Eugenié is becoming a financial planner because its part of her larger mission – to help women of color build wealth. This approach brings an intentionality to her career and focuses her on what she wants to do. In looking at how the financial services industry services women of color, Eugenié is going back to the drawing board to explore other business models to serve this demographic. She views this as an unexplored blue ocean opportunity.
Join us on this multiple part case study as we follow Eugenié over the next year on her path to enter the financial planning profession. Eugenié will share an inside look at her journey and challenges and also ask Hannah questions to help her on her journey.
This episode is valuable for everyone because Eugenié provides an refreshing view of our profession and challenges us to expand our view of what financial planning can be for those outside the traditional financial services.
Hannah: Well thanks for joining me today, Eugenié.
Eugenié: Yeah, I’m very happy. It was only a few times where I get to hang out with the FPA group of outside of the Facebook chat. So it’s always great to see what’s happening.
Hannah: Yes. So I am so excited. We are going to be doing I think four-part series with you kind of about your path to getting into the financial planning profession.
Eugenié: It’s very different. So I’m very excited to talk about that.
Hannah: Where kind of are you in the process of ever getting into the profession right now?
Eugenié: Basically, I came into financial planning in the most unorthodox way. I had no inkling for money or any type of … I was never like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to get into finance. That’s really my thing.” I stumbled upon a book about, I think it was six years ago or five years. I was like one of those Tony Robbins’ books or they were talking about the thing that’s separating folks that are saving money is fees. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have a 403(maybe), this is ridiculous.” So I was kind of angry, but didn’t really do anything. So when it comes to where am I in the process, I try not to quote Sheryl Sandberg right now because she’s under a lot of hot water, but I think I’m trying to phrase this as life is a jungle gym and not a straight line.
Eugenié: I’ve worked in two industries prior to this, so I’ve worked in education and then I’ve worked in technology, and then I’ve moved into this space. So if we’re talking about what am I actually doing in the financial planning space, I am currently taking classes to get my CFP certification. While I’m doing that I’m also getting my MBA because I knew that this was probably a very rare opportunity for me to be 31 without children. And I have basically used the CFP standards and have looked at different financial industries for my MBA classes. So basically, every single thing that I’ve done that has to do with a paper is me learning about TD Ameritrade, really what’s the deal. What’s like the best HR practices if you work for a financial firm. So that’s kind of a very unique and unorthodox way.
Eugenié: I’m getting my MBA as well as knowing the CFP certification. And then I’m also coaching doing financial corporate wellness. So I partnered with this company called Omegoga and we go into different corporations and I’ll teach basic personal finance classes. What’s the value? What’s your money mindset? And then all of those are over sought or I review all of those classes with Kristy Runzer who is a CFP for On Route Financial. It’s a very wordy process but I’ve basically, from this my experience, I’ve been like, “How can I get my foot into the financial planning door?” Because it’s very different when you’re not 21 or 22. I was like, “How can I get my foot into, I’m going to figure out this, this process?”
Hannah: When we first talked, one of the things that really struck me was you said so many people that we interviewed on the podcast just stumble into financial planning and you’re intentionally moving into financial planning.
Hannah: I love that differentiator because it’s very true. How do you intentionally get into financial planning? That’s the question, right?
Eugenié: Right. It’s a very heavy question because basically, if people know me or they look at me, I am an African American woman and I went to a good school so that kind of helped me always have like this, “I can do anything,” mentality in many ways. And then the setting the intention, I was a teacher for Teach For America and so I think that pretty much dictated the rest of my life. At first, I was like, “I’m going to go in, do Teach For America, and then go and work for the state,” or I was going to go in and then try to become a foreign service officer. I was like, “This is just my level up into whatever’s next.” And when you started teaching in an urban area where I actually taught in the Mississippi Delta where literally every terrible statistic that you can think of when it comes to African Americans that slapped me in the face.
Eugenié: And so when I said, “Okay, I’m going to do financial planning,” I was like, I have to say, “Hey, I’m Eugenia A. George. I want to help low and middle-income folks.” Most people that I know don’t have any money or they don’t have assets, but I know that this is just because people aren’t focusing on them. I know without a doubt it is a blue ocean opportunity and most people that are people of color, particularly women of color are always kind of getting fallen under the trap of not having any money in saying that they’re not worth any money. So that’s why when I started I was like, “At this point, yes I want to be a certified financial planner.” That’s a part of the mission. But the mission now is at the end of the day, I’m helping women of color, I don’t care how I get there, but we’re going to help make sure that women of color understand the history of things and then is also building wealth.
Eugenié: So when we talk about when did I start the CFP idea? I mean honestly, I was one of those weird kids in fourth grade where I actually looked at the stock market and was like, “Huh, that seems very interesting.” And 25 years later now I’m like, “Oh, okay. Now, I understand that little passion that happened.” But setting the intention looking at a Hershey stock is different from setting the intention of like, “Okay, hi, I’m going to make sure that women of color has the actual financial lingo so that when they go to an advisor they don’t look foolish,” because that’s like there’s a lot of fear behind that.
Hannah: Looking at how you’re intentionally getting into financial planning and knowing that you want to serve women of color, what are you fighting as you’re exploring financial planning? Are you finding it open to these ideas or are you kind of, do you feel a little bit like a round square peg in a round hole?
Eugenié: I would say it is a little bit of both. I would say the first part of getting into the industry is very difficult. There are sometimes where I will go to a financial class or an FPA meetup and with the exception of Jocelyn Wright I’ll probably be like one of the few people of color. So that part is very different considering where I used to be, where everybody was a person of color when it came to the kids that I serve. That part is very different. It’s like a slap in the face. It’s like “Whoa, there’s a lot of history.” And now, fortunately, because I’ve written a book about that, I understand that there is just so much historical pieces behind that. And so that’s very hard. The other piece that’s makes it really difficult is I have a weird name and saying, Eugenia, that has been an issue in the past.
Eugenié: Even me when I was trying to apply for jobs before I was just like, “Now I’m going to do this entrepreneur thing on my own,” and then ask for help. For a while, I was working, contracted out, working for a couple of Fintech companies and one company was like, “Hey, can you use your page as a middle name because this is just too hard.” And it’s like, “What? That’s not okay. My parents, I mean it’s you don’t even understand the name. It’s not a made up name, it’s like Ethel in France.” I was very frustrated. I was like, “What?” And so that part is very frustrating to know that most people, when you look, if you look up financial planner, that guy’s name is Jake, Jeff, Will, Bill. So having a name like Eugenié is different but then I mean I know what my name means, it means well-born.
Eugenié: So it’s one of those weird things or there’s that constant battle, but then there’s the positive part where I chose the financial planning industry in the first place because everybody kept talking about how nice everyone is. So that was like, “Yes, are there negative parts of the financial planning world? Yeah,” because I mean historically we know all the way up until basically, 1967 and then we still know that there’s a lot of issues. The finance world was not open for women of color. It wasn’t open for women. If you already know that history, it’s not fun to understand that but once you break past that there are a lot of amazing people in the financial planning community and they are super helpful. The most helpful people.
Eugenié: It reminds me of when I was a teacher, when you are teaching and you’re like, “I don’t have anything prepared.” And you text your friend and you say like, “Hey,” I know I think autumn used to be a teacher too like, “Hey Autumn, did you know I don’t have this lesson plan, can you help me with nouns and verbs?” And somebody like, “Got it, I’ll send you something over right now.” That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve reached out via Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook and I’ve been like, “Hey, does anybody know anything about having a 1.5 business model, income based business model?” And it’s like, “Yes, give me a call tomorrow.” And I think that is the beauty, but you have to get past the stigmatism of you can’t access that. I think being a student too does help if somebody is majoring in financial planning, that definitely helps.
Eugenié: Like me saying that I’m an MBA student definitely helps. Just be like, “Hey, what is it that you’re doing?” And people are really, really nice. It’s a very weird thing because the financial planning industry is very open, but you have to break through by knowing your history and knowing how to have a conversation with folks.
Hannah: So on your path into financial planning, are you looking to have your own firm? Are you looking to work for somebody? Where do you want to be in a year or two years?
Eugenié: So that’s a very heavy, I feel that’s a very heavy thing right now because at this moment I will be done with my MBA in March so it’s kind of a weird time, but I’ll be done with my MBA in March. I am now currently working on a business model to help more financial advisors tap into basically the blue ocean of middle-income folks and not middle-income with high assets. One of the things, I guess one of my superpowers is project management and that’s probably from teaching. I mean at a certain point you just have to learn how to create something and present it to someone in a short period of time.
Eugenié: I thought for the longest like, “I’m to go and work for a firm once I’m done with taking my Series 65 and once I’m done with getting my CFP,” but I think, I mean I wouldn’t mind doing some part-time stuff and learning about that, but I think the big goal by the end of two years is to start having the conversation of like, “Okay, there needs to be a financial technology company for women of color.” There’re too many statistics that say that there are these problems. There’s too many statistics that people … I’m so sick of reading blog posts that say, “Can you believe women don’t have enough access to wealth, can you believe blah, blah, blah?”
Eugenié: It’s like, “Okay, there’s no more excuses at this point.” If I know that there’s a tool and I know that there are great people and there are more financial advisors that can help, then I would like to do the non-learn best way and sell my business off to an insurance company, I would like to actually stick with it and say like, “Hey, what is financial planning look like for three plus years for one person who’s never had any experience with financial planning except for when they had that one conversation with their 403(b) sitting in the lunchroom.” I mean that’s kind of … and then they feel guilty about not being good at money. It’s like that can’t work. And so they’re definitely right now is that push and every time I give a pitch or talk to anyone that’s I talked to my friends that are not in the financial industry just like, “Yes, this is what you need to do.”
Eugenié: And the tech, the tech people are a lot more like, “Do it, just go out there and do it.” But now I’m like, “Well I need a financial planner.” That’s kind of the issue. It’s like I know personally I’m going to get my CFP for the sake of getting my CFP and I think that is because one, I just want to understand the practice. Two, I know that having that shattering statistics when I know that 2% of African Americans have a CFP, I know that 10% have, that’s just people of color in general if you clump everybody together. Yeah, I guess the goal is to create something that helps demystify financial planning because basically every single thing, from what I gather that most people are getting with financial planning, if they’re people of color is I don’t like to poo-poo everybody, but is Dave Ramsey.
Eugenié: You go to church, they have a Dave Ramsey in a conversation. They tell people never to use credit cards, never to use this and that’s kind of their first interaction and that’s their end all be all interaction with anything that has to do with finance, right? I recognize that that part is a really big ask. So for the first, the second year is to really focus on that in the first year. This year, right now is to make sure that the certifications done, the Series 65 is done. Doing project management for CFPs. I think that is probably the best thing to do within the next year is get in there, help people with their projects become the perfect fit for them. And then do that within a year. 2019 is coming up. And then, after that, yeah, I’m still building my brand like I’ve mentioned before.
Eugenié: I wrote a book in November, which is pretty crazy and it’s all about women and women of color and the book I think is going to be called Not Your Average White Guys Money book because 95% of books have been written by white guys. So it’s kind of, yeah, I recognize that I have to build a brand. It’s just very, very, very difficult. Fortunately, I have a partner in crime who’s super, super supportive. And then I also have two future step-kids as well. And they are very supportive too. So that’s very, very helpful. It’s nice when there’s a six-year-old and a 12-year-old, but the six-year-old, she’s always like, “It seems like you’re stressed. It seems like you need to do yoga.” And it’s like, “Oh yeah, I need that.”
Eugenié: Yeah, that part is very happy. We’re very healthy. But yeah, it is a difficult? Shoot, yeah. The hardest thing. It’s also hard to explain to your parents to like, “All right, guys, just wrote a book, I’m going to do these things.” My parents like, “What?” I come from a family of artists, that like to say it, the starving artist. If it’s not in song, it’s not very different from my family.
Hannah: So you’re really looking to break into financial planning and really build this new model.
Eugenié: Yes. Yeah. I think that’s the hardest. I did a contracted job for a company that Michael Kitces recommends, I don’t really want to say that person’s name but I did something. A job, and the constant thing was, “Oh, because you weren’t in you don’t really understand this work because you never did BD conversations.” And so it was always like, “Oh yeah, you don’t understand this.” “Oh yeah, you don’t understand that.” And I was literally the only woman and then the only black woman for that matter. And to hear that all the time, it’s like, “Well, you know what? Then I just need to create it because this is not working out.” Like, “You know what, I’m going to figure this out.” It’s very difficult.
Eugenié: But then it’s so fun. It’s the first time where I get to kind of control what I want to do and I think especially if you’re trying to get married and have children. And I literally have two kids next to me all the time, which is very different. It’s like boom, you got the man and you got the kids. It’s very different, but now it’s like, “Okay, now I have this fire lit under my butt,” it because there wasn’t one before. It was like, okay, “I’m going to save money here. I’m going to do this here. I’m going to travel here.”
Hannah: What I’m so excited about this project with you is that we’re going to be tracking you over the next year, kind of seeing how things go and the questions that pop up and really just what is it like for somebody entering the profession?
Eugenié: Yeah, I’m very excited.
Hannah: Yeah. Well, I’m excited to kind of see how you progress into this. So right now you’re taking safety courses?
Hannah: From your perspective, like what doesn’t quite make sense?
Eugenié: That’s a great question because there are a couple of things that I’ve been really thinking about. One of the questions that I see on the FPA Facebook chat a lot and then I also am kind of experiencing it because there’s always this one. I have one idea where I’m trying to magician like Fintech company, but then there’s this other side of me that’s like, “But remember, nice shoes and you remember all of those … remember the trips that used to take.” So it’s like, “Oh, why don’t I go to a BD, or why don’t you go and work for our firm?” But honestly, I’ve kind of heard the same thing over and over again. So one of my questions is, based off of your experience, what’s the difference between working with a BD and then working with a firm?
Hannah: Or an RA firm.
Eugenié: Yeah, like an RA firm. Yes. I should’ve been more clear about that one.
Hannah: So I always struggle with this because I started out in a broker-dealer and it was an amazing opportunity. I hear all the same kind of chatter that maybe that you’re hearing about, “You really should go to work for an RA, they’re the ones who do planning.” But where I was at, I was at an independent broker-dealer, and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. I mean, obviously, there’re boundaries to that, but we could do as much planning as we wanted. We could do as much and we had complete over the types of investments that we put our clients in, how we charged all of those different factors that were there.
Hannah: So I always struggle when people are like, “Oh, go get a job with an RA.” It’s like, “No, especially if you’re getting your CFP, get a job where they do financial planning.” And financial planning is not synonymous with RA or broker-dealer or with anything. This is where people really have to go in and ask these questions. So when I was at the broker-dealer, so I started out in the broker-dealer and now I have an RA.
Hannah: When I look at how I serve my clients, it actually remained consistent through that process. Some of the back office and regulation and pieces of that. And I’m happy to go and talk more about that change slightly but how I serve my clients and my obligation to my clients. So as a CFP, I have a fiduciary obligation to my clients. RAs you have a fiduciary responsibility to your clients. broker-dealers, I think there’re nine-plus different definitions of what a fiduciary is and depending on the type of account you’re doing, if you’re doing an advisory account, there’s a level of fiduciary that’s there. If you have your CFP there’s a fiduciary responsibility. Are they as strong? I mean that’s where some of the confusion comes in. But so for me, the decision of if you’re looking to start a firm, I think it’s a whole different conversation of what do you need to start your firm and like what’s the best option if you’re trying to get a job, who is it that you’re going to work with?
Hannah: At the broker-dealer where I was at there was a number of different people that I would see in the office on a regular basis. I mean like 20 plus that would kind of use the same conference room things like that. The broker-dealer had an office for all the people in Dallas. And it was fascinating because some of the stereotypes I think that’s out there for new planners there were a couple of guys that fit that. But then there were other people who were like, “I’ve done planning my whole career, that’s all I’ve ever done.” And like I believe I’m like, “They’re right.” So it really matters on who the person is that you’re working with and asking them their philosophy of how they work with their clients and how they handle those arrangements because I think that is far more indicative of whether or not you’re going to have a great learning environment.
Hannah: Some of the best planners I know our broker-dealers and so to me, when I hear new planners say like, “Oh, I just only want to work in an RA.” I’m like, “That’s such a shame because you’re cutting off so many amazing planners working for them.”
Eugenié: Yeah, I mean, I honestly get that feeling just understanding that different companies have different cultures. That is something that is very helpful because I was doing all these interviews at BDs and then also small firms, trying to do the pair of planner route. It was kind of interesting even that interview process of, “Okay, this is how you’re going to do it here. This is how you’re going to do there. Were a little bit different here. We’re a little bit different there.” And the truth is I liked all of the groups. There was no, “I dislike you, dislike you,” but yeah, there definitely is that.
Eugenié: The next question that I have to is a lot of new planners and fortunately, I’ve lived near Temple University’s financial planning. They’re the Undergrad, so occasionally I’ll go to meetings and events there, which is definitely, I’m very fortunate for where I live. I live in Philadelphia, so there was the Federal Reserve Bank, there’s a lot of broker-dealers. There’s a lot of finances really big out in Philly. So that part I recognize, but for someone who doesn’t live in a place like that or for someone who is just starting out why do you think it’s important to differentiate yourself or your personal brand instead of working with a firm if that makes sense? I think one of the things that I’ve had issues with, especially coming from the entrepreneur side is kind of falling into the like, “You’re going to be this company,” or, “You are going to be that company.” It’s like, “No, but I want to be myself. Can I be myself?” How can you figure out your own personal side in the financial industry while still working for a firm or a BD?
Hannah: To me, it’s all about bettering yourself. So we talk about how if we can get somebody in their 20s to start saving for retirement, how much better they’re going to be later on in life because they started so early. And I think so much of this has to do with your career as well. When I first started, one of the best things that I ever did was invest heavily into myself. For me that looked like I did the set of money training and so that fundamentally changed how I worked with clients, but doing so it, it kind of gave me, kind of differentiated me a little bit because it’s like, “Oh, I see the world a little bit differently.” Like my clients talk, when they’re with their friends, I hope that they talk about me a little bit differently than the friends talk about their investment guy.
Hannah: I started doing some of those things where I was just talking to somebody where I look at what are the things that I do that I can take with me if I move firms? So especially when I was back at the broker-dealer nobody could take my client skills away from me. Those are things that I developed. Those aren’t things that would stay with the firm. Talking about building your COI network, I mean that’s building your personal brand and if you move firms, your COI network goes with you, that’s value that you bring. It makes you far more valuable. It makes you far more, I mean, you can command a higher dollar if you’re two people interviewing for the same position, but you’re like, “Hey, but I have this huge network of potential refers,” or, “This network that I’ve been building for the last 10 years.” I mean, that just puts you at just this incredible advantage.
Hannah: I’ve now started kind of thinking of that personal brand of like, “what can I bring with, what stays with me, Hannah, what stays with me as a person outside of who I work for?” Some firms aren’t friendly with that, they don’t, for whatever reason, they don’t want you to build out your personal brand. I firmly believe that it helps both parties.
Eugenié: Yeah. I 100% believe in that too, just because first of all there are not enough CFP bloggers out there and it’s like, “Oh, my God.” Even if you do a #personalfinance, you see so many, like on Instagram, it’s great, it’s oversaturated and it’s mostly debt-free, fire for life. And it’s like where is anyone? Is anybody reading books about this? Is anybody writing books about this? I feel if every CFP person wrote a book, we’d make so much change in this world. If everybody, even if you made a pamphlet or packet that, I’d love that.
Hannah: And what I love so much just hearing you talk. You’re clearly really passionate about this and I think bringing it back to his personal branding question, it’s find what you care about, approach that. Think creatively around it or find what you were just really good at.
Eugenié: Yeah. And I guess communication is something that I’ve learned through teaching. I mean, if you don’t know how to talk correctly, then they’re not. You clearly can see it on their test score. You’re like, “Oh, okay. There’s like 80% me, 20%.” So that’s kind of like the thing. But yeah I hope that me deciding to do kind of like contracted work with CFPs particularly being like, “Okay, you need project out.”
Eugenié: That can really change the world. I want to sound ridiculous, but it’s like, I feel like, “Yes. Is this hard? Heck yeah.” I don’t talk to that many people every day. I now have a co-working space, but it’s this constant work because I’m like, I need to understand that even if I don’t understand PE ratios, I’m going to freaking figure it out. I’m just going to figure it out. But I’m also going to tell my friends like, “Please don’t go for me. I can help you save money and pay off a student loan, but don’t come to me right now. Don’t do that.” So it’s a blessing in disguise. So I’m excited to chat with you guy within the next we’ll do like a three-month check-in.
Eugenié: I feel like also lit a fire under my butt too because now it’s making me think, “Okay, maybe I can just do this like non-traditional way.” But you know, the job offer a pos. I don’t know what would happen. So it is kind of, it’s up in the air, but I mean the ultimate goal is to create a Fintech Company for women of color because it’s just, we know the statistics, we know that equal pay rights we know all of these things. We also know that African American women are the fastest rising entrepreneur group. We also know that Asian American women have the highest they’re, they’re making the most of income in salary. But it’s are you building wealth from that? Probably not, you’re probably helping your family. People don’t talk about that, but it’s like, “Yeah, you’re probably helping your family and living with your parents,” and that’s a very different conversation that you have to have. So yeah, and everybody is so great in the FPA group.
Hannah: Awesome. Well, we will check-in in three months you’ll be wrapping up your NBA, continuing with your CFI courses and yeah, kind of see where you are in the process.
Eugenié: It’s a challenge. Anytime you say you’re going to do something and actually followed through with it. So this is definitely a fire under my butt.