Nathan Harness

Nathan Harnessage 37

TD Ameritrade director of financial planning, Texas A&M University

Fast Facts

  • Likes to find karaoke bars when traveling abroad
  • Brews beer at home
  • Guilty pleasure: hiding around corners and scaring people

Nathan Harness found his career path after surviving the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

He was working on the 61st floor of one of the World Trade Center buildings on the day of the terrorist attacks. Shortly after the north tower (Tower 1) was hit, he was in the stairwell when the second plane rammed into his building.

“I got out about 15 minutes before Tower 2 collapsed,” Mr. Harness said.

Following that harrowing experience, he reflected on what he enjoyed most about his work at Morgan Stanley – educating clients about their finances – and decided that teaching should be his vocation, sooner rather than later.

Sept. 11 “caused me to re-evaluate the delicate nature of life,” Mr. Harness said. “You don’t always get the timeline you think you’re going to get. I don’t want to wait to be a professor until the end of my career. I want to jump in now.”

He obtained a doctorate in financial planning from Texas Tech University and is now the TD Ameritrade director of financial planning at Texas A&M University.

His research focuses in part on analyzing what makes millennials tick financially. He wants to determine the heuristics, or rules of thumb, that can improve their investing.

“How can we use some of their preferences to put them in a better financial place?” Mr. Harness said. “We’re still in the infancy of figuring out who this group is and how we can serve them best.”

He works with the cohort every day, savoring the chance to influence their lives, such as showing them how saving a little more early on will make a big difference when they’re older.

“I get to walk alongside them and make nudges,” Mr. Harness said.

– Mark Schoeff Jr.