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Worthington Wealth Management

Client Profile: Eric Underwood – On the Road to Retirement

There is a common perception – for whatever reason – that successful investors are old, rich, stuffy people. In our experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Eric Underwood is living, riding proof that anyone can be a successful investor – and not just with their money. At 44 years old, the AEP project manager lives what many would call a normal, down-to-earth life. Working four days a week from his home in Coshocton and the fifth from downtown Columbus, Eric would readily admit to being a regular Joe.

After a childhood of riding bikes around town, coming home when the streetlights came on, and living the stereotypical small-town 1980s life, Eric went off to Cincinnati for college. After getting his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering he landed a job with a small-town civil engineering firm, then took a position at a manufacturing company, where he and another employee were the only two engineers on staff with formal training – everyone else was the self-taught, shade-tree mechanic sort. 

Eric spent five years there, working on process improvement and designing the firm’s machinery, even helping lead the firm’s expansion to Coventry, England. He had been taking classes to get his MBA and was ready for new challenges. “I came to a fork in the road: either move on to another engineering job or go to law school – I’d been taking some law classes while studying for my MBA.”

It wasn’t long before he landed a job at AEP, at their Dresden, Ohio facility while it was being built. “I was basically ‘the engineer’ on-site, I owned all the processes,” he says. “It was a small plant – I learned a lot about a lot.” Eventually, Eric started to reach the top of the ladder at the plant and started to look for new roles – both inside AEP and outside. He knew that his best options were going to be in Columbus but wasn’t thrilled about the drive from Coshocton to downtown, so he kept his search focused on the suburbs.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic introduced the world to the wonders of remote work and Eric’s job search widened. He ended up accepting a project management role focused on electrical distribution – something he had no experience in. But, given his natural curiosities, he dove in and got started learning. Now, three years later, he’s comfortable in the role and is looking forward to the next challenge. Maybe he’ll get back into generation, back to building a power plant. “Nobody knows more about that around here than I do.”

But it’s not just electrical transmission and generation that gets Eric out of bed in the morning. One look at the ’42 Harley-Davidson Flathead in his living room and it becomes clear that he’s got a very interesting hobby. Though there is only one motorcycle in the living room, there are a couple more downstairs in the office and another half-dozen in the garage. 

“I’m super obsessed,” Eric says about his vintage motorcycle collection. “It goes back to my childhood. I’d see a cool motorcycle when I was a kid and think ‘Why can’t I get one?’” He started racing motocross when he was ten or eleven years old and kept with it until high school started to take up too much time. Then, after saving his pennies through college, he bought a brand-new Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide that he kept until his first year of marriage when he sold it in favor of a Porsche Boxster S. 

A few years later, when Eric was single again, he decided to get back into motorcycling and ended up buying another Harley. “That kind started me back into motorcycling and eventually into collecting.” 

So, he’s got that classic ’42 Flathead in the living room – it’s really the centerpiece of his collection at this point. And then out in the garage are two Ducatis, one of which is his favorite, a 1986 750F1, that he spent two years searching for. “It’s been my favorite bike since junior high. I just thought it was the coolest thing on the planet.”

Though he rarely rides his favorite Ducati, saying “It’s a race bike – it’s not comfortable,” Eric says that he’d ride his 42 Flathead more often if it weren’t such a hassle to get in and out of the living room.

There is also, out in the garage and up on a shelf, an even more rare classic: a ’47 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. And though it’s currently in about three pieces – the engine is in the basement, the handlebars are lying beside the frame and the rest are in boxes – while Eric works on getting it restored, you can tell just by looking that it’s something special; more than just a classic American bike. It’s one of the most sought-after collector items in the motoring world. It’s a 76-year-old work of art. 

Though his motorcycles are a fun hobby, Eric spends most of his leisure time with his family. He and his wife, Angel, have been together for about five years and were married in August 2022. They spend their springs traveling up and down the East Coast watching Angel’s oldest daughter play Division II college softball. They also spend a lot of time watching Eric’s two children play their various high school sports – Addie plays soccer, is on the swim team, and runs track while Peyton plays soccer and basketball and also runs track. Given the sports careers of their kids, Eric and Angel are always cheering for someone.

When they’re not crisscrossing the country following the kids' sports teams Eric and Angel enjoy visiting local wineries and going to concerts. It’s only in his sparest of time does Eric ride his bikes or get out the wrenches to work on them. 

“Real life makes collecting more of a challenge,” Eric muses. “I have a list of things in my head that I want – things that I either owned or wanted when I was a kid. Or things that have some sentimental value, some childhood memory. Like my dirt bike or the Ducati.”

He does say, though, that he doesn’t buy at random. Other than keeping an eye out for things that hold a special place for him, he does a lot with an eye to retirement. Eric’s goal is to retire on time and without making any changes to his lifestyle. Ultimately, Eric and his wife, Angel, would like to spend winters of retirement in Belize.  “I don’t have enough time in my day to manage my money at that level, with the research and the data and all that,” he said. “I was relieved when a friend referred me to Dan.” Part of Eric’s retirement diversification includes projects that touch his life in ways money can’t, keeping him riding with a clear head and a smooth road in front of him.