Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP®, is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. She has served as an AARP Financial Freedom Campaign spokesperson and has contributed to Investopedia and Kiplinger. She also holds other designations, including: Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, Retirement Income Certified Professional®, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about elevating the profession. And of course, she has also served on the FPA’s National Board of Directors from 2013 – 2015 and was president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area (FPA NCA).

 As you might imagine, Marguerita (who goes by Rita) was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100 in 2017, a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews, and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE®) by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC).

There’s not a whole lot this woman hasn’t done, and I was humbled to get to chat with her. 

 

The Making of Marguerita

One of the most fascinating things about Marguerita is the story of how she got where she is today. She studied East Asian language and literature and finance in college. She wasn’t aware of the discipline of personal finance, and how to apply corporate finance principles to individuals and families. Thanks to her dad, she learned a lot about the “tactical” parts of personal finance, but her biggest sign that she could help people with their own personal finances was after her second child. “I feel like I have this street credibility. I lived life a little,” she said. After buying a home, paying down debt, and building a family, she felt she could help. So she got started. 

But as Marguerita talks about in the podcast, this story is part of why she was drawn to this work. Because of that, she wants NexGen planners to really embrace their story and what got them where they are today. Especially when that story doesn’t read like everyone else’s.

 

Diversity and Inclusion in the Profession

Marguerita is multicultural: a quarter Irish, a quarter Eastern European, half Chinese with a Latin name. She’s “used to not fitting in,” but she didn’t see any role models in the profession when she started out. To top it off, she was a woman with two babies. All of that is part of her, and it’s part of why she’s a planner. It’s also what connected her clients to her; she’s embraced her story and she tells it. 

Part of the reason why, Rita shared, is because her clients were attracted to working with her because of it. But it’s also because, by sharing her story, she could encourage the next generation of planners who maybe didn’t have the same background as others in the profession. It was a matter of sharing her story and being present that could make all the difference for someone else. In that vein, Rita also shared her thoughts on joining associations like FPA and how to get the most out of them (personally and professionally).

 

It’s Not Enough to Just Join FPA

When you join associations like FPA, Rita said during our interview, you need to get involved, whatever that your interest is. Maybe that means just attending FPA NexGen chapter meetings, or maybe it means taking a leadership role in your chapter. She also talks about the different ways you can play into your strengths, whether you love talking to people or you want to focus more on academia or research. But whatever you do, she asks that you don’t just “join” an association and never use it. “Find that thing that you really think that you can make a difference and just go for it,” Rita said.

Of course, she understands that new planners might feel like they don’t have anything to contribute — “I’m too new, I don’t know what I’m doing!” To that, she says that you don’t have to be in charge of something, but your voice, your input, and your experience matter. You are going to make your association and your local community more vibrant. You’re going to help it thrive — so don’t just lurk in the corners. Get involved! 

You should also focus on making people feel welcome when you do engage with FPA, especially the FPA NexGen local chapters. When Rita went to her first FPA chapter meeting, she didn’t see anybody who was like her. Now, when she attends an FPA meeting and sees somebody new, she makes sure that person will have at least three names and three friends. “If I cannot be at the next meeting, they have three people who they know. And so, they will not come back to a lonely, empty room.” What a great idea, right?

Rita added that, with FPA, “I leave every meeting feeling smarter. To me, it’s great to go to a meeting because I get to see my friends. They’re my friends. This is our community.” 

 

Giving Back Within Your Firm 

Another big focus of our chat was Rita’s philanthropic nature. Not only does she run marathons like the New York City marathon to raise money for charity, but she finds ways to give back within her firm. She encourages other NexGen planners to find ways they can give back in their own community that’s maybe in line with their practice. For example, if your firm specializes in serving women, why not support homeless women by creating a donation drive for basic hygiene items and clothing? 

She also makes the point that this is a great way for NexGen planners to get involved in their new firm, or to create something that is within their power. In the beginning, it can feel like you’re not contributing enough, but giving back is always a great way to show that you’re invested — not only in the firm but in the community it serves.

 

Multiple Mentors and What to Expect as a Mentee

We ended our conversation by talking about the power of mentorship — and how every relationship is different. Rita’s one recommendation is to make sure that you (as the mentee) are realistic about what you want. You need to make sure that you are prepared and that you have a clear “ask” of your potential mentor. She talks about how many new planners reach out to ask her to review their resume, or to connect them with people in her network. Spoiler alert: that’s not the right way to do this.

Know what you need help with, and ask for it clearly. Do not expect them to hand everything to you on a silver platter; mentors are there to create a safe space to support you and let you ask your questions. She also made a great point that you can have multiple mentors — and they can be peers, too. Find the people you feel comfortable with, but who will challenge and respect you.

 

You Don’t Want to Miss This Episode

Marguerita is the true meaning of being authentic and true to yourself. She has built a business and reputation in the professional community based on what makes her unique, and she embraces that quality to the fullest. She’s a true ambassador to the NexGen community, and she’s trailblazing the nonprofit space by dedicating her life to giving back to the community she lives in. If you want to hear a truly inspiring story, and to hear Marguerita’s call for you to elevate the profession, tune in to the full episode.

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • The importance of sharing your story
  • Why it’s not enough to join FPA
  • What new planners can do when they’re feeling overwhelmed (and under-qualified)
  • The “3 names and 3 friends” motto that Marguerita lives by
  • Why leaders should take a more active role in NexGen planners’ futures
  • The problem with inclusivity and how to turn the finance community into a space where everyone feels welcome
  • How giving back to your community can be incorporated in your firm 
  • The critical role mentors play (and why it’s OK to have more than one)
  • The importance of showing gratitude to your mentors
  • How to properly thank someone who has helped you

 

Show Notes:

In this episode with Marguerita Chang, CFP®, we talk about:

 

Marguerita is somebody you’ll want to keep watching, so follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

Show Transcript

Episode Transcript


Alexandria: Thank you so much, Marguerita, for joining me on the podcast today.

Marguerita: Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Alexandria: Before we jump in, I just want to say a couple things. First, because I know I also say Rita sometimes interchangeably with your name. Do you have a preference, or you want the listeners to know that you go by both?

Marguerita: You know what? I love the question. I have to say, I go by both. Growing up, I didn’t necessarily like my name because it was different. But as a CFP pro, I mean, I absolutely love my name. Oh my gosh. A little bit of Rita on my side. Who doesn’t want a margarita? So, you can say whatever you’re comfortable because I go by both.

Alexandria: Perfect. I love that. I love the Rita version because I’m like, “All right, I’m Alexandria but I also do Alex, too.” It’s kind of like this fun, alternative to your name. But just want the listeners to know that we use that interchangeably.

Alexandria: In addition to that, I just want to personally thank you, Marguerita. You have been this amazing, incredible soul. I just want to thank you for everything that you do with the FPA NexGen. We just loved having you as an ambassador this year at NexGen Gatherings.

Marguerita: Oh well, thank you so much. It means so much to me. I learned so much from the next generation as well. It’s lifelong learning and I’m so honored to be part of it.

Alexandria: And I don’t know if we actually have done this on the podcast, but I just have to do a small announcement on the podcast for the listeners. Just in case you haven’t heard, but FPA NexGen community announced this past conference at the FPA Annual Conference the new location for the 2020 NexGen Gathering conference. We are going to Las Vegas. I’m so excited about that. Dates and more details will be coming soon for everybody, but I just want to make sure that our listeners are up to date and know the info.

Alexandria: Now back to you, miss Marguerita. Let’s start with how you found out about financial planning profession, and how it maybe became a career to you.

Marguerita: I studied East Asian language and literature, and finance, in college. I truly believe I was always destined to be a CFP pro, but I wasn’t necessarily aware of the discipline of personal finance, and knowing that you can actually take the concepts you use in corporate finance and apply them to individuals and families. Here’s what I mean. Strong financials, so your personal balance sheet, that’s your net worth statement. Statement of cash flows, a.k. that’s your budget.

Marguerita: I became interested in personal finance from my dad. My dad was a scientific developer. He came to America by way of Taiwan. My dad came here in the ’60s, and he really came here with nothing. Came here with $17. I really don’t care what inflation you use, that just was not a lot of money. Back then and even now. He landed in Wisconsin. He didn’t even have money for a coat.

Marguerita: My dad always taught me this, that you don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. Everything can be taken away from you. But knowledge and education is power. He taught me how to use a financial calculator, scientific calculator. I knew about life insurance when I was 10. How to open the safe. Because remember, I’m the eldest of three girls. I was always exposed to these concepts.

Marguerita: And then… In my 20s, I was always intrigued. I was good at my job as analyst, but I didn’t find it emotionally gratifying, if you will. That’s when I read every book I could on personal finance. I immersed myself in this. After the birth of my second child, I’m like, “That’s it. I feel like I have this street credibility. I lived life a little. I helped my husband pay down his credit card debt, his student loans. We bought a house. We had two kids. I’m ready to take on the world and help every family who wants to be strong financially reach their goals.” So, that’s my story.

Alexandria: I love that because it’s not traditional, right? Where some people will share that they’ve gone to school, or they took a class, and they kind of found out about financial planning. Yours is very much about personal experience. Like, “Hey, I got some life under my belt. I’ve gone through some things just that we talk about in client meetings, or with clients, as far as financial events. Children, a house, paying debt off.”

Alexandria: Then even early on, I’m just so impressed. I’m like, “Your dad…” I just love when families pass down that knowledge of like, “Hey, I know that it’s so important for my child to understand using a financial calculator, or just understanding different statements.” And so, they spend that time when they’re early on. And so, it’s just amazing because then that stays with you forever. That honestly is what shaped you into being a financial planner, and yet maybe just didn’t know at nine.

Marguerita: Exactly. And I mean, my dad is gone. He passed away five years ago. I didn’t realize how progressive my dad was. He was very much old school. My dad was born in China and escaped Communist China, but he didn’t care. “I don’t care if you’re a girl or a boy, you need to know personal finance. You need to know technology. And Rita, you’re not getting your license until you know how to change a tire, you know how to check the oil in this car.”

Marguerita: Now, we didn’t get to home improvement, but I feel like those three are pretty good. Knowing finance, knowing technology, and knowing these skills are very important. And cars, for that matter.

Marguerita: But jokes aside, I mean, I do think that I also learned early on that planning makes a huge difference because when I was 10, my aunt died. My uncle didn’t half life insurance on my aunt who was a stay-at-home mom. My dad could have lectured and shamed, but my dad was a good man. He really was. My uncle said, “Can you loan me the money for my wife’s funeral?” And my dad said, “No. I’m going to pay for it because this is a very traumatic time for your family and I don’t want you to worry about that.”

Marguerita: And that, I’m telling you, sticks with me every day. Just because we don’t talk about and plan for these things, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to happen. And if we do, it doesn’t mean they will. It just means that… Remember, dad was a scientific developer, studied math, he was all about risk management and planning. I take that to heart every day. Even when I have a bad day, and I feel like people displace their emotions, or their anger, I’m able to stay grounded. I know what my why is every single day.

Alexandria: Your experiences are very important to hear because, like you said, a lot of things happen. It’s that planning piece that matters. How did you survive? What got you to a very, I guess, successful space in your first couple of years once you joined the profession?

Marguerita: I’m so glad I’m speaking to the NexGen community, because NexGen perhaps means newer to the profession. Might not necessarily be how young you are, or how old you are. I think if you were to ask me, I would say the most important thing is finding your voice. Finding your story.

Marguerita: For a long time, I didn’t necessarily see anybody that looked like me. And I don’t think I had a chip on my shoulder, because I’m multi-cultural. There’s nobody who is quarter Irish, quarter Eastern European, half Chinese with a Latin name. So, it wasn’t that I’m not used to not fitting in. I’m used to being different, but I didn’t see any role models who had two babies and then joined a profession.

Marguerita: But I didn’t let that bother me. I think it bothered others more than it bothered me. People would say to me, “Well, what are you going to do with your kids?” I’m like, “You should be glad I have kids. I don’t have to stop and get pregnant, they’re already here. They’re not going anywhere.” I’d do the call saying that. They looked at me, they’re like, “You go girl.”

Marguerita: But in all seriousness, I think FPA community is very, very special to me because I realized that people, people meaning clients, connected with me because of my story. Why are you a planner? Here’s why I’m a planner. My husband and I are both multi-racial, multi-cultural. Very similar backgrounds, but yet our stories were so different. It’s because my dads engaged in these conversations. My mom, for that matter. But my dad really took a personal interest because he was the dad of three girls. He wanted his girls to be good at math. He didn’t want them to fear math. He wanted them to know that money is not everything by any means, but money is just like your time and your health, and you need to manage it well.

Marguerita: I would say I started to feel… I can’t emphasize the importance of becoming involved in FPA and your community. I mean, I had a mentor and he told me, “Rita, you want to be involved in FPA. You want to read everything your clients are reading. Whether you agree with it or not, you need to know what they’re thinking, what they’re reading.”

Marguerita: Last but not least, it’s not enough to just join FPA. You need to get involved, whatever that your interest is. If you don’t feel like you want to make cold calls, then maybe sponsorship or membership might not be the best for you. If you like learning, maybe you serve on the Programs or Education Committee. And so, I tell people, “Find that thing that you really think that you can make a difference and just go for it.”

Alexandria: That segues us right into the discussion I wanted to have with you today, Marguerita, is really getting involved and giving back. You kind of started to talk about it, but let’s discuss the important of NexGen and that community giving back to their communities and their profession early on. I guess it’s kind of like, “Oh, I’m new. Should I be volunteering?” What does that look like and what kind of advice do you have?

Marguerita: Well, sure. Someone told me about volunteering, giving back. You can volunteer and give back to your spiritual home. You can volunteer and give back to your alma mater. If you have a talent and you like to coach or use sports. There’s so many ways you give back, but your professional association, your professional community.

Marguerita: I’m here to tell you, I was two weeks as a financial advisor. I didn’t even have permission to use the CFP marks because I hadn’t satisfied the experience. You may say, “You know what? I’m new to the profession, I don’t really know much, how can I help?” I helped an advisor with technology, and that helped build my confidence. We all have skills that we can bring.

Marguerita: Maybe you might think, “I’m new to the profession. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t feel like I can be in charge of something.” You don’t have to be in charge of something, but your voice, your input, your experience, matters because you are going to make your association and your local community more vibrant. You’re going to help it thrive.

Marguerita: I always tell people, “There’s something that you can do.” Even if you can’t go to meetings, you can share the events with your network. You can take time to speak on the phone to talk to a student who’s perhaps pursuing financial planning. There’s so many ways in which your voice and your talent really can make a difference in the life of somebody else, even at a pro bono community-based events.

Alexandria: To your point, there’s so many ways. One thing that I just love to do, and I always kind of am sharing is, especially if you’re new, the best way I always thought was cool was to sign up to help with registration. Check people in at an event. Because you, naturally, get to meet every single person because you’re handing out their badges, answering just general information. Every single person’s going to see your face and your name before the event even starts. And so, talk about building network before anything even gets going. I mean, that right there in itself is volunteerism and help. I mean, down to the smallest thing like that, is so beneficial.

Alexandria: Sometimes I hear from the NexGen community that it can be difficult, especially with starting a new job. Maybe, Rita, you can talk to that a little bit? About how you give back to your community and that, I guess, authenticity of you doing that great work as a volunteer. And how it’s maybe blessing you still within your career and your position that you’re in now.

Marguerita: Absolutely. I do believe that it is overwhelming. I’m just going to confess because we can look up the data. I actually joined FPA in 2003, but it took me a while to get around to going to my first meeting because they meet in Virginia, I live in Maryland. I’ve got to be honest, it’s not that far, but I had two little ones. I mean, at that time, both my kids were like younger than five, right?

Marguerita: And so, it was hard to get across the river. Especially if they were meeting at night. I had to make sure that it was lunchtime. But then if I had to pick up a kid from preschool, I had to make arrangements. There were a lot of things I had to go through.

Marguerita: I actually probably join… I joined in 2003, but it took me a good year before I went to my first meeting. At first I was like, “Oh my gosh, do I belong? I’m still satisfying the experience. I’m not really am fully into CFP pro. Do I deserve to be there?” All this self-talk was going through my mind and I was like, “You know what? It’s okay, Rita. Remember, your mentor told you to join this association and to get involved. He would never tell you anything that was not in your best interest. You need to go. You belong in that room.”

Marguerita: It’s not that no one told me I didn’t belong in the room. I want to be very clear. I just didn’t think I belonged in the room, because I didn’t see anybody like me. When I went in that room, it’s true, I didn’t see anybody, but I was greeted. And so, what I do in terms of giving back is when I come to an FPA meeting and I see somebody, I make sure that that person will have at least three, I love the number three, three names and three friends. If I cannot be at that next meeting, they have three people who they know. And so, they will not come back to a lonely, empty room.

Marguerita: I think that it’s so important that people feel included and welcome. If they decide they don’t want to come back because they’re busy, that’s okay. I mean, I hope I answered your question.

Marguerita: Someone told me, “Hey, you know, FPA needs help in the Membership Committee.” And I said, “Okay. Yeah, I’ll help. I’ll make phone calls.” I didn’t realize this, Alex, but the first year on this committee, I recruited 11 members. I won a national award to go to the first FPA National Conference. It was 2005 in San Diego.

Marguerita: And this is really relevant because I really couldn’t go to a lot of chapter meetings, but I made calls and I visited campuses to get people to join the chapter. It was that point where local leaders said, “Oh my god, I’ve got to meet Marguerita. Do you want to join our board? Because I see you’ve been helping with calls on the committee.” And it was that point where I said, “Sure, but you know I just satisfied the experience? I’m kind of young, is that okay?” Someone said to me, “You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be great. You’re the best person for this job.”

Marguerita: And that is so important, because they didn’t choose me based on years of experience or tenure. They chose me for the qualities that they saw in me, which means talking to people and making them feel welcome, and recruiting members. That is the beginning of my FPA leadership journey.

Alexandria: Wow. There were so much good nuggets. I hope people can write some of this down and really implement some of it. Because down to just the three names, three friends, I can tell you, when you go to an event, there’s always someone new. If you could do that every time, I mean, then people will not feel not included, because everyone is making the effort to get to know everybody.

Alexandria: But I also think it’s really impactful. You discussed being the only minority that maybe be in the room at the time. I think it’s really impactful that people do this with people they wouldn’t normally talk to. Going up to someone that doesn’t look like them, doesn’t fit the mold of where they live and grew up, to really get that experience part that you’re really sharing with us.

Alexandria: Then also, to your point of joining the board, or volunteering. You have a voice in something unique. Even if you’re young or don’t have experience, you bring something to the table that is just super important for the profession to keep moving forward. Yes, it can be something small as just giving back at the registration table, or you can take your leadership skills to maybe the next level by joining a board and getting some skill there. Not even in just in professional associations, even outside of your professional association.

Alexandria: Maybe you can talk a little bit more to that? Because I know that there is a lot of reservations sometime to join a board, or feel like I could do that with being a new person. Maybe you can unpack that a little bit of maybe what should we be sharing with our bosses, or our firms, to have them see the value of me being on like a local board? Or being a part of the Financial Planning Association?

Marguerita: Absolutely. I do think that if anybody were to take anything away, and the only thing they do is, “I’m going to greet three and make three friends,” I’d be moved to tears, right?

Alexandria: Yeah.

Marguerita: I would think… No, I would. I’m in a unique place, because when I was an FP leader, I had actually just aged out of NexGen. So, me wanting to support NexGen, it wasn’t self-serving. I had a lot of people come to me, “Well, no, this didn’t exist when I was next gen. Why should I do this?” I’m like, “You know what? This is the future of our profession. We have to commit and make investments in them. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I love you, too. I want to respect and honor all the traditions that you have put in place to make this chapter amazing. But the way this next generation entered the profession is different, and we need to respect and honor that.” That’s how I handled that piece.

Marguerita: Now some people said, “Well, I don’t know that I want my staff going to NexGen because they’re going to get recruited.” I think that’s the wrong mentality. I think that’s the scarcity mentality. I think if anybody’s leaders are listening, you should encourage your staff. You should even pay for their membership, because this is professional development. They are growing professionally and personally.

Marguerita: That is Marguerita on the FPA leadership soapbox. You get back so much more than what you give, aspires leadership for board positions in your community. I’m going to say this that I just ran the New York City Marathon the day before yesterday. And I’m not saying it to say that-

Alexandria: Oh, congrats.

Marguerita: Thank you. I’m not saying it to say that I’m so great, but I give back to my community. I’m all about financial literacy. I’m also very committed, I’m the mom of three, two girls and a boy, of creating opportunities for our girls to feel safe, healthy, confident and empowered.

Marguerita: And Girls on the Run, this is just an example, if you’re into health and fitness. There are many boards, but I’m just going to talk about Girls on the Run in particular, that has a call for young board members. Meaning they want recent grads to support their initiative because recent grads can provide different perspective. I want to be very clear, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want people more established in their career. They want both. I think that’s why I would definitely encourage anybody listening.

Marguerita: Time is very precious. Find what you’re interested in. If you want to be involved with your alma mater, that’s fine. Your spiritual home, financial literacy, ministry, something related to youth sports. Whatever the case might be, you have something that interests you, it’s your passion, and there’re people who really want to tap into that.

Marguerita: It was great how we all came together. Like I said, it was the New York City Marathon, but I also do this for the Chicago Marathon. Our teams for Chicago, we had 260 runners, we raised almost half a million dollars for the girls of the South Side of Chicago.

Marguerita: And just this past weekend, New York’s team is smaller because it’s a little bit more challenging course, we raised more than $200,000 for 180 girls to get scholarships. This is good because it pushes me outside of my comfort zone. I become fit. I know when I cross that finish line, it did not matter how fast I was. What mattered is I crossed, and I created opportunities for girls in under-resourced communities.

Marguerita: For that, gosh, if that doesn’t inspire me, the work I do in my day job does. If that doesn’t inspire me, then my hobby does. So, I totally feel fulfilled.

Alexandria: That’s amazing. Again congrats, Rita, on that. That is a huge accomplishment and just the impact that that will have is going to be great, especially for those girls.

Alexandria: One of the things that I was thinking about during your story was next gen being a part of firms that often times are very charitable giving in their communities. Maybe you can provide some guidance for the next gen to how they could explore getting more involved in their firms’ giving opportunities within the community? How do we get that conversation going as a next gen when you’re in a new job that’s already really giving back to the community?

Marguerita: Well, sure. I’m going to tie it to running a little bit. You never know who you’re going to run into, and here’s what I mean. When you’re training, you have to go on these long runs. There was this lady who looked at me. She said, “You’re Marguerita.” I said, “That’s right.” She said, “I saw your photo.” This lady is a diversity officer at FINRA. So, you never know who you’re going to run into. She invited me to a conference to talk about diversity inclusion, so we’re coming full circle.

Marguerita: I know that the next generation, and next generation for this matter could be anybody who’s not already in the profession, really cares about social business. They really care that their work is making a difference.

Marguerita: Some of the more progressive firms give their employees, their staff, their team members, time for professional developments. Right? They may allow them to have time for community impact events, or community service events. I like the term community impact because you are serving your community to have an impact.

Marguerita: You can say to your boss, “You know, I want to do this run. I would love for us to put a team together. Get shirts made, it’s really easy.” Or maybe there is a way in which you want to get your clients involved? You know, school supplies. Back to school. Or gosh, it’s the giving season. Blessing baskets for families. There’s a lot of ways in which you can give back, but also help employee engagements and really feel good about the work you’re doing every single day.

Alexandria: I love the example about blessing baskets. You are so correct, we are in total season of giving with the holidays coming up. This is a huge time where it’s just amplified. There is so much that you can be doing to include the firm, or the job you do, or being a next gen that can have an impact. If that’s blessing baskets? That’s great.

Alexandria: So many local Financial Planning Association chapters do financial planning days. How cool would it be if your firm did a financial planning day at the local school for teachers? Or for a non-profit that’s in the area? I mean, there’s so many ways to get creative. I think it’s just a fun way to also build that culture within your firm, or amongst people that you’re now going to be working with. I just love that.

Marguerita: People do business with people. You can do what feels right for you. This is what I always tell my clients, “At the end of the day, I’m going to do comprehensive financial planning and we’re going to go through everything.” And at the end of the day, the right decision is the one that’s right for you. Not for your neighbors. Not what firm XYZ is doing.

Marguerita: I mean, other examples. Let’s say your firm serves women, right? You could do pack-a-purse. How many of us have a purse that it’s not ugly, but we don’t really need it? Well, you can stuff that purse with toiletries for a woman. Right? There’s a lot of homeless women that may not have the proper personal care products, right? You’re doing something good, you’re giving women dignity, and your clients would totally embrace that.

Marguerita: Or maybe it’s a situation where you’re like, “I don’t really have time to do that.” You could get gift cards for baby supplies because there’s families with young children in transitional housing. Diapers and formula, and these things, they cost a lot of money. Giving the shelter gift cards for Target or whatever the case might be, it might seem like a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.

Marguerita: There’s so many things you can do. There’s so many ways in which people come together, particularly those who are new to the profession, can feel included and know that they feel part of the team. They’re a valuable asset. They have strengths and qualities that make a difference.

Alexandria: Thank you, Marguerita, for sharing those examples because I feel really empowered just talking to you right now to go, “Oh my gosh, what could we be doing at my firm?” I do things within my own community, but that would be really, I feel like, a great way to build that culture, like you’re saying, and make everyone feel included to do something together. I think giving back is a great way to do that.

Alexandria: And also, to just kind of transition us a little bit. I know that you do a lot of giving back, especially through the form of mentorship. We all know how extremely important it is to have a mentor. But maybe, let’s talk a little bit about how does a mentor help support and coach a young professional? What are the must dos? Or make sure that we’re doing to really kick off and make it a successful experience with a next gen individual?

Marguerita: Sure. First I want to say, a lot of people don’t realize this, but you can actually have more than one mentor. I know it sounds silly. The other thing as a mentee, you need to make sure that you’re prepared. You need to make sure that you are going in with realistic expectation. Your mentor… Every relationship is different, but you need to make sure that you are realistic about what you want. You need to make sure that you are prepared.

Marguerita: As far as mentors, first I’ll say a lot of people think that you can just have one. That’s not the case. The other thing is as a mentee, you have a responsibility to be organized because time is very precious. And I would say just ask. The worst they can say is no. If you actually don’t want to use the word mentor because you’re nervous, you can ask for someone’s time. You can do it in a way where you come to them. Like, I love coffee and I might say to somebody, I was like, “Hey, do you have time? I’d like to catch up with you.” And I’ll tell them what I’m talking about. “Can I bring you your favorite espresso drink?” Or whatever it is they like.

Marguerita: But I think that people like knowing that they’re helping, and the time they invested in you, because it is an investment of time, is making a difference. I know that I’ve mentored a lot of aspiring CFPs. I know that I’ve mentored a lot of aspiring certified financial planner professionals, CFP pros. I know that sometimes it’s overwhelming, that a lot of people want to ask for your help. 

Marguerita: I think that mentees have a responsibility. Mentors also have a responsibility. As a mentor, you’re to guide them. They’re not your employee, so you can’t say, “You should duhduhduh.” I think that it’s important to be there to support them. That’s what I say, “My job is not to judge you. My job is just to be there and create a safe space for you to ask questions.”

Marguerita: And so, I would say mentees have responsibilities to make sure they are clear in their ask. But mentors also have a responsibility not to judge or say, “If I were you.” Well, you’re not me. That’s not what I’m looking for.

Alexandria: One of the things I thought, there’s a couple of things, but the first one was your point about multiple mentors. Oh my goodness, that is so true, but maybe you could explain why does a person need multiple mentors? And how would you differentiate maybe having this person versus oh, I should have this person be my mentor? Could you explain that a little bit for a person who’s maybe seeking a mentor and then they’re like, “What? We can have multiple? Why? Why would I do that?”

Marguerita: Well, sure. I want to be clear, if you have one mentor and you feel like that’s what you need, that’s okay. But as you evolve as a planner, you may find that you may need another mentor. Here’s what I mean, you may have one mentor that may help you join the profession. Right? But then as you join the profession and grow and develop as a professional, you may say, “You know what? I want to open my own firm. I want to join XY cleaning network. Hm, I think I need to talk to somebody’s who’s done that.”

Marguerita: Because the person who may have helped you join the profession may not be the most ideal mentor for you to launch your own firm, because they might feel a little bit threatened. “Oh my god, I brought you into the profession and I introduced you, and now you want to leave and start your own firm.” So, there might be reasons like this where you may need another mentor.

Marguerita: Another thing is you… Maybe not a mentor. I’m a firm believer in peer-to-peer. I did this early in my career where we had a group of female financial advisors that would get together once and month, and it was peer-to-peer, or peer-to-peer mentoring. There was a topic of the day, and there was a planner of the day, so there was structure. It was not just a complain session. You had to come back. You left the meeting with your to-do list, no more than three to five items, and then you had to come back to report to the group.

Marguerita: You can have a individual mentor. You can also have peer-to-peer mentors. That’s really what makes NexGen so incredible. You do have your peer-to-peer community to support you.

Alexandria: One of the things, too, you also recently said was that mentees need to come prepared. When you’re mentoring young professionals or new CFP candidates, what does that mean to you as a mentor for the mentee to come and show up prepared?

Marguerita: In my mind, to come prepared means to come with questions. That shows engagement. Even if I don’t know all the answers to your questions, I want to help you and I’ll help you get the answers to your questions. I think it’s really important to come with the questions. I like that. I like that a lot. And even if they’re difficult questions, that’s okay. I like questions. I think that demonstrates preparedness and engagement.

Marguerita: And also think, be realistic. I am allowed to say this. I try to be very open, but I get messages from people on LinkedIn who are not FPA members, by the way. They’re like, “Hi, here’s my resume. Can you look at it?” And I mean, I may look at it, but if I don’t know you and I have no context, it does mean I’m going to ignore you. And then they come back two weeks later, “Hey, do you have anybody in my network that you can introduce me to?”

Marguerita: There’s a couple problems here. A, you’re not an FPA member, so I don’t really know if you really are into financial planning. By being an FPA member, I feel like that’s a natural filter. You believe in planning. Second, you haven’t even sent me a customized message. I’m very sweet. My kids are like, “Mom, you’ve got to say no. You’ve got delete these people. Who are these people?” And I’m like, “You’re right.” They call me out.

Marguerita: So, I would say being prepared means just taking the time to customize your message and maybe write me a little two or three sentences about who you are and why you have outreach. That means a lot to me. That’s a true story about these messages. I guess I was like, what to do and what not to do.

Alexandria: I really think that that’s important for listeners to hear because I could think of a time, even for myself, where I had a mentor and I was not coming prepared. It didn’t even cross my mind that I needed to be prepared. I had this mentality of like, “All right, I’m just I’m going to show up. Being in this person’s space, the information, wisdom, is just going to transfer.”

Alexandria: That was literally my thought process. Not until I heard or got wisdom from someone else that said, “Well, what do you do during the meetings? Or why are you meeting with them? What are you hoping to get out of it?” That I even go, “Geeze, I never even thought of that. I kind of just showed up and maybe the mentor had something on their mind?”

Alexandria: On the other side of the conversation, I want to see or get some feedback from you on how mentees can be giving back to their mentors to maybe show gratitude for their mentorship. Or help them out in a way you feel like the investment was worth it.

Marguerita: Sure. I’ll tell a story of two of my mentors. The first mentor… And how do you find a mentor? It just can sometimes happen organically. When I joined Ameriprise Financial, I was in an area office. One of the senior financial advisors, or more established financial advisors, attended the same university that I did. He also was in the same co-ed service fraternity. Now, when I was on campus, it became co-ed, but I believe when he was on campus it was still all male. So, we had that connection. Same university, fraternity.

Marguerita: But then I was invited to be a young board member for the business school. That’s another way, for those who are listening, that you can put your name out there for board service. It just happened. He was like, “Oh, I see you went to such and school. You were in such and such co-ed service fraternity.” I didn’t say, “Will you be my mentor?” I think he just took an interest in me.

Marguerita: I just want to say, this is post Me Too movement, but there was nothing weird about this interest. If anything, he was very hard on me and I mean it in a good way. He’s like, “There’s two things you need to know how to do to be a successful advisor. The first thing that you need to do is you need to know how to get clients. I don’t care how smart you are, you need to get clients.” I’m like, “Okay.”

Marguerita: He’s like, “The other thing that you need to is once you get those clients, you need to know what you’re do it. That’s also important.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And he’s like, “The next thing is, once you’ve got those clients, you have to prepare.”

Marguerita: And so, he was very hard on me. But I was on point. I knew that how I thanked him, or paid it forward, is when I moved up FP leadership ranks. Or one time I hosted a webinar for CFP Board, he was so proud to hear my voice hosting this webcast, the CFP Board. And it wasn’t me bragging like, “Hey, I did this.” He would just kind of share in my success.

Marguerita: And then, the second mentor I had, who invited to serve on the FP Board, we give leadership awards, I actually gave him his leadership award. I thanked the chapter. I thanked him in front of the whole chapter, and I said, “I would not be here…” I mean, I thanked him in front of the chapter and it’s just like it brought it full circle because I was the leader that presented him with the award.

Marguerita: I think an attitude, it’s not cliché, and gratitude is really important. But also make sure that you are out there. I am very intentional in supporting the next generation of FP leaders, as well as financial planning profession leaders, because I know how important it is for our future.

Marguerita: I tell everybody… When they say, “Hey Rita, this is amazing, can I buy you lunch? How can I thank you?” I’m like, “First of all, you don’t need to buy me lunch. But if you really want to do something, you can make a modest donation for these girls. But honestly, you don’t even have to do that. The only thing I want you to do is make sure you’re looking around and you’re supporting the next Marguerita. The next Alex. That next person. That’s really all I care about because I’m so happy to see you be successful. I just want the next advisor, aspiring CFP pro to have that chance. Do that for me, and do it for our future.” And they’re like, “Okay.”

Alexandria: Make sure to pay it back is what it is.

Marguerita: Yes.

Alexandria: I love that. That’s really important. As we kind of wrap up here, Rita, I just want to give you the space because, I mean, I can just ask questions. You just have so much wisdom. I love it. I love that you can share it with us. That you’re so authentic and honest with us. You’re telling us your truth. What would you leave with the NexGen community as we close and wrap up our discussion about giving back? Especially during this time of the month. It will be November when we’re all listening to this. What tidbits do you want to leave for the NexGen community?

Marguerita: First and foremost, if anybody has any questions, I put myself out there. You can message me. You can direct message me on Twitter, LinkedIn. E-mail me. I just want you to know that I’m here for you. That’s very important to me.

Marguerita: Second, if you think that you don’t have that much time, not only you get CE at FPA, so that is what I leave every meeting feeling smarter. To me, it’s great to go to a meeting because I get to see my friends. They’re my friends. This is our community. I leave you with that, because I would not be where I am without FPA. I feel that it is my professional family.

Alexandria: Awesome. Thank you again, and thank you for sharing that tidbit about three names and three friends. So, everybody, let’s all start doing that today. Thanks again, Marguerita.

Marguerita: Thank you so much.

Hide Transcript