Much can change between today and tomorrow, let alone in 43 years. But Leon Baburov, a 22-year-old financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual in New York City, already has penciled in a long career at his current employer, when he’ll retire and what his next job will be after he retires. In other words, the preternatural Baburov isn’t like most 22-year-olds still wondering what to do with their time on Earth.
“I always thought I’d be an engineer because I took advance math and physics classes in high school and really enjoyed it and thought that’s what I’d be doing the rest of my life,” he says. “But I took an intro to economics class my senior year and fell in love with the subject and decided to apply to business schools instead.”
His altered trajectory took him to Baruch College in Manhattan, where he graduated in three years with a finance major and a triple minor in humanities, physics and computer information systems. While looking for an internship during his freshmen year, his then-girlfriend, now-wife Aleksandra introduced him to a financial advisor working at Northwestern Mutual, the Milwaukee-based company formally known as the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. He interned for that advisor doing marketing and investment research, and after a couple of summers as an intern he joined the company out of college in August 2013.
Baburov seems to be on the fast track to somewhere, but even so he was still feeling very much like the newbie that he was when he started in the business. While still an intern, he attained the CLTC (certified in long-term care) designation to bolster his chops. “I thought it would give me credibility with retirement market clients,” he says.
He also studied for—and attained—the certified financial planner designation. “I saw it as a benchmark of excellence and, admittedly, because I had a little bit of an inferiority complex because of my age. I wanted to be perceived as being a professional,” Baburov says. “And after taking those courses and being able to speak more intelligently [about financial planning topics] and having that mark behind my name, it’s very rare that I’m asked questions about my age.”
As an insurance agent and CFP license holder, Baburov currently oversees more than 80 clients for both insurance and investments. He has roughly $1 million in assets under management on the investment side.
About 40% of his clients are young professionals among millennials and Gen Xers. That demographic “probably generates negative net income, but it’s still worthwhile because I know where those young professionals will be five, 10, 15 years from now, and I tell them I want to grow together with them.”
Baburov says the other 60% of his clients are all over the map, including doctors, nurses and college professors. Most of his clients come via word-of-mouth advertising, though he has cultivated professors as a client group via cold calling by focusing on a few select universities in the New York metro area.
Baburov’s long-range plan is to retire at 65 (because that’s Northwestern Mutual’s mandatory retirement age) and then teach physics at his old high school. For now, he’s excited about growing his practice. “At this point, I feel pretty well established,” he says. “Obviously, there’s a lot of room for me to grow.”