Charles ThompsonCFP®, CEBS, CTFA™, CRPC®
Senior Financial Advisor, Principal
What sparked your interest in financial planning?
There were lots of little moments and episodes that led me towards a career in financial planning, but the biggest influence – by far – was my grandfather, Jack. He was an avid investor. Like everything else he enjoyed, he found ways to share the experience with friends and family. At some point he decided to buy a few shares of stock in familiar North Carolina companies for his grandkids. I still remember visits to the local bank on the way home from elementary school, waiting in the drive-thru teller lane so that I could deposit the latest dividend checks of five or six cents from the local grocery store chain or packaged goods company or some long-lost Charlotte bank. If he hoped to inspire a lifelong interest in the stock market, the initial impact didn’t seem to last much longer than those little dividend checks. There was always a long list of jobs and careers that interested me as a kid, but I’ll admit that financial planning never even made the list!
In grade school, there were no personal finance classes or junior investment clubs. In college, I studied Finance and majored in Business Administration, but the entire curriculum was geared towards corporate work. The classes and professors were fantastic – I just didn’t fantasize about a career in corporate finance or corporate accounting. It all seemed so impersonal and unfulfilling, to me at least. I finally discovered an affinity for personal finance during a summer internship 8,000 miles away. I had applied for a summer internship as a credit analyst in the Microfinance department of a commercial bank in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Mostly I just input data and analyzed files behind the scenes, but I gained a window into the fascinating world of grassroots economic development. The microfinance model essentially combined access to capital (starting with “microloans” of $10 or less) with mandatory financial literacy counseling. The program was life-altering for so many of its participants, and it certainly altered my perspective. I came home with a new appreciation for the importance of financial literacy and an awareness that financial security often comes down to a few key decisions and habits.
What fuels you every day in your work?
I love the work! When you think of “fun,” financial planning and investment management probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. But they can be fun and fascinating – and profoundly rewarding. Every day we get to solve new and interesting puzzles for clients from all walks of life. The puzzles themselves are satisfying in some small way, but the real reward is getting to see how the solutions help improve the lives and legacies of our clients. We’re often preparing for events and outcomes that are decades away, but we still get to celebrate the many milestones along the way. We get to share the satisfaction of every retirement, every birth or graduation, every great trip taken, and every charity supported. That’s what fuels us every day.
When you retire, you’re going to …
Keep learning new things, visiting new places, and helping new people. The bucket list gets longer every day, but that’s part of the fun. Even when I retire, I hope I’ll keep adding new books, hobbies, and trips to the list faster than I can possibly check them off.
Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I was born in the little town of Tazewell, Virginia. I spent about half of my childhood there, until we moved to the slightly-less-small town of Lenoir, North Carolina. They felt like completely different communities when I was younger, but they really had a lot in common. They were both sort of scenic foothills towns, offering lots of natural beauty, with easy access to plenty of outdoor adventures. They both boasted a rich history as pioneer outposts during the earliest years of our country, both became economic engines for their regions, and both eventually suffered the decline and disappearance of their primary industries (coal mining in VA, furniture & textiles in NC). In both, I witnessed the real impacts of economic decline, but I also saw the extraordinary impact of so many ordinary people.
Now I live in Asheville, NC with my wife Lindsay and our daughters Morgan and Cadence. We enjoy the mountains and the many outdoor opportunities, but we’re especially grateful for the community. That’s what makes my work at Modera so rewarding: I get to serve the people and professionals, the families and businesses, that are building the community my kids will always call “home.”