© 2020 Arizent. All rights reserved.

From overwhelming to educating: An advisor learns from trauma

For years I fantasized about being an entrepreneur who helped people improve their lives. Inevitably self-doubt crept in, destroying my dreams with every excuse imaginable: “I’m already on a great path — isn’t that good enough?” Or “I want to have children, and it will be easier to stick with the routine that I know when they arrive.”

Then the unimaginable happened.

In just over five years, my husband and I experienced seven miscarriages. As we visited specialist after specialist and worked through major life questions, I numbed my pain with food and gained more than 60 pounds. If that wasn’t enough — in 2016 — one year after the seventh miscarriage I was diagnosed with alopecia areata universalis. It’s a condition that caused me to lose all of my hair and it still hasn’t grown back.

Life was not happening according to any plan either my husband or I had imagined for ourselves. I felt overwhelmed and helpless. Now when I sense clients feeling frustrated with life’s surprises, I first strive to make sure they feel comfortable acknowledging life’s uncertainties and their own feelings. Then, together, we systematically try to uncover their financial pain points and identify strategies so that clients can feel more in control of their investments.

With great effort and and the love of my family, I was able to use my deepest pain to cultivate a new vision for my life. My husband encouraged me to face my negative self-talk and go after my dream of becoming a CFP, because as we learned, we have no idea what life will present us.

In my late 30s, after researching different ways to become a fiduciary advisor and building up savings, I stepped off my global corporate executive path and started a new career as a financial planning trainee at a major wirehouse. Over two years, I learned how top advisors served their clients, delivered hundreds of financial plans and began to envision the advisor I could become for my own clients. Then, in 2017, I joined an independent firm.

I enjoy creating experiences that help people approach their finances with curiosity, rather than fear, anxiety, or other negative emotions. In 2018 I launched the Coffee with Caroline series to help people understand finance in a positive and personal way in order to help improve their lives. It began with eNewsletters comprised of articles readers could digest in the same amount of time that they enjoy an espresso or love their latte.

Then the first Coffee Break with Caroline took place: A loyal reader hosted four girlfriends at her home and, over coffee, we talked about women, investing and retirement. In early 2019, Coffee with Caroline got very personal for me: I wrote an article that described five strategies I found helpful for deepening my own relationship with finances and losing 50 of the 60 pounds I gained. At the same time, I expanded my social media presence.

While Coffee with Caroline was envisioned to help others, it’s actually still helping me. Readers tell me they like finance to be relevant to them. I’m learning that clients don’t expect advisors to be clairvoyant with the markets. They want us to understand what’s important to them. They need us to share our thoughts with them. They count on us to be by their side as they strive to be as powerful as they can be with their finances, especially when life doesn’t happen according to plan.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.