David Wald isn't your typical financial planner, as he went to college to become a surgeon and ended up using his hands not in an operating room, but in a ring.
A Minot native, Wald graduated from Bishop Ryan High School in 1994 and from the University of North Dakota in 1999. He earned two degrees - a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and a Bachelor of Science in biology.
"I was going to school to be a physician, that was my ultimate goal," Wald said. "I actually wanted to go into eye surgery - ophthalmology."
Although he started college with that goal, Wald slowly changed his mind
"I saw that healthcare was changing, where healthcare treated insurance companies and people's ability to pay versus treating the person," Wald said.
While Wald wasn't as passionate about being a surgeon as when he began college, something he never lost his passion for was the martial arts. Wald started practicing taekwondo at the age of 12 at the Calavera Martial Arts & Boxing Club in Minot.
"I had a friend in junior high that was in it and I thought I'd give it a try," Wald said. "I enjoyed it. I stayed in it for quite a long time."
Wald not only enjoyed taekwondo, he excelled at it. Wald won the U.S. National Championship in Minneapolis in 1997 and the Canadian National Championship in Winnipeg in 1998.
At the tail end of his martial arts career Wald started fighting in amateur kickboxing matches and had an opportunity to turn professional, which he did in 1999. While he still needed a day job to pay the bills, Wald enjoyed all the extra work he put into his kickboxing career.
He loved traveling all over to fight at different venues, noting that being able to fight in front of his home crowd at the North Dakota State Fair one year was wonderful.
"Having guys like Virgil Hill in the crowd watching, that type of stuff was just amazing," Wald said.
"I loved the training, I loved the competition, but ultimately knew that I would have to do something else," he added. "You don't make very much money doing that."
He moved to Bismarck in December 2000 and started his financial planning career by answering an ad in the newspaper from Prudential. If switching careers from a surgeon to a financial planner seemed a bit odd, Wald saw things a little differently.
"People worry about two things in life - health and money," Wald said. "I knew that I was leaving the health side of it and decided to pursue an opportunity on the money side of it."
Although Wald didn't have a clue about financial planning when he first started, he quickly brought himself up to speed and passed both state and national exams to be licensed. Then the real work of helping customers achieve their financial goals began.
"You're baptized by fire," he said of all the on-the-job training he had.
In 2008 he moved to Securian Financial Advisors of North Dakota, which is also in Bismarck, and has been there ever since working with businesses and individuals.
As with kickboxing, Wald has found considerable success in his financial career. He is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, which is the top 1 percent of all financial advisers in the world.
"And on that table I'm actually qualified for Top of the Table membership, which is the top 1/10th of 1 percent of all financial advisers in the world," Wald said. "There's only about 3,500 of those Top of the Table members in the world."
Wald retired from professional kickboxing in 2003. While he loved doing it, Wald realized he had to think about his future in the financial sector.
"I knew it was time because career-wise, not a lot of clients want to see you with two black eyes in your office and you're talking to them about serious financial matters," Wald said. "Plus, as you get older you don't heal as well."
While he never questioned his decision to walk away from professional kickboxing, that didn't mean Wald didn't miss it. He was given the opportunity to scratch that particular itch beginning in May 2008 when the head of the North Dakota Athletic Commission asked him to referee a match at 4 Bears Casino, near New Town, because of his background in fighting. It was the perfect opportunity for Wald.
"I still wanted to train with my kickboxing as I've gotten older, but didn't want to compete anymore," Wald said. "But I still really wanted to get back in the cage and the best way of doing that was reffing."
At first glance it might not seem like kickboxing would teach many useful skills for someone in the financial sector, but Wald said it really taught him to be disciplined and work hard, which are good traits to have in any line of work.
"It's discipline, it's doing things that others aren't willing to do, it's working hard when you know you want to give up. It's 8 o'clock at night and you want to go home but you know you've got to push through," Wald said. "That has helped me in all aspects of life."
Another advantage of his kickboxing experience is being able to use it as a unique ice breaker and conversation piece when meeting new people.
"I kind of joke around and tell a client that if they don't act on my recommendations we can always settle it in the parking lot," Wald said with a laugh.
Wald has two daughters with his wife Angella - Ella, 5, and Brielle, 1 and looks forward to fostering a passion for the martial arts in them once they get old enough.
Even though Wald's life turned out much differently than he originally envisioned it, he can't think of a single thing he'd want different.
"I love it. I wouldn't change it for the world," he said. "Through financial planning I've not only acquired clients, but I've acquired friends."
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.)