Financial Planning: A Puzzle Lover’s Ideal Career
I am a curious person and love getting to know what makes people do what they do. I constantly ask people what they enjoy doing, what gets them excited, and what they care about. I feel privileged when people open up to me and let me know what makes them tick. But as I was sitting here thinking about all the wonderful conversations I’ve had with people, I also realize that I often make those conversations a one-way street. I thought I would turn the table a little bit, share why I love financial planning so much, and explain why I got into this business in the first place.
It definitely wasn’t from family influences. My mom was a school teacher and my dad was a drafting engineer, both of whom really didn’t know much about managing money or investing in the stock market. It wasn’t from my educational experience. I remember a brief section regarding the stock market in an economics class in high school and that was it. It also wasn’t from my social circle. My first experience in investing was in my 401(k) at my first job. The HR department was my first real teacher, so I followed their suggestions by contributing 15% and picking the funds with the highest lifetime rate of return.
Then where did this love of financial planning come from? It came from my love of puzzles and because I was good in math. I remember sitting in an accounting class in high school and going through the basics of a balance sheet. I was immediately smitten. Here were a bunch of numbers that needed to be put together in a certain way so everything would balance and tell a story. It was the ultimate puzzle. Plus, I quickly realized that accounting was the language of business. This language could show me how successful a business really was. It didn’t matter if the business was in the U.S., Europe, or Japan. All businesses used accounting as the underlying language.
The world of accounting kept my interest for the first 10-15 years of my career. However, I came to realize that while I understood the balance sheet and income statement of the company I worked for, I had no idea what my own financials looked like. Was everything balanced? Was I contributing to the correct buckets? What was my tax strategy? At that time, I was in a very stressful corporate position, working long hours with three kids under the age of six. I had no time to focus on my own financials, so I began the search for an advisor who could guide me to my idea of financial freedom.
My search didn’t go the way I thought it would. Now, this was my personal experience, so please realize everyone’s situation is different. First, I asked a lot of my friends about their financial plans, and I either got the answer of, “I do it myself,” or “I’ve got a guy and they are OK.” Well, I knew I didn’t want to do it myself, so I started reaching out to the advisors my friends used. There were two things I quickly realized: First, it really was, “I’ve got a guy.” Not one of the advisors was female! Not a deal breaker because coming from the accounting world, I was used to working mostly with men. But then a funny thing happened. As I spoke with these advisors, they asked to speak to my husband. Or, if we were in a meeting, they would only look at my husband. It was like I didn’t even exist. And then, many of them were trying to sell me products that just didn’t feel right for me, and the fees they charged just didn’t seem to fit the value I would be receiving.
So, what did I do? Nothing. I went back to what I was doing and decided to figure it out later. However, the little voice in my head wouldn’t stay quiet. I knew that this was an industry where I could make a difference, especially for women like me. I understood the “language” of business. I understood how hard it can be to be a mom and a working professional AND plan for your family’s financial future. Plus, as I already mentioned, I love getting to know people and solving puzzles. I have found the financial planning world is amazing and definitely the path for me. Each day, I get to work with people from all walks of life and solve puzzles. What could be better? Perhaps helping more women start a career in the financial planning industry.