The Day I Decided to Become a Financial Planner


My dad is an amazing man. He worked as a police officer for most of my life, and I always looked up to him. But he’s just not a money guy. I remember how my mom would send him off to work with one blank check folded in his pocket. When he used it, she’d give him another one. That’s just how it was done in my family. I was actually the only one who even knew where my mom kept all her financial documents.

Finding My New Calling

I didn’t study business in college. I actually avoided the business school like the plague, only taking two basic classes in my entire four years. Yet, seemingly overnight, I was deemed the most capable person in my family to make decisions about the mutual funds (huh?) and limited partnership (what?) in which my mom had invested.

I paid her broker a visit. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” she said, followed quickly by, “don’t worry about any of this, I’ve got it all taken care of. You don’t need to understand any of this.”

I felt like my mom’s broker didn’t want to take the time to help me understand the investments she’d made. I also got the distinct feeling my mom hadn’t understood them either.

Excuse me? I thought. I felt it was my job to understand what was going on. Granted, the sum we were managing wasn’t a fortune, but it was all we had. I felt like my mom’s broker didn’t want to take the time to help me understand the investments she’d made. I also got the distinct feeling my mom probably hadn’t understood them either. This woman clearly had already earned her commission on the sale of the investments, and now that there wasn’t any more new money coming her way, she wasn’t about to waste any of her precious time on me.

I felt so hurt and disgusted. I mean, come on, I was a Phi Beta Kappa college graduate! Surely I could understand what was going on if she would just have taken an hour or so to explain things to me. Yet I signed the paperwork she thrust in front of me, transferring all of our assets to the trust. Only, when I went to withdraw funds a month or so later, we got hit with $1,600 in penalties that apparently could have been avoided if we’d drawn the money out as a death distribution. Ouch.

  • 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.