When I was 13 I distinctly remember my math teacher approaching me with an opportunity to attend a conference for young women interested in potential mathematical careers. In my awkward teenage years, already standing out more than I would’ve liked as an “over-achiever” (as my classmates liked to call me), I immediately said no. I didn’t even know what I would and/or could do related to a career involving numbers. All I’d ever heard my entire life is “You’re never going to need that in the real world.”
That statement couldn’t have been more wrong. It just goes to show how difficult it is to understand the connection between those foundational math principles and everyday adult life.
Despite turning down that early opportunity, I managed to meander back to numbers. Being the “over-achiever” that I was, I pretty much knew from the time that I was in 9th-10th grade that I wanted to do something business related. Having attended a relatively small school (graduating class was 83 people – strong year), there were only a few business classes offered there to dip my toe in the water. Accounting was one of them, but I’d heard through my involvement in DECA that it was pretty difficult. At that point I was seriously considering Human Resources (HR) as a potential major.
Amongst college visits and applications fall of my senior year, I continued to question whether HR was the right path. I turned to my eldest sister who had been out of college for a few years, and was paying her student loans already (I’ll come back to that in another post). The conversation went like this:
Me: I don’t know I really thought I was going to like HR. Everyone always tells me I’m a good listener and I thought it was the closest to psychology in the business field.
Sister: No offense, but HR is generally the first thing on the cutting room floor in tough times. What else do you like? What are you good at?
Me: My accounting class is going pretty well. Everyone always talked about how hard it was, but I feel like it’s pretty easy for me
Sis: Uhhhh… Becc – do that. Accountants make decent money.
Me: They do? I’d be kind of worried that I’d end up hating it though. Like you know how you do something you love so much that you get sick of it?
Well, after shadowing 2 college classes the following spring – one HR & one accounting – that was it. I could not connect with the HR class at all. I didn’t even hear anything in the accounting class because they were taking an exam (probably a blessing in disguise looking back), but I was positive I did NOT want to do Human Resources any more.
Fast forward 4 years and I’d graduated with a BBA and MBA in Accounting, and had passed the first part of my CPA exam. You don’t throw away 4 years of education and accrued student loan debt by failing to get your CPA license, right? That’s what I’d heard for the last 4 years anyway – kind of a waste of a degree/money otherwise. Oh, and if you don’t get your CPA license, you’re basically a failure. What no one told me when I was picking a major was that the reality of working in the public accounting industry meant agreeing to work 80 hour weeks for at least 4 months of the year. Thankfully I’d stumbled into a niche within the industry that offered amazing experience without having to do that. After a few years in enterprise risk management, a stint at a bank internal audit shop, and a few more years in operational risk management I found a new professional certification that spoke to me like nothing else in my life – the Certified College Financial Consultant…. and my CPA license was a pre-requisite. Finally I no longer had to question whether I’d made the right choice investing in my CPA and opting out of the typical tax/audit tracks. Everything was clicking.
See the part that I skipped over was the development of severe anxiety related to my financial situation. Would I ever be able to stop working? I felt like I was drowning in student loan debt. How did that happen? I got merit scholarships that covered my half my tuition, finished my undergrad a year early, worked multiple jobs since senior year of high school over 30 hours/week, and borrowed less each year of my higher education. What did I do wrong? How did I end up with over 6 figures in student loan debt?! I was so careful!!!!
So I dedicated all that time outside of work to getting myself on a better financial track. Blood, sweat, and tears to fixing that on my own… because no one I’d known seemed to have the answers. They’d either (1) never gone to college, (2) struck the jackpot in the gene/inheritance pool, or (3) faced the same problems I did with student loan debt without any answers. So I taught myself – through my tax experience, credit score research, cost management education, and unwillingness to accept paying on this debt for the rest of my life I began improving my situation.
We’ll get to the specifics of how to avoid some of those pitfalls in some other posts. Long story short – not only did my professional license provide a springboard to the right path, but the new certification showed me everything I did “wrong” along the way. That sort of experience and hindsight is not something that every financial planner has to offer. My passion for preventing these financial catastrophes for future generations is too valuable to keep to myself. I want to help improve people’s everyday monetary situation in a way that’s best for them not only today, but sets them up for success in years to come.
So here I am. Just a girl, writing to the internet, asking them to let me help them.
Note: For those of you that think I just ended the post in an extremely corny fashion, please refer to the movie Notting Hill. I mean it’s corny for sure, but rooted in pop culture, so that counts for something, right? No?…. Awkward…. Okay I’ll stick to the numbers 🙂