C.ertified F.inancial P.rotagonist

Imposter syndrome is real. It keeps even the most creative and intelligent among us living in abject fear of being labeled a fraud. In a world that values licensure and credentials above deep understanding, experience, and the ability to fail until you succeed; we have unceremoniously created a deep freeze on perseverance in the absence of static achievement.

“Are you a CFP (Certified Financial Planner)?”, I was recently asked. Moments before, the question had been whether my impending travel was business or pleasure and with a brief, if not vague, explanation I muttered about my passions for travel, finance, and writing; and explained that I was attempting to bring them altogether in a new business venture. I had not shared my business plans or visions with many people but being new friends, it somehow felt easier. I was ill-prepared for the resulting question, qualifying my competency.

The truth is, I viscerally desire to create something meaningful, to support women in the sharing of financial information and tools, and to utilize my decades of experience in both business and personal finance to some greater common good. But I didn’t say any of that. I said a sad little, “no, I’m not”. Inside I was toiling over how that one question so directly mirrors my cringe-worthy concerns about our society’s current value system and the aggressive exploitation of our youth happening in our education system. Unless you are a quick-witted and verbally gifted human, you understand the frustration that comes when a thousand words, which could have promptly qualified me, magically appear 10 minutes post-conversation.

I wish I would have told her that my expertise came in the form of watching my single mother lose her entire life savings in a single business investment when I was a teenager and that I also watched her, with Lincoln-like tenacity, build yet another business that is now worth 7+ figures. I wish she knew that I worked alongside my mother, inside the company and externally, to influence critical business decisions as well as personal, financial ones. I wish my new friend knew that I mostly supported myself through college and that my husband and I paid off $150,000+ in student loans and other young-life debt in a handful of years and then utilized the spread between our earnings and monthly bills to invest in real estate. I wish I had said that we have built a life focused on enjoying the important things but also saving fastidiously and successfully for our retirement all while raising two kids.

I wish she knew that I have a degree in International Business and Financial Management but that it means less to me and taught me less than any of the aforementioned experiences. I wish she knew that I have more knowledge about personal finance floating around in my head than many of the professional financial planners I have met. I wish she knew that while most financial professionals are focused on business development; I am reading Dalio, studying historical economies and debt cycles, and scanning FRED economic data for insight. But she’ll never know that because it is impossible to sum up all of that experience with 3 little letters.

So, imagine my satisfaction the following day, when another new friend heard my vision and asked, “how much do I need to begin investing?” Now, there is a question I can lay down some words to. It was a meaningful question and she was fully open to my life experiences improving her own. Not shocking, but still horrifying, a fiduciary Certified Financial Planner (CFP) had recently spoken to their women-run organization about investing. After what she called a “really helpful” meeting, my friend still believed $5,000 was the minimum she would need in order to begin investing and further, that she would absolutely need to hire someone to “do it” for her. You can understand why this 45-year-old friend feels dejected and that “maybe someday” she will be able to begin investing.

It was a Big Magic moment. (Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for teaching me that Big Magic can make a seemingly defeating moment open you up more fully to the next). I felt the rejuvenation of my creativity and the full force of the world pushing me to snag this idea, hold it steady in my arms and bring it forth for the good of the people asking the meaningful questions. So, I officially designate myself a CFP, Certified Financial Protagonist, advocate for the people with no letters behind their names. I will fight for their right to financial freedom, at their own making.

Who knows, maybe you could chalk up the CFP comment to privilege or curiosity or maybe even her own feelings of inferiority on the subject matter. Whatever the case, the story is forever scribed here as a reminder to you and I alike that your story matters, your efforts matter, the ideas that you have culled out of the universe’s infinite flow of consciousness matter.

The only way to dilute their importance is to leave them alone, untouched and malnourished, to whither until they are less than nothing. Big Magic moments are curated, they are sitting idle waiting to be gathered and tended. Financial Independence allows you to capture your vision, to live your life according only to your measure. No letters in the world, assembled in any way, can qualify your Big Magic. There is no license for creativity, nor freedom.

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