Personal Finance

He wasn’t supposed to live past age 2. Now he’s a 40-year-old financial planner: ‘Working in investments was all I ever wanted to do.’

Jonathan Greeson was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a type of muscular dystrophy. Doctors told his parents that he wouldn’t live past the age of 2.

Today, Greeson is a 40-year-old financial planner in North Carolina. He has never been able to walk. He started using an electric wheelchair at two-years-old, and still does. “At that time, the vendors said I was the youngest to use an electric chair,” Greeson said. “After putting a few bumps in the walls at my house, the chair really became just a part of life for me.” 

Growing up, Greeson attended regular schools and graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in business management with a finance concentration. In 2002, he founded the North Carolina Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association, a nonprofit organization. He handled administrative duties and played with his team in tournaments throughout the U.S. and Canada. 

Yet the progression of his disease has taken a toll on Greeson. “Sometimes I wonder how I survived the physical trials of college because I couldn’t do it now,” he said. And he can no longer play wheelchair hockey with the same intensity. But he’s well-suited to work as a financial planner. 

“Working in investments was all I ever wanted to do,” he said. “I went to college with the clear goal of being a financial adviser.” Soon after graduating college, he interviewed with a handful of big financial firms — to no avail. “Some were kind enough to admit my disability was a concern,” he said. “I was unable to go into people’s homes, considering very few would have ramps. I also couldn’t take clients out for golf or go to all the networking events.” 

For eight years, Greeson worked as a budget analyst for a local employer. Meanwhile, he laid the groundwork to launch his own financial planning practice. He took financial planning courses through a local adult education program that paved the way for him to take the CFP exam.

After more than a year of diligent study, he was ready to sit for the exam. He passed it in 2014. “That was my crowning achievement,” he said. “It was very hard. I know most advisers get the work requirements out of the way first, but I’m glad I was able to focus only on the exam. It was a bummer not being able to call myself a CFP until I had three years of work experience, but that’s the route I had to take.” 

Greeson currently is an investment adviser representative with Brookstone Wealth Advisors, LLC (BWA), a registered investment adviser and an affiliate of Brookstone Capital Management, LLC.  He launched his own advisory firm in 2015. Early on, Greeson reached out to friends and used social media to introduce his services to the community. “Financial planning is my way to give back to my friends,” he said. “Some let me help while others aren’t ready yet, but they know I’m there for them.” 

He lives with his parents in Pikeville, N.C. and runs his practice from a nearby office. Greeson mostly communicates with clients via email. “For in-person meetings, we maintain a quiet atmosphere so they can hear me, as my disability has caused a lower voice,” he said. “If someone is hard of hearing or just can’t completely understand me, then my mom or sister can join us and translate with the client’s permission.”  

Greeson doesn’t set account minimums for clients. Some clients only need financial planning, in which case Greeson offers a subscription program with ongoing check-ins and regular client reviews. Others seek investment management. “Hopefully, we can work them through the program and they’ll stay as they reach a level where they can feel comfortable investing,” Greeson said. “I don’t want to ever turn someone away because they don’t have enough.” 

Due to his disability, Greeson must manage his daily routine carefully. On a typical day, he devotes about five hours to highly focused financial planning work. He spends the remaining time on less-taxing emails and phone calls — and with his caregivers.  “Being an hour late on eating can really zap my energy,” he said. “There are many things I must do daily to keep my body at its best.” 

From a distance, it may seem like Greeson has the odds stacked against him. But his life story provides an opening to discuss more intimate aspects of a client’s financial life. “It definitely differentiates me,” he said about his disability. “But that’s not always a bad thing. I can talk firsthand about healthcare costs that clients need to plan for and offer a different perspective. We talk more about their lives in general, not just about market performance.”

More: ‘I’m sure there are men who are great advisers.’ But here’s the No. 1 reason women often prefer to talk with another woman about money.

Also read: ‘He thinks all financial advisers are ripoffs.’ We retired in January with no formal financial plan — and my IRA has since dropped 30%.

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