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When Talent Arrives by an Unconventional Path

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What You Need to Know

  • The resiliency and adaptability of our profession can continue only with solid new talent to fill the ranks and grow the business.
  • As a divorced single mother of five, Alisa Nguyen is no ordinary student, and her path is unconventional.
  • With the help of two CFPs, she was able to find a profession that she loved, and one that needed her talents.

The resiliency and adaptability of our profession can continue only with solid new talent to fill the ranks and grow the business. And though it’s great to see people within the profession step up to lead, it’s equally satisfying to see more new people join the financial planner ranks and make positive impacts on the profession.

Case in point: Alisa Nguyen, a student at Utah Valley University who is one of those aspiring to do great things in our profession.

Nguyen is the winner of the 2021 New Planner Recruiting Tuition Reimbursement Scholarship. The ­selection committee — made up of Geoffrey Brown, CEO of NAPFA, Michael Kitces, founder of Kitces.com and XYPN, and myself — was pleased to award her $3,000 toward the cost of her journey to becoming a certified financial planner.

As a divorced single mother of five, Nguyen is no ordinary student, and her path is unconventional. While vaguely aware of “financial planners” whom she and her ex-husband had met over the years, she was always skeptical due to the pushy, sales-based nature that she encountered.

Feeling discouraged, she set out on her own to learn to handle the family’s finances, which she has done successfully for the last few decades. When Nguyen got divorced, however, she felt as if she had little choice financially and vocationally. She planned to go back to work and use her English degree to become a teacher, but realized that it wasn’t her true passion.

As time went by, she found herself surrounded by other divorced friends who had not managed their family’s financial affairs and were overwhelmed with the anxiety of suddenly having to fend for themselves. Nguyen shared that several of her friends were so paralyzed by financial stress that they couldn’t open their mail. After some reflection, she realized that she wanted to be able to help these friends sort out their financial affairs more thoroughly than she was equipped to. She decided to pursue further training. But what to do next?

It wasn’t until she took a self-reliance class and the facilitator, Robert Christensen, a retired certified financial planner, showed her the consultative and collaborative fiduciary side of financial planning. She fell in love with it and knew it was something she wanted to pursue. In addition, she had ­conversations with Jenie Connors, a local CFP who helped her understand the service offerings of various firms and potential career paths. Excited about her new possibilities, she quickly found the Utah Valley University Board Registered CFP program near her home.

Nguyen is a testament to someone who could have pursued an easier path, but instead is demonstrating a true passion for the profession — attending classes at UVU, working part time and raising her five children. She is honing her skills in her part-time position at the UVU Money Management Resource Center, where financial planning students give presentations to classes and provide one-on-one counseling to other UVU students.

This has allowed her to immerse herself in learning the craft that she knows will be paramount to helping her provide the advice she needs to ease her clients’ anxiety. Nguyen plans to take the CFP certification exam in November and wants to find a position in an established firm where she can focus on a women-in-transition clientele after graduation.

Her ideal position is in an established firm where she can learn the business without pressure to bring in clients immediately — preferably an in-person, part-time role that transitions to full time when her children are older and become more self-sufficient. She is also pursuing the accredited financial counselor designation and wants to see how the softer side of money is being integrated into financial planning. We look forward to Alisa accomplishing great things!


Caleb Brown is co-founder and CEO of New Planner Recruiting. His podcast is at newplannerrecruiting.com/category/podcast