John Schweitzer is a financial literacy instructor with the Heartland Institute of Financial Education
. The national nonprofit brings independent financial courses to groups in the workplace, churches or other organizations. Companies can also hire the firm to educate employees on how to take advantage of their retirement plan, without pressure or solicitation.
What brought you to financial education?
In previous careers, I loved training people so this field is a natural for me. I stand up and speak in front of groups, which I understand is the #1 fear. But I like it and it’s worthwhile when I can give people a moment of wow. They love getting understandable financial information and are often disturbed that no one ever taught them this.
What kind of work did you do before?
I worked on movies as a film lighting technician and a gaffer for 16 years. I loved it for about 12 of them. The industry can be difficult, depending on who you’re working with. Now I’m part of a supportive team, so my wife and I are both happier.
Are you a San Rafael native?
No, but I went to Davidson Middle School and San Rafael High School. We moved here from New York and my dad owned an ice cream store in downtown San Rafael when I was growing up. It was a lot of fun.
Where else have you spent significant time?
I went to UC Santa Cruz and loved it. After college I lived in San Francisco, traveled in Europe and eventually moved to the East Coast. Then I lived in Arizona and Los Angeles. We came back here to bring my son near my parents in Cotati.
What was your best vacation?
My family and I like to go to places that are really different, whether in the US or internationally. We went to Jamaica a few years ago and were excited to see the culture there. My wife and I are both foodies so we always want to experience the local food. Went to Mexico and visited wineries down there. My son likes water, so we like to be near the ocean or a pool.
Do you speak another language?
I studied four years of German in high school, and still remember a good deal of it. I find languages fascinating, the way they help you think in a different way and build pathways in the brain. My son was in a dual-language classroom, so he was learning Spanish at the same time as other subjects.
Are you sporty?
I like to be at the Superbowl parties, but it’s about the camaraderie and friendship, not so much about the game. I’m from New York so I have a bit of an affinity for NY teams. My nine-year-old son likes soccer and swimming and is good with horses. He rides, feeds and cares for a massive, strong being, and he has no fear.
What’s your favorite food?
Recently it’s been good ol’ Mexican. I like spicy, so tamales and chicken tortilla soup. My wife doesn’t like spicy food but she cooks some mean chilaquiles. I also like Thai, Indian, a good steak. At home we eat healthy—big hearty salads and soup. Then we splurge at restaurants.
Do you have a hidden talent?
I like to entertain people. My wife says I’m funny and I love it when I can tell a good story and get friends to laugh.
What kind of music do you like?
Many different kinds! In college, I volunteered at the radio station and it expanded my horizons. Before that I was a classic rock guy. But at the station, I listened to heavy metal, industrial, jazz. I got to interview a lot of groups when they came to Santa Cruz.
I really like alternative music and some fast industrial bands that are not commonly liked. When I hear the Sex Pistols or other punk bands on a movie or TV show it really makes the soundtrack for me. Recently, my wife and I had a lot of fun seeing the Pixies—they play pop and industrial rock.
Do you have a special charitable cause?
We always like to get involved in something really local. We volunteer at my son’s school and we’re looking at other ways to be active locally. I’m also a big supporter of public radio, both NPR and American Public Radio. They need our help so they can stay independent.