When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an attorney. Defending the innocent and putting away the bad guys. I have never missed an episode of “Law and Order.”
I assure you that financial adviser was never on my radar. Life took me on a different path as life tends to do, and in 2007 I landed a management role for a well-known regional bank here in Northwest Arkansas. I worked closely with hundreds of financial advisers in a support role, never seen or heard by clients.
Of course, the Great Recession happened less than 12 months later. I remember watching the Dow Jones drop on the big screen in the office. Everyone was gathered around it, speculating how low will it go? When will it hit bottom? How will I ever retire now after losing all of this money? I knew right then that my mind was geared a little different than most because my instinct was to put in more. It’s cheaper now, right? My mother taught me to be a bargain shopper, and I could see lots of bargains.
In 2012 I received a call from my now partner, Troy Kestner, asking me to consider transitioning from a managerial back-office role to working with clients at a branch in Fayetteville. Initially, I thought he had dialed the wrong phone number. Me? Deena Wright? Come out from behind the scenes and advise people on how to achieve their financial goals?
I gave it little consideration initially. The next day I had a visit from my mentor, the late Jeb Mills. He told me to take a leap of faith, and I wouldn’t regret it. He saw something in me that I didn’t see at the time. He knew I instinctively had the passion for helping people, which you cannot teach. I have found over the years that if you sincerely care about helping people and listen to what is important to them, the plan will fall into place.
Too often, financial planning is treated as just a financial transaction when it should be so much more personal. I will never forget monumental moments that solidified that I would be a financial adviser for the rest of my life. The first time I could tell a sudden widower who never handled the household accounts that she would be OK financially. Walk someone hand-in-hand through a divorce as they split assets with someone they thought they would be with forever. Show clients that their dream of retirement is still on track when they are unexpectedly laid off from a 30-year career. However, the best feeling for me might be getting to tell someone in retirement that they need to spend more money.
Shockingly, less than 15% of all financial advisers are female. If young females knew that financial planning doesn’t have to be all about the numbers but about helping people by bringing them financial freedom, it would be more appealing as a career. I may have never had a life-long dream of becoming a financial adviser, but now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Deena Wright is associate vice president, wealth management at SWK Financial Planning Advisors of Raymond James in Fayetteville. She can be reached at 479-435-9955. The opinions expressed are those of the author.