I have been fortunate to have been mentored by a father who engaged me in conversations about personal finance throughout the years. At age 23, I took a financial planning course that piqued my interest that has grown over the years.
After college, I spent four years of soul searching working various jobs and went on to attend law school at the Washington College of Law at The American University. After law school, I worked in several small law practices and had my own practice as well. Once I had my son, I wanted to stay home with him and built an in-home music studio where I taught guitar classes for 12 years. I loved teaching groups of adults and children to play the guitar, a skill that they could enjoy for life. Along the way, I was building up my financial education, attended seminars and classes. Eventually, I was able to separate the wheat from the chaff realizing that most of these seminars were well-disguised sales pitches.
A few years ago, I completed the requisite coursework for the CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) credential. This involved writing a 35-page financial plan for a client and uploading a video of a mock presentation to the client. In 2017, I took on another rigorous course of study followed by a four-hour examination to achieve the credential of CRPC® or Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠.
I worked briefly in the financial industry, discovering it was not compatible with my goal of wanting to put my clients' interests first. Rather, than focusing on the needs of the client, most if not all of the jobs in the financial industry demand that employees be involved in aggressive sales at the expense of the clients' best interests. The powerful financial industry has been successful in thwarting any governmental attempts to enact effective regulations that would protect consumers.
The silver lining of my mercifully short industry experience is that my employer required that I study a 500-page book to take the Maryland Life and Health Insurance Exam. I am now well versed in the various insurance and annuity-related products: this has enabled me to educate and warn my clients of the various downsides to these products. Insurance agents don’t disclose these risks to clients because there is no legal requirement to do so. I have also now uncovered where various advisor commissions and fees are stealthily hidden from consumers. Again, there are no legal protections affording consumers when hiring a financial advsior. Sadly, there are actually no laws that regulate who can call themselves a financial advisor, wealth manager or any other misleading monikers. Most of them are merely salespeople.
My goal is to help people, especially women, WITHOUT BIAS and with complete transparency. My only motive is to help you. My desire is to teach people the importance of properly handling their money. This will arm clients with the knowledge to help them dodge predatory sales tactics that are rife within both the financial and insurance industries. Even the savviest consumer has trouble understanding how they are being charged.
Most of my contemporaries’ parents had pensions so they didn’t have experience managing their own retirement plans. In the last few decades, there has been a paradigm shift from employee-funded plans such as IRAs and a 401K. Learning to properly manage one’s own retirement planning now falls upon the individual. This is not taught in schools. Employers may or may not have employee education programs or other resources to keep employees abreast of changes, recommendations or planning techniques.
My clients can let down their guard and relax because they know I have no ulterior motive in trying to sell them something. My hourly fee is clearly articulated before you hire me so the cost of services is completely fair and predictable.
I am able to explain personal finance to my clients in plain English. I spent 12 years developing a successful music studio as a highly effective guitar teacher to groups of adults and children. I was able to reach all types of learners. I discovered in a single class, I might have a student who was more of a visual learner and another who was an aural learner. I have taught children with various language processing issues and others who have other learning challenges. I was able to always to tailor my approach to the student rather than the other way around. As evidence of my efficacy as a teacher, I have included testimonials from just a handful of my 100's of students in this blog post.
As a result of understanding the different learning styles, I have been able to apply my well-honed teaching skills to my financial planning practice. I am very aware that most people do not have a long attention span for finances for various reasons: they find it boring, frightening, overwhelming or too abstract. It has been a welcome challenge for me to make the process interesting and easy to understand.
My holistic approach to assessing all aspects of one's life may involve other professionals. It is well documented that financial security is integral to one's physical and emotional health. I have assisted clients in evaluating and educating them in all types of financial issues including insurance, generating cash flow, taxes, mortgage refinancing, retirement planning, investing, higher education planning, borrowing from home equity, estate planning, and negotiating.
I have a special interest in aging, cognitive impairment issues, and navigating end-of-life decisions. I currently am a member of the Maryland State Bar's Trust and Estate Attorneys Section to keep up with current issues. I volunteer for the Maryland State Bar Association by helping senior citizens prepare Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills.
I am a volunteer speaker for the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department’s “Keep Seniors Safe” (“KSS”) Program. As such, I give presentations to senior citizen groups warning them how to avoid falling prey to scams and fraudulent schemes. I also represent the police department’s KSS program at health fairs and expos throughout the county.
I am also a mentor and resumé reviewer for the Career Gateway Program of the Jewish Council on Aging of Greater Washington. The Gateway Program is a philanthropy-subsidized program in Montgomery County that offers intensive training for professionals seeking employment at ages 50 and above.
As a regular attendee of monthly meetings of the regional chapter for the American Association of Daily Money Managers or "AADMMS", I am able to keep abreast of topics related to the aging baby boomers. These professionals provide services to seniors, disabled individuals, and busy professionals who need assistance paying bills and organizing their finances. The lecturers and ensuing discussion provide an invaluable source of information to pass along to my clients.
We all fall on hard times. I know I did, living on credit cards after law school for a while just to get by. I was having difficulty finding a job and so, to support myself, I did office temp work during the day and worked as a personal chef at nights. Had I had a mentor or coach back then to assist me in making different decisions, I would have fared much better. But sometimes, stumbling and falling cannot be helped, and I was fortunate enough to have the grit to keep going and sought support.
Sometimes you need someone who is not only knowledgeable and trustworthy, but also patient and compassionate to help guide you on a better path. Let me be your financial Sherpa and help you to stand on your own financial feet. FYI, now my Dad asks me questions about his finances.