Alexandria Cole is three years in the profession and shares what it’s like to be “in the middle” of her career story. While working at an insurance company, Alexandria attended a financial planning mixer and discovered the world of financial planning and what it had to offer. She shares her journey to find what she’s been looking for – how to help clients in a meaningful way. Alex is a great example of what it means to step outside of your comfort zone, get involved and see the benefits of being involved within the financial planning profession. From networking, mentors, peers and finding job opportunities, Alexandria has discovered new opportunities for herself and better ways to serve clients.

Many of the career stories you hear share the beginning, end and skip the middle, but Alexandria shares where she is at in her career story – the middle. She is in a paraplanning role and shares her journey in deciding if she wants to be a lead planner and how she would design her idea role, if given the opportunity.

Alexandria understands something critical about the financial planning profession: our strength lies in our community. The passion and the willingness to support each other is infectious and Alexandria found this to continue to hold true when she failed her first attempt at the CFP Exam. Instead of judgment and embarrassment, she found a community that encouraged he, is her champion and wants her to be successful. Through community, Alexandria found her passion for financial planning.

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[tweet_box design=”box_10″ url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”You still have something to provide, even if you can only go to local chapter meetings every other month. @coleae2015 on #YAFPNW”]You still have something to provide, even if you can only go to local chapter meetings every other month. @coleae2015 on #YAFPNW[/tweet_box]


What You’ll Learn:

  • The importance of the financial planning community and how you can get involved
  • How one person can make a difference in the financial planning profession
  • Ways you can get involved as an individual – even if you don’t want to go so far as to launch your own NexGen chapter
  • How to continue to push forward with purpose if you fail the CFP® exam the first time
  • How to decide what career path you want to take in financial planning
  • How to get involved with NexGen
  • That it’s okay to forge your own path


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Ep101 Transcript

Hannah: Well, thanks so much for joining us, Alexandria.

Alexandria: Thank you.

Hannah: I feel like I’ve known you forever, even though I know that’s not true. You’ve been in the industry about three years, but I’ve seen you in quite a few places. So I’ve seen you, you know, I’m involved with NexGen, so you’re running the Northern California NexGen program. I’ve seen you at NexGen Gathering. I’ve seen you two years at FPA Retreat. Is that right?

Alexandria: Yeah, yes! Two years in a row.

Hannah: So you’ve been so involved in the profession, getting involved with the FPA and with other financial planners. Did you know to do that when you first started in or how did you get introduced to that?

Alexandria: So it’s kind of interesting. I feel like I stumbled upon FPA in a very weird way. I was in the insurance business out of college. They were recruiting students to become agents and I thought that that would be a way to get my foot into the door, and so I ended up at an insurance company and I thought that that was financial planning or being in the industry, so I was like, wow, I got my job right out of college like I said I would. And then I was reading a newspaper, ironically, and I was noticing that the article was about Debbie Gross, which was a past president of our chapter, and it said that she was a part of FPA and I had never heard of it before, so I just Googled it and noticed that they had a mixer coming up for kind of like, not new recruitment, but just getting more people interested in the area. And so I just signed up and it was free. At the time, I was still in college and I saw that you got, like, free drinks and food, and that was still very important to me, so I was like I’m there!

Alexandria: So I ended up going to this mixer and I got there and, at first, it was all older people and I kind of was like “Am I at the right place?” The lady there was, like, “Yeah, you’re here for the mixer?” And I was like “Yeah, my name’s Alexandria.” So I’m walking around, I have this name tag on that says student, and so I’m thinking maybe there’s other students here. And I’m meeting all these financial planners in the area and I haven’t met any of them before, but they’re like “You’re a student? What school do you go to?” And I’m telling them Sac State, but we didn’t have a program back then, so I just was a student in general inquiring about FPA, and so it started with me just going to a mixer and after I left the mixer, I was just so amazed from all the conversations I had with people, and I was like, “So what is financial planning again?” Because I wasn’t sure where I ended up at.

Alexandria: So that’s when I kind of started my research about what it is that I was really in and being at FPA’s mixer and then meeting with people after is what kind of started the journey of what did I stumble upon and what am I currently in at my job at MetLife, was the company at the time, it’s no longer called that, with the Snoopy. It’s MassMutual.

Alexandria: It was just interesting because I thought I was already in the industry, but until I met other financial planners that I go, “Wow, I don’t think I’m doing any of what you’re talking about.” So it kind of was an interesting start that I had to research my way into what financial planning was, even though I had showed up at a mixer.

Hannah: So many questions.

Alexandria: Yeah.

Hannah: Okay, so let’s … Okay, so you just found this mixer on the internet and then showed up, like, can you walk through what that was like? Were people welcoming? I mean that’s a pretty big step for a lot of people to take.

Alexandria: Yeah. So this is kind of, I think, a skill I would call that I have of naturally finding events and attending them.

Hannah: Just do it.

Alexandria: Just doing it and honestly because I’ve noticed that with growth, it comes from putting yourself out there and so I just signed up to go and because it was free, it was even more enticing, but once I got there, I just didn’t know what to expect. So it’s kind of faking it ’til I made it, you know, where I’m asking people, oh, what’s a financial planner and they’re like, oh, you work at MetLife? And I’m like, yeah, I’m a financial planner too, right? And that’s what I’m saying to them, and they’re kind of looking at me, like, oh really? And so that’s when I started hearing terms like CFP and fiduciary, and I’m just like, okay, I’ve never heard of any of this, you know?

Alexandria: And so it just was really interesting to be welcomed into something that I really had no idea what it was I was getting into, but I was being educated on it by just attending a mixer, so it’s like when you have a chapter or a community that’s so open to educating someone no matter what span they’re in, you never know where they’re at in their space where they may leave going home, like, wow, I want to join what they’re doing, even though I thought that was what I was doing.

Alexandria: So, it was really interesting, but it was just very welcoming and I got to learn a lot about the terminology that I didn’t know before, because from what I was learning at work, I thought that was the way financial planning was, so it was like redefining what that meant to me and then also what it means to other professionals. And that’s very interesting in itself, that everybody kind of defines it differently.

Hannah: So you go to this mixer and I loved how you said it’s almost redefining what financial planning was to you. What was it like to go back to your job then and see kind of the contrast?

Alexandria: So I’d say probably the first day in the structure of at least working at this company, you know, I had a manager that I reported to. So I went back to next day and was just raving to the manager, “Oh my gosh, have you heard of FPA?” And he’s like, yeah, how did you find out about it? And I just was like, overwhelmed, spilling all this information, “I met this person and this person and they do this and have you heard of this word, ‘fiduciary’?” I’m just like probably scaring the manager at this point, because he’s like “What? Last week, we’re just studying for your insurance licensing and now you have all this new knowledge.” And so it’s like what do we do with it? And at the time at the company I was at, I was the young person there, so everybody was very much already in their business and so my mentoring came from the manager at the time, and so I kind of struggled with how we do things at work and how I was hearing things being said at the mixer.

Alexandria: And then it kind of fast forward to when I went to the next event, which was … Gosh, what was the name of it? The fall expo is what they used to call it. It was like a mini conference that they held here in Sacramento and at that time, that was a bigger scale of financial planners in one room, but I got the information to go back to that event and kind of shared, like, “Hey, this is what I’m dealing with at my firm. Is that what you guys are going through?” And it was kind of like I was teeter-tottering on this fence line of, like, so what I’m doing, is it right or wrong? And I struggled with it at this firm because I learned so much at FPA and then go to work and try to implement it, but it didn’t have the structure to do that. We weren’t charging fees to climb, so I was like, “Okay, well, how do I do that the right way?” And they didn’t have an answer, but it didn’t math in line with what I believed to be correct because I was learning something different at FPA.

Alexandria: I just went back and forth and it kind of built up this frustration, like, “Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know how to handle it.” So I consider FPA like this equivalent of helping me find what I truly was searching for in helping clients with, because before starting out, it really wasn’t a good fit, but I didn’t know that when I started. FPA wasn’t necessarily sharing with me that, oh, I need to only be going this direction, but it helped me sort out that I should be at least exploring many options since I was so young and just starting out.

Hannah: And so were you able to find people who had different business models and were implementing financial planning maybe slightly different from each other? Is that really where you went to learn about financial planning?

Alexandria: Yeah. Definitely. I’d say probably just in the first couple months of being at FPA, I was meeting so many planners there that had small firms, large firms, support staff, and just hearing what financial planning meant to them, so that also got confusing. Because I was, like, there’s so many ways to do it!

Alexandria: So this isn’t like a profession where you’re like, okay, I’m going into a law firm that charges a certain way and you’re going to go up the ranks a certain way. It’s not a direct path because of so many paths and that kind of actually is what landed me into doing NexGen, because I was frustrated, like, gosh, if there’s other young people doing the same thing I’m struggling with or learning about, it could be difficult to navigate your first year, six months in the industry because you just don’t know what other ways are out there, so you think there’s only one way.

Alexandria: And so that’s kind of what birthed NexGen, because I was like, well, if I could get more financial planners to come talk to the group, talk to myself and share that there are different ways, then people can make educated decisions on what works best for them and where they see themselves in financial planning, where can I contribute at, and it be a passion for me.

Hannah: And so did you actually start your NexGen chapter in Northern California?

Alexandria: Yes, I did. It’s a very kind of actually funny story because, so, right after that mixer that I went to at FPA, I was really excited about that and then I found out that they were having Seattle be the national conference, so that was in Seattle and I was like, oh, it’s a hundred dollars for students to go and, once again, Alex doing that skill of just going.

Alexandria: I went to the conference and, actually, I have family out there, so it wasn’t terrible in cost, but I went to the conference and they were having NexGen voting and picking the next presidency, and so I went and I’m like hearing all this stuff about NexGen. I was, like, oh wow, this community exists. I was like, oh, this is great. Then I found out that they’re, like, yeah, local chapters have NexGen and I was like, awesome! Well, I’m going to go back to the chapter, Northern California, and ask them about where this NexGen meets.

Alexandria: So I get back from the conference and I’m asking the board, hey, when does your NexGen chapter and what days? And they’re like, we don’t have a NexGen chapter, and I was like, “Well why not? I just came from a conference where there’s plenty of NexGen and we should have one.” And that’s actually how I ended up on the board, because I brought this up as something that should be there and that’s kind of how I started the chapter, is that I brought the idea up. Little did I know that they were going to ask me to do that.

Hannah: What blows my mind about all of this is that you’re three years in.

Alexandria: Yes.

Hannah: Like I feel like I’m talking to somebody who has so much more experience. We’re talking specifically about FPA, but I think the financial planning community, it sounds like it’s fast-tracked your career. It sounds like it’s given you such a bigger perspective. Would you agree with that?

Alexandria: Yes, I definitely would and, honestly, I say this to several people when they come and ask me questions or NexGen asks me questions about how I got to at least the point that I’m at now and I give a big shout-out to all of just the financial planning community, but, like I said before, it’s really being able to go outside your comfort zone and call that financial planner that you know that is in your area, or meet up with the business owner or talk to other students amongst the FPA student chapters to just learn about what they’re doing so that way you can, one, be aware of roadblocks, but also be aware of how do I get to where they’re at if that’s what you want to do.

Alexandria: That community has helped definitely spearhead things forward because I’ve been willing to reach out and maybe take the extra step of being open and kind of vulnerable to the fact of you’re new, but you’re so interested and wanting to know more.

Alexandria: I mean, I feel like it does not hurt to ask somebody how do you do it, and it’s interesting to them because they’re like, “Oh, you’re curious about what I do?” And you are, and then at the same time, not forgetting to let them know what it is you can do to help them with what they have going on, whether that’s business related or just some type of venture that they’re working on in the financial planning industry, but it helps spearhead you because now they’re like, “Okay, Alexandria. I met you, you’re doing great. Oh, you’re looking for a job?” Or “Oh, you’re looking for an internship?” Or you know, “You just need an opportunity to help? Oh, I know who to put you in contact with.” Or “I see that you’re doing this in the community.”

Alexandria: It just drives what you’re doing in leadership and helps move your career along. I don’t know if I would use the word faster, but it definitely helps spearhead you for new opportunities and being open to new opportunities, especially in a space where, financial planning, as you’ve seen, people are able to create new things. Now, people are able to just go start a business and all virtually, or just be support staff and be virtually. This is all new stuff that the old school way would be like, you’re in an office. You’re working for somebody, 9 to 5, right? That seems very … That’s how things used to be, but now people can try something else if they want to, but it’s just the opportunity and being a part of this community helps move that along.

Alexandria: Not just that community, but the study group aspect. I have an amazing study group. How it got formed was through FPA, so another point to FPA where study groups became involved. My mentorship came from FPA, like, if I just went back and tried to trace where all my opportunities came from, it always ended up in the community of some sort. And not just in the financial planning community, but I felt like in my personal community, I did the same thing so it helped you keep involved with what’s going on in your personal life and things that you enjoy in hobby and life, but I definitely feel like it’s helped open up a lot more opportunities being involved in the community, rather than just maybe showing up.

Hannah: Absolutely. I look back to when I started my career and I think I networked pretty well and I never realized the value of it until I could look back and see, oh, those are the opportunities that I had because I was in a network, because I was involved in a community, because I really did put myself out there. And it’s just like you really open doors, maybe not even right now. Maybe in five or ten years from now.

Alexandria: And it’s also scary too. Let me not pretend like I just was out there doing all this stuff, but it’s scary too because when I started, when I went to that mixer I was 22 years old and you don’t know what you’re going to say. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. You’re the only one that looks like you. I mean, that is all very scary, but when you go and you talk and you just kind of like, okay, the jitters are a little bit gone, and then you leave the event, you always go, “Wow, that was so great” and you call up your friend and you go “You won’t believe what opportunity just happened to me just because I showed up.” You know?

Alexandria: You get points for showing up, so I think that that’s a big deal, but it also is very nerve-wracking too. It’s like bypassing that peace in order to expose yourself is huge.

Hannah: Well, and we’ll let everybody in on a secret, especially when you’re at these networking events, people love to talk about themselves. So it’s always an easy in just to be, like, tell me about your business, how did you get started? People will talk your ear off, so if you’re not sure what to talk about, just ask them about themselves or what they wish they would’ve known at your point in their career and I promise you, you will have lots to talk about.

Alexandria: Yes. Keep those two questions in your back pocket. Keep those two questions.

Hannah: So I’m assuming, I mean I know, but for the audience, so you’re no longer with MetLife.

Alexandria: Correct.

Hannah: So you’re working as a paraplanner now, is that correct?

Alexandria: Yes. So I work at a financial planning firm and I support one of the partners of the firm in a paraplanning role and I should probably give the caveat – because it will explain some of like where my stories come from – of what paraplanning means because another thing that means something different to each firm, but it’s not sitting in in meetings and it’s not sitting and doing notes or building out financial planning software. So that is a different space, but kind of how we’ve described it, it’s more the trading desk and the service and the concierge world of the clients, and helping them complete transactions and a lot of business strategy is more of what my role is, even though it’s called paraplanning.

Alexandria: I just wanted to give that caveat because I notice that that does mean something different for each person when they hear it.

Hannah: Yeah, well, and it’s also really interesting because it just kind of opens up the world of how much there is to service a client and how many different roles there are. You know, we’re in the FPA Activate group and we just had somebody ask about the different career paths and what are the ways to serve clients and it’s like there are so many different ways to do it and what you’re doing is absolutely critical to a client’s wellbeing.

Alexandria: Yeah. Yes, it is.

Hannah: I mean, it is.

Alexandria: It is.

Hannah: And it might not be that you’re in the client meeting, but that’s an important piece. That’s a really, really foundational piece that you need to know if you want to be a lead advisor or lead planner someday.

Alexandria: Exactly. And so I know a lot of people are going, “Well, that’s a lot of” – like you said – “good experience” to be able to get that information and so as I work with clients, yeah I’m not sitting in the meeting, but it’s just as impactful to be able to dissect information that’s given to you that you didn’t hear directly from the client. That’s a skill. You’re just building skills, all these things are skills and how you come up with them is, you know, a completely different topic, but …

Alexandria: There’s not a wrong way to be learning is kind of how I look at it.

Hannah: Oh my gosh, I love that so much. I did my internship and I had, like, I love the firm that I did the internship on but I scanned the entire summer, like I took two full walls of paper files and scanned them and it was awful.

Alexandria: Yeah.

Hannah: It was rough.

Alexandria: Yes.

Hannah: But, kind of what you’re saying, is I learned so much from that because I read all the client notes. I got to see how did the client relationship progress over 15 years and that was so incredibly valuable, like, I had never read a divorce decree before.

Alexandria: Yeah.

Hannah: I got to read all these things. I got to see what was in these client files and I know that’s … There were other interns who had such a better experience, but I’m like, like you were saying, you still learn how you learn.

Alexandria: Yeah.

Hannah: And it’s important to take advantage of those opportunities.

Alexandria: Correct. Correct.

Hannah: And then the best part was when I got my first full-time job, I put on my list, I put scanning or something like that and when I got the interview, she was like “Everything is perfect, even down to the scanning.” So …

Alexandria: They’re like, yes, we got another one.

Hannah: Yes. Okay, so your title as a paraplanner, you’re doing more of the client service work. Maybe not the direct planning work. Is that something you want to get into someday? Do you see your role as wanting to stay more operational? Or do you know?

Alexandria: You know, it’s funny because now that you say “Do I know”, I actually was struggling with that and I felt like I think just recently I shared with one financial planner at retreat and I was like, you know, I really want to be a financial planner. And, at first, I was hesitant to say it because I wasn’t sure because I’ve been doing client service and I like it.

Alexandria: It’s not that I don’t want to do it, but at the same time, it’s kind of scary to hear, like, “Oh, well, if you become a financial planner, you kind of miss out on doing this piece” or you end up passing that on to another resource. And so I think now after three years, I can say that that’s exactly what I want to do, so that way, I can still be held accountable and still want to learn in different ways that still keeps me on track with becoming that.

Alexandria: And so even though I’m in a client service role right now, I told somebody “If I could build out my own position, it would be half client service, half financial planner” [inaudible 00:23:31] and just be like a hybrid of both where I’m like okay, there’s some meetings where I sit in and run on my own, but then there’s still this side of intrigue that happens after the meeting that still is required of me. And I would love to do both and so I’m still doing things now that, obviously, is more in line with being a financial planner. I mean, my role currently now does not require me, you know, if we’re looking on paper, to go to, let’s say, an FPA meeting and learn about our government pension plans and if they’re failing or not. That’s not necessarily something I need to know in client service, but it’s intriguing me to know because one day, when I do come across that client and I’m helping the client later on in life, I want to be able to do that.

Alexandria: And so I still prepare myself as if, like, the opportunity came tomorrow to do it, that I’d be open to doing it because I still engage myself in that way and I also think that if I was going to do client service more intensely, that I’d still need a higher level of knowledge to get to a more critical period of not just maybe going through the flow of, okay, I’m prepping meetings, like I want to be very skilled at being the best client service person, so that’s why I’m so intrigued in getting my CFP and working towards that and other designations even though it’s not necessarily required for a paraplanner to have those types of things.

Hannah: Yeah, I just love this, like, what are you naturally drawn to and what are you naturally curious about and stay interested and show up to those things because you don’t know what your career path is going to be.

Alexandria: Exactly. Exactly.

Hannah: So, let’s talk about the CFP exam.

Alexandria: Yeah. Yeah, let’s talk about it.

Hannah: That beast of an exam.

Alexandria: Yes. How dare they.

Hannah: Okay, so you start out. You’re at this insurance company. You’re like, “Hey, I just found out what the CFP is.” So, was a there a point when you decided that you needed to get your CFP?

Alexandria: Yes. And I think I honestly started doing it just because I was, at that time when I was just starting to be a part of FPA, I’d noticed that everybody had it, so it seemed like, okay, well if you want to be doing what they’re doing, that’s the natural thing next, right? It just seemed that way because everyone had it, so that’s how I started on it and I realized that you need an education to get into it. So I was like, oh, that’s no problem, so I did research to figure out what was going to be my best point of getting through the education.

Alexandria: At the time, we had a UC Davis extension program. It’s no longer here because the university has a CFP program now, but I took the classes there and it was in the evening, so after work, once a week, very like slow crawl to getting it all done, but I just started with going through the education piece and signing up for that process and then I was like, well, by the time I get done with education, I’ll have some experience under my belt and I’ll know a little bit more so when it comes time for the CFP, I’ll just be ready. This is how my thought process is, you know, of what’s the CFP? I’m like, okay, it’s a test. You got to study for it. All right. I got this. You know, I still have the college mentality of how I handled all the rest of my tests in my mind about how I was going to be taking the CFP.

Hannah: And so you take these courses and you’re working at the time. Did you see a lot of crossover from what you were learning and your job, or was it not … there wasn’t … What was that like as you applied it?

Hannah: Maybe you didn’t?

Alexandria: Yeah. You know, it’s kind of interesting. Starting out in that role, I helped a lot of clients that weren’t dealing with estate planning issues, so, you know, it wasn’t necessarily something I can go back and apply the next day, but I knew now what a trust was, right? Or trustee, co-trustee. Like I knew the basics and that helped me enough with general information of clients when they maybe asked a question or if I saw something that it would red-flag me into doing more research.

Alexandria: So I wouldn’t necessarily say I had a lot of application thereafter when I was working at the insurance company, but since I started working at my new firm that I’m currently with, there was a lot more opportunity of application, so I was taking courses and then coming back and the partner that I work with, he’s great in the fact that I could go back to him and say, hey, which client does this apply to? I know we recently did this strategy and we were talking about it, and could you actually explain it a little more and maybe apply it to them, so I can really understand what it is I’m learning and not just read it out of the book. And that was super helpful, that maybe I wasn’t able to sit in the meeting and go through the process, but I was able to use him as a resource of being taught this education course in a more applicable way and that’s what I felt like was great.

Alexandria: And I was like, oh wow, they’re probably going to find that very impressive. I’m able to learn at school and then apply it to what I’m doing. It was really enriching to be able to go to class and then, the next day, have this new wealth of knowledge and, not to like toot your own horn, but like look what I learned, you know? And so it was great and it made you feel like you were really growing, you know, in your role because you had this education that, honestly, I feel like at this point at my firm, you know, how else was I going to get that information if I didn’t go to school? Or go through the education course and learn, you know? I’d have to stumble upon it through a client experience or I just wouldn’t know about it.

Hannah: And so you take these courses and you said that you were going to, after you took the courses, then you would decide if you were going to take the CFP exam. So you did decide to take the CFP exam at that point?

Alexandria: Yes, so that failed last November. I got a study plan, I was in it. I signed up for a live review, which I use [Zon 00:30:14] which was an amazing review course and I prepared in every way possible that I knew and I had asked so many other CFPs how they did it and, you know, what was their study habits, because the CFP is like this mystery test in a way. It’s like you have this wealth of knowledge you know, but it’s mysterious because when you actually take it, it’s a whole ‘nother beast and everything you just learned prior to besides the knowledge is like out the door as far as the actual test itself.

Alexandria: So, I got in there and I was ready to take the test and I took it in November and I was like, okay, Part 1, I got through it and I was like, wow, that was a lot of information. And I’m not sure how I’m feeling about the test and it wasn’t a feeling of, yeah, I’m completely rocking it and it wasn’t a feeling of I was completely failing it either and so I just was like all right, well, let’s just get through the second part and I got through that second part and I … You know, you’re clicking the next screen to get your results and then they have the nerve to ask you if you’ll take a survey before you get your results. And that’s the worst feeling, honestly.

Alexandria: And then you have to click again and when I clicked again and I saw “failed”, I just felt crushed because I was like, how? How could I have failed the CFP? I studied. I did everything you asked, you know. What happened? You know? And, oh, I was hurt. I was so hurt and I had to take the test in San Francisco which is, like, an hour and a half for me, so I had a long drive home of just me and my feelings, you know. And I kind of took the next day or two kind of off. I didn’t even want to tell anybody that I failed the test because, you know, it’s pass or fail. You don’t get to be, like, well, I felt like I was good in these areas, you know. It’s hard to even talk about it like that when you try to analyze what you did wrong because the results and feedback of the test aren’t a hundred percent clear either, so it’s like, well, where do I need to work on?

Alexandria: And it’s very broad as far as, like, well, retirement, you were in the middle, and you’re like, the middle, like I was about to pass it or middle like you really weren’t that great? You know? So it was just like a lot of emotion and feeling after the test when I didn’t pass. I mean, it even came down to where I was, like, blaming outside roles, where I was like, gosh, my job, they worked me too hard. I could’ve spent more time. You know, I was mad at my job because it was like, “Oh, if they gave me this day off, I could’ve studied more”, right? Like or, “Oh, my family, they were always asking me to do stuff and they knew I had to study.” Like, I was getting frustrated.

Alexandria: I was so upset with myself. I was beating myself up inside because I did not pass the first time, but I’ll tell you, Hannah: the one thing that really shocked me was after I publicly said that I didn’t pass the test, the amount of people who have their CFPs that told me, “Oh, don’t worry about it, I didn’t pass the first time either.” And I was shocked. I was like, “What do you mean you didn’t pass the first time?”

Alexandria: I mean, there’s this layer of pressure from the CFP test and obviously we all want to pass the first time, but we also read the statistics on the CFP Board of how many people pass the first time and we can’t all do it, and so do you beat yourself up and go “All right, I’m not taking it again” or do you beat yourself up and go “All right, well, you know, I don’t think I’m supposed to be a financial planner” because that’s exactly how I was feeling, like all right, this wasn’t for me. But I had a really good talk with a great friend, mentor of mine I would say, [Bianca Dorsonville 00:34:14], and I was sharing with her that this test, I failed it, and there was purpose to why I failed it because now I have to overcome a level of growth that I’ve never gotten to before, you know. Especially if you grow up like on average always attaining things and passing things on the first time. You never really deal with failure probably until later in your adult years, and this is that point where the CFP is.

Alexandria: Okay, yeah, I didn’t pass the first time, but there’s a new level of adversity to going back at it again, you know, standing up and, like, hey, I’m going to pass the second time and still being okay with that. And so that’s where I’m at now. We’re almost to July’s testing time and I’m not taking it in July, but I’m taking it in November of this year and being okay with, all right, here comes second round and I’ve got it this time. That’s been probably the biggest piece of my journey so far that hasn’t always been very happy moments.

Hannah: Yeah, well, I just love that you’re so open about this and sharing this because I feel like so many people really do fall in this camp of that frustration and so what I so admire about what I’m hearing from you is that you’re still so committed to financial planning.

Alexandria: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I mean, it’s weird because it’s like, all right, I think at the time I had failed the test, I think that was Monday or Tuesday, and CLC, the Chapter Leaders Conference for FPA, was that weekend and I had to go and I was, like, oh my gosh, I’m going to have to go to this conference and be around other financial planners and everybody will ask me did I pass? [inaudible 00:36:11] on repeat, be like, no, not this time.

Alexandria: But it was weird because, yeah, I had to do that, but the passion of other people wanting to increase the amount of NexGen in their chapter or just bring on pro bono work and the leadership around FPA made me go, wow, they’re still here supporting me even though I didn’t pass. And that might sound weird, but it’s like they’re not giving up on just because you didn’t pass the first time and that makes you feel like, wow, I’m a part of a community that really wants you to succeed because there used to be a time in the finance industry where if you didn’t pass your Series 7 the first time, you got the boot if you didn’t pass, and so it’s like that’s not the level that you feel here, being a part of a community, and that’s why it’s important to have such around you, so that when you do have these hiccups, that there’s people around you to be like, don’t worry, this is how you’re going to be able to beat it next time.

Hannah: Somebody coming new into this profession, what would you want them to know about financial planning?

Alexandria: You don’t have to be a financial planner if you don’t want to. There’s still space for you here and you’re able to create that space if you want to. That’s how open financial planning is. That’s probably my first thing.

Alexandria: We’re not all the same and we’re not all meant to be financial planners. We all have different strengths. So I think that would probably be my first thing to say.

Alexandria: And the second one is staying involved in the community of the financial planning profession. I know that, you know, we get wrapped up in work and wrapped up in our personal lives, but what your local chapter’s doing to offer resource and offer speakers, they’re all volunteering their time as well, and so it’s like still staying engaged with that, because you have something to provide even if you can only go to local chapter meetings every other month. You know? And so sharing that and being able to volunteer. I mean, volunteering doesn’t mean necessarily you have to join the board. You can help work registration one morning, you know? You can introduce a new member one morning at a local meeting.

Alexandria: There’s so many places to be involved when you’re new and it doesn’t have to be in such a large capacity. I’m going to share this about our conversation that we had at retreat, because this is kind of my new thing and I shared this also at retreat in open circle, or closing circle, huh?

Alexandria: That being okay with going up to people and asking them what they need help with. I love this podcast and what it’s doing for NexGen and so I know it takes time and your volunteer hours, so it was like, okay, I’m seeing Hannah at retreat this time. Oh, I’m going to tell her, if she needs help in any way that I have my hand raised because it takes a community to do these things.

Alexandria: Those are probably my two big points for NexGen about financial planning and it’s more about how to help grow and maybe not so client-centric, which is maybe not the norm, but I’m coming from a space where I’m still navigating becoming a financial planner, so I’m not yet in the space of clients, in serving a group of people yet, so my role is kind of feeling like how do I keep going in this profession so that it’s around when I am a planner, you know? That’s probably my first two points for NexGen community.

Hannah: Well, what I like so much about our conversation, we were talking about this before we started recording, is so many of these podcasts, we talk about the middle and this grand ending of where they … Or, sorry, we talk about the beginning and this grand ending of where people end up and kind of gloss over that middle and you’re right there. I mean, you’re studying for your CFP exam right now.

Alexandria: Yes.

Hannah: And that’s huge.

Alexandria: It’s really nice and I am a huge podcast junkie, Hannah. I mean I listen to podcasts probably two or three a day, like I’m going through them-

Hannah: Wow.

Alexandria: Yeah, and it’s really because I’m at work so I have time there. I have a commute. You know, I have a good amount of quiet time to be listening to this stuff, but I’m starting to notice that where I’m like, okay, this is awesome. I’m so glad to hear how you started into the profession. Then we miss this middle part of, like, hoops you had to jump through, what was difficult, what was hard, what was a happy moment, because when we skip over that, someone who’s coming up new, they’re like, so what should I be looking forward to? Or what are some flags along the way that makes me feel like I’m at least going in the right direction? Because when you’re navigating, it’s just like, oh, well, here’s the endpoint, how do we get there, you know?

Alexandria: And so it feels good having some type of conversation about those talks so that younger people can go, oh yeah, I completely relate with that because I’m going through it right now and now I feel like I can reach out to them and that’s something that I’ve been trying to do a little bit more as I have time of listening to a podcast and providing feedback to that person that’s sharing their story because it’s like, well, I’m going through that too, or hey, can you share a little bit more about that because that’s something that I’m struggling with now and I don’t know how to approach my boss about it, you know?

Alexandria: And I love the meat of the podcast when it talks about the middle part, just because it … I don’t want people to gloss over it because you had to put a lot of work into it. It took you a lot of time and so I think it’s something we should definitely praise and also go, like, yeah, you are the bomb for doing that and then the bomb for sharing it, but sometimes, yeah, I do feel like we jump to our ending because we want to – I call it, because I’m a big, you know, make boxes and check it because it’s complete, but that’s where I feel like it happens, is that we want to get to end so you know that you completed it.

Alexandria: Okay, yeah, I became a planner. Check. Now I know that it can be done. But there’s going to be always this middle part that is always changing for each planner, but even more so for myself as I’m in this space.

Hannah: I’m just going to speak for the listeners who listen to this podcast, that we are all rooting you on for this November exam.

Alexandria: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Hannah: And so glad that you decided to stay in financial planning and decided to take the test again. I mean, because that alone is a huge win of resilience and really admirable.

Alexandria: I’m still nervous now. If you could see all the CFP books I have staring at me in the office, like, all right. November is your time.

Hannah: Oh, that’s great. So do you have a plan to celebrate? Do you know what you’re going to do if you pass?

Alexandria: You know, I probably will cry. It’s going to be a really emotional probably, but I haven’t even figured out a celebration move for what happens.

Hannah: Oh, that’s great. Well, thank you so much for doing this, Alexandria. I am so excited to share this episode with the listeners. I think you have such a great story, even three years in.

Alexandria: Yes, thank you.

Hannah: And I can’t wait to see what’s next for you.