Craig Marcott likes ballroom dancing so
much he penned a book on it.
A magical moment is created when two people begin to communicate on the dance floor by moving together to music, according to Craig Marcott, CFP, of East Patchogue, N.Y. He would like more people to experience that moment, which he has come to treasure, and has written a book to try to pass some secrets along to those who might be afraid to attempt social dancing.
Ballroom and swing dancing is a hobby, but one which Marcott says he is passionate about-almost as passionate as he is about his specialized financial planning business, which he only recently started, in which he helps parents and guardians of people with special needs plan for the day when they will not be around to care for their handicapped loved one. He was thrown into both situations almost by accident.
Fifteen years ago, Marcott saw an advertisement in a local newspaper for swing dancing classes where no partner was needed, in the nearby Long Island town of Port Jefferson. "On a cold, wintry Tuesday in February, I forced myself out of the house to go to the lesson and it turned out to be a wonderful experience," Marcott remembers. "Dancing began as an effort to master a simple set of steps and it became magical."
Not married and without a current steady girlfriend, Marcott finds social dancing a perfect way to meet people and socialize. "It is not the singles scene. Women don't have to worry about getting hit on. Once I learned some steps, women were asking me to dance with no ulterior motive. It was just three minutes on the dance floor. It made me realize that so many guys are missing the boat on something wonderful," Marcott says.
Starting as a beginner, Marcott stuck to swing dancing for several years. He hurt his hip and could not dance for a while, and the timing coincided with the time when the president of the swing dance club wanted to dance more and plan less. The swing dancers asked Marcott to take over the presidency of the club, and he made his mark by bringing dance instructors from New York City out to Long Island. A few years later he branched out to ballroom dancing.
"It's harder for men to get started than for women, because we have to learn the footwork and the hand motions to lead the moves at the same time," Marcott says. "But once you learn it, it may be harder for the women. A friend of mine said it is perfect training for women in life, because they have to guess what a man is going to do before he does it."
Marcott has had such a good time dancing that he has penned a book, Three Minutes of Intimacy: Dance Your Way to a Sensational Social Life, available on Amazon.com. Written in 1995 almost as journal, the book sat in a drawer for years until a friend asked what had happened to it. After going through two more drafts and undergoing review by outside editors, he self-published the book in 2000. He interviewed several instructors for the book, with the aim of making beginners feel comfortable getting on the dance floor.
"Craig wanted to bring people who did not know how to dance into it, because it is great socialization. He wanted them to feel comfortable, and I think he succeeded," says Peg Rinaldi, his sometime dance partner who he used as a resource for the book. "His two worlds, financial planning and dancing, feed off of each other because what you do in dancing is build relationships and network. He is even thinking of having a dinner dance to raise money for handicapped causes."
Marcott has since drawn his sister into dancing, and the experience has enabled both to expand those contacts beyond the wooden dance floor. "My sister, Sue, was invited on an airplane ride recently, and I recently spent the day on a friend's boat where we were all dancers," he notes. Marcott says his financial planning work and the creation of his dance book have similar goals.
"In both cases, you want to get the fundamentals down so that you can feel comfortable," he says. "On the dance floor you want to feel confident. In life, if you are caring for a person with special needs, you want to feel comfortable that they will be cared for after you are gone."
Marcott came to the specialized practice of life planning for caregivers of special needs children and adults through his brother, Scott, who has Down syndrome. Marcott, the oldest of four, has a brother, Keith, in addition to his sister, and the youngest of the family, Scott. Marcott had been in hospital sales but found he did not want to travel for work any more and began looking for something different.
"After my father died my mother developed a wonderful back-and-forth relationship with a financial planner. It was really 'life planning.' The financial advisor helped my mother live her life to the fullest, even though my mother had only the minimum amount of assets that the financial planner would accept," he says. That beneficial relationship prompted him to move to financial planning even though, he says, "In the beginning I did not know the difference between a load and a no-load fund." But his relationship with his mother's network of friends, many of whom are caregivers for special needs people because of her work with a local association for the handicapped, led him to carve out his special niche.
"I am not really looking for wealthy clients. I want to help those who need to deal with the fact that they may not always be around to take care of a loved one with special needs," Marcott says. When his mother died, Marcott became his brother's guardian and cared for him until Scott moved into a residential home near East Patchogue two years ago. Then one day when Marcott was at a conference on autism, he began chatting with a father who said life would be so much easier if he did not have to worry about his son outliving him.
"That is what kept him awake nights. A lot of times people do not have a plan in place, so I help them go through the process, because I have been there. You think you know what will happen, but you are never really ready for all the things that are going to hit you. When our mother died, we were all sad, but Scott's eyes glazed over with terror because he was defenseless. He asked us, 'Who is going to cook for me?' I went from being Scott's brother to being his guardian, but many families do not have a plan in place for that transition. In New York, most adult-based services are based around Medicaid, but many advisors don't realize that.
"I frequently feel like the ghost of Christmas future. I try to create a vision with my clients of what they want for the special needs person in the future, and we go through a process: If you do this, this will happen," Marcott says. "Our planning is usually a lot more emotional than normal financial planning situations, and it occurs over a number of sessions. I ask clients, 'Do you really want your child to have to deal with your death and with relocation at the same time?' Leaving a disabled child or adult is one of the biggest fears a parent can face, so we find alternatives and give people some control over the situation. It is a lot like learning to dance. You learn the fundamentals and choreography, so you can achieve an end result and feel comfortable and confident."
Marcott says he works backwards with clients, starting with where they want their child to end up and then seeing how to get there. "I also always recommend we draft a letter of intent," he advises. "This is not a legal document, but gives all the information about the special needs person. I tell clients to pretend they are an angel sitting on the shoulder of the next caregiver for the special needs person. What would you want them to know? That is what you put in the letter."
The minor frustration Marcott is facing now is that starting a new, independent financial practice takes time away from his dancing. He was dancing more in the 1990s than now, although he hopes to get back to doing more soon. He would also like to explore dance as a therapy for handicapped people.
Is there another book in the offing? Maybe. If it materializes it will be titled, I am Scott's Brother. "That is my identity to many people, even in the financial world."
The Fred Astaire Of Advisors
October 1, 2006
Craig Marcott likes ballroom dancing so