Financial consultant Beau Begin is known for a level of professionalism that is perhaps a bit more buttoned-up than many of his Island contemporaries. But at a series of workshops co-sponsored by Rockland Trust and our very own Oyster MV a few years back, Beau created a roundtable environment that was comfortable and laid-back. This is key, he says, to getting people to talk – and learn – about money: how to get it, how to keep it, and how to put it work.

“All we did was share,” Beau remembers, when I catch up with him on the phone, two years after the first series of Money Talks workshops was cut short by the pandemic lockdown. “It was a real forum. We had a bunch of young people sitting around a table, discussing their views on money and learning from each other.”

Beau admits that he brings a particular skillset to the table; since earning a Masters in Finance from Boston College in 2008 he’s worked in the world of finance and banking, now serving as vice president and financial consultant at Rockland’s RT Investment division. But in the end it was the atmosphere of open sharing and “getting real” about what it means to be financially secure as a young person, particularly an Island young person, that made the workshops a success.

“There are a lot of challenges specific to living on the Island,” Beau says, and this is often where he opens his roundtable discussions. First, he has participants consider not just what they’re doing here on the Island — did they land here in a seasonal job that they’ve now outgrown? Do they see potential for growth in their current position? — but also why they’re here.

“We start by asking a bunch of questions,” Beau says. “Do you want to make the Island your home? What are you going to do for work? How are you going to participate in the community and is that participation going to provide you with the means you need to achieve the ends?”

Ends and means come up frequently in conversation with Beau; it’s another way of thinking about a personal budget. It may sound simple, but for many young adults, creating budgets and personal cash flow statements are not skills they’ve been formally taught, and the seasonality of Island life can complicate the prospect of getting on solid financial footing even further.

According to Beau, one of the most important financial decisions a young person can make when thinking about saving for a down payment on a home or planning for retirement is to recognize that working towards financial security is an intentional choice. And as someone who spent summers on the Island as a teen and in college, he’s aware of the temptation of what he calls “the party.”

“Living on the Island in the summer, there’s a party going on around us all of the time,” he says. “What we have to understand is, a lot of these people have been saving up all year long – sometimes all their lives – to come here in the summer and enjoy their disposable income. The hardest thing to do,” he says, for a year-rounder looking to build a nest egg, “is to not get caught up when the music starts.”

This change in focus can help shift basic habits, like cutting back on meals out, but can also encourage folks to participate in “the party” in different ways. “We don’t want to live in the shadow of the party,” Beau says, “So what can and can’t you participate in? What part in the economy can you play to get your means?”

For Beau, this line of thinking has led to the creation of his own side gig, a second job he takes on during the high season and shoulder months in order to pad his savings and afford small luxuries like family vacations during the winter. For 20 years Beau has worked shucking oysters at weddings and cocktail parties, ultimately starting his own business, Clambulance Raw Bars. “It was a way for me to provide a service based on my skills, while being a part of producing the party, as opposed to just enjoying it.”

Beau still finds time to enjoy Island living when he can, offshore fishing and spending time with his wife and two young daughters. He also clearly enjoys the challenge of finance, and though living on the Island has put its own twist on the arc of his career, he’s eager to share what he’s learned with others looking to make saving, investing and credit-building a priority.

“I started trading stocks when I was 19,” he says. “I loved the idea of being able to check companies and see them grow. It’s sort of the American dream.”

But after leaving graduate school and entering an uncertain job market deep in the recession of 2008, Beau returned to the Island under less-than-dreamy circumstances. “I washed back up here, as a lot of people do, with a mountain of debt and school loans,” he says.

Being candid about his own journey is part of what makes Beau’s workshops so accessible; he comes to the table as both a facilitator and a participant, and he refuses to sugar-coat the challenges of making an Island life work.

“It can feel like the cards are stacked against you,” he says. “It’s expensive to live here and the job options are limited.” This is why it’s important, he believes, for folks to come together and talk through the choices they’re making and how they might rethink their relationship to earning and saving. “Once we realize we’re all in the same boat – we’re all in this together – we can start to have a real conversation.”

Alex Bullen Coutts is a writer living in West Tisbury and editor of the Oyster.