One of my favorite questions to ask new friends and acquaintances is how they chose their careers. I love hearing about the important people in their lives that guided them to their career path or the light bulb moment that set them on their course. I feel so honored when folks open up and share their journey with me. In that moment, they are truly opening their hearts and trusting me with their personal stories.
Sharing with you all today my personal story on how I ended up in the personal finance space and why it’s such a passion of mine to spread financial education and literacy.
Growing up, I viewed myself as an outcast. An outcast in the sense that I was not like the other kids that I went to school with. The area I grew up in was very affluent. I went to school with kids who owned horses (yes plural), had vacation homes, shopped at the expensive stores, carried designer bags, drove luxury cars and always had the newest toy or electronic. I think you get the picture.
It’s funny to look back at my childhood and think of the play dates where I would show up at my friend’s house and we would go from horseback riding, to playing tennis on their home tennis court to taking a swim in the pool. I’m thankful for those memories but it became challenging to separate expectations from my reality.
I, on the other hand, grew up in a middle class family with two working parents. We were far from being poor but it felt that way as a child. My parents didn’t take us on vacations like my friends went on, we didn’t have a horse stable or pool in our backyard and we were seemingly the last kids in school to get cell phones and iPods. In comparison to the kids that seemed to have everything, I felt like I had nothing and that created a lot of tension between me and my parents which boiled over in high school.
I would get in fights with my parents constantly as a teenager. I felt cheated that I couldn’t have the same lifestyle as my friends and blamed them for all of it. The two biggest fights we had during the high school years were over getting a third car for the family and where I was going to college. At the time they told me there was a reason for not having a third car but I was too stubborn to listen to any answer that wasn’t yes.
On my 16th birthday, the birthday your can test for your driver’s license, I expected to get a car as gift. That’s what all my friends got, and I thought that for once my parents would be like my friend’s parents and get me a car. They got me a car alright, a Mach 5 Hot Wheels car.
Well played parents, well played.
I was furious at the time but laugh about it today. What a savage move by my parents.
Fast forward a couple years and its time to get serious about applying to and choosing a college. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to attend Miami University in Ohio. That is where my parents went to school (yes they are Miami Mergers) and the moment I stepped on campus I was smitten. Little did I know that when it was my time to go to school that tuition was going to be over $30,000 per year for out-of-state students.
It was during the college discussions that my parents shared with me (not for this first time) that they had been saving for college for my brothers and I since birth. They shared that they had “x” amount of dollars in a 529 college savings account and that could fully cover an in-state school or cover a portion of Miami’s tuition. At the time, my only takeaway from the conversation was that they weren’t prepared to support my dreams of college at Miami.
I was furious, I worked so hard throughout high school to be the perfect student; earning top 5% honors while being a two-sport athlete. It didn’t seem fair that I wasn’t going to be rewarded by them for my hard work . I was angry at them for not making enough money, having too many kids to send to school and not supporting my goals.
I know, I was a horrible child. I promise the story gets better.
The College Decision
After many heated discussions, shouting matches and tear-filled conversations, I made the decision to go to Illinois State University. It wasn’t Miami of Ohio but I was offered an athletic scholarship as a Division One diver, it was in-state and they had a reputable college of business. My parents never told me that I couldn’t go to Miami, but my dad did show me the spreadsheet he made and laid out student loans I would be signing up for if I chose Miami over the other schools that gave me scholarship money or were in-state.
During those emotional conversations, my parents continued sharing with me their thoughts an beliefs on personal finances. They shared with me, again, that they had been saving for my college education since I was born and were able to continue putting money aside because of the sacrifices they made. These sacrifices included, not taking the family on vacations, not spending on clothing and purses and not buying a family car when I turned 16.
It was during those conversations that I felt like the Grinch, but the part in the story where his heart starts to grow. Their constant messaging of having a plan, sticking to budgets and sacrificing in pursuit of a greater goal began to sink in and I started listening.
A Change of Heart
When I started at Illinois State, I quickly realized how fortunate I was to have a large part of my education covered through parental support. Removing myself for the town that I grew up, full of wealth and luxury, and living in a college town full of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds was humbling. In that environment, I was able to see more clearly and appreciate the financial lessons my parents modeled throughout my childhood.
Around that same time, my father started a new career in wealth management. He started his career in corporate accounting and over time started his own financial planning practice. When I started college, he merged his practice into a larger firm and was eager to show off his new role to his family and give us a tour of his office.
I was home for winter break and my dad had the idea to take a trip to his new office for a tour. One thing about my father that I left out until now, is that he loves to share knowledge and instill wisdom in all interactions. He used this trip to the office as an opportunity to showcase his new planning software and shared with me the financial plan he created for our family.
This was the light bulb moment. Suddenly all the dots were connecting, this financial plan reinforced all the conversations my parents had with me on budgeting, savings and goal setting. I was fascinated by the concept of financial planning, the software and the ability to create custom goals, aggregate assets and test its strength. It was like solving an unique puzzle with the end prize of peace of mind and independence.
How cool is that!
The first week back from break, I was in my guidance counselor’s office switching my major from accounting to finance with a minor in financial planning. The rest is history.
For those of you new to the Financial Fashion Planner, I am a financial advisor with a firm in Chicago and am proud of my work. After six years with my firm (not including two summers of internships), I climbed the ladder from client service to financial advisor. A title I am so proud to hold and a journey I have just begun.
I am going to be real for moment and share that the road to building a practice has been and will continue to be tough but its a challenge I willing to accept. It is the catalyst of this blog and the reason I post on so many personal finance topics in addition to fashion. Through the drafting, posting and promoting process, I have gained confidence in my technical ability and communication skills. Both are hallmarks of a great advisor and I want to continue to put myself in situations where I can improve in both areas.
To make a very long story short, the reason I am a financial advisor is because of my parents modeling of financial stewardship during my childhood. While I didn’t appreciate and fully understand all the sacrifices they made at the time, I am forever grateful for them. I chose this profession because I want to be in a position to pay forward the financial lessons my parents taught me. It took awhile, but I eventually got there.