We are constantly impressed by our students at The Boston Institute of Finance. Juggling careers, families and more while studying is the norm around here. Shirley did all of that and then some. She recently sat down with us to share her inspirational story that's filled with perseverance and determination. We hope you enjoy.
Adam: Hello, everyone, and welcome again to another session of BIF success stories, where we take a look at the real-life people behind all of the CFP® prep and the real struggles and the real triumphs that happen along the way in pursuit of their CFP® marks. Today, I am honored to have Shirley Sanchez joining the BIF Success Stories platform. Shirley, how are you?
Shirley: I'm well, Adam, how are you doing today?
Adam: Great. Shirley and I work together as she was preparing for her exam, on the exam prep side, and I discovered, I think after you had passed, just how impressive your story and some of the potential challenges were. I think you had shared with me that you were pregnant throughout the entire preparation process, right? Even education. Is that right?
Shirley: Yes, I was. I was pregnant. I took a long time to study. I wanted to pass the first time, so I took it very seriously and I was pregnant. I had my baby about a month after I took the exam. I have two kids now, the first one I had while I was doing my education, I had one while I did the education, and then I had another one while I was studying for the exam. And they're both healthy and great and have financial knowledge in their brain, I'm sure from all my studying.
Adam: Wow. Right out of the womb talking about like keep births, right?
Shirley: Yes. I know that's what a lot of my friends told me, that’s true. Got it embedded. I was pregnant and it was an experience, to say the least. The Boston Institute of Finance was definitely helpful. I don't think I shared that until after. I was just really excited. And let me share this with whoever wants to hear it, who wants to hear how I did this, and I was such a relief, you know that I passed. I wanted to share it with everyone, and I probably didn't share it before because I didn't want to. I wanted support, but I just felt like, well, you'll get through it and just put your mind to it and that time management piece and your it'll get done.
Adam: Let's rewind kind of to the beginning of that journey when you first started. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and just overall, what did you study in college and what led you to pursuing the CFP®?
Shirley: Originally where I went to school in my undergrad, I majored in sociology, and I minored in education and psychology. And that was my undergrad. I went to grad school, and I received a master's degree in counseling. My background has really been in counseling, and I did work at educational institutions before and really enjoy helping students, just helping others. That's one of my strengths.
As I was in that career for a few years, I realized that there was something missing and, on the side, I used to just read about personal finance and read a lot of blogs, just books for fun. And I just found myself getting lost in all the material, and I soon learned that there was a way to make a career out of this. And so, I thought, well, what is this being a certified financial planner, let's read more about it. And at first, I was a little intimidated and I said, well, I don't have a background in finance. That's not why I went to school for how do I approach this? I learned that you get a certificate, and you can still take these classes and get a comprehensive education in that regard.
And then I learned more about the steps of passing the exam, doing all the rest of that. But as I was in it, it took me some time to dedicate and say, ’You know what, I'm going to do this.” and then I did, and I'm glad that I did, because it definitely has been a good fit for me. It really varies my strengths, my counseling background, helping others, with the lens of empathy and compassion, and marries that with my financial knowledge and my passion for financial planning. So, it's been a good fit and I'm glad that I did some research and I figured out there was a career to make out of it.
Adam: It’s got to be so nice with where it seems like a lot of the industry is moving to at least acknowledging some of the emotions, and some of the communication style, with clients and meeting the clients where they are. I'm sure some of the things that you studied as a counselor are easily applied to the financial space, right?
Shirley: Definitely, that’s something that I've learned in my work working with people, sometimes it's really that counseling piece that’s missing, it's really connecting them, we can give the advice, we can make our recommendations. But sometimes there are barriers to inaction. And making sure that we're identifying them and helping the client where they are. And yet sometimes there are different techniques and strategies to get that done, but definitely a lot of counseling behind the scenes.
You might not think that at first, but a lot of it is, sometimes the emotional baggage or ways that people have dealt with money in the past or their family upbringing and how they bring that into their adult lives when they're handling financial decisions and whatnot. So it definitely has come into play. I didn't think that first and what I was, I remember I had a mentor and I remember talking to the founder of, the firm that I'm at right now. And I remember him saying, actually, it is a lot of counseling, you wouldn't think. But it is a lot of the financial knowledge and background and all the financial knowledge and expertise. But applying that and making sure that the client follows through. That's another story too, right? And making sure that they're implementing everything and making sure everything goes smoothly.
Adam: And it’s kind of marrying of to helping professions, I think, at their core, right?
Shirley: Definitely. And you know, I am pleased to see that, you know, the CFP® board is really incorporating more of like counseling, like you said, like the psychology behind it because there is a lot to it. And I think they've been really incorporating that more into the exams and just in general, you know, the different areas that we need to know. And I think that's great. Whenever I read about that, I was like, Oh, that's awesome. Very true. Very needed. As I'm in the field now, I see that with clients. And so I'm just thankful that I do have that basis, that background, but it's good to see it in real life too.
Adam: Did your experience just being not from the financial field of effectively changing careers? Were there some challenges there to just getting up to speed? I know you said you had a lot of prior interest, but once you were in an education program, what was your experience like?
Shirley: At first it was a little difficult with some areas for me because I was all this is the first time, I've seen this. I didn't have an undergrad degree in certain areas. There was a lot of challenge at first, but I was very dedicated and so I put in the time to just get better at certain areas. I remember the calculations and whatnot. I think I know how to do that. I did practice this a little bit more. So stuff like that, which a lot of us just practice, putting in the time that a lot of it with the whole program and just like this career is just putting in the time and the practice to get to where you want to be. And so, it was a little bit at first, but it was doable. I mean, I did it. I took my classes online. That's what worked with me, worked for me and I was able to practice and do it at the speed that was appropriate for what was going on in my life.
Adam: Where did you find the space in your day-to-day, week to week?
Shirley: Working full time and having children, the time management piece can ‘be stressed enough. And any of you to have kids, you know, it is very possible. It's just difficult, as you know, when you have kids and I know Adam, you have kids too. So you know that they take a lot of time. There's a lot of work and we love them, but it is a dedicated time that you need to spend with them. For me, I had to really carve time out of my day.
I mean, I was working full time, so it was at night when they went to sleep. It was a lot when I did my work and the weekends. It was hard at first to not be able to hang out with friends and go to such and such event. But eventually, I got used to it and I kept my eye on the prize and said, you know this is all going to pay off. The time that I put in now is really going to help me come to review time, we have to take the exam, this will all be worth it. But it was definitely really difficult. I was in a situation where my spouse was really supportive. Like towards the end, right before the exam, I said he was almost like a single parent right at the end because he was doing a lot of the stuff, and I love him for it. And he really supported me in making sure I made his career change, that it was a success.
And so whatever support you have, like, you know, if it doesn't have to be a spouse, it can be your parents. I know I've heard people that, you know, the parent was there. My sister also was helpful towards the end as well, and I really had to get in those last hours to feel confident and feel comfortable going into the test. A lot of that, too, is your confidence and how you feel going in. For me, it was putting it on my calendar, and I think a lot of us use calendars. But to stay true to it and to say it's OK to say no, you know you'll. I've learned that in my life. Sometimes I just can't. I have to say no certain things, but carving out that time and staying dedicated, I think, was helpful.
And just knowing that this is not going to be forever, right, you'll get your weekends back. I did. I got my weekends back, and now I can go with my daughter to pumpkin patches and have fun and not worry or whatever. So just know it's a season and that it's not forever and you will get through that.
Adam: It's almost as if it’s a rite of passage for everyone. You know, the more you hear of these, these stories from people that have passed are my weekends look like this. I mean, mine personally were, in my backyard on the patio furniture with a stack of note cards and a stack of books. And that was just the way that it went. You see little variations of this from person to person. You're right. It's tough to make that initial adjustment, but once you establish that pattern. It’s still a challenge, but it's a little bit easier because you know what to expect and you know what it takes. How did all this look with the more intensive review space? Any challenges there above and beyond what you had before?
Shirley: The review, can be fast-paced, right, and you're reviewing all the information, as you all will know if you haven't already. It's very comprehensive. The challenge there was just putting everything together. And as I studied to know that I was pulling from those different areas, estate part insurance part pulling it all together as I studied it and it was at the end, it was intense. I took it very seriously, so I have very long days of studying and I said, well, I'm not going to do this again, especially with another kid on the way. It is going to be hard.
So yes, you're pregnant, you can do it, just pull through and whatnot. In terms of challenges, I think it was just I think there were probably some mental challenges there, too. And just knowing that this is cumulative, like all this time that I've been studying all these different areas now it's, you know, it's game time. And I think that was that mental challenge for me to just making sure that I didn't forget anything and that I fully absorbed, but also made sure everything came together. Because, as you know and some of the questions on the exam are not just pulling from one area, it's an overlap or some tax incorporated into this insurance question or whatever it is or education. And I think for me, that was more of a mental thing and the time management like I said, I put out a couple more action hours and at the end. To be honest, I know I must make sure I study. I went a little excessive over it, but it's OK. It worked out.
Adam: At the time, you sat for the exam, you're well on your pregnancy.
Shirley: Yes, I said this baby better, not be early. I guess that would be a story. Oh, I didn't pass the exam. I had to go to labor, I was eight months pregnant. That was on my mind. Initially, the exam was supposed to be in July, right? But because of the pandemic, they pushed it back.
I was supposed to go in, you know, take it in July. But because of the pandemic and everything going on with that, they pushed back to September. on one hand, it was like, Oh, I have more time to study. Don't stress out, but I, you know, had more time to study, which really helped. But then it was like, I'm also further along in my pregnancy and the baby came like a month after. There was that challenge, right? I think I put that pressure on myself - you need to pass it now because you think it's hard now, trying to wrangle one toddler while you're studying hard.
I hope that inspires other working families that feel like it's impossible but with that dedication, it's a little bit of a sacrifice. It’s challenging. But it is possible to get out on the other side and then smile and not be as stressed out.
Adam: That's so great and thank you for sharing that. It's such a valuable message and often what we hear on the front end of the process is, well, it's not the right season in my life to do this for this reason. I think I think for a lot of parents with young children, just knowing how much that takes in the way of energy and time and thought and care to now be stacking that with something that's as time demanding and time-intensive as this pursuit. You did it, you did it successfully and you did it by managing that time and by being resilient and by having support systems. That's a great message.
Shirley: And also, just remember why you're doing it, I think that really helps me too. There were times where I felt defeated, and I questioned whether I could do it. I did. I question. I don't know if I can do this, but I know that the guys at BIF were great and, they did a lot of extra programming and everything to which was really helpful. And just knowing that support and connecting to others that, you know, going through the challenges I think was really helpful. I think that was all just really helpful as I was going through my journey.
But like I said, also just knowing why, why you're doing it right? Think of the end goal and when times when I felt where I was feeling defeated, I remember thinking, Well, I'm also doing this for my children and I'm doing this for my daughter. when I was going through education, I was just thinking, Well, there's not a lot of women in the field, I need to do this and I need to prove to her that, it's OK, you can be who you want to be, you can do what you want. And just hoping I could be an inspiration to her. When I felt down, I said to myself – I’m doing this for my daughter. And like I said, there's not a lot of women in the field. Also, I'm a first-generation college student. I didn't have my parents go to school or anything.
I say I'm going to be that financial person in my family and being a Latina, and I said, you know, looking at the stats, there's like 1.5 Latina/Latino CFP® in the professions. But what we find is pretty low. I need to help move that needle. Let me help and inspire others that maybe feel like it's not possible for them.
Adam: That's great.
Shirley: Bigger picture.
Adam: And one of our other sessions, someone that was also first generation going to college and getting their marks had shared that I can't be you if I can't see you. And it's so great that you're a torchbearer here. You're going to be that so other people can be inspired and pursue their marks. And yeah, we need your voice and your perspective, and your counseling. We need your counseling. I think that's such a vital piece of this, when it's done well, let's just talk about post-CFP® for a moment. You go through all of that, you earn your marks, you achieve your goal. What has that meant for you since?
Shirley: Besides the feeling, the sense of relief, getting my weekends back, feeling like I had a life again. For me, it's been opened doors, while I was studying. My mentor was working at Pioneer Wealth Management, and she said, I think you'd be a good fit. Let's connect you to the founder and let's have a conversation. And I know that with my studying and being on this path, And I was offered a position at that time. But with studying and being pregnant and working full time, we decided to wait until after I passed the exam and had the baby.
And then I joined soon after that, it's been a great transition and I feel like I've checked off some marks. It's like, OK, now I'm working on my hour, I had the baby. That's the exam. I like to do checklists, so my next endeavor, which is working on my hours right now, which is great, doing the apprenticeship. I should have those hopefully soon enough. And it's been a great experience with having the CFP® under my belt. Working on the hours now being able to do my marks, it's been great working, getting experience and seeing everything I've read about and study, I've read about and study, seeing all the different perspectives and whatnot.
Adam: I'm sure it's helping you to really crystallize what you learned, right? That's a real person attached to that.
Shirley: And it's interesting because I know some people have a different pathway, right? And they are in the field and then they study, they have a different experience. For me, it was more I took the exam and now I'm getting my experience. Everyone's experience, pathway is different. This was working for me right now, a lot of things I've learned, and then I get to see it, and it's really just solidifying everything and just in the practice. And it's fun.
Adam: I so very much appreciate you joining us today and sharing your story and inspiring others. And just it's so good to see someone having fun in this profession too, right? I'm just very grateful that you took the time and that you are doing what you can to just bring, bring more diversity into our profession in terms of thought and experience, right? We just wish you the best and want to continue to support you along the way however we can. And just so very much appreciative of your time.
Shirley: Thank you, Adam and BIF team, I appreciate the opportunity to share my story and inspire others and just know that it is possible because I know with inspiration, right? A lot of times it helps us get through those hard times. I'm happy to share my story and I’m sure you can share my info with someone who is like, have a similar story.
I just want to hear exactly what she did, more details, and all that stuff. I'd be glad to share that as well.
Adam: That's great. Thank you. Shirley Sanchez, a BIF success story. We look forward to hearing about you doing some great things and helping others in this profession. So thank you.
Shirley: Thank you, Adam.
Adam: You have a good time. Take care. Bye.