Birthday cards and thank-you notes are in a stack on James Farley’s desk.
As a financial adviser for Northwestern Mutual, Farley thrives on connecting with clients and working alongside them to help plan their futures. The cards are just an added perk, he says.
“One of the greatest gifts we give people is the ability to speak out loud what they want their life to look like, and I think having that on paper for the first time, maybe ever, or having them think through that is unbelievably empowering,” Farley says.
Farley, 35, took some business courses at Monroe Community College for a year, but he realized that college was not for him.
“I think it’s rare that someone has a real firm understanding of what they want, and that’s actually kind of led to my development because I realized college wasn’t for me,” Farley says. “I think it’s impossible to get out of something what you need if you don’t know what you want out of it.”
He had a few entry-level jobs before joining a Rochester startup in the seminar industry. The company specialized in sales, training and mentoring in the real estate, mortgage and financial planning fields.
When the company went out of business, Farley was out of a job after six years.
“It helped me grow up really quickly,” Farley says. “I don’t regret anything I’ve gone through to get to where I am. I think now being a financial planner, the things that I do, I do with intention and I have a plan for how they impact me personally, professionally and financially.”
Watching the company he worked for mismanage assets helped inspire him to do his current work, he says.
“I saw what happened in business and in life when people just don’t have a vision and don’t manage money properly,” Farley says. “(Now) I can make sure businesses get to grow and employ people (and) people can retire and send their kids to college instead of going into credit card debt.”
Farley has been a financial adviser at Northwestern Mutual since March 2009. With its 159-year history, the company was a natural choice, Farley says.
“There’s a lot of great financial firms in Rochester, and I could be successful and help my clients at any one of them,” Farley says. “What’s really unique about Northwestern, and what compelled me to go here, is not only do we have world-class investment opportunities like I would at any other company, but they’re the highest-rated insurance company in the world.”
He helps a variety of clients, ranging in age from 22 to 83, think hard about their financial future—a privilege, he says. He sees himself as a coach to his clients, helping them sort out the financial aspects of major milestones and unpredictable events.
“I love working with people who have wealth and who are already there, but they’re probably the most overserved community in any city in the country,” Farley says. “Every financial adviser in the world is calling on those people every day. I chose from day one that I would be working with people that had a good heart.”
Farley chooses to go to the heart of the matter when making career decisions. He relies on his intuition more than outside advice. The key is to get still, he says.
“Seek internal guidance to some degree,” he advises. “Take the moment to separate yourself from everything else. Go somewhere solitary and take time to ask right, wrong, indifferent. What I would constantly ask myself is where did I see myself at this stage of life?
“A lot of people I’ve found, more often than not, whenever we get to that alone moment, we get uncomfortable and we do anything to get away from being with ourselves,” he adds.
This year, Farley formed Farley’s Friends Inc., a nonprofit that supports charities in Western New York. In September, the organization held its first golf tournament, FOREforFOUR, raising $14,000 for four organizations.
Farley runs the nonprofit with two other co-founders, Steven Argento and Alyssa Belasco.
“I hope that other people can share a passion for making this community better,” Farley says. “Whether that be by being a great mom or dad or brother or sister or coworker or employer, how can we give back to this community that has done so much for us?”
#TeamPXY with Carter and Corey on 98PXY is a partner with Fast Start. Listen on Monday from 6 to 10 a.m. for their interview with James Farley.
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