I grew up in South Buffalo with five siblings in a working-class family. Our brother Jim was lost to leukemia at age 19. My father worked hard to support our family, and my mother stayed at home until we were old enough; then, she worked as a substitute teacher and a clerk for the City of Buffalo. Unfortunately, my parents are no longer with us, but the love they shared and the values they instilled in me have served as the foundation of my personal and professional life. I am fortunate that my siblings live in the Buffalo area, so we are able to get together regularly.
I live in East Amherst with my lovely wife, Diane, and four rescue cats (Emily, Tabitha, Leah, and Mandi). My marriage to Diane came with the added benefit of two wonderful stepchildren: Scott, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio, and Dawn, who now lives in Toronto, Ontario. Over time, our family was blessed with the addition of five grandchildren: Sydney, Ethan, Alivia, Teddy, and Lydia. Although they do not live in the Buffalo area, we are fortunate that they are only a relatively short drive away.
After a relatively short “career” as an engineer, I attended the School of Management at the State University of New York at Buffalo and graduated with honors, earning an MBA in finance with a concentration in accounting in 1984.
Upon graduation, I joined the Buffalo office of Price Waterhouse, where I was a senior tax accountant and earned my CPA designation in 1986. My duties included reviewing corporate and individual tax returns for a diversified client base. I was also part of the Executive Financial Services group, which provided financial planning services to corporate executives. During that time, I developed a comprehensive personal financial planning model used by other Price Waterhouse offices nationwide. While at Price Waterhouse, my penchant for financial analysis and skill at developing financial models became evident.
From Price Waterhouse, I accepted a position at M&T Bank, where I could utilize my analytical and modeling skills. I became a vice president of finance and managed a staff of financial analysts to provide support to senior management. During that time, I was instrumental in developing the bank’s current management reporting systems and provided sophisticated analyses that facilitated financial decisions and supported strategic planning and budgeting.
Eventually, the lure of financial planning and the desire to help people on a personal basis led me to earn my securities license and my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM certification in 1999. At that time, I became a financial planner with the M&T Investment Group.
After a short period of time, I decided to start my own financial planning practice and affiliated with Sagemark Consulting in 2000, which evolved into Custom Wealth Strategies in 2015.
My background includes specializing in and supporting our clients in the areas of estate planning, business succession planning, retirement and benefits analysis, tax reduction strategies, and investment considerations for executives, business owners, and professionals.
In addition to financial planning, I have a passion for working with animals. Although our family didn’t have pets when I was growing up, I reluctantly agreed to adopt our first cat years ago when a friend of my stepdaughter had to rehome her cat. Miss O’Malley quickly won my heart and ultimately led to the four wonderful cats that currently share our lives. Experiencing the richness that animals add to our lives led me to become an avid volunteer at the Niagara SPCA. I earned a certificate in feline behavior and started the cat enrichment program, which socialized cats struggling in the shelter environment and facilitated their adoption. Subsequently, my involvement in animal welfare led me to become involved in starting a not-for-profit sanctuary for senior dogs who are often more difficult to get adopted especially if they have health issues. The sanctuary will be a comforting place, not only for dogs, but also for humans. It will be a welcome place for veterans, autistic children, children with reading difficulties, seniors, people suffering from anxiety – anyone who will benefit from the therapeutic value of dogs.