Says Paul Walker of his relief organization, Reach Out Worldwide: "We're seeing how much bang for the buck we can get by giving of ourselves and spending every dollar on the cause."
When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, actor Paul Walker's first thought was for the friends he'd made on a surfing trip there years earlier. "The idea that people I'd gotten to know might have been hurt or killed brought the disaster a lot closer to home," Walker says. He quickly assembled a group of acquaintances, including firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and within five days they were building shelters and helping doctors attend to the injured. Inspired by that experience, the same group, still led by Walker, gathered a few weeks later to head for coastal Chile, which had just been slammed by its own earthquake and a tsunami.
The aid experience triggered a long-range plan to help others. Less than a year after the Haiti mission, Walker decided to create his own relief organization, Reach Out Worldwide. "We aren't going to change the world," he says. "But we'd like to think we've made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people."
Walker, 38, is known to action-movie fans — especially ones with a love of high-powered cars — as the star of the series The Fast and the Furious. But he is a man with many passions. A marine biology major in college, he's helped tag great white sharks for the National Geographic Channel's Expedition Great White. In addition, he's an accomplished surfer and a racing enthusiast with a special hangar to house his many cars.
Courtesy of AE Performance
(Pictured above: Paul Walker and his Financial Advisor, Roger Rodas.)
Roger Rodas, like his client, is not just an auto-racing enthusiast but also a committed philanthropist. Before helping Paul Walker establish Reach Out Worldwide, Rodas had created a foundation to support widows and orphans in his native El Salvador. The experience proved invaluable as he worked with Walker. Rodas and Walker had been friends and had been racing for several years before they began collaborating on Walker's finances.
It was at the track of a California race club that Walker met his Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor, Roger Rodas of The Rodas Group. The two struck up a conversation when Walker noticed Rodas driving a Porsche GT3 he had previously owned. Soon the two were racing side by side, as when they teamed recently with two professional drivers in a pro-am 25-hour endurance race in Thunder Hill, Calif. As their friendship developed, Walker occasionally asked Rodas for financial advice, and they began working together formally as client and Financial Advisor in 2007. The first item on their agenda was reorganizing Walker's portfolio, a hodgepodge of personal investments. Rodas suggested a diversified, relatively conservative portfolio of stocks, bonds, cash and alternative investments, aimed mostly at preserving capital. And because an actor's income is sporadic, each time Walker completes another film, he and Rodas meet to re-evaluate his financial strategy to help make sure his long-term goals stay on track.
Meanwhile, Rodas helped Walker find a creative solution for maintaining his passion for cars and racing without having them become a financial burden. Maintaining and transporting his fleet requires several full-time professionals, and Walker had been funding the operation out of his own pocket. Rodas suggested an alternative: that Walker create an incorporated race shop that is bonded and insured, and that brings in income by also doing work for other drivers. "Paul said that what he saved in expenses covered all of his racing costs last year," Rodas notes.
But these days, Walker is heavily focused on worldwide relief efforts. When Walker began efforts to to establish a formal foundation, Rodas worked with the actor's accountant to help set up the financial structure. "Becoming a foundation means it can accept donations, which in turn allows Paul to scale up his philanthropy," Rodas says. Reach Out Worldwide now sends small, highly mobile teams of volunteers to natural disaster sites around the world.
"Instead of just writing a check, we're seeing how much more bang for the buck we can get by giving of ourselves and spending every dollar on the cause," Walker says. "As tragic as the disasters are, people consistently rise above the bleakness by focusing on what they still have. It gives you a lot of hope."
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