Gary is Not Normal

Key Takeaway

  • Learn more about Gary, what defines him, and how he came to do what he loves at Coyle.

Patrick Holmes sat down with Gary to learn his personal story. It was an incredibly impactful experience and provides insight into why Gary does what he does and what motivates him. It’s titled “Gary is Not Normal,” and even clients who have known Gary for many years may learn some new things!

“Gary is Not Normal”

I’ve always been the type of person that’s 100% committed to my goals. West Point. First in my Ranger School class. Assigned not one, but three platoons after the military brass discovered I could accomplish anything they asked. The 1 person out of 100 chosen for flight school which was a path to my dream of flying the space shuttle. The same day I got accepted, however, I met a wonderful woman, and 10 days later, I gave up flying so that I could marry her – one of the best decisions of my life, 38 years and counting. And more recently, deciding to make YouTube videos and making 2100 in eight years. So, when people say, “Gary is not normal,” I understand they’re usually referring to my intensity. But my intensity is not what defines me.

My purpose defines me and I first experienced my purpose at 9 years old.

I grew up outside of Syracuse, NY, in a blue-collar Italian community. My father, one of the few white-collar men, worked across town as an engineer. My mother controlled her small army of children, 10, housed in a 3 bedroom home, with a Spartan-like strictness. You did what you were told, worked continually, became a Jack of all trades, ate and slept sparingly, didn’t complain, and if your arm was chopped off you found a way to keep working. It was a very extreme upbringing but I loved the push to be my best.

Anyhow, at 9 years old, I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my family when mom declares, “Kids, your father got paid today but all the money is spent. Fortunately, he has a dime in his pocket so if something happens to him out in the world, he can call and we can go get him. But there is no money until he gets paid again in two weeks, so we’ll have to make do.

I hear this, and I feel scared and worried.

It made me determined to get a paper route. My older brother had one and he made $12 a week so I figured if I could do the same, I could help solve our family’s money problems. It took two years of begging, but Mom let me get one at 11.

The first thing I did was knock on each one of my 105 new customers’ doors to ask, “Hi. Where would you like your paper delivered?” And, “I’ll be collecting payment on the weekend, so what time do you NOT want me to bother you?” 

My instinct was to find out what my customers wanted and serve them exactly that way. My brother, on the other hand, delivered the papers and collected payments according to his convenience.

We had the same number of customers, 105. But after just two weeks, I was making $22 a week, twice as much as my brother, because of added tips. I gave all my earnings to my parents and felt so happy and fulfilled by helping them solve their money problems. I also never forgot the lesson about serving my customers.

By 29, I had found Financial Planning as a career. It appealed to the 9-year-old in me as a way to help others with money. There was however an aspect of the career I did NOT like. Pushing financial products the way my brother delivered newspapers – without regard to what each customer really needed. I couldn’t do it. I was still the same 11-year-old who desired to knock on each of my customer’s doors to find out how to truly serve them.  

And then I met Ed Coyle. I might have quit the industry had I not.

Ed was a pioneer in Financial Planning and a legend for being customer-centric. He hated “product selling” and insisted upon “genuine service,” no matter what the cost or effort. So I joined his company and became a protégé. Similar to my mother’s Spartan household and West Point’s way of turning boys into men, Ed’s unique way of meeting customers’ real wants and needs wasn’t easy, but it was a perfect match for how I tick. I’d found my true purpose and way to serve.

Today, I’m privileged to be partners with Ed’s son Kevin. Ed retired in 2001.

I wake up every day excited to help one person at a time maximize their money, or solve a money problem – and that’s what I’ve been happily doing for 30 years since I was 29. Or since I was 9 years old if you count my defining moment as a child.


Gary Klaben is in our Glenview, IL office and serves our clients who are now located all over the country. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

Learn more about TransformingWealth™ , our proprietary approach designed to get your arms around the big picture, so you can make informed financial decisions. Ask Gary about Coyle’s TransformingWealth Preview Meeting and schedule a complimentary consultation and start living the Good Life Managed Well™.
800-480-7913 |

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All information is from sources deemed reliable, but no warranty is made to its accuracy or completeness.   This material is being provided for informational or educational purposes only, and does not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any client or prospective client.  The information is not intended as investment advice, and is not a recommendation to buy, sell, or invest in any particular investment or market segment.  Those seeking information regarding their particular investment needs should contact a financial professional.  Coyle, our employees, or our clients, may or may not be invested in any individual securities or market segments discussed in this material.  The opinions expressed were current as of the date of posting, but are subject to change without notice due to market, political, or economic conditions.

Copyright © 2020 Coyle Financial Counsel.  All rights reserved.


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