1. Finish this sentence: The power of financial planning is ...
… empowering others with the knowledge that will help them achieve their goals and spread knowledge to their family and friends, which will ultimately increase the cycle of wealth-building.
2. Earlier this year you launched 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the planning profession. What’s the one thing all planners can do today to have a measurable impact?
We, as individuals, are so powerful, and we don’t know the impact that we make in other people’s lives, whether it’s a client or a colleague. Just learning about one another is so important.
We spend more time with our colleagues during the week than we do with our actual family, so the most important thing financial planners can do—or all people within the financial service industry—is to not only learn about their client’s culture, but what if we started to learn about each other?
Sharing stories amongst each other, amongst colleagues, and asking questions of your fellow financial planners will increase awareness and familiarity with people of diverse backgrounds.
So, take a curiosity approach to your colleague who doesn’t look like you, or who may have come from a different socioeconomic background, or may have a different sexual orientation. And let’s give each other grace as we try to figure this out. I think, ultimately, it will not only make us great people, but great colleagues and great financial planners.
3. Your work on diversity and inclusion is certainly influencing others. Who influences you?
It’s the people I meet; it’s the next generation of financial planners. I get inspiration from listening to other people’s stories, and I look within myself to see what it is that I can do within my sphere of influence, with the platforms that I have, with whatever voice that I may have. How can I continue to help others? And so by listening to other people’s stories, it influences me.
Lazetta [Rainey Braxton], for example. Just seeing her or just listening to her story about her experience in the profession gave me the inspiration to keep going.
Or Phuong [Luong]. We met when we were both the [FPA] Diversity Scholarship recipients in 2014. Since then, we challenge each other to push each other outside of our comfort zone. Phuong has specifically influenced me by recognizing the power of the words we use to describe ourselves and others.
And Angela [Moore]. She inspired me to be my authentic self and be unapologetically me. [Dorsainvil interviews Rainey Braxton, Luong, Moore, and others in her 2050 TrailBlazers podcast, of which FPA is a sponsor, at riankadorsainvil.com/
4. What is the No. 1 lesson you learned working for other people that you’ve applied to your own business?
The No. 1 lesson I learned came from just sitting in client meetings and emphasizing the importance of learning body language and how to ask sensitive questions and challenging questions. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of allowing your paraplanner, your young associate, your entry-level planner, whatever the title may be, to sit in on client meetings. As a young planner, we don’t know how much we learn just by being present.
Now I’m the lead planner, and I have to be that person. Although my firm is virtual, I’m able to see my clients because we do everything via video conferencing. There’s always a silent party, and I know how to direct the conversation to make sure they’re heard.
There are some uncomfortable conversations where I can see some twitching of the body, or the biting of the lip, or not giving me eye contact, but I learned the different cues and body language to know how to redirect those questions and to ask them in a way that’s better received by the client.
5. Your Greatest Contribution is a virtual comprehensive fee-only financial planning firm dedicated to serving the busy young professional. How does your fee model fit both your needs as the business owner and the needs of young professionals?
The professionals I work with are in their early 30s and early 40s. They may not have a large nest egg, but they are growing in their careers, and they are hitting different life stages where they know they need professional guidance and support, and they have great cash flow.
Because they may not have a large nest egg, the AUM model wouldn’t be best for these clients. Charging a retainer fits better with their budget and their lifestyle, and it also ensures that I can be on call when they need me, because the clientele I’m working with are getting married, they’re buying their first or second home, they’re having children, they’re getting promoted to different C suite-level positions. Offering a retainer also allows them to work with a Certified Financial Planner and a fiduciary.
As a business owner, what’s important to me is making sure I can pay my bills and pay myself. So, from a cash flow scenario on my end, I know on a quarterly basis I’m getting paid by my clients. And by getting paid on a quarterly basis, I can do cash flow projections. I know how much I can pay myself; I know if I need to hire someone how much I can pay them. And, as I’m learning and growing with my clients, I’m understanding how much time [different planning scenarios] take from an efficiency standpoint. If another client situation comes up where I’ve dealt with this before, and I know this takes a little bit more time, the minimum fee is going to be a little bit higher.
6. What one piece of technology could you not live without?
Video conferencing. I use Zoom, and it’s one of the foundations of my business. It allows me to both serve clients and work with my team without location inconvenience or time being a barrier. I can work with anyone across the country who’s seeking a financial planner.
I have an executive assistant who lives in Florida. I have a paraplanner who lives in California. And I have a team of five all over the country who work with me on the 2050 TrailBlazers podcast. Phone calls are nice, but being able to see clients or being able to see your team members adds the extra layer of that personal touch.
7. What was the scariest thing about starting your own planning practice?
Of course you have the thoughts of: Am I going to succeed? Am I going to fail? What does failure look like? Those are the knowns, right? So, I would say the unknown is the scariest thing. And for me, that was: I did not know how much emphasis I put on working with a team and actually seeing people and being able to hug and embrace others. I’m a complete people person.
I love working with a team, but in the beginning of starting my own practice, it was just me. It was very hard missing out on the social aspect of going to a job every day; it was very hard not to see anyone. And I didn’t know that it was going to have that big of an effect on me.
Within the first two to three months I got really, really sad. But video conferencing and having a co-working space definitely helped. I’m about to go into year three of my business, and it’s so much easier now.
8. You are a past president of the FPA NexGen Community. How would you describe the next generational of financial planners?
The next generation coming in is very different from previous generations. The growth of university programs has birthed a new generation of financial planners who are intentionally coming into this profession. It’s not by happenstance; we are making a deliberate intention of saying, “I want to be a financial planner.” We have our personal journey of why we are entering this profession, so we all have our “whys.”
What makes us unique is our strong technological skills. We have grown up surrounded by technology and are constantly thinking of ways we can use these tools to make our lives and our work more efficient, and this is a huge asset for firms that want to move forward as the profession is moving forward.
This connection to information and technology leads the next generation to seek out open environments and unique cultures and, I think, the need for transparency and authenticity. We have this breadth of personal finance knowledge that we feel should be shared with all generations, not just those with a large nest egg. We do what we do because we have this innate push to empower, educate, and inform—that’s the next generation of financial planners.
9. You are part of a mastermind group. What do you get from participating in this group, and do you recommend other planners seek out similar groups?
Being a solo practitioner, it’s helpful to know that I have other CFPs I can lean on for personal and professional support. We do client case studies, so my clients are not only getting my brain, but they are getting seven other CFP brains as well.
And I absolutely recommend other planners seek out their own mastermind group or study group, because you don’t know what you don’t know. As you’re looking for a mastermind group or building one out, have that level of confidence that you can be vulnerable with your colleagues in that group because, especially as a business owner, you’re going to have some rough times. For me, it’s been the key for my success, not only with YGC but also with 2050 TrailBlazers.
10. What is your favorite place you have traveled to in the world and why?
Santiago, Chile. It holds a very special place in my heart because it’s where I got to meet my family. My dad immigrated to the United States when he was 14, and for a number of reasons, he lost contact with his family.
Facebook has a bad rap right now, but Facebook helped my dad’s family find us. In September 2017, I got to hug my grandmother, my step-granddad, my aunt, my cousins, and I finally felt like the half of me is now a whole. Santiago is my favorite place; it’s my home.
Carly Schulaka is editor of the Journal. Contact her HERE.