Employee Spotlight | Eric Jonson

Employee Spotlight | Eric Jonson

Brad: What are some of your personality traits that make you a great advisor?

Eric: I think about all aspects of a decision. Decisions that can seem obvious in a vacuum but become less clear after gaining additional perspective, and playing those decisions out over long time horizons. I also enjoy researching and learning things on my own. I believe that perspective is imperative when advising on long-term financial decisions. 

When I think of and analyze decisions, I always think of them in the context of a pachinko machine. The ball is launched to the top of the machine, where it then begins to fall. Bouncing off seemingly randomly to end up at its destination at the bottom. During that fall, the ball will go to each section and bounce off the pegs. The difference between it bouncing left and bouncing right can be a fraction of a millimeter, but that minuscule difference can lead to a very different outcome (whether the ball goes right or left). And, the ball bounces left and right several times before making it to the bottom. As it reaches the bottom, the outcomes are still random, but the further it comes to the end, the slimmer the range of outcomes. When it’s at the very top, that first bounce can make a huge difference in where it ends up.


Brad: What is something not many people know about you?

Eric: I ran the 1990 Goodwill games marathon in Seattle. The Goodwill games were created by tv and media mogul, Ted Turner, as an alternative to the Olympics. In February of that year I could not run one mile, so I decided to challenge myself to run a marathon. Slowly, I got in better and better shape, and was able to complete a 10k in April, which was a great stepping stone for the upcoming marathon in July which I was able to finish. When I finished, I promised myself I would do a marathon every 30 years to help keep me accountable, and my next one is coming up in a year and a half.

In addition to the marathon, I have always loved electric motors since I was a little kid. In my teens, I was always building them. I started out making small car motors to compete in middle school races, and the fascination continued. Today that interest continues at my family’s cabin along the scenic Highway 20, where I have created a small hydroelectric station on our creek to provide power to one of our buildings. I also enjoy reading up about the newest tech on electric cars and have now converted all my outdoor landscaping tools from gas to Green Works electric tools. I kind of went crazy with that transition, but I am very glad I made the switch.


Brad: If your son and daughter only took one lesson from you, what would that be?

Eric: Do away with expectations, regarding how their lives will play out and their relationships with others.

When you start thinking the world will be a certain way, it’s just a matter of time before you realize it isn’t going to go the way you think it will. When that happens, you’ll feel let down, even though the way life plays out could end up being perfect. As time passes, you can have a more complete perspective on seeing how that pachinko ball ended up in the right place, even though it may have taken an unexpected path to get there.

Instead, let life be an adventure. That way you don’t have to experience the same pressures and disappointments that come with having expectations. In short, plan with a pencil, not a pen.

Oh, and save 10% of your income, and wear sunscreen.

Living Fully with Merriman CIO and Portfolio Manager Dennis Tilley

Living Fully with Merriman CIO and Portfolio Manager Dennis Tilley

Since 1999, Merriman CIO and Portfolio Manager Dennis Tilley has been on a journey to help our clients make wise investments. While certainly an important job that he takes very seriously, Dennis believes making smart investment choices is only a means to an end of being able to live the life our clients want. Dennis knows maybe better than anyone else that Merriman’s mantra, “invest wisely, live fully,” is all a matter of balance.

When Dennis was growing up, he watched his father work hard and save so that he could reach his long-held goal of retiring early. When his father reached that goal, Dennis saw firsthand that an early retirement could be more a curse than a blessing. While his dad enjoyed retirement at first, over time he was left asking, “Now what?” (more…)