Matthew Fassnacht entered the working world at age eight, when he got his first job as a neighborhood paperboy. Throughout his early academic career, Matthew’s innate drive, conscientiousness, and follow through helped him excel in sports. He attended Clemson University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and made the football team as a walk-on linebacker. After graduating, Matthew Fassnacht settled in Georgia, whereupon some friends and family asked for his help advising on investments and tax planning. The success he achieved in growing their assets and protecting them from tax liabilities resulted in many new client referrals, which he was quite enthusiastic to take on. During the same period of time, Matthew Fassnacht obtained his Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credentials, causing more than a few established financial firms to offer him employment opportunities. However, by that time, the hard lessons Matthew had learned about managing wealth, as well as his own inherent desire to help individuals achieve financial security guided his decision to instead create his own registered investment firm (RIA), Meridian Investment Partners.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
It actually came from a couple of friends I went to college with. They were looking for someone to help guide them on their path to achieving financial independence. I had been their tax accountant for about ten years at the time, and they entrusted me with their liquid life savings. When I did well for them, they began referring other friends to me for advice. Eventually, I gained enough clients to sustain my own business, and we founded Meridian Investment Partners.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts around seven in the morning. I get my daughter off to school and check client correspondence, like email and phone calls. I like to handle those in the mornings. I watch the news and read articles pertaining to current events from a political and economic perspective. Those landscapes can have an impact on my clients and their positions, so I need to stay up to date with them daily. Throughout the day, I meet with clients or continue to conduct research on what the next best steps are for my clients.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am a very visual person. Normally I like to put together a visual representation of an idea that I have. Whether that takes the form of a PowerPoint slideshow or an email, I like to take a complex problem and break it down into an easily explained solution to address an issue.
What’s one trend that excites you?
When I started this business, I was always looking for ways to deliver services for my clients in the most cost-effective way possible. I would use brokers that were less known or I would use exchange traded funds. Recently, this trend in the industry has accelerated. Mutual funds have been dying out due to their large cost structure. A lot more companies are using these lower-cost options for investors.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The use of technology has made me more productive. A lot of new applications have been designed to make things more efficient and more productive overall.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to trust the process. Know that what you are doing will eventually work out for you. If you keep doing the right thing and listening to the right people, it will lead you to the right place.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Something I disagree with is that cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin for example, have value. Currency only has value based on the creditworthiness of the government or organization backing it. In the case of the US Dollar (USD), it is backed by the full faith and credit of the US government, which most notably includes the US military and economic taxation powers. Cryptocurrencies are more based on people’s thoughts and feelings and are mostly used as a speculative trading vehicle or a way to launder illicit assets. They could be easily outlawed by the government or lose the faith of their believers which would uncover their illusionary value. Without the government’s faith, to me it’s just like a Ponzi scheme. Of course, we all know that a given Ponzi scheme might last longer than anyone could imagine, but eventually, it will go bust unless there is government involvement in supporting them.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make sure you know what your costs are. Be aware of your client base. You can’t assume that things will be taken care of for you. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to do the work. Whether it is keeping up with the global financial landscape or learning new methods for investing, never stop learning. There are always better ways to get things done. Getting stuck in one way of doing things just because it has worked in the past won’t help you to grow.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Providing good service to your clients helps your business grow. As you do well for the people you work with, they will refer others they know to you. Keeping my clients’ goals and interests at the forefront of my decision-making and recommendation process is how I have become as successful as I am now. Their goals become my goals. Their financial independence is what I am reaching for. They see this and will remember it whenever someone else talks to them about investments or finances.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have sometimes been too emotionally reactive to outside sources, like issues with the stock market. I have learned to temper this by taking a step back and reflecting on the situation as a whole before making any decisions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Right now, there are a lot of changes happening in the financial industry relating to estate and trust taxation. There is a huge need for the know-how to create and manage trusts for people for asset and tax purposes. There is a higher demand than there is supply at the moment for people with that specific type of expertise.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spent about $100 on dinner with a longstanding client who happens to be a good friend. We had a business conversation about his short and long-term financial goals over appetizers, but then spent the entrée and dessert courses catching up on what was happening in our personal lives.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Microsoft Outlook keeps track of my meetings and allows me to communicate with clients and other professionals. I’ve set up alerts to keep me on time for everything. It is a resource that I use daily.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a great book. I would recommend The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham or The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley if you want something more tailored to investing.
What is your favorite quote?
“The first rule of investing is to not lose money. The second rule is to see rule number one.” — Warren Buffett
- Lead with integrity.
- Don’t make rash decisions.
- Stay knowledgeable.
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.