Success isn’t just about money

ALPENA – Almost everyone you know wants to win the lottery, inherit millions, strike it rich or marry into a wealthy family.

But in Northeast Michigan success and financial independence may come from something more practical.

“Every person has his or her own brand of success and it’s not for anyone else to judge,” said Marc Ferguson, a financial advisor with Edward Jones. The son of school teachers, he’s also on the board of trustees at Alpena Community College.

“For some it’s about finding a career you’re passionate about and reaching your highest human potential. For others, it might be raising a happy, healthy family and simply being a good provider or a great mom,” he said.

“Education is the foundation, but just that, a foundation,” Ferguson said. “A person must also be passionate about whatever he or she does. They must be willing to work hard.”

Ferguson credited his wife, Amy, for his family success. The couple have four children.

“She put up with me including when I would be gone every night after working all day. I would come home from my job at The Dow Chemical Company and then be back at either studying or attending class from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. five days a week for two years,” he said.

“When I walked across the stage to receive my masters degree, I was 32 and Amy was eight months pregnant with our first,” he said.

But he wasn’t done. Continued success meant taking a month off each time his wife gave birth. It meant coaching his kids’ sports teams, and traveling with his family.

Still, education carries weight, “because we’re living during a time when knowledge-based workers will continue to be in higher demand,” Ferguson said. “Continuing education and lifelong learning keep a person at the top of his or her game in this fast moving world.”

As for the future – Ferguson started with the past.

In the early 1900s, the United States was mostly a manufacturing economy, he said. “Nowadays, it only represents about 14 percent of our economy.”

In Alpena, though, there could be a revival, he said.

“It’s driven not only by the sophisticated technology of manufacturing we have in the United States, but also low energy costs,” he said. “Natural gas used to produce electricity is about one quarter the cost of other nations.”

Nate Blury runs Financial Services by Design, and has been in the business for 32 years. Like Ferguson, he also points to the practical steps people take to get ahead.

“Each individual has the ability to be successful,” he said. “I see people all the time become very successful. But they worked hard.”

Education, whether at a local college, technical school, or even hands on, is important, he said.

“People who love to work with their hands should look at technical schools, because skilled machinists, CAD operators and computer programmers are in demand,” he said.

“Some people think they have to go to school full time and borrow money. You don’t have to,” Blury said. “Start college part time, live at home and get an associate’s degree. Then get your bachelor’s and you only have two years at an expensive school.”

Starting young is no barrier.

“You’re still trying to find out what you want to do,” he said. “But if you pick a career you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Blury said one of his breaks came when he was 16 and ran into his life-long mentor.

“My best friend’s father had an insurance agency and he approached me twice about working for him. He was very successful and I called him after college.”

Hired on the spot, Blury jumped into the field with enthusiasm and worked hard.

“Everybody has an opinion, but you want to surround yourself with successful people, who know how to manage their money,” he said. “And ask questions. You can have the wisdom of a 70-year-old when your 20 if you listen to them and take their advice.”

Success isn’t just for the young, Blury said. People at different stages in their lives can make crucial changes that yield rewards.

“I’ve seen a number of people who have lost their jobs and started up a small business and became very successful, because they created their own jobs,” he said.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.