Lauryn Williams positions her practice as “financial planning recreated.” And that’s just about as “technical” as she gets with clients when it comes to money terminology. No need to bewilder with stuffy jargon: What they need is a “funancial coach,” she declares with a laugh, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
The millennial brings a sunny approach and an impressive, unusual background to planning: She is the first American woman to medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, winning gold and silver in track and field in 2012 and 2004, respectively, and silver in two-woman bobsled racing in 2014.
The four-time Olympian, 35, first explored financial planning to help herself manage money after retiring from professional sports, then soon began working with other pro athletes and young professionals to organize their finances.
A Certified Financial Planner, the Pittsburgh native launched her own Dallas-based firm, Worth Winning, in 2016, just three years after sprinting into financial services. The non-investment-based practice is fee-only and 100% virtual.
With a specialty in strategies for managing student loan debt, 40% of Williams’s 40-client roster is attorneys. She holds the College Funding and Student Loan Advisor (CFSLA) designation.
Even while notching Olympic medals, Williams had the foresight to plan for life after pro sports: In 2004, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance, and in 2009, an MBA.
The plain-talking straight shooter is a frequent speaker at companies and universities.
“I leave the fancy financial jargon at the door because people tune out when you use words that go over their heads,” she notes on her website.
THINKADVISOR: Has being a three-time Olympic medalist helped you as a financial planner?
LAURYN WILLIAMS: When you’re a professional athlete, you’re pretty much an entrepreneur because of fluctuating income. That prepared me for obstacles faced as an entrepreneurial financial planner. Being an Olympian helped me be a lot more patient in building a business.
What got you into track and field?
My mom will tell you that one day when I was 9, I literally ran home faster than the family German shepherd. My dad said that at 10, at the Carnegie Science Center, I raced the Flo-Jo hologram [Florence Griffith-Joyner, the fastest female runner ever] all day and beat it a few times [set at less than world-record speed]. So my [parents] said, “We have to get her into a track program!”
Why did you start doing bobsled?
I knew I was at the end of my track career and thinking: What’s next? Another track-and-field athlete told me that if I tried bobsled, I could probably make the Olympic team in a year. I thought it was an interesting thing to do and just wanted to see what it was like. So I tried it, but I wasn’t thinking about making the Olympic team.
What characterizes your financial planning practice?
I don’t think financial planning needs to be stuffy. I’m not suited to the person who wants a very businesslike office meeting, with me in a dress suit talking all fancy.
Who’s your ideal client?
I’m for people that want to organize their finances and want me to communicate my expertise in a way they can understand. Yesterday, a young lady said to me, “Girl, I just bought a $400 hair dryer! This is why I need a financial planner. I need you to fix my life.”
Why did you become a financial planner?
Having a crappy financial advisor myself. When I was a junior in college, I was offered a six-figure sponsorship deal with Nike. That’s what prompted me to go pro: In track and field, the only way to become pro is through a sponsorship. There’s no draft for track and field.
So you took that lucrative deal. How did you handle all that money?
At 20 years old, I had no idea what to do with a six-figure income. So I hired a financial advisor, a Series 7 commission-based advisor who was very much investment focused. But what I needed was financial literacy — except I didn’t know what questions to ask.
Did the advisor make money for you?