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Man with a Plan

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
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Alumnus find career fulfillment in financial planning industry

Ben Gurwitz '02, B.A. Business Administration

by Mary Denny

If there is a secret to Ben Gurwitz’s success, it could very well be his ability to adapt and thrive as circumstances change.

Ben’s early years were spent in sophisticated San Francisco, where, as a “fiercely independent” child, he was riding the MUNI buses alone by second grade and renting a sailboat by age 12. In 7th grade, he fell in love with business after a microeconomics class at his small (40 students per grade) private school. “Business seemed like such a chess game, and seeing the big picture and always thinking three or more moves ahead was fun,” he explains.

A move to the laid-back mountain vibe of Denver and a huge, 3,000-student public high school presented a radically different venue, “politically, ethnically, religiously, climate-wise, to name a few,” according to Ben, yet he adapted and thrived in the new environment. “Going through that move really motivated me to change everything again when I went to college,” he says.

At Trinity, Ben was again ushered out of his comfort zone by curriculum requirements. Those courses, most memorably Biological Impact and Issues, which he says was “at once both fascinating and scary,” reinforced what he thinks was the most important part of his Trinity education: “The ability to research an issue, formulate an opinion, and then communicate my findings through a presentation or in writing.”

Although he had not intended to join a fraternity, Ben connected with a “great group of guys” and became a proud member of Iota Chi Rho. “It was the first time in my life I was in a truly peer-governed environment,” he notes. “We had to set our own rules and enforce them. We dealt with budgets, money, trust, social relationships, and responsibilities.” Ben says that fraternity life became “a safe place to make mistakes and was arguably as impactful of a growth experience to my success now as the skill sets I learned in the classroom.”

Graduating into the fallout from the “dotcom” recession, Ben’s sole job offer was a cold-calling insurance sales job—“not the glamorous position [he] envisioned by any stretch.” Again, Ben adapted to circumstances, soon became a manager, and moved into consulting for the company. After completing the Certified Financial Planner™ (CPA) coursework, Ben knew he wanted to build a fee-only financial planning firm.

Ben found his perfect fit with Financial Life Advisors, a CPA friend’s hobby business. Today, Ben is a partner, the COO, and the senior wealth manager overseeing all personal financial planning for Financial Life Advisors. “Most financial planners grow up on the investment and insurance side of the business,” he explains. “The CPA firm gave me the tax exposure that really made the firm something special.”

Since his arrival, the firm has grown from $8 million under management to about $190 million today. “The part of the job I enjoy most and the reason I wanted to pursue this industry centers around helping families with their financial issues,” he says. “When I can help someone feel comfortable about his or her situation or future, and help them achieve their dreams, it is very rewarding.” It’s also a dynamic industry thanks to ever-changing tax codes and markets. “Keeping up on those changes, seeing how they affect clients, and then communicating the relevant information to them is a constant challenge,” he says.

Ben and his wife, Shana Stool Gurwitz ’04, are parents of three young children. Ben serves on the board of the Financial Planning Association of San Antonio and South Texas and was president in 2014. While on the board, he was pro bono director and helped organize the free San Antonio Financial Planning Day with the Family Services Association for several years. Currently, he is on his second term of the San Antonio Estate Planners Council board and is slated to lead the organization in 2021-22. Now a stay-at-home-mom, Shana is active in the Jewish Community Center, Junior League, PTA, and is a recent graduate of the Trinity Alumni Leadership Academy. They love to travel and can’t wait to share the excitement of exploring new places and cultures with their family. “First we have to get to the point where a nap is not a necessary scheduling obstacle,” he laughs.

Look for Ben on the Aug. 29 Learning TUgether webinar, where he and Bob Scherer, interim dean of the School of Business, will discuss retirement planning. Ben will also take part in a four-part series on “Steps to Financial Success” with the Learning TUgether podcast series. The first part will be available on Sept. 4.

You can contact Ben at ben [at] fladvisors.com.