s very powerful. Translated, it means you took someone who didn’t want to have a conversation because they were in a state of fear and anxiety to a place of peace and calmness.