The Culture of Money
• Mac Gardner • July 22, 2021
The more we help people talk about money, the more we realize how differently we all feel about it and relate to it. This is never more apparent than when it comes to the way we were raised and the views we bring from our own unique cultures. I recently sat down with a diverse group of guests to discuss the issues of culture and money for Season 3, Episode 3 of That Makes Cents.
I was joined by Chloe Moore, CFP®, Founder of Financial Staples, Luis Rosa, CFP®, founder of Build a Better Financial Future, and John Eing, CPA, CFP®, Partner and Financial Advisor with Abacus Wealth Partners. Each of these panelists has seen how their own cultural background has informed the services they provide and guided them to support underserved communities.
Chloe started her career working with traditional wealth clients but realized she had a passion for promoting financial education and literacy, particularly to marginalized people. She loves exposing communities of color to financial planning through her practice while also helping members of those communities become a part of the financial services industry. In addition, she serves many LGBTQ+ clients, along with women in tech.
Driven by his desire to help close the wealth gap, Luis finds that he works with many individuals who are achieving “firsts” in their families—the first to graduate from college, buy a home, contribute to a 401(k). This has also led him on a path to get more Black and Latinx professionals involved in the financial planning industry in the hope that this will lead to overall better service to those communities.
John is a career changer who started as a CPA and fell in love with financial planning seven years ago. His approach to working with his clients is to learn as much as he can about their lives and stories to dig into how those stories have influenced their financial decisions. He feels that understanding this aspect of their lives aids in the creation of strong financial plans.
How History Influences Money Decisions
It was fascinating to talk to my guests about the ways they have seen history—both familial and cultural—impact the way their clients handle their money. Luis shared how during his upbringing he saw that each generation seemed to be starting from scratch as they reached adulthood.
“Families didn’t transfer any wealth to next generations—not even life insurance. The best-case scenario was when someone died and left enough to pay for their own funeral. That was considered a success.” He added, “No one I knew ever inherited a property, got life insurance proceeds, nothing! I want to use this experience to help break that cycle.”
John related that the Asian-American community can be very secretive when it comes to money and finances. He said, “It’s not something they like to freely talk about. Including with financial professionals. It makes your approach to getting to know them very important. You have to build that trust.”
The Same But Different
While a lot of our conversation in this episode centered around the things certain cultural communities have in common, my guests were also quick to point out that these groups are not homogeneous, and that diversity goes beyond race.
Chloe said it best when we were discussing the ways to integrate more diversity into the planning process. “The first thing to understand is that there are many kinds of diversity. Most people immediately think of race and gender. But there’s sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities, and so on. Each category is not a monolith. There are so many different stories and experiences even within the same culture, so it’s important to lead with empathy when looking at culture as part of the planning process. Take the time to understand your clients’ personal backgrounds and history, their values, and what’s important to them.”
It’s an excellent point to keep in mind—we are all human. While we all have our own unique experiences in life your relationship-building conversations will help you relate to your individual client’s story. In that way, your approach to every client should involve leading with empathy and asking open-ended questions.
And really listen to their responses—but don’t immediately go into advisor mode until you have learned as much as you can. One of my favorite reminders when coaching is to say, “You have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak.”
Diversifying the Planning Community
One of the best ways of getting more financial planning to underserved communities is by ensuring the pool of financial professionals becomes more diverse. All my guests are passionate about helping people become a part of the financial professional community.
Chloe pointed out that the lack of diversification in the industry often gets blamed on a pipeline problem, but she believes it is a networking problem. As she recommended, “Advisors need to explore outside their current network and connect with people who aren’t “like” them.” She added, “And firm leaders need to remain open-minded about hiring people with different backgrounds and experiences as these folks have a lot to bring to the table.”
Luis pointed out that it’s also important for firms to start by looking within. “Be sure there is inclusivity in things like website content and photos—do people see themselves when they are on your site? I agree with the saying, ‘You cannot be what you cannot see.’ You must create a welcoming environment at your firm.”
Greater Diversity Will Improve Financial Wellness
The financial services industry has traditionally catered to those who have the money, tools, and resources. As our population becomes more diverse, we need to make sure we are including more people in the wealth-building process—in turn this should improve overall financial literacy and the lives of those around us.
“I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I believe it’s a matter of life and death,” John said when he shared some startling statistics. “Studies show that lower incomes can contribute to poorer health outcomes, lower education, and shorter life expectancies.”
He added, “If you grew up in an environment where you don’t know about the S&P 500 or the stock market or you don’t trust the system, you’re not likely to take advantage of them. It really underscores the importance of financial literacy and education.”
The Human Connection
I really liked the one conclusion John came to during our discussion about diversifying your client base. He said, “Focus on making human connections and friendships. [We should] treat everyone like we treat our friends—listen, build trust, share mutual respect, spend time, and have fun with each other.”
From the growing racial wealth gap to technology’s role in improving diversity in financial planning, Season 3, Episode 3 of That Makes Cents is loaded with good advice and conversation. I invite you to take a listen for yourself.
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