Sometimes I look at my wife, Barbara, and wonder how we ever got here. We gave up our high-powered jobs in New York City for life in bucolic Berkshire Country, MA. But this is not another story of inn keeping, goat herding or yoga teaching.
We happen to be in the money management business. That is, we invest people’s money, give them financial advice and more often than not go skiing, kayaking and generally enjoy the great outdoors with our clients who live close by. The skies are clear, hours short and best of all—no travelling.
Ours is a good life that melds the best of both worlds. We are still in touch with the world of Wall Street and, in my wife’s case, event planning, but with a job that requires less than a ten minute commute to work, not counting the occasional delay when deer or wild turkeys go jay walking.
So why did we give up those six-figure jobs, the swank apartment in Manhattan, the shows, restaurants and endless parties? Well for one thing, we were too busy working to enjoy any of those attributes. We were in the air more often than on the ground. We needed an appointment book just to meet for a quick dinner and our life style threatened to sink our marriage.
Don’t believe the stories you hear about how exciting business travel can be. For us, touring the capitals of the world amounted to an endless series of hotel rooms, and numerous client dinners barely remembered. For us, “taking in the sights” amounted to the cab drive between the airport and the city.
After decades of this kind of life, we both desired a change. We elected to put our relationship above corporate cultures and moved to the country with our eyes wide open.
Make no mistake; it took a lot of effort, patience and determination to arrive at our destination. There were times when we were both scared to death that we wouldn’t make it. Making a living in an area which is primarily agricultural is not easy. The sad truth is that there is little or no opportunity for gainful employment unless you wanted to clean houses, landscape, milk cows or open a curio shop for visiting weekenders from Boston or Manhattan.
Both Barbara and I took huge pay cuts, were forced to drive hours each day on dangerous mountain roads simply to stay employed. At first, the hours we worked coupled with our commutes were so long that although we lived on a picture perfect country road teeming with wildlife and country atmosphere, most of the time we were just too tired to enjoy it.
Slowly we learned that there were opportunities that we had at first ignored or simply failed to understand. Back in the day, I was a pretty good journalist before going back to get my MBA in finance. I began writing financial columns for a local newspaper. Barbara, who had a background in photography and event planning, worked in consulting but also worked as a photographer in her spare time (usually weekends).
Money management seemed a natural fit with over 28 years experience on Wall Street. But where would I find the clients in this gentle paradise?
The Berkshires, I discovered, has for years been a bucolic haven for the rich and famous. They have spent their weekends and summers away from the heat of the city, listening to concerts at Tanglewood, practicing yoga at Kripala or getting buff at Canyon Ranch. Now that this elite Boomer generation is beginning to retire, they are settling down in their weekend mansions year round (or at least until the snows set in).
The wealthy like their money managers close by. With a little effort and my financial background (28 years on Wall Street) I soon found several situations that appealed to me. It took a job or two before I settled in at my present firm, Berkshire Money Management www.berkshiremm.com,, a family-owned firm that has a great track record and even better people. It also just happened to need an office manager/event planner/marketer. Who better to fulfill that roll then my wife, who, it so happened was in between jobs.
One thing led to another and before we knew it we were working together and having a ton of fun doing it. We worked on bringing new clients to the firm and found that we had a knack for it. My once weekly column on finance has blossomed and is now featured in several regional publications. At the firm’s request, we started an investment radio show.
As partners in business as well as in life, we’ve grown much closer. Sure we still have arguments, get angry and sometimes yell, but working together makes harboring resentments for longer than a few hours very difficult.
We acquired a dog, our first, a wonderful chocolate Labrador Retriever named Titus. Now we go for hikes with him before and after work, snow shoe and cross country ski and still have time for dinner with friends. We can even make it home in time for “Grey’s Anatomy”. In the summer we kayak and Titus swims along side, insisting upon being at least a nose ahead of our boats.
Global events, however, are still an integral part of our daily life. Whether protecting our clients from the impact of oil at $100/bbl. or interpreting the latest round of unemployment numbers, we remain deeply involved with the winds of change. It is a wonderful life, full of passion, excitement and natural beauty. And it is a life that we can now share together.