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Robert’s Story

Robert’s Story

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Robert del Carlo Headshot

Robert's Story

Growing up in Reno, NV, where mansions exist a few miles away from trailer parks, Robert del Carlo experienced firsthand the wealth disparity that exists in cities across the United States. Recalling parking his 1990 Ford Escort next to a Rolls Royce in high school, Robert said that “you can’t really live in Reno without contemplating where you are on this spectrum from poverty to intense wealth.”

Robert’s father suffered a traumatic brain injury at the age of 18, which caused his body to deteriorate when Robert was young. As a result, the family’s income was spent primarily on medical fees and they often used a credit card to get by, accumulating a lot of debt.  Robert said, “It always felt like one step forward and two steps back financially.” Not until his twenties did Robert start to feel more secure about who he was and what his goals were for the future, which included breaking the cycle of generational poverty and building wealth. “If I didn’t figure out how to manage wealth, my lifetime goals of improving treatment for traumatic brain injury, investing in my community, and giving my kids a good education would fall apart.”

After college, Robert pursued his PhD in Pharmacology locally, turning down other, more competitive programs to stay home and contribute to his family. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Robert’s finances were turned upside down, as he could not continue working several jobs due to gathering restrictions and closed businesses. He started paying rent with his credit card and quickly accumulated debt. Knowing that pursuing his goal of attending medical school would only result in more debt, Robert decided to take control of his situation: “I was trying my best, but it was clear that I needed help. When you don’t have wealth, no one teaches you how to accumulate wealth.”

Robert first heard about FFP Grantee 3rd Decade through fellow students at his university. Based in Arizona but offering services nationally, 3rd Decade provides free financial literacy courses and one-on-one mentoring to young adults. Although initially hesitant, Robert had a vision for improving his finances. He attended workshops on concepts such as managing debt, building credit, and saving for retirement and then started working with CFP® professional volunteer Joe Wheelwright.

Working with Joe and the team at 3rd Decade enabled Robert to feel like he “had the potential to bounce back from tragedy and plan for the future.” He even felt himself get choked up as he talked about his future goals. “For me, financial security means the ability to build a life with my loved ones,” Robert said, “This includes starting a family with my boyfriend, improving treatment for traumatic brain injuries, and finding ways to give back to my community.” Joe created a spreadsheet of Robert’s financial information and collaborated with him to identify concrete objectives such as paying off his credit card, saving for a car downpayment, and creating a $1,500 emergency fund.

At his 6-month check-in, Robert was able to update Joe on his progress and adjust goals as needed. He was able to pay off his credit card and start building his emergency fund. When his catalytic converter was stolen, Robert was forced to get a new car; but, thanks to his sessions with 3rd Decade, he knew how to spot a fair deal and find a payment plan at a good rate. Working with 3rd Decade gave Robert strategies for improving his situation, as well as a new, confident attitude towards finances: “Having someone tell me that I am capable of achieving financial stability was very reassuring, it felt like he was really there for me.”

Robert is passionate about sharing what he has learned with his community and often recommends 3rd Decade to other young people. In August, he will have his year-mark meeting with Joe. He will also begin medical school at UCLA, where he will work towards a specialty in neurosurgery. While in school, he will continue to pursue his financial goals, using the blueprint that he and Joe came up with.

Robert now believes that reaching stability is possible, thanks to his transformative experience with 3rd Decade: “It has been the closest to what I imagine catharsis to be—when you spend your whole life ignoring finances, you get to a very dark place. Even though I won’t be out of debt tomorrow, 3rd Decade gave me the skills that let me know that I am on the path to a financially stable future.”

Published on May 9, 2024

“Having someone tell me that I am capable of achieving financial stability was very reassuring, it felt like he was really there for me.”


Planner helped client to:

  • Identify concrete financial objectives that allowed him to work towards stability.
  • Achieve specific financial goals, such as reducing credit card debt and saving for a $1,500 emergency fund.
  • Implement strategies that gave him the confidence to manage financial unpredictability.