During the late 1990s, Michael Lynch was on an up-and-coming business journalist writing for publications such as Investor’s Business Daily and The Wall Street Journal Magazine. He had a Rolodex full of Capitol Hill contacts and covered everything from tax law changes to political conventions. When his wife accepted a position as a professor at Yale University in Connecticut, he could have chosen to cover Wall Street and New York City, but he walked away. He couldn’t stay a beat reporter forever, and as he is an indomitable people person, the idea of writing features at home or chaining himself to an editor’s desk filled him with dread.
So, Lynch started thinking about other things he’d like to do. He had appeared on political talk shows, and backstage he had met a media-savvy financial guy, Ric Edelman. Edelman agreed to be a source for an article and started sending Lynch review copies of his books. “I read his books and thought, I love this. I want do what this guy does,” says Lynch, who was already the financial go-to person for many of his friends.
Write what you know
Lynch, 37, made the transition to financial planner with MetLife five years ago. He reached out to people on his old contact list when he changed professions because he felt that journalism and politics were two arenas where networking is king. “I was always surprised; some people I thought would hire me didn’t, and some I never thought would hire me did,” he says.
But his real passion is for working with his peers, and so that’s the niche he selected at Barnum Financial Group in Shelton, Conn.—young busy professionals making $80,000 to $250,000 a year with mortgages and kids. “I thought I would grow my own 50-year-olds,” he jokes. “The net value of a 30-year-old client is going to be a lot more over time than [the Boomer] who’s going to roll his IRA over. That is, if you build a business that can service it.”
And he hasn’t lost touch with his media side: He hosts a weekly call-in radio show that covers everything from long-term care to real estate to retirement planning. He finds that he has a good sense about what people care about based on what lights up the telephone lines.
In fact, he credits journalism with teaching him what he needed to know about being a financial advisor. “You have to ask people about stuff they may not want to tell you about, you have to ask open-ended questions to gather information, and you have to ask a closing question,” he explains. “I felt it was excellent training for this business.”
The thing Lynch loves about where he works and what he does is that he can help anyone, from the radio caller who wants an estate plan to the new homeowner and parent who doesn’t know where to begin. He does a significant portion of business on a fee basis, charging clients for annual updates to their financial plans. “A sophisticated professional marketplace is used to paying for professional advice,” says Lynch, a NAIFA-Eastern Fairfield member.
He admits there’s another reason for his hustle and drive: his kids, especially his daughter, who was diagnosed with autism around the time he got started in the finanical-services business. “That’s really what made my business so big, so quickly,” says Lynch, noting that several close family members also passed away during the same time. “It puts things into perspective. When someone says, ‘You’re just trying to sell me insurance,’ I say, ‘Yes, but here’s why I’m trying to sell you insurance.’”