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Meet J.D. Bruce of Abacus Wealth Partners

Today we’d like to introduce you to J.D. Bruce.

J.D., please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My father was a hippie, so naturally, I became a CPA. Being a hippie criminal defense attorney, my father fought “the man” and defended the wrongly accused. He was a defender of the Constitution and an enthusiastic revolutionary. He also didn’t like following rules, like the tax code.

When I was 18, studying theater at the local community college, my father had an unfortunate misunderstanding with the IRS. We ended up losing our 4,000-square-foot house by the beach and moving to a much smaller home where privacy was hard to find and secrets were difficult to keep. That’s when I started to see through the cracks and learned about how your relationship to money can hurt you.

When I was 20, still a theater student, I steeled myself and asked my father if he had filed his taxes that year. “I’ll get to it,” he said, which I knew meant, “I won’t get to it anytime soon, if at all.” So, being a computer geek, I drove to the local CompUSA and looked for a box that had the word tax on it. I sat my father down, armed with my shiny copy of TurboTax, and filed my first tax return.

The next day, my best friend said, “Wait, you can do taxes…?” That day, I became a financial advisor but didn’t yet know that was what it was called.

The path from there to Abacus was filled with twists. It pulled out from UCLA and made a switchback from theater to accounting. It passed through Price Waterhouse with a ponytail. It went up the mountains of IPOs and down the valleys of liquidation. It made a stop in advertising and did the express train through consulting. It never stayed in one place long. Then it pulled into a station that felt like home.

The first thing I remember learning about Abacus is that a condition of employment was a willingness to explore the shadow places, both inside myself, and in my relationships with others. Here was a place that cared as much or more about people than profit. When I told people that I was joining Abacus, I said, “I’m starting the last job I’ll ever have.”

Now, my mission is to make every Abacus client say out loud at some point in the future, “Abacus saved my life.”

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The financial advisory industry is filled with old white men, or as a friend of mine says, it’s male, pale, and stale. When I arrived at Abacus in 2007, we had one female advisor and six male advisors and all the owners were men. Now over 50% of our advisors and 40% of our partners are women. Our next challenge is to create a more inclusive firm for people of color.

In 2009, we realized that too many people in the world have no access to unbiased and ethical financial advice. There are a lot of sharks out there, and they tend to prey upon people who don’t have much savings. Everyone is willing to serve clients who have millions of dollars, but very few are willing to help people with lower means unless they got paid a big sales commission. So we launched a service offering financial planning for people for as little as $200 per month, and to help those people for whom that’s too expensive, we launched a pro-bono financial planning program.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Abacus Wealth Partners story. Tell us more about the business.
Fundamentally, Abacus Wealth Partners is here to expand what is possible for our clients. We do that by helping people make the best use of their financial resources, freeing their time to enjoy what matters most in life. We show them where they are, protect them from financial dangers, create a roadmap for their future, manage their investments, and provide advice that touches every area of their lives.

We made a decision a decade ago that all of the portfolios we offer to our clients would include environmental or social screening to reduce investments in companies who aren’t making the world a better place. To further that effort, we co-founded another company, Align Impact, who do impact investment consulting for large and wealthy families and institutions. Together we do out best to align an investor’s personal values with the companies they invest in.

As a founding B-Corp, we are focused on improving our community in addition to our bottom line. We’ve won the B-Corp Best for the World for the last three years, which means our B-Corp social score is in the top 10% of all B-Corps. Some of our policies that increase our score are our parental leave policy allowing 24 weeks of fully paid leave for primary caregivers, unlimited vacation and volunteer paid time off, and being carbon neutral through sustainable policies and carbon offsets. (you can find out more about B-Corps at bcorporation.net).

We are also focused on the whole person when dealing with our clients. Unlike many financial advisors, our goal is not to make our clients increase their net worth, it’s to help our clients feel sufficiency and that they have enough. Ultimately, a clients inner wealth is as important as their financial wealth. As a result, our clients can have peace of mind and a patience, which we believe will ultimately make them more financially successful and they’ll have a better journey getting there.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I got lucky in that I’m male, tall, white, straight and good looking. I had a loving family who had enough money that I didn’t really have to struggle to survive. What’s easy for me is super tough for many others who didn’t win the American social lottery.

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