Marla David is a veteran financial advisor based out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. From a young age, she found that she was preternaturally good with numbers. As Marla progressed with her education, she was consistently placed in programs of advanced mathematics, even competing as a ‘mathlete’ representing her school at regional and statewide competitions, and earning more than few trophies for her trouble. Far from confined to math, though, Marla pursued other interests, including lacrosse and jiu jitsu.
After finishing high school, Marla was accepted by a prestigious university into a program that combined mathematics with business, finance, and commerce. She eventually graduated with honors. While in university, she took a job as a waitress and bartender in order to help pay for tuition and mitigate her cost of living. As a result, she was able to save a few hundred dollars a month. Marla took those earnings and invested them, keeping a close eye on her budding portfolio. One stock that she bought in particular out-performed her expectations within only a few months. It was then when Marla David’s penchant for finance was truly awakened. As she entered the working world, she made a deliberate decision not to withdraw from any of these early investments, and this long-term view paid off, as decades later her portfolio has risen in value exponentially.
Marla was hired by a small financial advisory firm straight out of college and immediately made a good impression. Her apt analyses of the markets coupled with her innate ability to connect with clients on a quickly earned her a reputation as a bankable professional. In the ensuing years, she was promoted several times. These days, Marla David divides her time between working at that very same financial advisory firm, spending time with her friends and loved ones, and pursuing the recreational interests she has cultivated since her teenage years. She is currently a purple belt in jiu jitsu and an avid consumer of televised lacrosse games.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
My interest in personal finance was really sparked when I made my first investments in my early twenties. I was in college at the time, and I had a part-time job at a local bar and grill. I made a conscious effort not to spend any of the money I made in tips, and after filling up a jar with bills and coins, took that money and bought a few carefully-selected stocks. One of them rocketed upward within six weeks of purchase. I recall the buzz I got from reading about that in the business section of the newspaper—I owned a little piece of this hot company! It was then and there I made the decision to become a professional financial advisor.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually peruse the news and financial reports over coffee and a bagel, and the information I get from doing that informs the rest of my day. Before 2020, I would typically make my way into the office for about 9 am, but since the onset of COVID, I’ve been conducting business largely from my home. Aside from detailed financial analyses and surveying the markets, I talk on the phone with clients a lot. To be honest, I prefer to meet with them in person, but that’s another change I decided to make in order to keep everyone as safe as possible until the pandemic subsides.
How do you bring ideas to life?
If the ideas that we’re talking about are securing the financial future of my clients, then the answer is painstakingly and with the most possible care. I do not play fast and loose with anyone’s hard-earned money—including my own!
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think the shift in thinking in my industry towards ETFs—or exchange traded funds—holds a lot of promise. On the flip side, I would not recommend anyone speculate in cryptocurrency or non-fungible tokens. I know that they’re all the rage, right now, but I think those two financial instruments will be exposed as colossal paper tigers sooner or later.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Regular exercise clears my mind and keeps my stamina levels in top condition, which in turn elevates my job performance. If I have to miss my weekly jiu jitsu class (which, lamentably, happens more often than I would like), I always make sure to go for a run through my neighborhood or hit the treadmill to make up for it. I can’t recommend regular exercise enough.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to consider getting a bit more serious about jiu-jitsu while you’re young. Even though you’ll love practicing it throughout your entire life, you simply have more time to learn it before you enter the professional world. I think my present-day self could be farther along than a purple belt at this point if I had only put in some extra work in high school.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think the Philadelphia Wings will be in contention for the National Lacrosse League championship this year. Very few people who follow the sport would agree with me on that, but I have faith.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I call people back immediately upon receiving a message. When it’s appropriate I’ll send a text message instead. But I believe it is crucial to reply to people right away. It shows that you’re invested in the relationship and respectful of their time. It also shows that you take their inquiry seriously. Additionally, if you respond immediately, it severely limits the chance that it will slip your mind later.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Developing soft skills, particularly the ability to connect with clients on a human level, is one of the major reasons I’ve succeeded as a financial advisor. Early on in my career, a mentor of mine pulled me aside and told me that it’s critical to understand that it’s not abstract numbers on a spreadsheet that I work with all day—it’s the life savings and retirement money of living, breathing human beings. In many cases, I’m investing the money people intend to leave to their children as an inheritance. Remembering that as I work really helps to keep me grounded.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When Lehman Brothers collapsed during the financial crisis a decade ago, a lot of the firm’s clients—including my own clients and me personally—lost a lot of money. We sold our position in the end, but not before the bottom fell out of their stock. It took a long time to make up for those losses, but through smart and careful investment, we eventually did. The lesson I took from that was to conduct research not just on a company itself before investing, but on the state of the sector the company works within, as well as the larger, overall economy itself. I have been much more careful and investigative since the dark days of 2007-2009.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I love gourmet food trucks. I line up and order from them whenever I have to conduct business in the city. It seems to me to be a great model for someone who knows how to cook well, wants to own their own business, but doesn’t have a huge amount for starting capital.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
This past summer, when the pandemic was seemingly fading away, I bought theatre tickets to support the local artistic community. Of all the industries in this country, I think the arts and entertainment industry was among the hardest hit by the lockdowns. I wanted to do my part to help them out. Also, I love a nice night out at the theatre.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Doing what I do for a living wouldn’t be easy without Microsoft Excel, or some other similar spreadsheet software. As a financial advisor, spreadsheets are my bread and butter.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The most interesting book I’ve read lately is The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. It’s a wonderful chronicle of the history finance, as well as the impact finance has made on history itself. It’s full of fun facts and trivia. It also explores some larger trends in the financial industry that tend to repeat themselves throughout the centuries.
What is your favorite quote?
“Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.”
It’s something my mom used to say to me all the time. I don’t think she came up with it herself—it sounds like one of those old, unattributable proverbs. It happens to be true, though.
- Start investing as early in life as possible.
- Be highly skeptical of unproven financial fads, such as cryptocurrencies or NFTs.
- Regular exercise improves job performance.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.