When Jonathon Rowles was a kid, his financier grandfather—who successfully led Chicago First Bank through the Great Depression—would clip articles from the Wall Street Journal and send them to Jonathon, asking him to describe his favorite stocks and why he chose them.
At 18, Jonathon got a job as a ticket runner for a bond firm. “It was my first real look at equity markets and fixed income markets,” he explained. “It gave me exposure and I got excited.” He quickly acquired his trading license and moved on to a job at an insurance company dealing in small cap equities. Meanwhile, Rowles was attending college full-time. “I didn’t give a second thought to taking a break during school—you work while you’re in college to get that experience,” he said. As a result, when he graduated from college, Rowles was well positioned to set up his own investment firm, in conjunction with a credit union, where he offered personal financial services. When he decided to sell his firm and join the U.S. Marine Corps, Rowles was only 25 years old, but he already had seven years of professional experience under his belt.
“I wanted to fly jets,” Rowles said. “It was my childhood dream, and you can only fly jets when you’re young, so I sold everything I had. I went to Officer Candidate School with my car and a bag full of clothes.” Rowles realized his dream and flew for several years as a Marine.
Meanwhile, Rowles noticed discrepancies in his mortgage statements and realized he was being overcharged on his mortgage. Rowles had successfully submitted an application to his lender, based on a provision of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, to reduce his interest rate to 6%, but found that his rate suddenly went back up. Because he was paying only what he knew he owed, the bank informed him just before he was scheduled to deploy in 2010 that it was going to begin foreclosure proceedings because of lack of full payment. Rowles’ lawyer and the South Carolina Attorney General looked into the problem, and Rowles eventually sued the bank to recover the overcharges and in the process became the lead plaintiff for a class action lawsuit. The investigation revealed that 15,000 service members had been overcharged. After negotiating a settlement, Rowles and his team won over $60 million for the recovery of improperly charged mortgages for US service members and donated over $4 million to charity, including a significant portion to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
Because of his extensive financial expertise and his personal knowledge of the financial issues faced by service members, the Marine Corps asked Rowles to help develop and implement a financial management program for Marines, in conjunction with the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. At the same time, Rowles sustained an injury while flying and had to medially retire from the Corps in 2013. “My plan had been to stay in for 20 or 25 years,” he explained. But once retired, Rowles found himself drawn back into the world of finance. He began writing several articles each week on the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society blog about personal finance for Sailors and Marines and their families. He also provides accounting, finance, and investment consulting for individuals and corporations. Rowles, his wife Julia, and their three children, live in Virginia.
“I’m very thankful for the Society and the opportunity to continue to serve after my time in the Marine Corps,” Rowles said. “I’m glad I can still be here and take care of my Marines. Even though the uniform is off that doesn’t mean you’re absolved of your responsibility. This is my way of taking care of Marines.”