By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN “I have always been the type of person who continues to challenge myself in education, work, athletics, and life,” said Brian Wolf, founder and CEO of Wolf Tax and Financial Group.
Wolf recently started writing a column for the Herald Journal called Insider Financial, and will soon be opening a new branch office of his business in Howard Lake’s Security State Bank building.
“Almost everybody I meet with struggles with financial issues, and it doesn’t need to be that way,” Wolf said, adding that he hopes his column will help people.
Wolf and his wife, Debbie, have spent 25 years building the family business, and now his two oldest sons, Kevin and Justin, are planning to join the business, Wolf said.
After deciding a few years ago they wanted to get out of “suburbia,” they finally “found the perfect place,” a 65-acre “hobby/play” farm on a lake five miles north of Highway 12 between Howard Lake and Waverly.
When they closed on the house in March, they began spending about half of their time here, and the other half in Andover, where their three youngest children, Brittani, Ashley, and Amanda, are still in high school.
They plan to move to the area permanently once the children have all graduated from high school.
Although he is brand-new to writing columns, Wolf has been a teacher his entire professional life, and wanted to share his financial knowledge, he said.
“There’s so much knowledge you wish you could tell people, but it’s not conducive to tell when meeting with clients,” Wolf said.
Several years ago, Wolf asked to teach an insurance ethics course at Kaplan Professional Schools. He wrote and designed a course, and began teaching.
“It’s amazing to see how people are just not on the same page when it comes to ethics,” Wolf said, noting how ethics affect all industries, and all areas of peoples’ lives.
Wolf admits he is not solving any major problems, but he does talk to his students about how standards should be applied.
“Some of it is black-and-white, but there’s a whole lot of gray area.” Wolf said. “There are an awful lot of people in our business who don’t want to, or mean to, do the wrong thing, but they get caught on a slippery slope.”
There are two reasons Wolf loves to teach the course, he said.
First of all, he just loves to teach. The first job he had after graduating college was teaching math to emotionally- and behaviorally-disturbed children.
He has also taught at Bethel University, and has coached from the Special Olympics, all the way to professional athletes.
The other reason Wolf loves teaching the course is the industry.
“Because dealing with people’s money is ethically challenging, this is something I can do to try and beat the drum in the wilderness something I can do to make a difference,” Wolf said.
Before he began teaching the course, there was not even an ethics course taught for those in the insurance industry, Wolf said.
Now, it is required that everyone with an insurance license in the state of Minnesota takes his ethics course every two years.
“I have always pursued athletics. I enjoy the competition and pushing myself,” Wolf said.
He has been an athlete his entire life, placing fifth in the National Pentathlon Track and Field Championships in 1985, and was also nationally ranked in the Decathlon.
That same year, he was recruited by the US Bobsled Federation, and set a new athletic scoring record at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY.
Wolf became a national two-man bobsled champion in 1987, and set two US records in the four-man bobsled.
Wolf also taught the Jamaican bobsled team, made famous in the movie “Cool Runnings,” how to walk on ice.
“I do different things for different reasons,” Wolf said of his athletic adventures.
For instance, he took his wife skydiving on their honeymoon, and started a family tradition.
“Now, when my kids turn 18, I take them skydiving to initiate them into life. It’s symbolic of diving into being an adult,” Wolf said.
For four years, Wolf was a volunteer firefighter because he wanted to serve his community and he thought it would be a cool experience, he said.
He competed in the 1996 World Firefighter Games in Edmonton, Canada, winning five gold medals.
“I like to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself,” Wolf said, which is why he competed in a triathlon when he turned 50. “I wanted to celebrate my halfway-through-life with something significant for me.”