How Elke Rubach forged a career by helping others plan their financial future
Rubach is the principal and founder of wealth management firm Rubach Wealth
Credit: David Leyes
A family tragedy in her teenage years inspired Elke Rubach to educate herself on financial planning and independence. In 2012, she set out to launch Rubach Wealth, a wealth management firm, to help others do just that. Her goal is to offer tax-efficient financial planning so that clients can build multi-generational legacies, but to also normalize conversations around money. Rubach is also a big believer in giving back: she founded Fashion Heals for SickKids, a movement that has raised more than $450,000 for pediatric cancer care and research.
Here, get to know what Rubach has learned on her journey to building her own wealth management firm, what's on her bookshelf and much more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I have a background in law so I’m a lawyer by training, but I stopped practicing law in 2005. Around that time, I moved to Scotiabank and my last job was in compliance. My role was to be a “bridge” between clients and advisors, making sure the advice and product recommendations were according to the law. What I realized early on was that in many if not most cases, people made (make) financial decisions without a plan. They buy because “it sounds great” at the time but then, as years go by, they end up with unnecessary confusion and a bunch of things that may or may not connect with their reality. I saw a great need to help clients understand their finances beyond “asset management.”
I’ve experienced this in my own life. I was 13 when my dad died. My parents didn’t have a will, insurance or a plan. That meant my mom had to figure it out all on her own with four kids in a private school. The lack of planning can really wreck a family and the kids end up suffering unnecessary stress and anger. I think if somebody dies, the family can be sad, but not sad and angry—I know this because I lived it and it was frustrating. It’s important for all people, whether you’re wealthy or not, to have a will and power of attorney. You can have the best financial plan, but without a will or power of attorney, it doesn’t mean much: your assets will deplete and they may end up managed by the government and I don’t think anyone really wants that.
In my opinion and experience, proper wealth management is much more comprehensive than that. It requires estate, tax, insurance and investment planning but also preparing the next generation to receive such wealth. We help our clients understand their finances. Their plans reflect their needs, their goals but also their lifestyle. We do not believe in rules of thumb as every case is very different. If a client’s lifestyle is not represented in their plan, chances are high that they won’t follow it. The plan also needs to be flexible as we know change is constant.
In 2012, I decided to venture out and start my own wealth management firm, Rubach Wealth. Wealth management sounds like something only wealthy people do, but that’s far from the case. The goal here was to help people get sorted out financially, but with far more clarity and control. Lots of education and a multi-disciplinary approach are staple at Rubach Wealth. With the right advice and discipline, I believe the chances of getting ahead financially in life are greater.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Well, full disclosure: I'm not normal. I wake up around 4 am, make some coffee, and take my dogs outside. I then get a workout in and prepare lunches for my kids. As soon as they are up, I make sure to have their breakfast ready. Then, while they get ready for school, I do too.
And then I take them to school. Once I get back home, I send a few emails out. From there, it’s meetings, meetings, meetings and lunches with clients. But the bulk of my work gets done between 4 am and 7 am. At around 4 pm it's time to go get the offspring and to take one of them to her after-school activities.
What are some of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?
Get a coach and/or a mentor: because it's really hard to read the label from inside the bottle. You want someone who's experienced, someone who understands your industry, but also you may want to have a second coach that has nothing to do with your industry. You’re not looking for a cheerleader, but somebody that you connect with and have similar values with and will guide you in the process of what you want to do. There's always a better way and somebody probably has had more experience than you in something, so that’s how handy coaches can be.
What is some advice you would give someone just starting out in their career?
Be clear on your values and ethics: I say this because it’s important to not compromise ethics or values for any amount of money, because it's a matter of time before it's going to backfire.
Things will work out: Just keep at it. You're going to have bad days so it’s important to surround yourself with people that add value to your life because there's no shortage of naysayers and people who are risk-averse. Surround yourself with people that inspire and excite you, and whom you can learn from. Never give up!
Remember to laugh: If you can't laugh, stop doing whatever you're doing. Even when things go wrong, you have to be able to laugh and be able to move on from situations. If you’re upset about something, make sure to do something about it and take responsibility for your actions.
Be empathetic: You can help or mentor people. For example, I'm big on philanthropy and you don't even have to be a millionaire to be philanthropic because, at its core, it means to care for others. But keep in mind to not betray your values or what's important to you because otherwise the speed of life tramples you and it can take you out.
What are some of your favourite books and podcasts?
Books: The Forgotten Generation by Sabine Bode. I believe it’s only in German, but it’s about kids who were born during the years of the war and how that generation has had such a hard time establishing relationships with others. Disney U by Doug Lipp and Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud are two other favourites.
How did your personal finance journey start?
When my dad passed away I had the realization that I never wanted to be financially dependent on someone. That freaks me out a bit. I got my first job at 16 and started saving and started paying for my trips and understanding the concept of saving and compound interest. I learned a lot of that through trial and error.
Around 17 or 18, I had a credit card and there was a month that I couldn't pay it off fully. When I saw the interest charge on my credit bill and I thought to myself: never again. Credit cards are a phenomenal financial tool but if you can’t pay it in full, it’s going to wreak havoc on your credit score and finances.
What would your biggest piece of financial advice be? If you have kids, talk to your kids about personal finance. And if you don't know how, reach out to someone and learn. Normalize talking about money and planning for your financial future, including the importance of having a will. Financial planning doesn’t have to be complex. It can start with a simple budget. Budgeting has this negative connotation of cutting things out, but budgeting is in fact awareness. It’s important to know where your money is coming from and where it’s going.
What’s a money regret that you have? It’s not a big one but I bought a leaf blower that turned out to be too small and it’s just sitting in storage because I forgot to return it.
What’s your most recent splurge? It’s not recent but now that my kids are older, I bought a really nice car in late 2021 or early 2022, but it’s still not here because of the chip shortage. I was told that it is in production and out of the two allocated to Canada, I’ll be getting one. The poor fellow who sold it to me keeps telling me to stop calling him because it’s not here yet. I really want it!