Why Bill Simonet is helping his fellow veterans

Oct 8, 2019 @ 12:01 am

By Evan Cooper

Bill Simonet is on a mission. The former Marine, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, is committed to helping veterans better manage their financial affairs through his Simonet Financial Group, a registered investment adviser located in Kyle, Tex., outside Austin. InvestmentNews Content Strategy Studio recently sat down with Mr. Simonet to find out what motivated him to become a financial planner and money manager, and why he doesn't want other veterans to make the same money mistakes he did.

InvestmentNews Content Strategy Studio: Bill, tell us a little about your family background.

Bill Simonet: My parents were Haitian immigrants who always believed in working hard. My dad worked in construction and my mom worked in a factory and then at an elder-care facility. But that kind of hard work took its toll. My father's knees were shot by the time he got older and my mother only made minimum wage. Even though they worked many jobs to make sure that my siblings and I were taken care of, I came to understand that working hard isn't enough. They never had an opportunity to save, or to appreciate the value of saving. In order for me to be successful and to be happy, I was going to have to work hard too, but smarter.

INCSS: Serving in the Marines had a great impact on you, and certainly shaped your post-service life. Tell us how you came to choose what many consider to be the most demanding branch of the military.

Bill Simonet: I was in my first year of college, but it just wasn't working for me; at least not then. I needed to do something different. So I reached out to my cousin who was in the Army and asked for advice. He told me, “Whatever you do, don't join the Marine Corps; they're too cocky.” Well, that clinched it — I enlisted in the Marines.

After basic training, I went to Iraq at the height of the war in 2004. I was absolutely terrified at first. But I knew that I had my training to fall back on. I was a combat radio operator in a special operations unit. We were doing foot patrols and vehicle convoys throughout Southeastern Iraq. Since being in a combat zone meant I didn't have the opportunity to spend any of the money I earned, I accumulated more money in my bank account than I'd ever seen before.

INCSS: What did you do with the money?

Bill Simonet: After I got home, I did what most young people would do with money — I spent it. I bought an SUV, which probably was not the smartest decision, and six months later I crashed it. Talk about a wake-up call. Most of the money that I had worked so hard for was gone, and I had no idea how to make it back.

As I thought about it, I realized that coming back with money was interesting, because I felt better about myself when I had cash in the bank. But it went out faster than it came in. That made me wonder what other people my age were doing. Many were able to retain their money and make better money decisions than I was. What was different about them? Why couldn't I hold on to the money? Why couldn't I be more successful with my money and have more options, like many of the other guys I served with. That made me decide to go back to school and really look at how finance worked.

INCSS: What happened next?

Bill Simonet: Well, since I was broke and in the reserves, I decided to go back for a second deployment. After that, I went back to school and I majored in business. I got an opportunity to work at a business brokerage firm with an old IRS audit guy. It was great because we would sit down and talk to business owners who were really successful in their own world. But you know that old saying about the shoemaker's children going barefoot, well I realized that even successful people don't necessarily understand how to protect themselves financially. Like my parents, they may have been working hard, but they weren't working smart. From that moment on, I knew my path. It was going to be financial planning.

INCSS: Tell us about your firm and who you serve.

Bill Simonet: I've owned a small RIA for the past six years. Generally, our firm focuses on people who have been successful in their own areas, but want to be smarter with money. Specifically, we try to work with veterans.

When I started my business, one of the first groups I worked with were veterans who were part of the Yellow Ribbon program, an education-funding effort the government set up as part of the post-9/11 GI Bill. I would sit down with veterans coming back from deployment or getting out of the service and help them figure out what they should do with their money, what opportunities existed, and give them information and advice that I didn't have when I got out of the service.

I continue to work with veterans, but also with many other people — teachers and small business owners, for example — who need to have financial conversations just as much. We've all had a wide range of experiences and we've all made mistakes. But it's important to learn from those mistakes and grow from them. Sometimes that involves discussing money. Sometimes it involves just listening and allowing someone to talk through their concerns.

As a financial adviser, I can help take money off the table as an issue so people can go out and live their best life. My philosophy is that you should enjoy every minute of life, because it's short and you only get one shot at it. Don't let money keep you from enjoying the things that you really want to do. And if money is the impediment, get help. That's what we're here for.

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Watch our interviews with Bill Simonet to learn more about human-centric adviser.

DisclaimerHartford Funds has engaged InvestmentNews to develop the content of this paid advertisement. No individual or firm mentioned is affiliated with Hartford Funds, or is compensated for being featured in this advertisement. The views expressed herein are those of the author. The views expressed may not reflect the opinions of Hartford Funds.

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