It’s always interesting to look back at your personal life path and see how you got to where you are. One thing I can tell you is that I’m just as passionate today as I ever was about life and still seem to enjoy stepping outside of my personal comfort zone in order to learn, create, and discover. Recently, for example, I have been Skyping regularly with friends I have made in Germany to improve my language skills. I get up every day excited about things. So, let me share a few particular items that you might find interesting.
Physical activity has been a huge part of my life going all the way back to my first banana-seat bike in the '70s. At this point, it’s mostly just about burning some extra ice cream calories, feeling good, and getting outside with friends. But every now and then it’s nice to push yourself a little and see what you can do. I was a pole-vaulter in college and since then have completed a number of marathons, century+ bike rides, and, most recently, three Ironman triathlons at Lake Placid. As I often say, the events themselves are not that difficult, but the training will just about kill you. My family says it makes me happy, so they encourage it. Riding a bike early in the morning on remote country roads gives you an amazing feeling of freedom, independence, and confidence all rolled all into one. The Shenandoah Valley has some spectacular scenery, so I strongly encourage seeing it. Recently, I added a tandem bike to my collection, and my wife and I have been enjoying riding together.
Personal finance somehow grabbed my interest early as well. I was super frugal and have always enjoyed analysis, strategy, and decision-making. An economics degree from Rutgers University provided a great foundation, and soon after graduation, I found myself in financial services. But there was a lot about traditional financial services that I didn’t like, and I actually came very close to leaving it. Thankfully, I discovered an altogether different path. James Madison once said that, “In order for people to be their own governors, they must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” This was the answer. I knew it was time to pursue a much broader and deeper level of financial expertise and that the rigorous process of becoming a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional would make that happen. No one, including myself, is immune to how unpredictable or financially complex life can be. We are all affected by it, and there are times when we just need clear, independent, and objective information. Earlier I mentioned how cycling gives me a feeling of freedom, independence, and confidence all rolled into one. I think this also applies to what we are all hoping to achieve in our financial lives, too. That has been our vision at Hess Financial, and it’s something we are very proud to offer.
But none of us are who we are without the special people who make it possible. My family gives me significant motivation and has been extremely supportive. A corporate relocation from New Jersey brought us to the Shenandoah Valley in 1999, and we have absolutely loved it. We have two boys, both recent college graduates (one from James Madison University and the other from Virginia Tech).
JD, CFP®, CDFA®
Robyn was born in Radford, Virginia, but grew up mostly in Oregon. She received a bachelor of arts in English literature from the University of Washington and spent several years working in the real estate title and escrow industry there. In 1996, Robyn and her family moved to Lexington, Virginia, so she could attend law school. Robyn received her JD from Washington and Lee University in 1999, graduating in the top third of her class. She spent the next seven years practicing law in the private wealth services sections of two large Richmond-based law firms. She also spent eight years focusing on charitable gift planning, first with the Salvation Army and most recently with Eastern Mennonite University. In each position, she enjoyed the opportunity to help people identify and meet their personal and financial goals. Robyn has experience in private wealth management, estate planning, and charitable giving.
Robyn lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She serves on the board of directors for Ten Thousand Villages and is a member of Harrisonburg Rotary Club and Virginia Gift Planning Council. She is a member of the Virginia State Bar admitted to practice law in Virginia, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.
Financial Planning Analyst
Not too many people would be comfortable in admitting that they enjoy spreadsheets, but I am. I'm notorious for taking detailed notes, and my family and friends joke that I seem to have a spreadsheet for everything. I love the process of asking challenging questions, researching things that are new to me, devising thorough and proactive plans, and using these plans to reach and achieve objectives and goals. I believe that this process simply achieves better results.
After working in commercial lending for 13 years, I found myself no longer being able to work in this way; the industry had become too transactional. I wanted to dig deeper into each client relationship and have a meaningful impact with each conversation, but with the way the banking industry had evolved, I was no longer able to do that. Before I considered changing careers, I tried “career expanding.” After obtaining an MBA in 2016, I began teaching in the Finance and Business Law department at my alma mater, James Madison University. I encourage my students to not learn the material I am sharing with them just to get an “A” in my class, but to learn it so topics such as disciplined investing methods and saving for retirement can change their lives. I try to impress on them that paying attention to details today can lead to a rewarding tomorrow. While teaching has been incredibly rewarding, it also left me wanting to have an even bigger impact on the people around me.
Although many people might find complex financial topics intimidating, I enjoy running towards and tackling them. Once I started looking at financial planning, I knew I had found my true calling. In this type of work, I can use my appreciation for detail AND the love of seeing individuals achieve the goals they are striving for. I am excited to pursue a CFP® designation and take these skills that I’ve sharpened over the years to another level.
I’ve always believed there is a special calling for financial professionals to give back to the community. While I’ve been involved in numerous local organizations over the years, one of the boards I currently serve on is The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. TCFHR works to connect individuals with philanthropic desires with organizations that need financial support.
Despite having a passion for personal finance and community service, I am also a firm believer in work-life balance. I married a fellow numbers person, Anne Whitney, in 2014, and together we have two beautiful daughters, Charlotte and Maggie. If the thermometer is above 60, you are likely to find me fishing from a kayak on a remote section of the Shenandoah River or visiting my childhood stomping grounds at Smith Mountain Lake.
I grew up in Woodstock, Virginia, working at my parent’s auto repair shop. I never learned how to fix cars, but I did learn a lot about running a family-owned business and working in a small community. Growing up in this environment inspired me to pursue a business degree at James Madison University. While I was at JMU, I discovered an amazing internship opportunity called the Disney College program, which allowed me to fulfill my childhood dream of working at the Disney World Resort in Florida. While it was one of the most magical experiences of my life, I realized that working there long-term wasn't the path that I wanted to take.
I joined Hess Financial in 2012. I was happy to learn that Stephan had created a firm that was nothing like the financial services that I had read about in the news. I found that we were helping people with the same types of decisions that I was struggling with every day. (I work with these guys every day and I still struggle to find a balance between spending and saving money for emergencies and retirement. It can be really overwhelming!) Over the years I've come to the conclusion that being part of an organization that helps people understand their finances and reduces the anxiety related to them is just as magical as working at Disney!
In 2017 I earned a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Eastern Mennonite University. When I have time to myself, I love cross-stitching, playing classic video games, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and, of course, watching classic Disney movies.