A Fundamentally Sound Business

Paul & Sydney Neely
Phoenix, AZ
Former Occupation: Musician / Teacher

Few people can truly understand the life of a professional musician, but Paul & Sydney Neely, of Phoenix, AZ, are more than familiar with the highs, lows and everything in between. As a founding member of the experimental rock band, “The Stiletto Formal,” Paul played bass guitar and percussion for nearly eight years. “We had four other members, one being a cello player, which helped us create a distinctive sound,” he says. “I loved my experience in the group. It’s such an incredible honor to create original music that people love and then play it live in front of big crowds in multiple cities.”

The band achieved great success, signing a record deal with Warner Brothers and releasing an album and singles, which were sold in major retail stores. They also performed live across the United States and Canada. It was a unique, exciting lifestyle, but one that was unpredictable and exhausting at times. “We were on the road nine months out of the year, and we played approximately 250 shows annually,” Paul remembers. “Stability is not guaranteed as a musician for either time and finances. We’re often neglected by the corporate world and what I jokingly refer to as ‘professional debt obtainers.’ But that’s part of the tradeoff to do what you love.”

A Financial Musician
Music and financial services may seem like an unusual combination at first, but it was what helped Paul and Sydney stay afloat during the early part of their marriage. Paul had a trusted source in his uncle, Jim O’Reilly, who approached him about Primerica before they got married. “Being on the road made it impossible to get a second job, so he convinced me to get licensed and start part-time. It worked out well because I spent a lot of time teaching other musicians about their finances while on tour. I kept sharing my testimony of how the Financial Needs Analysis taught me about debt stacking and helped me pay off $29,000 of credit card debt in less than two years. With my part-time Primerica career, we were able to earn an additional $15,000-$20,000 a year to keep everything running. The business opportunity was the most efficient way for us to reach our short and long-term goals.”1,2

Sydney provided a lot of stability and vital income through her job as an art history teacher at two local colleges. But that meant she stayed back in Arizona 90% of the time. Paul’s life on the road, however, reached its own coda when he sustained a major hand injury in 2009 that ultimately ended his music career. “My hand had a lot of tissue damage, and it basically gave out from playing so much,” he explains. “It was a gut punch because we had a full music operation going, and we were even in talks to tour Japan and Germany. I was hoping physical therapy would fix it, but that wasn’t the case.”

The show went on without Paul but fortunately, as one door closed, another one was already open. “What initially drew us to Primerica was the ability to bridge the financial gap while I searched for a different career path.” It wasn’t long before he changed his tune and pursued it full-time, with Sydney joining him three years later. Paul emphasizes how much she has elevated their business practices. “She put her master’s degree in education to great use by creating a training curriculum, an orientation class and more. What I often tell people is that Sydney ‘puts the legs and feet to my vision’ because she brings a lot of structure and clarity. We met in high school, have been together for more than 20 years and we’re both active leaders in our business. She is my ride-or-die in work and in life.”

The Search for Significance
What resonated with the Neelys most about Primerica was their desire to do something significant with their lives. “We always wanted to leave a mark in this world that will be remembered,” they share. “Teaching people how to be successful is very rewarding both professionally and personally. It’s empowering when someone gains new information and insight to make decisions that can improve their quality of living. The ability to pay it forward is an important aspect of being a responsible, caring member of society, and it’s a privilege to be part of the process. It feels great when you can do something worthy for a living and to know your success is a result of making a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Paul and Sydney’s commitment to their clients centers on five key components: providing information, answering questions, making suggestions, supporting research and offering emotional support. “We’re oversaturated with information in today’s world, which makes it harder to find accurate, reliable content, especially for finances,” they point out. “It’s important to be available if clients have any questions or need clarification. We not only try our best to provide helpful answers and suggestions, but we also conduct research and look for relevant resources if they request it. Words of encouragement can also make a big difference. Positive reinforcement, particularly during a hardship or when people are trying to do the right thing, should never be overlooked in our industry.”

A Perfect Harmony
Primerica still symbolizes the perfect harmony of hope and success for the Neelys. Joining the business remains one of their best decisions for several reasons: “The financial and entrepreneurial education – combined with the great coaching – has changed our lives,” Paul says proudly. “We knew practically nothing about money when we started, but we were able to become financially independent. We’re very grateful the Primerica Home Office is willing to listen to Reps and evolve as needed. We know our Company will continue to invest in the training, infrastructure and technology to keep us on the cutting edge of financial services. It brings us joy to know when we take on a new client or Representative, part of the investment is in the Company’s morals and beliefs, so there’s never a doubt about being able to deliver on our promises.”

  1. From January 1 through December 31, 2023, Primerica paid cash flow to its North American sales force at an average of $7,185, which includes commissions paid on all lines of business to life licensed representatives. Figures include U.S. and Canadian dollars remaining in the local currency earned by the representative, not adjusted for exchange rates.
  2. Primerica Representatives are independent contractors and are not employees of Primerica. Representatives earn income through the sale of products and are not paid to recruit.