When I was a kid, I thought everyone had access to the same opportunities and suffered the same strife. I assumed all families struggled financially and that all parents worked as hard as my mom. She raised me on her own, an immigrant who juggled jobs and kids while putting herself through school. Somehow, she managed to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table.
This notion of a level playing field – where families had access to the same tools and resources — disintegrated shortly after I started my first job at a multifamily law office. Our clients were all well off (most of them had had money for generations), and I got my first glimpse of the access and resources that wealth produced. Our clients didn’t hunt for resources including financial advisors as most families have to; advisors came to them with very powerful resources. They had teams of people, including me, willing to serve them and options that the non-wealthy didn’t even know existed.
Growing up in a modest household, I saw one way of life. And my nascent career had just exposed me to another. I began to develop a perspective not unlike that of Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I saw the stark difference between the wealth of opportunities for people with money and the few options available to those without. I didn’t know it then, but a seed was planted, one that influenced my career path, my purpose and the work I deemed important.
Technology has changed the game
Twenty-five years later, the prevalence and impact of technology is undeniable. Most have immediate access to an abundance of information; it’s become much easier to obtain the education and resources necessary to create a financial plan and make educated financial decisions. There’s also a much larger number of tools and solutions with more sophisticated technological capabilities available on the market. One can view account balances, build a financial plan, engage an advisor and create a legacy from a handheld device. The door to access and tools, a door known exclusively to the wealthy when I was growing up, has cracked open to families of all socioeconomic statuses. Technology has served to more evenly distribute access and resources.
But we, as financial professionals, have a duty to do more. Access and resources aren’t much without the understanding of how to use them. We need to make it easier for people to comprehend the principles that create a sound financial foundation: the difference between an asset and a liability, how to manage risk and create a budget, making sure more money is coming in than going out. It’s incumbent upon us to share and ingrain this fundamental knowledge with everyone and provide the tools necessary to put it into practice.
That seed I mentioned earlier has now fully taken root, and I’ve dedicated my career to helping families (all families) protect themselves from financial hardship. It’s the help my mom so desperately needed and my clients so readily had access to. I think about how much an advisor could’ve helped her to develop financial acumen and thereby create a plan for the future. In the absence of such education and resources, she was forced to work that much harder. And she did…for my benefit.
I want to take a moment to recognize her – to acknowledge how much she accomplished with so few resources. Mom, thank you for prioritizing my well-being and for teaching me the value of education. Thank you for all you scarified so that I could get where I am. It’s because of you and your persistence that I’m able to help others.