The Day I Decided to Become a Financial Planner


financial plannerI didn’t plan to be a financial planner.

When people ask about what I studied in college or where I started my career, they’re often surprised to find out I was originally a news reporter and anchor for a local TV station. Inevitably, the question they ask next is, “How did you get from THAT to THIS?”


The answer is simple: When my mother passed away unexpectedly at the age of 52, I figured out the hard way that people need help managing money. I was 24 at the time—not an age at which you’d expect to get that phone call.

I had just returned from spending the weekend at home with my parents. We had taken my two-year-old niece to her first play, and had eaten at a new café my mom had been excited to try.

The Phone Call No One Wants to Get

As I made the four-hour drive back from their place, I was thinking about what a great weekend we’d had, and how I almost hadn’t come home because I was too tired from a long week. Less than 24 hours later, my dad called me at work to tell me my mom had had a headache and passed out at work, that they were taking her to the hospital.

I jumped in the car and started driving; luckily, I hadn’t even unpacked the carload of laundry I’d taken home. Unfortunately, in the end, it didn’t matter how fast I drove; my mom died of a brain aneurysm before I got there. “There’s nothing anyone could have done,” the doctors told us.

I never had time to grieve. The next few days were a whirlwind. My dad was in shock and unable to handle any of the details on his own. As the oldest child, it was my job to step in and take charge. I don’t remember a conscious decision ever being made about this—it just sort of happened. I chose a funeral home, arranged the service, made call after call to our friends and family, and eventually had to deal with the “tackier” details: claiming my mom’s life insurance and dealing with all of the financial decisions that had to be made, like consulting an estate planning attorney once we realized my mother hadn’t written a will.

RELATED: Wills and Trusts 101

Talk about confusing. The attorney helped us figure out what my mother’s share of the community property estate was and suggested we create a trust. It seemed like the easiest way to allow me to manage the assets for my father and distribute income as needed. But hold up a minute: You might be wondering why that job fell to me.

  • Christina_Sunshine

    Thank you for this well-written and heartfelt article. Due to illness and death, I am caring for my Mom and my Grandma’s affairs, in addition to my own household (I’m 36).

    It has been difficult to make decisions and to feel comfortable in the process. I am very grateful to you for sharing your experience.

  • Danie

    Thank you for sharing your story- it was an incredible read. I am 100 positive, your mom is beaming down on you. God bless.

  • Budziak

    Love this article. I experienced a different (more temporary) loss in the family, which led to the discovery of my family’s lack of financial knowledge. I’m the youngest in my family (by 15+ years), yet I was given the responsibility of finances. It was extremely overwhelming and I almost dropped out of college because of it. The thing that kept me hanging on was knowing I never wanted anyone I loved to go through what I did and now I’m following the same career path :-)

  • Justin Rodriguez

    Thanks for sharing the value that a financial adviser (particularly a CFP) can bestow upon others. I was wondering if you could share some of those resources (books, whatever) that were instrumental in providing you with a comprehensive understanding of money management. There are so many resources out there that recommendations are necessary not to get lost in the choices. Thanks again for honoring your mother who I’m sure gave her everything to you.

    • Derek Coleman

      Hey Justin. I actually have this same question – were you provided with any of those sources? I’d love to follow the same foot steps and teach myself through reading, but it’s tough to gather the right collection of resources.