A look at Mike Cartwright: Overcoming peer pressure and finding success

Written by: Samantha Burgess, Campus Editor

Signal Mtn., Tenn. — Michael “Mike” Cartwright sat across the table with his legs crossed, fingers laced over the top of his knee. Cartwright’s voice commanded the room, but it was clear from his soft smile and calm tone that he was easy to talk to. “My mother and father taught me ‘as sure as there’s a heaven to gain, there’s a hell to shun,’” said Cartwright. “I realized how true that was when I entered college.” His wayward high school days affected his college education, something Bryan students can learn from.

Mike Cartwright was born in Chattanooga, Tenn. on February 1, 1962 to Wayne and Cecile Cartwright. At two, his family moved to Harrison, Tenn. where his father built a home. He attended Harrison Elementary, J.B. Brown Middle and graduated from Central High School in 1980. Cartwright has one sibling, Kristie Cartwright, who is eight years younger. He trusted in Christ as his savior at seven years old with his mother’s guidance. Cartwright married Cindy Frazier in 1985. A year later they had a house built on Signal Mountain, where they currently reside with their son Daniel, who is 28 years old.

Some of Cartwright’s earliest memories are with his cousin, Terry Hooper, who he went hiking and biking with along the country roads beside the Alabama Highway in Ringgold, Ga. Cartwright also recalled winning the basketball championship in 6th grade and being undefeated in chess during middle school.

But Cartwright’s outlook on education changed when he entered high school. He lost interest in his classes and considered dropping out. The only class Cartwright did well in was architectural drafting, which piqued his interest when the school introduced a vocational improvement program.

To enter the program, Cartwright had to be tested. However, he quickly realized it wasn’t everything he’d hoped for. Students and administrators called it “the program for very stupid people” and they were given an ultimatum to fail the test in order to be placed in vocational classes. “Looking back now I can’t believe our education system actually presented it to us that way,” said Cartwright.

Cartwright admits to cheating throughout highschool and using his charm to convince teachers to bump up his grades. His wayward actions caught up to him in college when he struggled to understand basic math concepts. Cartwright decided to attend Cleveland State Community College where his professors taught him about architectural drafting and he met other students who were gifted in the area. Although he enjoyed architectural drafting, Cartwright felt a strong desire to study economics and investments. He changed his major to economics, but because he slacked off in high school, Cartwright was unable to grasp some of the core mathematic concepts. He transferred to UTC in hopes of taking better classes.

Cartwright was nearing the end of his college career when he faced another roadblock. His guidance counselor informed him that he couldn’t graduate with an economics degree because he lacked prerequisites such as calculus, algebra 2 and trigonometry. “Instead of recommending me to go get those things, so I could graduate, they just looked at me and asked what I’d like to change my major to,” he said. In the heat of the moment Cartwright chose accounting, even though he’d had no desire to enter the field. He did well in all of his classes except for accounting. Cartwright’s accounting professor told him he had to understand debits and credits if he wanted to succeed in his major. She taught so far over his head that Cartwright was unable to understand these concepts.

Feeling hopeless, Cartwright dropped out of college for six months. Under the Lord’s guidance through prayer, he was directed to Mackenzie College of Business where he took senior accounting. Dr. Jim Jones, his professor, told him the exact words of his last professor — that he had to understand debits and credits. Unlike Cartwright’s previous professor, Dr. Jones took the time to break down these concepts and work with Cartwright until he understood them. Cartwright graduated at the top of his class in 1984 with an ABS degree.

Furthering his education, Cartwright went on to join the College of Financial Planning in Denver, Colo. where he graduated with a diploma in the Professional Certification of Financial Planning. After graduating, he immediately went to set for his boards and became a Certified Financial Planner through the board in Washington D.C. Because of a new found zeal for academia, Cartwright went on to get a dual BSA and BSS degree in International Business, Relations and Diplomacy from UBICE in Geneva, Switzerland and Potomac University in Washington D.C.

“I’ve used every inch of my degrees in my line of work,” said Cartwright. Currently, he is a financial advisor for Lawson and Winchester Wealth Management. After graduating in 1984, Cartwright worked for American Express where he became a field trainer. In 1986, he worked as an Investment Broker for J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons & Company. Lyons left Chattanooga in 1988, and Cartwright decided to help form the First Financial Services, an investment subsidiary of First Federal Savings & Loan. He became the manager in 1991. When the First Federal merged with the AmSouth Bank, Cartwright became Vice President and Senior Investment Officer of AmSouth Investment Services of Tennessee.

To further his career, he established his own firm, Cartwright, Hitching and Frazier, in 1993. Cartwright supervised eight offices — including three in the Nashville area — and was responsible for $120 million in assets under management. In 2015 he chose to sell the firm to men who he knew could turn it into a $1 billion wealth management firm. This relieved Cartwright of some of his overwhelming duties. Now his workload consists only of his clients at Lawson and Winchester. “I’ve learned to value money but not to love money,” said Cartwright. “Even though I’ve been around millions of dollars, I have no desire to leverage it for my own gain or to take money from others. I want to do what’s right and honest, regardless of the cost.”

When he’s not working, Cartwright is involved in Calvary Baptist as a deacon. He is a member of the American Philatelic Society and has collected over 300,000 stamps. Cartwright is a fan of amatuer racing and formed his own team in 2000. His father, who helped him rebuild a BMW race car, was his crew chief. Cartwright raced for five years as a member of the SCCA before selling his team package in 2005 to two men from Indianapolis.

Cartwright also loved cartooning as a child and in Dec. 2005 he created the cartoon strip “RatzenKatz by Cartwright.” The cartoon features a European packrat from Switzerland named Kerwin. The packrat finds himself in an American pet store where he is adopted by a teen named Ivy. “Kerwin is a connoisseur of everything and a kleptomaniac. 

He constantly keeps the neighborhood in turmoil,” said Cartwright. He was published in December of 2006 and joined the southeast chapter of the National Cartoonist Society. Cartwright attended the 2007 Ruben Awards where he met Genie Schulz, the widow of Charles Schulz who created the Peanuts cartoons, who praised his work. However, due to the recession of 2008, Cartwright retired his cartoon strip in September of 2009 so he could focus on his finance career.

Cartwright regretted giving into peer pressure as a teen and it took a lot of hard work to get to the place he’s at today. Cartwright is serious in pursuing God–he openly shares the Gospel with others and serves on rotation as a deacon at Calvary Baptist–and he hopes that his life will honor Christ and be an example for others. “If I could give my younger self some advice it would be to not give into peer pressure and to treat everyone with respect regardless of their skin color or status in life,” he said.

Samantha Burgess is a sophomore majoring in communication with an emphasis in digital media and is an assistant editor for the Triangle. She can often be found curled up with a good book, writing, listening to music or watching TV.