Edmond financial planner Greg Womack has used a lifelong pursuit of art to help his clients better understand their financial picture.
“When I think about something, I'm painting or visualizing in my head,” said Womack, president of Womack Investment Advisors. “That's what people need to do need to do: flesh it out and it becomes reality. When it comes time to review a financial plan, I always have charts and other visuals. They help everyone see and understand better.”
The grandson of a stone carver, Womack always has had an interest in art. He majored in commercial art at the University of Central Oklahoma before working in insurance, which led to a career as a financial adviser.
“Just in the last few years, I got back into art,” he said. “I'm taking lessons once a week. It helps me get away from the stress of work. It's a great stress reliever.”
While art and finance don't often mix, Womack said it is helpful for financial advisers to have a creative side.
“To be a financial planner and adviser, you have to be able to connect with people and create a vision with your clients,” he said.
Womack recently discussed his personal and professional life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: How did you become a financial adviser?
A: I started in mid '80s, selling insurance part time. In 1987, I went full time in the financial planning business. I started with a major company. They threw me into management at 24. I did that for a while, but I felt like I needed to be meeting with people.
In 1990, I went out on my own. Then I decided to set up Womack Investment Advisers in 2000. I've been operating under that umbrella since then.
Q: When did you know this was what you wanted to do?
A: I knew I wanted to get into a business that was working with people, helping people to work toward their goals and helping them make a positive difference. There's something to be said about being able to sit down and help somebody. I've delivered a lot of death claim checks that, without them, the families would have had a hard time. I just like dealing with people, working with people.
Q: How did open your own shop?
A: It was the entrepreneur in me to branch out and do my own thing. Working for a big company is good. It has benefits and training, but it also has downsides. I didn't have the flexibility, not only in time and work but also in what I would like to do for people.
As an independent adviser, I'm able to do more and am not married to a particular product or company and their services. It was important for me to seek that out.
When I first went out on my own, we drained our savings fast, paying for benefits and office and staff. It took a few years to get over that hump. We finally did. It was tough. When you work for yourself, you're it. The challenges of working for yourself are big, but also the rewards can be big.
Q: What's the best advice you give?
A: People need a financial plan they can go to that keeps them centered. Sometimes we get off course. A financial plan is like a compass that gets you where you want to go. It's not just a financial plan. It's your life goals and ambitions that form that plan. If people can put together that plan and review it regularly and have somebody to sit down and talk it through, those people tend to be more successful and at peace when market events come along because they see the bigger picture and not just seeing the noise.
Q: What's the hardest advice you have to give?
A: It is difficult when someone comes to you in their 50s. You look at them and analyze their retirement plan and forecast and say, 'You're going to have to work a lot longer than you thought.' People get let down to some degree, but at least they know what they have to do, what's involved.
For whatever reasons, they find themselves 50-plus years of age and find they are unprepared. It's hard to say, 'It doesn't look like you have enough. You need to go work another five or 10 years.'
Q: How can people avoid ending up in that position?
A: You start planning as soon as you can, start that process early. Then stay with the plan. Don't get too greedy. Don't go into too much debt. Those are two big factors. Too greedy means living beyond your means. Getting into too much debt will stifle any plan and keep you from achieving your goals. It all gets back to having that financial plan and having that road map of what you want to accomplish with your life.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: We met through church. We were both Nazarene preachers' kids. Her parents were pastoring in Louisiana. She was attending Edmond First Church of the Nazarene in college. That's where my dad pastored.
Q: What are your personal and professional goals?
A: My professional goal is just to continue to provide the best service we can. My personal goal is to get my kids through college.
I've been blessed. I'm sure one of these days I may want to slow down. I don't know if I will ever retire, but if I slow down, I will want to do more to help the less fortunate through community involvement. I think back to the scripture that talked about if you think your religion carries any weight at all, help the fatherless and widows.
Too much, we try to set goals that are related to money and having things. Those are good goals, and I have those, too. But making a long-lasting difference in society is more important.
Q: Is there a philosophy you live by?
A: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. That's good generic advice. If you want to be treated fairly, treat people fairly. I wrote a book in 2007, “Wisdom and Wealth.” It uses a lot of Solomon's wisdom that is timeless. It talks about how the fool sticks his head in the sand and doesn't plan for future, but the wise are aware of what's going on and take actions. That's a timeless lesson.
Q: What virtue is most overrated?
A: Being able to multitask. People think that's a hot task. It's not very efficient. The amount of interruptions we get. People can brag about doing two or three things at once, but something's' going to suffer compared to someone who can focus on one thing.
Gregory; daughter, Raegan