It was the need for human interaction that brought me to financial planning.

This became apparent to me at the turn of the millennium, when I was making steady progress in building my financial planning practice. We had moved from a house in town to a house on a pond. In a Michigan winter, it didn’t take long for that shallow pond to freeze into what appeared to be an ideal skating rink in our backyard.

“Let’s try it out,” I told our girls, Natalie and Audrey, who were 12 and 10 at the time. Our third daughter, Lily, was just three. I hadn’t ice skated since I was a kid and only a couple times even then.
“Maybe we could have some fun skating,” I told them, “or we could even play hockey.”

And so we bought some inexpensive skates and set up cones on the ice. We pretended to be masters of our makeshift rink. To anyone observing, I’m sure that we appeared somewhat less so. Nonetheless, our hockey outings soon became our favorite pastime whenever the ice was thick enough.

The girls began to invite their friends over, and before long we would have 15 or 20 kids out on the pond in the evening, playing hockey. Then my wife and I began inviting people, too, and on weekend days we would often host a neighborhood hockey game, with players ages six to 60 having a great time together.

It was party central on this pond and a wonderful opportunity for a variety of people to connect with one another. In wintertime, neighbors might not see each other for three or four months as they huddle in their homes. And yet there we were, all together, skating and laughing and talking, enjoying the outdoors and bonding with our neighbors.

I didn’t work on a neighborhood ice rink just because I am an avid hockey fan—I would much rather be a participant than a spectator. And I’m not just talking about participating in sports. I’m talking about participating in life—that is what I really wanted to teach my daughters.

On those cold days and evenings, we were warm. The bonfires helped, of course, but this was the warmth that came from people getting to know one another. This was the warmth of the human touch. We found joy in the competition and also in the camaraderie.

I understand this about myself: I was made to be a participant in life. It is important to me to extend a hand to others, to get to know my fellow travelers. I am most interested in helping others and building relationships, and as such I have found my niche as a financial planner, helping people design a prosperous and fulfilling future.

For more information and to check out my new book, The Power of Persistent Planning: A Review of Successful Financial Planning Strategies, click here.

All opinions are those of Douglas Gross and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.