72-Year-Old Physician-Turned-CFP Still Provides Medical Care

Twice a week, he treats teens suffering minor ailments at a juvenile detention center’s clinic.   

By Eleanor O'Sullivan

At the point in his life when retirement was no longer an idle thought, Stephen Benold was instead planning his second career.

A family doctor in Georgetown, Texas (26 miles north of Austin) for nearly 30 years, Benold was 56 when he realized he couldn’t continue the long hours of doctoring.

“I was told by people I worked with, ‘You are awfully tightly wound.’  I knew I was never going to be happy playing golf every day, or fishing, and I knew I wanted to keep working well into the years that most would consider retirement years. But, not as hard as a family physician has to work,’’ Benold, 72, said.

A CFP, Benold is the founder of Benold Financial Planning in Georgetown. The firm, now in its 16th year, has 53 clients with $96 million in AUM. His son, Jordan Benold, is his partner, working out of the firm’s second office in Prosper, Texas.

As a family physician in Georgetown (which then had about 7,500 residents) and the son of longtime family doctor (his father, Douglas Benold, retired at 82), Benold made house calls, delivered babies, was on call at the local hospital’s emergency room, and saw patients at both a nursing home and in his own practice. It added up to 60-hour, demanding work weeks.

In 2005, he took the big but not entirely surprising step of switching to “my other passion,’’ financial planning. Not surprising because about 35 years earlier, an adviser at his alma mater, Rice University, suggested Benold take economics courses.

“That was it! I loved it then and I continue to love it. I double-majored in economics and biology. During this time, I opened my first brokerage account and invested money for other students.’’

Benold is a graduate of University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, and did his medical residency at John Peter Smith Hospital, Fort Worth.

Flash forward to his doctoring days, when Benold offered free advice to friends on money matters.

“How I came to get my CFP was very serendipitous: a lady at church heard me speak about investments, and she asked if I would help her with her investments, and then I helped some friends from church. After a while, she said,‘You really know what you are doing. For what you are doing, you ought to get paid.’

“A light-bulb went on because I had never thought of that! So, I took the Series 65 exam so that I could become a registered independent advisor (RIA), then I took CFP classes at night at the University of Texas while I was still practicing, and I finished the course work in 2005, and then I put up my new shingle,’’ Benold said.

A Unique Classmate

He remembers the first day of CFP classes as revealing, “because the kind of person who generally is called to be a doctor is a wholly different personality type than that of someone who likes to do financial world work.

“On the first day of CFP classes, which was a mixed group of people who were re-careering, the teacher asked each of us to state what they were doing at work before they decided to become a CFP. I said doctor, and the whole room got quiet. ‘Oh, my  gosh,’ I heard people saying.’’

Finding clients was not difficult. As he said, “I did not have to market myself; it was all word of mouth.

“That was something very unique about me: I feel like younger planners like Jordan sort of have a rough time, whereas I did not because I had an established position in the community. Many knew me from being a doctor and from church and various community activities; I was very fortunate.’’

Benold has taught Sunday school at First United Methodist Church in Georgetown since 1988, and he sings in the church choir. He was the medical director of Williamson County EMS for 32 years where he led the continuing medical education course for paramedics. He’s a long-time member of the Rotary Club and serves on the Georgetown School Board.

He also keeps his medical license active by taking continuing education courses, which enables him to do such work as treating teenage patients twice a week for minor ailments at the clinic of a county juvenile detention center.

Serving Older Clients

Benold said Benold Financial Planning in Georgetown, now with a population of about 75,000, began with a clientele of largely baby boomers.

Sixteen years on, that has changed.

“Most of my clients are older now — mostly in their 70s and 80s, and yes, some were my patients. Jordan has a lot of younger clients. Jordan’s specialties are areas that frankly I don’t know or am weak in: compliance, technology, student loans, disability insurance; Jordan gets that!’’ Benold said.

“I can advise my clients about estate planning, long term care insurance and housing — when is it time to move to independent living instead of a single-family residence.

“I have a whole lot of experience in geriatric and medical care as well as managing investments.

Some of this is from my own life experience, knowing quite a bit about Social Security claiming strategies, as well as Medicare,’’ he said.

Benold says he thinks the financial planning industry has improved since 2005.

“It’s clearly better than when I started, when some got income from selling products, unfortunately. That is a big conflict of interest when you are supposed to have a fiduciary duty to give people the best advice — for them. I have seen the profession move from commission and selling products to just getting fee only. We don’t sell anything; we have no commissions or referral fees,’’ he said.

Benold and his wife, Nancy, a retired registered nurse, have been married 44 years. Her father, also a doctor, was an ear, nose and throat specialist. The Benolds have two children; Jordan, 41, who has two children, and Amy, 43, who has three children and is an assistant principal at an elementary school in Atlanta, Ga.

Like Father, Like Son

“One thing that has frankly helped a great deal is having Jordan, because this was getting to be a strain having to handle all of this by myself, particularly compliance and keeping up with all the legal stuff that we have to do.

“Jordan has taken lot of the back office load off of me, and it’s given me more time just to be with my clients and meet with my clients,’’ he said.

Jordan Benold, a CFP and RIA, graduated from Texas Christian University and has a master’s degree in finance from the University of North Texas, Denton. Like his father, Jordan is active in his church. He also teaches financial literacy courses, and does volunteer career and money counseling.

When Jordan is asked what he has learned from his father, he laughs and says, “How much time do you have?

“What I learned from my dad was very important:  When I went through the CFP, he said, ‘Learn what the academics are teaching you, and keep that in mind when you take the exam, and then you and I will talk, and I will tell you how the real world works,’ ‘’ Jordan said.

The Benolds have a ranch about 15 miles away from their Georgetown home. On the ranch, Stephen says, he “loves to cut firewood and push over trees and mow the pasture.’’

He has been a member of a men’s book club for 35 years, and he was recently reading Lawrence Wright’s “God Save Texas,’’ a gift from his wife.

Stephen says he plans to continue working until he’s 80.

“I promised my older clients that I would stay with them as long as they are alive, so I can see that by the time I am 80, I may be doing quite a bit less work, mostly contacting 10 to 15 clients.’’

The Perks of Self Employment

He says he works fewer hours than when he was a doctor, but then he adds up his obligations.

“Reading for my Sunday school lesson every week and for continuing education as a school board member, and I am reading for my continuing education for the clinic, and for financial planning. When I say I am working less, my wife says, ‘The heck you are!’

“But it seems like it, and the reason is because I am self employed. I work when I want to work, and I don’t have to work and sit in an office from 9 to 5. I see everybody by appointment, but if there is a museum offering in Houston that I want to see on a Wednesday, I can take off and drive down to Houston. Or, I can work Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. Being self employed is really neat,’’ Stephen Benold says.

In a four-decade career in journalism, Eleanor O’Sullivan has reviewed many books on best practices for financial advisors, has written for Financial Advisor and the USA Today network, and was movie critic for the Asbury Park Press.


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