Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profile series.

Born in El Paso, Texas, to a large family of entrepreneurs, Humberto Rios dreamed of someday owning his own company. Becoming a financial advisor was never really on his radar.

“That’s what I wanted ever since I was 6 years old,” he said. “Every time I would play with my friends I would say, ‘I’ll be the business owner’ and I would set myself up behind a desk.”

His parents routinely crossed the border to run their business in Juarez, Mexico. “It was still very common for people who live in these towns to cross over every day,” he says. “I went to school here in the United States but I also grew up in Juarez.”

After two years of college, Rios opened a business with his brothers that catered to large manufacturers in Juarez. “We saw a niche where we could distribute the parts they needed for maintenance,” he says. “And for almost 15 years, we were very successful.”

But by 2006, criminal drug activity in Juarez had become dangerously widespread and Rios’ wife Natalia convinced him to leave his business and start over exclusively in Texas. He ended up making the jump to financial planning.

Today, they live in El Paso with their two sons and Rios recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as a financial advisor. Below, he shares the challenges he faced and how he believes the mistakes he made along the way have not only made him a better financial advisor but have also inspired him to never stop learning.

What made you decide to become a financial advisor?

I thought it would be very simple for me to start a new business, but I struggled for several years. Natalia was actually working as a recruiter for Northwestern Mutual here in El Paso. At the time, her brother was a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He made introductions that eventually ended up with her taking the recruiter role. So I was introduced to the company through her work and I realized there was an opportunity — this was something I could do.

What challenges did you face when you were starting out?

I was one of the first Hispanic advisors in the company and at the time none of the brochures or planning literature were in Spanish. So I had to learn all the lingo to be able to translate it for my Spanish-speaking clients and that made it difficult in the beginning. I had to learn a lot of things on my own. Fortunately, the company started to incorporate Spanish into its materials — I actually got involved to help with that process. I never want to stop learning, and I truly feel that the older I get, the wiser I get.

It’s not about how much you make; it’s about how much you save.

How have your struggles shaped your career?

I was only 20 when I started my business and I was immediately successful. So when I had to give that up and start over, for a time, I felt that I had lost everything. For four years, I didn’t add even $1 to my bank account. But my wife was my pillar of strength through all of it. She said, “We’ll figure it out.” And she was right. I realize now that was a big turning point in my career because it has made me who I am now. I have a lot of blessings, and it made me realize that everything that I did wrong helped me grow.

What do you love most about your profession?

I am able to apply everything I have learned over many years to help not just myself, but others as well. Every time I meet with a client, I can tell them that my knowledge comes from hard-won experience. Helping them understand how money works and why it’s important to save as much as you can is very satisfying. I work with a lot of people who are going through issues that I went through when I was younger. In fact, about 70 percent of my clients are business owners. Some of them are making a lot of money but they’re not saving enough. When I share my own experiences with my clients, they know that I’m doing my best to keep them from making the same mistakes I did. They can trust that I’m prepared to help them put a plan in place that’s going to help work toward their opportunities and goals while also being prepared to navigate their own challenging situations.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make with their money?

One is not having a budget and second is not saving enough. I am always telling my clients: It’s not about how much you make; it’s about how much you save. I have clients who make $70,000 a year and they have routinely saved half of their paycheck so they’re very well-off now. Then I see other people who are earning $500,000 but are living paycheck to paycheck because their lifestyle doesn’t fit their income. No matter how much money you have, it’s important to strike the right balance between living the life you want today, while also preparing for the future.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When I turned 40, I decided to start training to do Ironman competitions and now I’ve done nine of them, which I’m very proud of — and thankfully, my wife supports me! I swim, bike and run for about three hours almost every day. I really enjoy it and I feel it’s helped me create a good balance in my life.

How do you like to give back?

Making time for my family is my first priority. The second is spiritual, so I definitely do a lot to help when it comes to my church. And promoting health is very important to me. Even if you’re a billionaire, you still have to take care of yourself. So I sponsor a lot of triathlete groups here in El Paso both financially and with the knowledge I have gained. That’s been a big part of my life for the last few years.

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