Barrington author believes in ‘Peace, Love and Financial Planning’

Financial advisor and musician turned author, E. Larson Gunness playing the mandolin on his front porch with his dog ,Granola, has written a book to aid others with their financial planning.

If you’re a painter, musician, writer or other type of artist who doesn’t have a taste for finance but cannot escape its necessity, keep reading.

“Peace, Love, and Financial Planning: An Illustrated Guide to Money” is the first book by E. Larson Gunness. It has lessons on everything from mortgages to taxes but is far from your typical piece of financial literacy. The information is all there but the way it is presented is indicative of its authors dualism.

Mr. Gunness is a Barrington guy with a wife and two kids. He’s also a financial advisor with more than a decade of experience. Mr. Gunness has been self-employed for the last six years but previously spent time working in the corporate financial world.

Mr. Gunness is also an artist. He’s written creative fiction, works to organize Local Brew events here in Barrington and currently plays in a band, Bay Spring Folk. Mr. Gunness holds a Master’s of Fine Arts Degree from what he referred to as a “hippie” college located in Vermont.

These two sides of Mr. Gunness represent a unique mix of what are sometimes labeled as right and left brain characteristics. The theory of left brain versus right brain dominance states that individuals tend to favor one side over the other, and accordingly, develop different traits.

The left side of the brain is said to focus more on logic, reasoning and critical thinking whereas the right side of the brain is said to be more intuitive, creative and subjective. Mr. Gunness once took a test to find out which said he favored. The results stated he’s smack dab in the middle.

Mr. Gunness said he kept his two sides separate for years out a belief that they wouldn’t mix well. That all changed in 2008, however, when the country began to experience one of its worst economic deterioriations in history. In the carnage of a teetering Wall Street, Mr. Gunness turned to the Peace Corps volunteer inside of him (he spent two years working in the Dominican Republic from 1989 to 1991) and used the situation to begin helping right-brain thinkers struggling with money and finances.

He began hosting free workshops focused on financial literacy but altered the lessons in a way that would make them accessible to the artists in attendance. The sessions would last through 2010 and included a variety of locations at schools and artist communities in and around Providence, Boston and Newport.

Mr. Gunness said many of those on hand were brilliant, talented artists who seemed to be particularly struggling with the down economy. He also said many of his right-brained friends seemed to have a strong distrust of the financial services industry.

“And let’s face it,” Mr. Gunness said.

“The world of stock brokers and insurance brokers has earned its bad reputation.”

He relied on case studies that used archetypal characters to present situations participants could relate to. There were Syd and Nanci, for example, a play off of the infamous rock n’ roll couple. Syd was a brick puppeteer who never paid taxes. Nanci is a bass player and painter who generally tries to do the right thing. The characters weren’t inspired by any one individual but Mr. Gunness established their situations from what he had seen in real life.

Mr. Gunness said these case studies spurred conversation and the kinds of questions that would come from a variety of other professionals. 

“Once people are talking about it, they’re in,” Mr. Gunness said.

“Once we broke down the barrier, then we could have a lot of discussion.”

Mr. Gunness said the idea to put all of his materials into book-form was born of an insight that while many would leave workshops with the best intentions, following through with a solid financial plan is something that must be done over a long-term period of months and years. He launched a website of the same name in 2010 and began work on the book in 2011, a project he took too with a truly artistic fashion.

Mr. Gunness said the book was put together in the spirit of artistic collaboration. He turned to editors, proof readers and graphic designers along with accountants and lawyers, all of whom played a role in the book’s completion.

Mr. Gunness decided to forego shopping the book to publishers and turned to an online self-publishing service.

“I just want to get this out into peoples’ hands,” he said.

Going forward, Mr. Gunness said he has a few workshops on the horizon along with some speaking engagements. Additionally, he said there are plans to begin work on the next book in the “Peace, Love, and Financial Planning” series. If the recent project is an introduction, Mr. Gunness said, he plans for the subsequent works to be more in-depth looks at areas such as debt and investments.

“It sounds kind of hokey, but I’m really a believer in ‘Peace, Love and Financial Planning’,” he said.

“It’s not the way the industry approaches this but you have to work with what you believe and I think it can help people.”

“Peace, Love and Financial Planning” is currently on sale at Barrington Books. The book can also be ordered through Amazon.com or downloaded via eBooks or Smashwords. For more information, visit www.peaceloveandfinancialplanning.org.

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