My Road to Financial Freedom

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

I don’t think my story is any more or less important than anyone else’s. But I think you may get more value out of this blog if you know a bit about my road to financial freedom.

My Experience With Risk

When I was young, my father was a real estate speculator who took big risks. Sometimes, he didn’t consider all the potential consequences. My family lived in constant financial fear and stress, and eventually, we lost everything. We were evicted from a beautiful big house in the suburbs of Los Angeles and moved into a dinky apartment in a lousy part of town. Shortly before we were evicted, my mother died. Within two years of this, my father was killed in an airplane crash.

I was 17 then, and for a short time thereafter, I was homeless and broke.

My Experience With Financial Professionals

Unexpectedly, I received a $25,000 death benefit from a term life insurance policy. (This was a miracle. My dad NEVER knew how much term life insurance he needed so he didn’t carry any. But when his bank insisted on it as part of a business deal, he bought this one policy, on which he made a grand total of one payment.)

I considered vocation schools but decided on college instead. I took the money to a broker and explained that my goal was to use it to get through college. Back in 1974, it was a reasonable goal. Unfortunately for me, the broker had different ideas. He thought it would be better to use the money to send his kid through college. He tried to churn the account. I didn’t know anything about investments at the time, but I knew a rat when I smelled one.

I fired the broker and got my degree in accounting. I finished college in four years and had $15,000 left over. I never took out any student loans, and I did not receive any scholarships. I was frugal, to say the least. As soon as I graduated college, I started working as a financial planner.


Working as a financial adviser, I get to talk to many people. I’ve learned how they’ve made or lost money. Over and over, I’ve seen how successful people invest and relate to money. I’ve also seen the common mistakes that folks make, both with their investments and in their relationship with money. I’ve learned (through my own experiences and from my clients’) that true wealth requires both financial and emotional skill.

At this point in my life, I consider myself financially successful. My family is in the upper levels of income and wealth in the United States. I am very blessed and I have a lot of gratitude.

I’m sharing this with you to demonstrate a few important concepts:

1. I’m a person just like you who has seen good and who has also had to overcome challenges.

2. You can be successful financially and emotionally if you do the work. I believe that you can be at peace with your life, no matter what.

3. This “Wealth Pilgrim” stuff is not a hypothetical exercise. I know what it’s like to have financial fear. I know what it’s like to live in the dark and cold because there was no money to pay the utility bill. I also know what it’s like to live in the darkness of my own mind, even after achieving financial success.

And since I’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the years, chances are good that I’ve seen situations similar to the one you find yourself in now. I’ve seen different approaches to financial issues (and the emotions that come with those financial issues). I know what works and what doesn’t.

Neal Frankle


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