Turning Setbacks Into Comebacks
Matthew Cuplin is using his life experiences to become a better person and make a positive difference in the lives of his clients.
By Ayo Mseka
Matthew Cuplin, CFP, has not allowed adversity to derail his plains for success—from the loss of his mother when she was 52 and he was only 25, to a multiple sclerosis diagnosis at the young age of 30. Instead, he turned these setbacks into comebacks, and at 34 (at the time of the award), is a well-respected figure in the financial-services industry. “My goal is to try to use my life experiences to better the man that I’m constantly working to become,” he says.
Cuplin joined the industry in 2007 with Thrivent Financial. But shortly after joining Thrivent, he decided to become an independent advisor and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2009 to work with the Midwest Financial Group. However, before starting with the firm, he took time off to care for his mother in Illinois, who was battling breast cancer at the time. This action by the young Cuplin is the first sign of his compassion and dedication to serving others.
When Cuplin joined Midwest Financial, he faced another challenge: He had no clients and did not even know a single person in Madison. But he was young, eager to learn the intricacies of his craft, and willing to put in the long hours necessary to survive and thrive during his first years in the business.
It did not take long for his hard work to pay off. He became an MDRT member in 2012, and for the past two years, has been a Court of the Table member. He is now president of Midwest Financial Group, a firm that provides values-based financial planning to clients. As head of the 25-year-old financial-services firm with $214 million under management, Cuplin is responsible for building a business into the future and taking care of the lives of numerous employees spread across three locations.
Midwest Financial’s approach to financial planning is a bit unusual and is one of the factors underpinning its success. “We start our conversations with a focus on each client’s definition of quality of life, and continue to include that throughout the whole planning and advising process,” Cuplin explains. “Most people have never thought about what’s truly important to them, which is where our planning begins. I think we are different because we don’t start with a focus on how much money our clients want; instead, we want them to reflect, define and prioritize what’s important to them. From that, we can build a plan that allows them to realize and experience those things that are most important to them.”
Making It To The Top
When asked for some of the reasons for his career success, Cuplin is quick to point out that “people work with people they like. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room; you just have to be genuine, honest, caring, and sincere. People can sense if those things are present when they meet you. If they are, there is a great chance they might want to partner with you and begin to allow you to help them navigate their financial world, protect their family and loved ones, and provide them with the comfort they need to sleep well at night.”
Beyond that, success requires activity. “I made it a point early in my career to do at least one thing every day to move forward” he says. “This might be to educate myself, call a prospective client, or research a new business idea. On many days, I did more than just one thing, but I made sure I did at least one. And over time, week by week, month by month, this moved me forward and before I knew it, I found myself in a very successful position.”
Also, basing his financial guidance on the development of a plan resonates with many of his clients. In the initial planning process, he adds, he spends more time listening to his clients than doing anything else. He then comes back with suitable recommendations, based not only on their financials, but also on their goals and what is truly important to them. “We want the people we help to focus on the things that are important to them, their quality of life and the goals and things their finances can allow them to achieve,” he says. “The finances, if planned for properly, will take care of themselves. At first glance, it’s a subtle shift in thinking and clients appreciate that.”
And there is another success factor—NAIFA. Early in his career, the association played a major role in his development by providing him with educational opportunities, sales congresses, and networking events.
NAIFA also offers a place that reminds him of his purpose in the career he has chosen. As advisors have come under criticism about not putting their clients’ best interests ahead of their own, he sees NAIFA as a platform for sharing with the world the fact that advisors do put their clients’ interests first. As in any profession, there will always be people who are dishonest and self-motivated, but these are in the minority. “NAIFA has been a huge advocate in getting this information out and in defending our industry and profession,” he says.
Cuplin may work hard as he strives for even higher levels of success, but like many successful people, he knows the importance of giving back and finds time to participate in many trade, civic and charitable organizations. He mentors new employees at his company, has been an active member of NAIFA’s Young Advisors Team, and was a recipient of the 2016 NAIFA-Wisconsin “4 Under 40 Award.” He is also involved in numerous local chambers and groups, and has taught high school students and employees about the concept of financial wellness.
In addition, he helped create SPARK, an acronym for Small Purposeful Acts of Random Kindness. SPARK’s mission is simple: Pay forward a monetary gift via a random act of kindness without expecting repayment. Since its inception in 2014, SPARK has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of individuals.
And since Cuplin joined Midwest Financial, he has married his college sweetheart, planted roots in his community, and is the proud father of two young daughters.
The Winning Edge
Working hard, devising innovative plans after carefully listening to his clients’ hopes and dreams, and taking advantage of the many resources NAIFA provides have all contributed to Cuplin’s high production levels. But what may have catapulted him to the top are his honesty, sincerity, and his view of the role of an advisor—which is to make a difference in someone’s life in a way that he can see.
“I do not believe that I was meant to be a doctor, a fireman or a police officer–someone who literally can take their hands and save someone’s life,” he says. “But I do believe I can truly make a difference for the people I help in a different yet profound way by offering them the guidance and peace of mind they need.”
*Million Dollar RoundTable Membership inclusion is based upon eligible commissions from fixed/variable products, eligible premiums or annual gross income. For more information, please visit www.mdrt.org