The Peaceful Planner

The Peaceful Planner –

A hero who helps clients see the humanity in the numbers

My mom is a nurse, and my dad was a helicopter mechanic, so they’ve always served, and so it was just something that was really important to me.

– Kendra Erkamaa

ome people may have heard the quote, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” and thought it was a clever turn of phrase; our hero, Kendra Erkamaa, CEO of Triangle Financial Services, has made it a life principle. When thinking back to her early days, Kendra remembers, “Inherently, I was a planner from the beginning, since I was 16 years old and using my first Franklin Covey day planner.” This passion for planning would lead her on her journey of serving others, helping them find peace in life’s storms, and building wealth to make a difference.

Kendra’s parents first instilled in her the drive to serve others. Her mother, a nurse, and her father, a helicopter mechanic, taught her the importance of helping others. She followed this call to service, which ultimately led her to become a financial advisor. With a foundation in science and math studying chemical engineering in college, she discovered she had a mind for analytics and using metrics to break down complex problems. It would be this analytical mindset that pushed her toward taking some financial planning courses. Once she had her foot in the door, she went on to earn a degree in Business Administration and started her career in event catering management. Kendra says: “What I really loved about management was the numbers – analyzing the reports, and figuring out what actions we could take to manage those numbers and outputs.”

After graduating from college, Kendra went to work immediately on her management career, but it was short-lived. Only two years in, her position was eliminated. Kendra used this time to reflect and ask herself the critical question, “What kind of career do I see myself in for a lifetime?” Her passion for planning came in handy as she compiled a list of jobs that met her criteria: she needed something that could feed her analytical side while allowing her to help and serve others. She ultimately landed on becoming a financial advisor. Kendra performed what she calls “occupational interviews,” where she would cold-call financial advisory firms daily and inquire about what they did. She looked to see what types of firms met her passions and would give her the greatest opportunities to succeed.

After a number of these conversations, she eventually connected with the founder of Triangle Financial Services, Ton Stam. As Kendra remembers it, “He told me that ‘It’s not just about making money while playing golf, but that it’s really about seeing clients reach their goals. Truly seeing them, through a lifetime of changes, and get them to realize all of those dreams and hopes.’ That is what ultimately drew me to Triangle and the financial advisory profession, and how I have been able to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”

Kendra Erkamaa
CEO, Triangle Financial Services
Des Moines, IA
Approximately $78.9 million AUM
Founded in 1989
4 employees
350 clients

It is really an absolute joy to be trusted, to be a steward for their wealth and their finances, and to be able to walk through their lives together, through the ups and downs, through the joys as much as the difficult times.

Kendra went on to join Triangle in 2004, building a solid book of business and learning the ins and outs of the industry. As she grew into the role, the opportunity presented itself to buy the company from Ton three years later. He was looking to move on and start another business as a chocolatier. At 27 years old, Kendra was now in charge of the firm – with the Great Recession right around the corner. It was a tumultuous time, but Kendra, who has a reputation for being calm, shifted her focus to her clients. Kendra was able to navigate the crisis by keeping her clients at the heart of everything she did while using statistics as her guide. She recalls overcoming this historical challenge by “showing up, staying optimistic, and letting the data from the past guide us to know that we will get through this.”

Kendra believes, “It is really an absolute joy to be trusted. To be able to walk through their lives together, through the ups and downs, through the joys as much as the difficult times.” From making calls to talk one-on-one with her clients, to sending out survival bags containing little things to help with stress, such as stress balls and lollipops, she found a way to help her clients weather the storm. She searched for the humanity in the numbers and presented it to them – this has truly been a hallmark of her career.

I get to help manage that pool of money to be able to bring into their life what’s really important, and really get to focus it. So kind of like that magnifying glass, right? We get to focus it on what’s important.

Kendra’s ability to use the numbers to help ease personal issues has allowed her to impact lives in her work and community outreach. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, a group of various professionals ranging from lawyers to therapists and financial professionals – who take a multi-dimensional approach to one of life’s toughest challenges: divorce. She has many success stories, but one of her favorites came from a collaborative mediation. A couple came to Kendra for help – the pair were going through a separation and had varying views on how to divide their assets. By taking an analytical approach in reviewing their financial information, Kendra was able to transition the pair from an emotional conversation to a pragmatic one. The two started to see the other’s side in the meeting, and as the talks progressed, they started asking to run numbers to make sure the other had enough to live off of and comfortably retire. It’s in these moments Kendra discovered that everybody’s interests can be honored as they look for peace.

As a planner, Kendra gravitates toward outreach to help people manage their financial habits, enriching them for the future. She and her firm volunteer at Beacon of Life, a transitional home that helps women coming out of incarceration or struggling with poverty. She and her team serve as the residents’ budget counselors, helping them get the financial footing to achieve a brighter future. Additionally, she is a board member of the Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, an organization looking to bring financial literacy to schools. She also serves as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. With so much going on, Kendra’s planning-centric mindset has enabled her to succeed while improving the lives of those around her.

Securities and Advisory Services offered through Harbour Investments, Inc. Member SPIC

2020: A Story of Plans Re-Written

As 2020 closes on one of the most transformative years for our country, can we agree that not much has gone as any of us planned? For just about everyone, life and any intentions we may have had for the year to this point have been altered in one way or another. Our jobs, finances, school, relationships and even how we shop—all of these may look a little, or a lot, different these days.

As a professional, I’ve built my career on planning—for myself and my clients. I have witnessed, and even experienced for myself, plans that have been completely derailed without notice. When this happens, it’s hard not to just throw in the towel figuring the focus and energy spent on the initial planning was completely wasted. I’ve also seen some planners completely scrap their well thought-out and beautifully crafted strategies and watched as their previous efforts spoil, the result of being overwhelmed by tasks left undone. 

Unfortunately, some people believe changing the original goal or adjusting their priorities in a plan is the same as quitting. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A GOOD plan is a process, and while it may fluctuate, it is a reliable system that you can revisit in order to readjust and refocus. When life goes sideways—and trust me, it will—a plan is something solid that can be molded to respond to current situations. Although the direction may change, the work done to date is not wasted.

In fact, the BEST plans are ones you stay actively engaged with and revisit often enough that they become a practice, a habit and a way of living. Even if it changes somewhat, the practice creates certainty and ease in the face of massive change. During 2020, I’ve personally had to review and edit my task, priority, and goal lists weekly, daily and sometimes hourly. It has been a year to polish the art of making choices, and most of those decisions weren’t ones we even wanted to make. 

So, like many of you, I have found myself often in the struggle to find the sweet spot of remaining committed to important goals I’ve created, flexible enough to re-adjust my expectations, while also constantly reminding myself of why. This often comes down to the passion for the work I do, the life I want to live, and my own values. As life circumstances changed, I chose to grow because of it and make the necessary adjustments in order to stay the course. 

The key? Don’t run from a foiled plan. Instead, find a little self-kindness and grace for yourself. These times are HARD. It’s not changing quickly. For me, practicing some patience with myself and the circumstances we’re in is important because decisions made in frustration are not likely to carry me where I want to be. We are the designers of our lives and of our own plans. The vast majority of what is on our lists, we have placed there ourselves. We may do so unconsciously, or we can do so intentionally. Re-visit your plans, and make purposeful adjustments to help you get back on track.

Thank you 2020 for reminding us that we are not always in complete control, but we do still have the  power to re-write our own stories when life doesn’t go as planned. I hope we can all look forward to 2021 with renewed optimism and a little well-earned wisdom—we can get through massive life change even when it isn’t easy or part of the initial plan. 

Wishing you a 2021 filled with joy, love and kindness for yourself and all in your community.