by Sharon Arena –
Managing Principal, Blue Keel Financial Planning
I’m not too familiar with Connecticut, but I can totally see why Charlie had me meet him at his riverfront home in beautiful Weston. His home office was even better than I imagined – a barn with exposed post-and-beam architecture, views of the Saugatuck River flowing just beyond the balcony, comfortable couches, and of course a small, wooden model sailboat. It could have easily been mistaken for a Man-Cave, but this was where Charlie ‘makes his magic happen’ as a financial planner and investment manager when he foregoes working from his Westport office.
Charlie wasn’t always an investments guy. He spent most of his childhood being an extrovert and young entrepreneur. When Charlie was 8 years old, he and his family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There, Charlie immediately started creating a name for himself by taking it upon his own doing to meet the neighbors. He recounted that his mother, upon meeting someone in the neighborhood for the first time, would often be asked if she was related to Charlie Shipman. His mother would reply ‘yes’ hesitantly because she was sure they meant someone other than her son. “My mother had no idea I was walking around, knocking on doors, and introducing myself to the entire neighborhood,” Charlie said with a smile. “I’ve just always liked talking to people and hearing their stories.”
Charlie’s stepfather was a strong role model for him. He helped guide Charlie and set the bar in budgeting and financial planning, emphasizing the importance of preserving an investment’s principal and spending wisely. His stepfather, a successful Tony Award-winning Broadway composer, also taught Charlie about the benefits of letting your money make money for you and the need to plan wisely for the unpredictable in life. A lesson Charlie tries to instill in his professional and business owner clients today.
Soon after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Economics, Charlie enrolled at Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC. With a Master’s degree in Accounting, he spent a few years at PricewaterhouseCoopers before relocating to Los Angeles where he quickly climbed the corporate ladder in financial planning and analysis at Paramount Pictures.
In 2006, Charlie came home to his parents’ house on eastern Long Island for a 4th of July holiday he’d never forget. His stepfather – who had recently been hospitalized after experiencing a series of small strokes – demanded that he ‘get on the next damn plane home’ because he had something important to discuss with Charlie. “So here I am thinking he’s dying and wants to have one last conversation with me. Little did I know he had a girl for me to meet!” Charlie said. So the dutiful son returned home unaware and was immediately struck by cupid’s arrow. That weekend, his parents introduced him to the love of his life, Nydia. Their connection was so strong that she asked him to move into her studio apartment in lower Manhattan – after dating for less than one week! Living in a NYC studio didn’t break this couple, though. They were married less than two years later.
He started his financial planning career in Manhattan working for ultra high-net-worth clients in a family office services firm – monitoring investment accounts, preparing personal and business financial statements, and supervising bookkeeping and tax planning services. But he wanted to do more. He soon started taking Certified Financial Planning classes at NYU and charted a new course that led him to Merrill Lynch’s flagship office in lower Manhattan. As a financial advisor in Merrill’s wealth management group, Charlie focused less on selling products and more on creating strong financial foundations for his clients. “Having worked in multiple financial disciplines with companies both large and small, as well as with high-net-worth individuals, meant I was able to offer my clients expertise above and beyond the average advisor,” Charlie added.
After Charlie and Nydia became parents, to 3-year-old Lola at the time, they decided to take the step and move to Connecticut in 2014. “I thought, ‘Isn’t that where everyone gets Lyme’s Disease?’” Charlie joked. They settled in Weston, started two businesses (Nydia is co-owner of The Worthy Company, which produces delicious, protein-packed fruit and vegetable blends in a cup and is now sold on Amazon.com) and have been enjoying every minute of being actively involved in their community. Charlie’s love of Weston is evident. He is the treasurer for the Friends of the Weston Library, assistant treasurer for his church Emmanuel Episcopal, and sits on the Town of Weston’s Strategic Planning Committee. Not bad for a guy who’s only been in town for three years.
With the perfect location, environment and drive, Charlie started Blue Keel Financial Planning in 2014. I asked Charlie if anyone has asked, ‘What the heck is a keel?’ “Of course!” he said. “But the name makes sense once they understand its meaning.” The message was simple: A keel is the most integral part of a boat’s structure. It is the foundation upon which the entire boat is built. “Like a sailboat, one’s financial foundation needs to be designed with strength and structural integrity in mind,” Charlie added.
His idea behind Blue Keel was to create a virtual planning firm, working with small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals anywhere in the country via online planning and investment management tools and resources. Charlie admits he’s an ‘awful sales person’ – but he enjoys having an open relationship with his clients through collaboration, education and a genuine desire to help them succeed. He especially enjoys working with families – especially now that he has added another member to his family in 2016.
Charlie recently started helping families develop more effective college funding plans. “There is so much to know, and most people don’t have a strategy beyond setting up a 529 plan, if even that,” comments Charlie on our College Planning topic. “At Blue Keel, we’ve developed a system similar to getting pre-approved for a mortgage so clients know exactly what college will cost and how best to plan for the complex financial aid process regardless of income level.” Charlie says the best time to get ‘pre-approved’ is before your college search process begins, when your child is starting sophomore or junior year in high school.
What Charlie loves most about his work is the ability to genuinely help people become more successful, whether they’re struggling to grow their business, pay for college, or preserve their wealth and leave behind a legacy. He had so many personal stories that affected him – lessons from influencers in finance, politics, entertainment and business. The key to his success is exactly as Charlie tells people every day: “Never stop educating yourself, gain knowledge through the wisdom and experiences of others, and learn from your mistakes.”
Like most of us, Charlie learned from his mistakes. He built a business that capitalizes on his experiences and the knowledge gained during his 15-year career spanning multiple financial disciplines. And he takes great pride in sharing what he’s learned. Charlie’s financial advice and education can be found in many respected online publications, including Money, Yahoo! Finance, CBS News, MSN, and U.S. News & World Report (to name just a few).
To learn more about Charlie Shipman and his business Blue Keel Financial Planning, please visit www.bluekeelfp.com.
– A Golden Featured Business at Gold Coast Connect .com
Interview by Sharon Arena, of Salty Red Dog Marketing