This article appeared on Rethinking65.com by Jerilyn Klein.
Don Rembert found his passion as a fiduciary after seeing small business owners struggle.
Donald Mosby “Don” Rembert, who tracked coin-operated phones for the Bell telephone system and built restaurant chains prior to becoming a financial advisor, didn’t just jumpstart a new career in his mid 30s — he discovered a life-long passion.
At 82, the founder of Rembert Pendleton Jackson (RPJ), a fee-only RIA firm in Falls Church, Va., still serves clients and advocate for the fiduciary rule. The firm, which continues to operate under its own name since its February 2020 acquisition by Sandy Spring Bank, manages approximately $1.58 billion in assets for about 1,000 clients.
“My career has been fantastic and my passion for staying fully engaged has only grown stronger! I have been blessed beyond my wildest expectations!!” Rembert told me in an email prior to our recent phone conversation. His optimism also permeated our call, even when he spoke of his battle last year with esophageal and stomach cancer.
“A statement I want to make is, there’s hope, man, don’t give up hope,” he said. “I went through 28 radiations, I went through 75 chemotherapies and I went through a nine-hour operation at Georgetown University, and I’m here talking with you.”
“It’s been a wild scene,” said Rembert, because the merger (a liquidity event for his firm), his surgery and the start of the pandemic all happened within weeks. “They’ve treated us wonderfully,” he says of Sandy Spring Bank, which acquired RPJ to expand its wealth management services. “It’s a marriage that I was frightened about, but holistically, it couldn’t be better.”
During the pandemic, Rembert has been working through the firm’s virtual private network. “Retirement is not part of my vernacular or even part of my thinking,” he said. “I could retire tomorrow, it’s not an issue, but I love what I do.”
This includes teaching his younger colleagues, whom he refers to as his kids — and some of them, he noted, are young enough to be his grandkids. His son Charlie, CEO of Rembert Pendleton Jackson, joined the 14-employee firm 26 years ago.
In addition to sharing his philosophy with his colleagues (Rembert describes himself as “a big proponent” of the Austrian school of economics), he encourages everyone to read the Uniform Prudent Investor Act.
“All in, it’s about 23 pages, but to me it’s the most important document that ever came out and still today is still not really understood,” said Rembert, who provided me with a crash course in the legislation’s history. He’s also a member of the chairman’s council of the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard.
Although Rembert’s formal education is in economics and not law, “I try to be as cognizant of the legal side of it and the economic side of it as I can possibly be,” he said.
Regarding the fiduciary rule, “The industry has been afraid to really fully endorse it, in my opinion, and so I’ve been after them to say, ‘Look, you can’t ride two horses; you’re either for the client, or you work for the company.’ You can’t do both. It’s not possible.”
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