Certification propels Cronley’s investing skill
Eight years on Navy submarines prepared Joe Cronley to overcome any obstacle in life.
He didn’t expect the certified financial planner test to be one of the most difficult he’d face, however.
"I was certified as a nuclear engineer and had to go to Washington, D.C. to get it. That was bad, but this exam was the toughest exam I’ve taken in my life," Cronley said.
After three years working for the financial group Edward Jones in Park City, he was qualified to take the test. On a weekend last November, Cronley took the exam for 10 hours spread over two days.
"Four hours on a Friday afternoon then three hours on Saturday then lunch then another three hours," he said.
Regardless of the difficulty, he passed and in January received the designation of "Certified Financial Planner."
"It’s a goal that I set for myself probably three years ago," Cronley said, "mostly for my clients."
Cronley says he wanted his clients to feel confident under his mentorship.
"I wanted to sharpen my sword and be up to date," he said.
Gaining certification helped him understand more of the financial world.
"It helped me take a broader look and be more in depth into people’s finances," Cronley said. "I have a different perspective in investing and helping people with their goals. I see more of the big picture."
After growing up in Michigan, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) paid for Cronley’s schooling at Notre Dame where he earned a degree in business and mathematics. Afterwards, he spent most of his Navy experience stationed in San Diego.
Nearly a decade inside claustrophobic submarines helped him enjoy some of the simple pleasures in life.
"I appreciate sunlight and fresh air," Cronley said.
Afterwards, he moved to Utah where he taught at the University of Utah’s ROTC program while earning his MBA. After receiving a graduate degree, Cronley quickly joined Edward Jones.
"I knew a guy who was with Edward Jones in Michigan," Cronley said. "I talked to him a lot. I interviewed them and it seemed like it was the type of outfit that was most aligned with my philosophy."
Edward Jones didn’t have an office in Park City, so he approached the company in 2002 about establishing one and Cronley has been here since.
Cronley’s investing philosophy is about developing financial plans for three to five years, or more, into the future.
"I’m situated to help people who are serious long-term investors," Cronley said. "I buy high quality investments for a long term approach."
As a financial advisor, he helps people invest their money to achieve various goals.
"I help people who want to tuck away for retirement and also saving for their children’s college expenses. For people who want a cabin in the woods, I come up with that plan too," he said.
Primarily Cronley said his clients are "retirees or pre-retirees."
"I work with a lot of small business owners as well," he said. "I work with a lot Realtors. They don’t’ have the retirement plans available."
Many of his clients are invested only in real estate and they want to diversify their portfolio.
"I work with individuals like that to identify what their objectives are to help them get to where they want to be someday," Cronley said.
Some people, Cronley says, can invest without help, but many don’t have the time to study it and invest wisely
"A lot of those folks don’t have the time or the desire to do all the investing work and they are willing to pay a fee to have someone help them. People come to me to get advice," Cronley said.
Cronley then assesses the individual by determining what they want and their risk tolerance.
"I come up with a plan for them," he said. "I’ll say, ‘This is what I recommend and this is why.’ They can take it or leave it."
His experience in the Navy helped shape his philosophy. Success in investing and the Armed Forces requires similar traits.
"I think it helped with being disciplined in the investment world and sticking to principles and not jumping on with the latest and greatest fads," Cronley said. "There are long standing principles in the armed forces and the investment world too. Those are parallels I took away from the Navy and it helped me in the business world."
Once an individual comes up with a plan, they need to stick with it over the long haul to make it work.
The challenge is "keeping yourself disciplined to putting away $500 or 10 percent of your salary in your 401 (k) so you can live the golden age starting at age 60," Cronley said.
Usually, he says, people worry whether they’ve saved enough cash and how much of their retirement money they can pull out each month. Making it work requires planning.
"The big thing is, figure out what it’s going to cost you and get a time line," Cronley said. "How much money do you need and when do you need it? In retirement, it’s more of an ambiguous thing. Can you live on $60,000 a year after taxes? Then you back into that number so you figure, ‘This is how much I can put away. What are my resources and is it realistic?’"
No matter what age, he says it’s never too late to start planning for retirement.
"You can always start putting away money and it will help," Cronley said. "The earlier you start the better. People always pass on to their children to ‘start earlier than I did.’"
More people will need to focus on building their own retirement in the future, he says.
"The way the country is going, there is more and more emphasis on personal responsibility for retirement, instead of Social Security or a pension plan," Cronley said. "People that are retired now, most of their income is from money they are putting away."
One of the first things people should manage when planning for the future is their debt.
"There are ways to get debt in control," Cronley said. "You have to build these habits of paying your bills on a monthly basis. There are two types of people in the world, those that earn interest and those that pay interest."
Helping people manage their finances and building a future has been as rewarding to Cronley as any work he’s done.
"This is an occupation where you can see the results," Cronley said. "The greatest thing is people shake your hand and look you in the eye and say, ‘Thank you.’"
For more information on Edward Jones and Cronley, call 615-2009
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Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall, has died, the municipal government said. Erickson was involved at some level in nearly all the major decisions regarding growth and development in Park City since the early 1990s.