Several of my clients have asked how I was able develop the financial flexibility to launch a business during a pandemic. This decision wasn’t easy, but was the culmination of a 20-year financial journey. The lessons I’ve learned underpin how I approach wealth-building and how I coach clients. So, I’m sharing my story with you.
A Life Long Learner
From an early age, I found fulfillment in supporting people in their personal growth. In my first career as an elementary-school teacher, I immersed myself in my classroom, striving to create an energetic community that celebrated each child and promoted learning. A life-long learner myself, with my first paycheck, I dove into self-study in personal finance reading about retirement planning, investing, accounting, and other financial topics. I opened a ROTH IRA, and set a goal to contribute the maximum amount each year.
When I began my career at age 22, married to a medical school student, I planned to be home with our children and return to work once they were school-aged. To prepare for this goal, we were very careful with our finances in three key ways:
- Taking out the bare minimum in student loans, living mostly off of my income and our savings
- Serving as managers-in-residence in our apartment complex to cover our rent
- Keeping a strict budget and tracked our cash flow monthly
Those were lean years, but within six months of his graduation, our mortgage was our only debt.
I had goals, and a plan, and I ticked through the “to do” list. At 28, I stopped working to be home with our new daughter. With family out of state, I searched for a community of mothers for mutual support. Growing with this group, I am grateful to these life-long friends. Life glided along for two years.
A Change in Plans
Like many life plans, mine hit a speed bump. Just after my 30th birthday, my husband and I separated. So, I did what came naturally to me—I created a new plan. And, I did something that didn’t come naturally—I sought help from friends. They graciously offered emotional support, practical advice, and guidance in determining my next steps. That support and guidance set me on a solid path.
I had made a decision to be present as a mother until my children were school-aged, and as much as I loved the classroom, raising a child and having a secure future on a teacher’s salary is challenging. I decided to turn my love of personal finance into a career by first completing the coursework for the CFP® program and then attending business school.
This experience taught me two new financial lessons:
- The most carefully laid plans can change without notice.
- An emergency plan requires more than a savings account. It takes a mutually supportive community to weather the most difficult times.
As I contemplated my next career after earning my MBA, I had a conundrum. I wanted to help people reach their financial goals, but I didn’t want to sell financial products. This was not a common model in the financial planning industry, so I clarified that vision. My significant other and I created a business plan focused on delivering financial education and planning as an employee benefit.
I sought a work environment that would allow me to live this vision. For almost the next decade, I worked for an inter-generational family, delivering comprehensive financial strategy. Rather than place products, I coordinated different areas of personal finance—tax, investments, trust and estate planning, insurance, and life stage planning—allowing me to combine my skills at mentoring, creating strategy, and affecting change. Even better, I worked with dynamic, creative, team-oriented colleagues and for a philanthropic, community-minded family.
I also planned for my financial future. With my new experience, I approached my financial plans differently, prioritizing two ideas.
- A loss of income poses significant risk. To mitigate this risk, I saved money for the purpose of purchasing rental properties to provide an income in case I lost my job.
- Net worth is a true indication of financial health. I began to keep a monthly spreadsheet listing my assets, liabilities, and net worth and established an annual net worth goal for steady progress forward. I worked toward this goal by aggressively paying down mortgages, increasing savings, and investing in retirement and health savings accounts.
At the time, I could not have realized how fortuitous these actions were.
Once again, life was gliding along. While I was on track to be financially independent by age 50, I didn’t see myself leaving my job. My significant other and I could travel more, I could provide my daughter with a fulfilling life with the knowledge that I would be prepared for college and retirement expenses, and I could increase my charitable giving.
The Pandemic Hit
The plan was derailed again. Like most families, we moved to virtual school and work. I faced a new dilemma with the office plan to return fully to the physical space at the beginning of June. Living 45 minutes from the office, I struggled with the idea of leaving my 15-year-old daughter at home alone all day. The mental health risk of isolation was real. That combined with the unknown risk of contracting the virus itself caused me a great deal of anxiety. Weighing these concerns against the consequences of a loss of secure employment and a steady income, for the first time, I made a pro-active decision to take a financial risk.
With a 20-year personal financial journey and almost 10 years of career experience helping others with their personal finance, I combined my love of teaching with my passion for finance and launched Copper Seed, providing financial education, planning, and coaching. Ultimately, our financial resources are one of the tools that enable us to turn our life vision into a reality, and your vision is likely different from mine. I’m excited to help clients put a personal, holistic plan in place to build a secure and fulfilling life.