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A life of service

"Semper Fidelis." It's a Latin phrase meaning "Always Faithful." But to the Marine Corps it means so much more.

The mantra symbolizes the lifelong commitment held by every Marine to serve their country, their fellow Americans and each other. And for me it was the beginning of a career path rooted in service. I started in Marine Corps boot camp on Parris Island, SC, then served on active duty in the jungles of Vietnam. I made the transition to a career in financial services where I've built my practice around serving small business owners, family businesses and high net worth individuals planning for a more secure retirement or preserving their wealth.

But for me it all comes back to service, and the lessons I've learned in the military are just as relevant to my current career in finance as they were in training and in battle. Here are three leadership lessons that financial advisors can borrow from all those who serve and have served our country bravely:

Team effort

Harry Truman once said, "It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." And that is certainly true for any military operation. The best military leaders are those who rely on their teams, delegate appropriate tasks, and actively solicit feedback from those on the ground closest to an issue. The same is true for a financial practice. I provide the leadership and often call on expertise and collaboration with other professionals to best serve my clients. This includes other capable advisors and resources within Lincoln, accountants, tax specialists, legal counsel, investment bankers and client's other advisors – those that have relevant specialized expertise and can provide the best possible service and support to help my clients toward meeting their financial goals. The world of financial planning is too complex, and to try and get the credit on your own, is not the best path forward, in my opinion and experience, to serve a client best.

Serve first, last and alwaysSM

Leaders eat last. This is a well-known truth in the Marines and is the title of a book by best-selling author Simon Sinek. The idea is about the virtues of a warrior – selfless leadership and putting others' needs before your own. And for financial advisors, that is something we all strive to do every day with our clients for their best interests to help them toward meeting their long-term financial goals. There is a lot of discussion on the changing regulatory environment and "best interest standard" proposals, but for me, serving my clients first, last and always, is engrained in me and stems from my military training and seeing firsthand what leaders do, even at risk to their own life. Yes, they always eat last too!

Have a plan and adapt along the way

The Marines are highly trained and ready to enter any situation with a well-thought-out plan of attack. They use specific checkpoints to carry out the mission and are prepared to adapt to any number of possible challenges or problems they encounter. While critical in times of war and crisis, it's also relevant to financial planning as well. Whether it be helping a business owner plan for the succession, transfer or sale of a family-owned business or helping plan for retirement, it's prudent to have a customized plan, checkpoints and a roadmap to success.

Moreover, you need to expect and be ready to adjust to any number of various potential challenges along the way. Scenario planning and asking, "What if?" can help you evaluate the planning you have in place and prepare a contingency plan for the unforeseen events that may disrupt your dreams for your future. Clients don't like to think about the unexpected, but in our line of work – just like the military – we all know its reality to expect the unexpected. In my experience of working with many business owners over the years, I have found there are often gaps with what they believe is in place and the reality of what is actually in place. Sometimes these gaps are not discovered until it's too late.

I was honored to serve my country in the Marine Corps under the leadership of a truly great man, Captain Marshall Carter. He led my rifle company in combat and went on to a distinguished Wall Street career as Chairman of NYSE. I have learned so much from my time serving under his command and in the Marine Corps about integrity and leadership and to serve others first. I have learned if you truly serve others first it makes a huge difference in a person's life and those who depend on us. Many have not made it back from the battlefield and others return but struggle, as I've witnessed so frequently with those of us from the Vietnam-era.

I carry with me every day the memories of those who served so bravely with selfless devotion to their country and did what they had to do in the face of extraordinary danger. I will never forget them. I now serve in a different way by helping those who are planning for the transition of their business or retirement to secure a better financial future for their family, their company and employees.


Jim Kirlin

Jim Kirlin CBEC

Jim Kirlin, CBEC*, is a private wealth advisor at Private Capital Solutions Group in Haddonfield, NJ, and a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Jim served the Marine Corps in the Vietnam War, earning a combat action ribbon and several other awards and accommodations for his leadership and service to his country. Jim is active in the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Society. He is a co-producer and serving as a military advisor to a documentary film entitled "Remembering the 27 Crusaders". The film brings a memorial to life and raises awareness about individuals and families from Father Judge High School and the greater Philadelphia area who were impacted by the Vietnam War. The film, released earlier this month, features the impact of the war on the community, the history and stories of the Gold Star Families of the 27 alums of the school who were killed in action during the Vietnam War, the most of any existing parochial high school in the country. For more information about Jim, visit