Kristian Finfrock, Retirement Income Strategies

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Kristian Finfrock, founder and financial advisor, Retirement Income Strategies.
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What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Guiding clients on financial decisions that impact their lives and those of their loved ones is extremely rewarding, but it has its challenges. The most challenging aspect of my job is that my clients are humans and human beings can be emotional. In my experience, the discussion surrounding one’s finances can cause a range of emotions for most people. I spend quite a bit of time developing customized, holistic plans for clients, and then I counsel clients on how implementing that plan can help them attain their goals and calm their emotions.

My biggest hurdle is encouraging clients to shift their thinking from making financial decisions based on their emotions to a more strategic financial planning approach. Being strategic allows clients to stay proactive rather than reactive to life’s unexpected events.

On the flip side, dealing with clients’ emotions is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a financial advisor. To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching clients achieve their retirement goals. Almost everyone I meet with is worried they haven’t saved enough money but developing a holistic plan that encompasses all financial aspects of their financial house will often alleviate their concerns.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I have two people I deeply admire. First, my grandmother. My grandparents relocated to Wisconsin from Illinois with not much. They were successful entrepreneurs, but my grandfather died at a young age, forcing my grandmother to handle everything on her own. While living with her, I was fortunate enough to experience firsthand how strong of a woman she was. It was very inspiring.

Professionally, I’ve always looked up to Darren Hardy. He’s the former publisher of Success magazine and author of two of my favorite books, The Compound Effect and The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster. I’ve been lucky enough to attend his high-performance forums and coaching programs. The most important lesson that I learned from his teachings states that the best way to become successful is to embrace failure and learn from it. Success is nothing more than several failed attempts that set you on the right path to reach your goal.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

The high point of my career, both personally and professionally, is the first time I was invited to present at The Journey, an event for financial industry professionals to learn from some of the industry’s most successful advisors, who truly share elements of their practice that helped them thrive, as well as the mistakes they learned along the way. Many top financial advisors in the country — arguably the top 1% — attend this event. 

While I was elated to speak at The Journey, it was the first time I had real stage fright as I explained my processes of guiding my clients to retirement and other financial goals. It’s unbelievably rewarding and humbling being able to coach or mentor other people — even some who may have been in the business longer, have more clients, or are considered more successful than you (at least from a numbers perspective).

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Working as a financial advisor for 15 years, I would have advised my 21-year-old self to max out my contributions to a tax-favored retirement account, like a Roth IRA, every single year regardless of what happens in life. This is the advice I shared with my daughters when they started working. The benefits of compound interest are irrefutable, but when the compounded amount is tax-free, I call it unbelievable awesomeness!

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

Dane County is a gorgeous place to live. It’s surrounded by lakes and has all four seasons. It also has an incredible and diverse group of residents regarding their ethnicity, background, cultural preferences, people with a variety of careers, military personnel, and university students.

I enjoy that Madison is a small, big city in Dane County. I like that it’s the capital of Wisconsin and that the university is here. Since I attended Cardinal Stritch University, a college in Wisconsin that had 5,000 students, to me Dane County has that small-town feel, but the people here make it feel like a powerful city where you can grow roots and achieve anything you set your mind to!

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

When I was younger, I boxed in the army. I won the unit level at my weight class, won the peninsula level when I was in Korea, and won the All-Armed Forces competition in Asia in my weight class. When I left the army, I competed to be a Golden Gloves boxer.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Before the pandemic, I really enjoyed attending live music events and have been to over 500 concerts. When I was in the military, I worked as a military police officer and occasionally worked backstage security for acts like KC and the Sunshine Band and Clint Black. While I enjoy a full collection of music, my top favorite three concerts include:

  • Up in Smoke Tour in 2000 with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Eminem, and N.W.A. Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre had just gotten back together with the original N.W.A. It was by far the most fun concert because there was a comedian in between every act.
  • A close second was when Roger Waters recreated “The Wall” with a new tech show in 2010. My mom is a fan and I took her, so that was a fabulous night.
  • Lastly, Pearl Jam at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in 2011 because nobody expected Chris Cornell to be there, but he was. Now that he’s passed away, it’s a great memory because they performed all my favorite songs.

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