Q&A: Fred Dawson talks life, music and financial planning

Fred Dawson at the keyboards. | Photo by Ron Dubick
Fred Dawson at the keyboards. | Photo by Ron Dubick

By Alex Vuocolo

You may know Fred Dawson because he helped plan your retirement. You may have also heard him jamming with his band, Club Phred, during one of the countless gigs he’s played over the years throughout Delaware.

A respected financial planner for more than three decades, Dawson is also a devoted musician, author and philanthropist. Through musical charity events, Club Phred has helped raise in excess of $5 million since 2004 for 43 local charities. Most recently, the band played with Mark Farmer, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad.

Dawson is also in the process of completing his third book, “Pearls: Women Who Radiate Success,” which captures the stories and trials of more than 50 successful women. We talked with him about music, managing a band and the changes he’s seen over his long career.

What role does music play in your work-life balance? How does it compliment your professional work?

I’ve had a music “bent” all my life and it is still very predominant in almost everything I do. Music is my “therapy,” hobby and flat-out fun for me. It complements my work as invariably my musical side seeps into my business life when I speak with my clients. I will even stage events for my clients that will feature a “rock icon” playing with Club Phred. I’ve attended nine rock and roll fantasy camps and performed with the likes of Roger Daltrey (The Who), Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), Spike Edney (Queen), Spencer Davis (Spencer Davis Group) to name a few. One of the camps was held in Abbey Road Studios in London.

What has playing in a band taught you? Does it give you another perspective that you wouldn’t get in
the office?

I have often said that being a musician prepared me very well for life and being an entrepreneur. I immediately learned about pleasing the audience, showing up on time, booking gigs, negotiation of fees, maintaining working equipment, marketing, advertising, recording, contracts, human resources (finding and keeping good players that are also responsible), getting along with others, payroll, business expenses. Being in a band is a microcosm of a small business. Delaware has taught me that there are very few venues that would support a seven- piece rock and roll event. It’s tough out there!

What is your personal touch as a financial planner?

My personal touch is that my clients end up being good friends because I care so deeply about them, their families, their financial and physical well-being. I meet with all my clients regularly, especially if they live in the area.

What are some ways that financial planning has changed over the span of your career? How have you adapted?

When I started, we didn’t even have computers! Yes, it was the “ice age.” We crunched a lot of numbers by hand, then came spreadsheets, then email, then hacking. When I was in high school, I took the typing class because that’s where the “chicks” were. Little did I know it would serve me so well being a good typist. I adapt by continuing to attend workshops and seminars put on by insurance companies, money managers, estate planners, CPAs, attorneys who specialize in assisting the elderly and their needs. My education process will never stop.

What do you feel is your responsibility to the community?

I feel it is my responsibility to help others. I have been extraordinary blessed in so many ways and feel compelled to give back to my community. I support Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation that gives scholarships and mentoring to women so they may finish their educations and have a positive ripple effect on their families. It is fascinating and rewarding at the same time to observe that dynamic.

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