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An interview with Cal Brown, author and financial advisor at Savant
What made you decide to author a book?
My sister-in-law told me to! I’m the oldest of 4 boys, and she is married to my next-youngest brother. My youngest brother died in 1996 at the age of 37, leaving a wife and three kids. She wanted to know what she should do if something happened to her husband; I told her she should just call me. She then asked, “Well, what about everybody else?” I said, “I don’t know!” She said, “You should write a book…and get on Oprah!!”
How long did it take you to write it?
After I’d thought about it for a few years, I received a “cold call” out of the blue from a writer in Los Angeles, CA. I was slated to speak at an FPA (Financial Planning Association) National Conference in Anaheim that fall, and he found my name and bio on the FPA website. Then he looked me up on The Monitor Group website and saw I had written several articles and white papers. He complimented my writing and asked if I’d ever thought about writing a book. Hmmm….My wife and I met with him once we were in Anaheim, and he seemed legit, so on the plane ride home I sketched out chapter ideas and started working on the introduction.
Well, once I decided to hire him I began in August of 2010. I would write a chapter and email it to him; we’d go back and forth editing and re-writing until that chapter was done, and then we’d repeat the process until we had all the chapters done. The writing process took 7 months; so we were finished with the writing phase in March 2011.
After that, I had to select a publisher, and once that was done, it went through more editing and re-writing and re-arranging, along with graphics, design, layout and selection of high quality paper stock and cover material. The finished product was finally in my hands in October 2011. Thus, from start to finish, it was 1 year and 2 months.
What is the book about?
Major life transitions. No one gets through this life unscathed. All of us have to deal with difficulties at one point or another, and some of us deal with multiple tragedies. Each difficulty or tragedy that I deal with has two parts: 1) planning ahead, and 2) dealing with reality.
I did not think the world needed another book on financial planning. But I thought that no one had dealt with all of these transitions in this way in one book. These major life events include: loss of a spouse, loss of parents, divorce, losing your health, unemployment, losing money/investments, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and there’s even a chapter on identity theft.
The original title of the book was, “What If?” But I had formed an LLC for the book and selected an advisory board; they didn’t like my title and came up with “When Life Strikes: Weathering Financial Storms.”
What did you learn in the process of writing this book?
I re-learned what I already knew, but frequently forget. And this is where my writing partner came in so handy; that is, to tell stories. In this line of work (as with most technical lines of work) we tend to use industry jargon and get so wrapped up in technical details that it can be rather boring. But stories resonate with people. So every story in the book is a true story, either from my own family or from clients (of course I obtained their permission, and changed the names). Stories convey emotion, and the gravity of the situation. They are also easier to remember than all the professional lingo.
What is the number one reason why someone should read your book?
Because every person is going to have to deal with at least one of these major life issues—you just don’t know which one (ones) you will have to face. Planning is better than crisis-driven decision-making. This book gives you what you need to know to plan for these events, and also to make good decisions during and after the crisis.