Alexander Cabot is the Co-founder and Managing Partner at Birch Run Financial, a financial advisory managing $350M+ in clients’ assets. He is an experienced financial advisor whose career began in 2005. Alex also co-authored Mastering the Money Mind: A New Way of Thinking About Personal Finance, a book that offers advice investors of all ages can use to make smarter financial decisions.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Northcentral New Jersey, and I moved to the Philadelphia area when I was (almost) 14. As an only child raised by a single mom, I spent a lot of time alone. I used that time to read and learn absolutely as much as I could. (That trivia knowledge got me a spot on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 2012…I won enough money to finish my basement!) The biggest influence on my life, I believe, was the amount of travel I did. My mom traveled frequently for work, and I accompanied her on many of her trips. I was the only grade schooler with Platinum Medallion status on United Airlines! But all that travel exposed me to a wide breadth of people, cultures, and experiences. I think it made me a more well-rounded professional.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
You don’t have to make everyone happy all the time. For most of my life, I have been a “people pleaser.” It’s very difficult for me to say “no.” I often would bend over backward to accommodate those who made zero accommodations for me. “No” is a complete sentence, and I finally understand that.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Anyone recommending a wholesale shift in strategy in response to a market or economic event really rubs me the wrong way. The market and the economy are fluid, and no one knows exactly what will happen in the short term. Suggesting a 100% allocation to any asset class in response to a headline is a recipe for disaster.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
The two months leading up to our company’s founding were pretty dark. Giving up a position with another firm to strike out on our own was downright terrifying, but once we got some momentum, I never looked back!
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Someone once told me, “if you spend your twenties working harder than anyone is willing to work, you’ll spend the rest of your life living the way everyone wants to live.” I took that seriously, and from the start of my career, I just wouldn’t quit. I promised to be the first one in the office every morning, and the last one to leave at night. And sure enough, by the time I reached age 30, I had settled into a wonderful rhythm…from that point, success seemed to come easily!
What is your morning routine?
Wake up is 6:00 a.m. every day, even on weekends, vacations, and holidays. I’ll normally eat something small (like a granola bar) right away, and chase it down with a cup of coffee (Kona from Hawaii…one of my indulgences). At about 6:20, I’ll start my workout, normally a 45-60 minute Peloton ride. I’ve been working out with the Peloton bike since 2016, and it’s been a game-changer. After the workout, I’ll cool off for a few minutes, then it’s time to get the kids up. Feed and water the children, make sure they’re dressed for school, and off to the bus, and I’m back in the house by 7:45 a.m. Shower, dress, and off to attack the day!
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Workouts in the morning and meditation at night. It’s such a wonderful way to “bookend” the day, starting with an energizing sweat (complete with loud music and inspirational instructors!), and winding down with 15 minutes of mindful reflection.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I may be an anomaly here, but I find that schedules and to-do lists don’t help me organize my time very well. I tend to perform best when my activities are a bit disjointed. Most days, I’ll put together a list of what needs to be done, and I’ll periodically refer back to it throughout the day to see where I need to spend more time. It’s a bit odd, but it works very well for me.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Stocks for the Long Run by Professor Jeremy Siegel has had a huge impact on the way I view long-term investing. Like many people, I am subject to the same physiological reaction to market volatility. It’s the classic “Fight or Flight” response, but our brains are often too clever for our own good. Stocks for the Long Run helps to put market volatility and the value of compound returns in perspective, making it easier to “stick with the plan” during inevitable periods of market choppiness
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
The old Chinese proverb, “The best day to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best day to plant a tree is today.” We often encounter people who believe they are “behind the curve” when it comes to financial planning. While it’s true that most people would have benefited from starting sooner, the best we can do is today