One day Jamie Hopkins started running. He ran the next day as well and continued the regimen for 3,004 consecutive days and an average of 4.5 miles per run. (Yes, that’s eight years and two months without missing a day of road work.) That easily beats “iron man” Cal Ripkin Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive baseball games played, albeit not nearly as celebrated as the baseball hall-of-famer’s record.
Hopkins had a travel-day rule that his daily run be completed before heading to the airport, which meant sometimes running city streets at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to adhere to his commitment and still make his 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. airline flight.
Keep in mind that during part of this streak Hopkins occupied his current position as managing partner of wealth solutions at Carson Group, a position that required 180 hotel nights per year as he traveled to meet with clients, work with advisers and deliver speeches at industry conferences.
“I ran in blizzards, I ran in hurricanes, I ran in Phoenix when my shoes were melting against the pavement. Pretty much every climate that you can think of,” he says. “It became an addiction and obsession. It defined so much of me.”
One might think the streak ended with an injury or influenza or even a bout of COVID. But that wasn’t the case.
“I made that conscious decision to walk away from it because the goal of running every day didn’t tie into my long-term life aspirations,” he explains. “I probably walked away a year better than Tom Brady did it. I retired at the right time.”
One might say the running streak lost its cachet as Hopkins’ life evolved into marriage, homeownership, the siring of three children, and the addition of a family dog.
“It was not a top-10 priority anymore,” he adds. “It was one of the hardest things to do because it had become so core to how I viewed myself. Walking away from it felt like a big loss. I ate fried chicken five days in a row after quitting, and then I made a joke about how I was going to start a new 3,000-day consecutive streak of eating fried chicken.”
But his competitive personality marches on, as Hopkins has since embarked on a new streak of doing 275 pushups and 100 crunches per day (100,000 pushups per year and 36,500 crunches). The 38-year-old financial professional has worked his way up to a single set of 100 consecutive pushups as part of his 275 per day.
The daily crunches are dispensed with by doing a single set of 100, and yet Hopkins observes, “I’m not a big abs guy. I don’t need a six-pack at this point in my life, if I ever needed it. Who am I going to impress? Trust me, my children would not be impressed.”
Jamie Hopkins was recruited to Omaha-based Carson Group by namesake founder Ron Carson and organization president Aaron Schaben, both of whom had been well acquainted with Hopkins’ exploits for years. Then, as now, Hopkins was living in Philadelphia, where he earned his law degree at Villanova and co-created the Retirement Income Certified Professional designation, which has over 12,000 graduates since its inception in 2012, and more than 10,000 financial advisers currently enrolled in the program.
Hopkins’ awareness of Ron Carson (the first-ever cover profile in this magazine, the October 2014 edition) dated back to the latter’s days at LPL Financial. Carson is noted for keeping a file of industry talent he might one day find reason to recruit, and Hopkins was presumably part of that target pool.
Hopkins met Schaben through their joint involvement with the American Colleges Millennial Advisory Board.
Carson didn’t have a role for Hopkins when they started talking about a coming together, but the firm was growing, and the founder figured an opportunity to lead a division would emerge.
“I didn’t really have a job description when I started,” says Hopkins. “Ron and Aaron invited me to grab a drink and asked more than just the ‘where do I want to go with my life’ type questions. That kind of kicked it off. I believed in where Carson was going, I believed in the mission, I believed in what they were building. I wanted to be part of that.”
The move was an act of trust and faith.
“Aaron and Ron have fulfilled every promise they made to me,” he remarks. “My job is much more concrete now than it used to be. It’s been a fantastic ride.”
In Hopkins estimation, the Carson Group has a higher growth rate and employee retention rate than almost any rival firm, retaining its people for significantly longer than the industry retention average, and sporting a team of advisers 10 years younger than the industry average.
Before your deductive reasoning takes you to the firm’s Omaha headquarters and the midwestern values and loyalties that bind, keep in mind that 90 percent of Carson advisers are spread — like Hopkins in Philadelphia — across the United States, in cities such as Charlotte, Dallas, Minneapolis and San Diego.
What’s more, Hopkins notes that Omaha, a city of about 500,000 people, has a far bigger financial presence than most people imagine, with organizations including TD Ameritrade, Berkshire Hathaway and Mutual of Omaha, among others, giving the area a strong talent pool. The city itself is well educated and affluent.
Ron Carson thinks big, according to Hopkins, as the firm is only in the first inning of what Carson Group is destined to become. Currently, Carson Group serves about 45,000 households, but its growth plan aims to scale to millions of households and people.
How? There is a blueprint for accomplishing that exalted goal, but Hopkins declines to divulge, calling it proprietary.
“There is a lot of work to do,” he says. “I’m super excited about that.”
During his youth, Hopkins played drums for a Led Zeppelin-styled rock band, pounding the skins and symbols to the rhythms of legendary Zeppelin percussionist John Bonham.
“We were called Red Heaven, and it is a great group of guys,” he says. “I love them all very dearly, even today.”
Though he rarely plays the drums these days, Hopkins has a drum kit in the basement that his children sometimes play. The more immediate musical instrument for Hopkins is the bass, which he played daily during the COVID-19 shutdown and recaptured his aptitude on the instrument — his chief influences being bassists Jaco Pastorius of the rock/jazz fusion band Weather Report (among many other collaborations), Geddy Lee of Rush, and Paul McCartney, who introduced him to the instrument.
His chops on the bass admittedly fell off post-COVID, when he went back on the road and started doing his customary 180 hotel nights per year, including visits to industry conferences to deliver keynote addresses.
His speeches to private wealth professionals are typically one of three topics: 1) “rewirement,” 2) ways to reframe conversations with clients to achieve better outcomes, and 3) strategizing the retirement income process.
Rewirement is also the title of one of several books Hopkins has authored. The title, a play on retirement, focuses on behavior changes that need to accompany a person into their retirement years. Those include redefining the meaning of their post-career lives, when a question as simple as “what do you do” can be disorienting. There is also the adjustment away from the saving is good and spending is bad ethos, a basic foundation of long-term financial planning. By contrast, retirees need to get comfortable with spending rather than saving. There is also a different mathematical formula to taking withdrawals during retirement. For example, an 8 percent annual rate of return does not mean the retiree is free to increase their spending by 8 percent per year.
“At a macro level,” says Hopkins, “those are the three biggest behavioral issues people struggle with during retirement.”
FINDING HIS LANE
Jamie Hopkins came of age in suburban Baltimore, the son of parents who ran their own construction company. Hopkins was just 8 when his father passed away and left his mother in charge of the company. There were financial struggles in the aftermath of his father’s death, but his mother persisted and runs the family construction business to this day.
“She is one of my heroes,” Hopkins says of his mother. “She demonstrated to me how hard work and perseverance pays off.”
Hopkins’ penchant for athleticism manifested early.
“I grew up swimming at North Baltimore Aquatic Club and Bob Bowman — who has been Olympic head swimming coach several times — was my coach,” he says. “He was Michael Phelps’ head coach. Michael and I are about a month apart in age and swam together for a decade plus.”
Bowman now heads the Arizona State University swimming program.
Hopkins went on to attend Davidson College, a private liberal arts college in Davidson, N.C., named after Revolutionary War general William Lee Davidson, who was killed at the nearby Battle of Cowan’s Ford. And, yes, the same Davidson College attended by NBA phenom Steph Curry.
Hopkins majored in political science and minored in religion with an aim toward becoming an attorney, but, like Curry, he was also a student athlete. As captain of the swim team, he specialized in the breaststroke.
Unfortunately, Hopkins was dogged by injuries during his collegiate years as a swimmer, including two tears in the labrum in his right shoulder during his junior year. Though he swam his senior year, Hopkins estimates he performed at only 80 percent of his potential because of the damaged shoulder.
“Our team was so good that at any given time we might have three or four Olympians on our team,” he says. “We would send six or seven people to Olympic trials every time.”
Hopkins was not among the prospective Olympians.
“I didn’t have the mindset about it,” he admits. “I probably don’t have the talent either.”
Those Olympians included Beth Botsford and Anita Nall, both of whom won multiple Olympic medals.
Coaching legend Bowman and Hopkins still talk occasionally.
“He would always push me by saying things like, ‘Hey, you have got a lot more upside than where you are.’ But I cared about a bunch of other things besides swimming,” says Hopkins. “I cared about school, I cared about the rock band, I cared about spending time with my friends.”
Today, Hopkins says he’s “totally retired” from swimming, cutting the water only about twice per year.
“I don’t even know that I like the water anymore.”
After earning his law degree at Villanova, Hopkins clerked in an Appellate Division of the U.S. court system, even getting to work on one of the cases brought against Bernie Madoff and his titanic Ponzi scheme. Judge Marie Lihotz presided over that case and proved a mentor to Hopkins. He was succeeded in his role as clerk by the woman who would become his wife.
“My wife was my replacement,” he says. “I ended up meeting her there. When you tie all that together, that is really where my life pivoted. During my appellate clerkship I found both my career path and my life partner all at the same time, so it was a pretty good outcome.”
That life partner is Kathy Hopkins, now an attorney at United States Liability Insurance Co., a Berkshire Hathaway-owned company. The couple are parents to three children.
RISK AND REWARD
Though Hopkins finds it somewhat “painful” to spend money, he counts himself as “super risk tolerant” with his own investment portfolio, primarily because of his knowledge and understanding of financial instruments and markets.
“I’m totally fine with an aggressive approach because I know my investment portfolio is not for spending, it’s for long-term growth,” he says. “I take about as much risk as possible inside of that goal.”
His riskier investments include a few small commitments to startup companies over the years, some of which are public today, including On Ramp, a decentralized finance company.
He has also taken a small position in cryptocurrency. Hopkins says he never felt confident about cryptocurrency, though when he published Rewirement in 2017 his stance was that a 1 percent allocation to the digital assets made some sense, and the math played out well for a while, though bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have since imploded, at least temporarily.
“I view it as a technology advancement,” he says. “Digital assets have changed the world and I don’t expect them to go away. Whether or not you can make a pure investment play long-term in them is a totally different thing.”
He analogizes the advent of digital assets to the advance of airplanes, which he deems the most disruptive technology of the past century, as the commercial aviation business reshaped the face of the world. Yet, he says, up until around 2000, airline carriers were still a net-negative investment overall, failing to return a positive investment when compared with the total investment poured into the industry to get it off the ground and commercially operational.
The same could occur with regard to cryptocurrency and other digital assets, he reasons. But Hopkins says he’s more interested in the piping or infrastructure of digital assets, such as blockchain or Ethereum, rather than trying to pick which specific cryptocurrency or digital asset is going to win its particular space.
Put another way: Betting on the internet overall rather than individual players.
PATHS STILL TO BE TAKEN
The swimming, the running, the pushups and crunches, the professional pursuits and accolades all point to a steely competitive streak in Hopkins — a characteristic he readily acknowledges.
“I hate losing,” he concedes. “I hate losing to anybody else. I want to be the best at anything I do.”
In that regard, he has to feel good about his latest book, Find Your Freedom: Financial Planning for a Life on Purpose, hitting The Wall Street Journal bestseller list.
But he also concludes that sometimes a person must pare back the competitive impulse.
“I have learned over time that you don’t have to be the best in everything.”
Yet, at just 38 years of age, one gets the distinct sense many more obsessions lie in Jamie Hopkins’ path, and that he isn’t inclined to pare back his competitive instinct anytime soon.
Mike Consol (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter (@mikeconsol) and LinkedIn (linkedIn.com/in/mikeconsol) to read his latest postings.