If all of us are equally rich with the same 24 hours in a day, Nandita Das certainly is inspiring with how she uses hers to better herself, this industry, and the lives of her students. She has recently established the CFP program at Delaware State University, and founded her own financial planning firm.
Sitting down with Nandita Das, CFP®, associate professor of Finance at Delaware State University, and director of their CFP Board registered program, was invigorating. Nandita (or Professor Das - as her students call her) is a firecracker. She has forged trails for CFP education at Delaware State University and advocates for promoting diversity in the profession and teaching her students how to make others comfortable when engaging in any type of conversation.
Nandita’s story is truly incredible. She has spent years working to establish the CFP Registered Program at Delaware State University. She also has founded her own financial planning firm, Das Financial Health, where she focuses on the unique financial challenges that immigrants face.
What You'll Learn:
How to engage with students who are interested in financial planning
How to encourage diverse financial planning students to apply for the positions they want, engage in industry-wide conversations, and put their best foot forward
How we can work together to move past stereotypes and promote inclusion together
The key steps to take if you’re interested in launching a CFP program at your university
Ways to communicate your values and where you’re coming from to move beyond barriers within the financial planning industry
Rianka: 00:01 Hello Nandita, thank you so much for joining us today.
Nandita: 00:03 Morning, thank you for welcoming me to this podcast. I am very glad to be part of this.
Rianka: 00:09 I am so excited to have you in Nandita or as a, as your students will call you Dr. Das. So, so really you are the steward of students with the financial planning program over there at Delaware State University.
Nandita: 00:26 Yeah, I mean I call this program it's my baby with a gestation period of 36 months. Not too long, but have enjoyed it and I'm still not the baby.
Rianka: 00:39 Yes. So it's been 36 months that you have had a CFP board register program?
Nandita: 00:47 Uh, no, actually took me 36 months to establish the program and that's why I said a gestation period of 36 months. A little too long, but it has been more than a year now. We officially had a press release last March, which is March, 2017. And you were part of that.
Rianka: 01:14 Oh my gosh. That was such a huge accomplishment. Uh, let's take a step back and let me share with the listeners how we met. Is that OK with you?
Nandita: 01:26 Yeah, sure! You take me back to those days, which I cherish very much.
Rianka: 01:29 Oh yes. So we met at FPA residency. Uh, and I, and I spoke about this before in, uh, in previous episodes and definitely if you are in the financial planning world, uh, it's a program that you definitely want to check out. So residency program again is a week long and then were paired in a group of four or five and Nandita, you were in my group and when I met you immediately I was like, "Whoa, she's a firecracker," and I say that in the most endearing way. Uh, because she is wicked smart, a CFP, certified financial planner. You're a CFA, chartered financial analyst and your phd as well. Uh, so, you know, when it came time for us to get into groups and start presenting, of course Nandita took the investment portion because you were just... firecracker. It is the only, uh, you know, way I can describe the explosion that happened when we stepped in front of, you know, the, uh, the class and you wowed me. I was just like, "Whoa, I need to learn a thing or two from Nandita."
Nandita: 02:56 Thank you dear. I appreciate that very much. May I tell you what my impression was about you? Is that OK? Sure. My first impression was you are a classy professional, and frankly I did not think anything beyond that and the reason was I had mentally blocked myself out and, I didn't know why I blocked myself out, but later I realized it was to make myself comfortable. I was the outsider at the residency and was very conscious about it and so as I got to know you during the seven days of our residency program, I realized suddenly that I had probably bumped into a long term friendship that I could treasure for long, but even at that moment I wasn't very sure. So I treaded very carefully. I don't know if you notice that, but I was like...
Rianka: 04:00 Yeah, because, I mean it was a, I guess a handful of you know, people of color there.
Nandita: 04:05 Exactly. Exactly.
Rianka: 04:08 All right. Let me take another step back Nandita, here we are not technically in my living room, but just imagine we are in my living room we're sipping on some mine and we're just talking and I believe the more open we are about our feelings and um, you know, us going to these types of events or you know, in the classroom, etcetera, I think the more open we are, the more we can be that change agent. So let's take a step back to what you said as far as just like you were, you felt kind of guarded. Um, and though it's a very embracive uh, environment it's very embracive. Um, and the mentors embraced us. They were very intentional with conversation. They wanted us to feel welcomed. So for you, even in this welcoming environment, what made you take a step back and just be guarded?
Nandita: 05:12 That's a, what I call, you know, vr imposter syndrome is prevalent everywhere, but when I don't see someone that looks like me I start questioning everything and that's what I feel my students also go through because then I take them to events the biggest complaint initially was "Dr. Das, nobody looks like me."
Rianka: 05:37 Hm.
Nandita: 05:39 Thankfully many a times you come to my rescue. Oh my God. I remember a very recent incident where it's not just at the residency program, in general what I've found is that the financial planning industry is very, very supportive, very open and very accepting, but it is not the same in other places. So the students including me, come with a guarded caution as to not sure whether I should step in or not. That is the younger you are, the more difficult it is. So if I was facing that at my age, imagine what my 19 and 20 year olds go through too.
Rianka: 06:26 So let's talk about that. Um, and you know, the Lens I hope you bring to this conversation and to 2050 TrailBlazers is you being that steward of the students. Uh, I mean it took you 36 months to birth this baby called the CFP program at Delaware State University, which is a historically black college and university and there's only a handful out of, I dunno, maybe over 200, uh, CFP Board programs that are at universities at the moment. It's only a handful that are at HBCUs, which I think is, um, it has been identified and I, and it's like, OK, what's next and I'm seeing more CFP board programs at HBCUs I think will increase the diversity pipeline and that's something that's being talked about and you know, figuring out ways to increase that. But going back to Delaware State, it took you this long to, you know, again, to start this program back in, I think it was 2013 is when we initially met and then the following year I came and I spoke with the students and it was still in its infancy of you trying to start the program and then, you know, a few years later, here we are and you have it.
Rianka: 07:37 Why was it important to you to start this program at Delaware State University? Why? Why did you on this uphill battle for 36 months decide to
Nandita: 07:49 not give up, not give up. Yeah. That goes back to my own background. I have catapulted from a dairy scientists to a financial service professional in the corporate world who enjoys investments. And then suddenly epiphany occurred. Uh, my uh, dissertation was in hedge funds and then I realize, well, I can't even invest in hedge funds because I am not a high net-worth individual, but I needed financial planning and nobody was ready to help me out, and that my passion comes from the fact that I needed the services more than anybody else I could think of. And uh, if I needed it, I come from an ordinary middle class family. I could classify myself as lower middle class family. So in that case there are people that need these services but they're not people of their kind that are serving them. And what better place than me. I had the luxury of being in the position where I could start a program, at least dream of starting a program yes there were the struggles, but it was at the end worth it.
Rianka: 09:14 So if there are other, uh, universities, um, and specifically HBCUs that want to start a certified financial planning registered board program at their institution, what are some of the roadblocks that you hit that you just want to say, hey, just be on the look out for this and here are some avenues you can take to seek resources or support?
Nandita: 09:41 Do we have enough time for that? But anyway, I will use it. Some roadblocks. And so I'll be very specific here, uh, understand that we all come with our baggage and, and uh, whether it's a we learn from whether it's a human interaction corporation or academic institution, they all have their own behavior and knots. And the point is how do we manage that? That's the biggest thing. Like how do we even, for example, our clients, they come with their own value system, their emotions. I don't want to change their value system, but how do I manage that emotions in a manner that is advantageous for them to reach their goals. I was managing my colleagues administration, because they all have PhDs and frankly when you have a phd for most of us, it's like you have a chip on your shoulder and uh, you don't even realize that, for example, when you talk about why did I go for my CFA and CFP and see if, because none of them remember, see, I couldn't have my CFA, but it didn't teach me what I learned in my CFP, in fact, I think, uh, I might have not mentioned this somewhere else, also, I flunked my CFP.
Rianka: 09:41 Really?
Nandita: 09:41 Yes I did.
Rianka: 11:10 The firecracker, flunked her CFP the first time.
Nandita: 11:17 Yes I did. That was because it's a new ballgame and I had to be ready for that. So same way when we talk about what, uh, other institutions can learn from my experience is to manage the institutional behavior. A simple thing like I had when I had started the program, when I was thinking of starting the program, I had called it the financial CFP education program or something. And then the Education College of Education said you can't the word education because that's not education department and they didn't mean anything bad, but the point was a, these are the things that I didn't understand. And I'm a very emotional, but at the same time, very analytical person, whether it is financial data or human behavior. I am busy analyzing everything. Be careful what you're doing, but don't give up because at the end when people realize that what you're doing is for the greater good, they all will join hands with you. It is for the students. It is for the profession.
Rianka: 12:29 Yes. Let's take it back to the students. And um, you do a phenomenal job of making sure. Yes. If we had like an applause, a, you know, thing. This is where I will put it. So yay. Phenomenal job with your students. And every time I go to a conference I see at least five if not more, students from Delaware State University, um, and I make sure I go up and speak to them. Just like with what you said, I'm just, I'm, I go up to them. I said, listen, you belong here. I'm so happy to have you here. And if you ever need me, you reach out. And they do. They really do. And you do an awesome job of,
Nandita: 13:24 If I may interrupt for a second, my students use your name as a verb.
Rianka: 13:24 Oh really?
Nandita: 13:32 It's almost like a, you are. Of course, you didn't have kind of considered even the yesterday we had a club meeting and we were talking about you, and "yeah Rianka, we know her, she told us to do this"
Rianka: 13:51 Oh yeah, listen, like with any of my family members, Auntie Ri don't play. Yeah. So no, I go up to them. I'm like, listen, network. This is the opportunity for you not to just have a good time with your peers and your friends. You'll see them back on campus. I'm going to for you to separate and go out there and network. And they. And they listen and I appreciate that. But um, you know, going back, you do an awesome job of just inviting professionals back to campus to come and speak to the students. Why? Why is that so important for you to make sure that diverse professionals come in and speak to the students?
Nandita: 14:34 And you're right, I was going to say, not just professionals, but diverse professionals because I need my students to get over the fear of they are different. Yes, you are different, but this industry is very inclusive. This industry needs the profession needs you. And the only way they can, uh, me talking does not have that much of an impact as Rianka coming to the college or a Lauren Williams coming to the college, Jocelyn Dry, Lazetta Braxton when they see these people, then they realize, oh yeah, I can do that. I could tell all my stories, but they cannot relate as well as they can to someone that looks like them. That's the biggest. Uh, and I, I believe in diversity in all shape and form.
Rianka: 15:24 Yes, I do too. I, again, that applause button, if I could push it, I would, I just want to say thanks. I mean, that's huge for your students to be able to see, um, you know, different shades of professionals that, that look like them. So one question I have for you and you, um, touched on it a little bit earlier was something about the financial planning profession is inclusive but everywhere isn't. So what did you mean by that?
Nandita: 16:00 It's the same thing, right? When we talk about not everybody's seen and I realized that and I'll tell you one little incident that we heard. We had gone to the FPA chapter meeting or something in Virginia and uh, we were at the table and despite me telling my students that you go to separate out, they decided to cling together. So anyway, I went and sat at the table and there was a typical white, a financial professional that came and sat with us. Very gentleman. He came and sat with us and, students, my students are very good at making at talking and making other people comfortable irrespective of whether they are comfortable or not.
Rianka: 16:44 Yes. Let's pause right there on that. Can you say that one more time?
Nandita: 16:50 My students are very good at making other people feel comfortable in the conversation. Irrespective of whether they themselves are comfortable or not. So here, was this white typical, you know, the prototype that we talk about in the financial planning profession, he was sitting at our table, he's trying to, my students who are trying to make some small conversations with him and he, this gentleman asked a, no, one of my students as, do you have a opening in your company? And he said yes, but nobody, none of my students gave their resumes to him. They were very prepared. They had their resumes, but they did not offer the resumes to the gentleman. And uh, then this typical, and I keep on saying this typical gentleman, he caught hold of me and he said, I need to talk to you. He said, your students are very good these days, but when I said this, none of them came up with the resume.
Nandita: 17:53 And so I told him, I appreciate your frankness, but you also need to realize where they come from because, uh, there was job interviews going on. They have already submitted the resumes, but none of them were picked. So they're not going to go out of their way and offer you their resume. Then he said, you need to understand it's not just because the company did not interview the student, they're not going to take that student. In my previous job search, I took a student that had not even applied for the job and I said, yeah, OK, I have to bring my students along. The students came along in the meantime, he said, you know, I understand where they come from because I have it. I see that at home. I have an African American spouse. My daughter is of course a mixed race.
Nandita: 18:44 So I understand where these students are coming from. So surprisingly, when I kind of hinted that to my students, they learn seeing that now we are comfortable. Wow. And that's not what it should be. See this typical white guy that we're talking about, you know, we all had an impression of him, you know, he is those one of those guys, you know, but he was so helpful and it's not because he had an African American spouse that are many such people that we kind of think, oh no, they are not going to talk to us because we are people of color. So as I see it, you can't clap with one hand, we can keep on blaming, nobody looks like me, but we need to step forward as much as someone has to extend their hand to hold us.
Rianka: 19:31 Yes. That is such a great example, Nandita, and thank you so much for sharing it. And you know, just being that force for your students. Of just saying yes, there's not too many people that look like you, but there is a lot of people who don't look like you who want to support you. Um, and, and it, it's us having to step out of our comfort zones. And so a question I have is from a cultural perspective, have you received any feedback from your students who go off on internships or come back and speak to your class who they are for four years surrounded by black and brown people who look like them, who from a background standpoint can probably relate and have that comfort feeling. And then they're entering into a profession where day one they may be the only person that looked like them. From a cultural perspective, is there any feedback that the students are bringing to you?
Nandita: 20:47 I mean, they get over the fear that they have to some extent, but again, they're always cautious because sometimes there might be comments unknowingly you may, you and I might say something in a manner that we didn't mean but, what does the other person hear or interpret is very, very important and that some things come up where they might think this is not the right thing to say or this hurts me culturally, but you didn't realize that and uh, the learning that they have and that's the whole idea of taking my students to, as far as I am as far as possible. I take them to all tri-state area conferences, chapter meetings and all because then they're learning and not only are they learning, they're also teaching the, uh, profession because then the profession realizes that these, uh, African American students or the young have what we call them. The narcissistic people are really much more accepting then you and I are, I can say for myself, you know what I mean, you, you are much, much younger to me.
Nandita: 22:12 I have my own things which I learned from my students. I learned a lot from my students in situations where I catch myself looking with the tainted glass and uh, I learned from my students. It's OK, it's OK to be different. They are different that does such and such a student didn't mean this. And when you talk about students coming from the same population. Yes. Delaware State University is a historically black college, university HBCU, but the university itself is bringing in lots of diversity. I wouldn't be there to begin with. I wouldn't be there if I. It was only an HBCU. For quality perspective. It is very diverse. From the student perspective. The university is trying its best to make it as diverse as it as it possibly can. So yes, the end, that's where I see my students. They're accepting. That's when I see like though it's an HBCU and these outsiders so called outside, those are part of it. I catch myself again. I can keep on repeating this. I catch myself like, oh my God, you know, I kind of think about it. Oh, these Indian is going to be like these, these Chinese is going to be like this. And my students don't see like that.
Rianka: 23:27 Right. I wonder, um, you know, I, the reason why I started this podcast is because it's, it's kind of like what's next, you know, and my question is, so again, organizations are doing an job at bringing awareness to the financial planning profession, showing this as you can be very successful in this career. Um, but how do we retain the top talent? How do we retain the top talent who are diverse? And I think we need as a profession to do a better job of speaking very openly about culture. And just the example that you gave with the, with the gentlemen, um, when, when your students came to visit and how from their perspective, you know, you know, irrespectful of how they feel. Even if they are uncomfortable. We always try to make anyone who sit with us comfortable. Even if we don't feel like smiling, we smile. Should there be a class on culture like within the CFP board, a curriculum of just learning, not only so that we can be better professionals to each other, but so that we can be better professionals to our clients,
Nandita: 24:55 Very good point, Rianka. I love it. I wouldn't say per se, a class, but really what we need is a cultural immersion. This would be a very, very good idea because I got to learn as much as you go to learn from me and all will be so much better if you do that because the world is not black and white. It's multicolored.
Rianka: 24:55 It is, beautiful.
Nandita: 25:20 Yeah. And, and the need to understand the beauty that by only stepping outside our comfort zone and valuing other peoples where they're coming from and telling them where you are coming from. I would love this. My card signed me in. Please
Rianka: 25:40 Well, I haven't created that yet. But uh, I don't know. It's something. It's just like, well, what's next? Right. And I think, you know, we can do, we can have the best campaign about bringing awareness to this profession, but if we don't keep this talent it's going to be a, a
Nandita: 25:59 Waste of our time and sources
Rianka: 26:01 uh, yeah. Is going to be a definitely a waste of our time and
Nandita: 26:05 at the other end, and again I come from the other end also, you're talking about retaining and building the pipeline. I'm talking about getting people into the pipeline. When we're talking about diversity in the profession in terms of race, gender, and age. Well, if I don't have people coming into my pipeline, as students, you all are not going to get that diversity in race and gender. You asked me what can people learn from my experience of bringing up or nurturing these babies yet believe me, I myself, am still learning it is still a struggle. Last a month I went to a couple of schools and realize, local schools, and realized that people don't even know students don't even know the existence of a profession called financial planning and that's where I need help. That's where the universities need help to tell the professionals have to go to, probably, to high school your career days and tell them that, hey, you know, I know we all do financial literacy, financial literacy for the students while you are doing financial literacy can we also talk about the profession that this is a yes, financial literacy is needed for every one, but this is a profession that is well-paying, well respected and there's a high demand and you can be part of it and you can be the change that is much needed.
Rianka: 27:42 As you were talking, an idea came to my head, so there are 80,000 CFP professionals. What if there was just this campaign, I don't know if it's too late to do it in 2018, 2019 where we all take a local high school and we go, we figure out when it's career day and we go in and we spent one hour out of our day, one hour out of a 40 hour work week out of 365 days a year, which is one hour. That's not even. We can't even put that on a radar of a percentage of time that will take you, but just imagine if each one of us who hold this designation of CFP goes in and just share, you know, here I am and then it's going to be men is going to be women, is going to be older professionals, is going to be younger professionals and we're just going to share our experience of, hey, hey, this is what a CFP looks like and here's what I do on a day to day basis. Here are the type of clients that I work with. Um, you know, here are the different career paths that you can take, everyone doesn't need to be client facing. You can be in the background if you like, um, you know, just, you know, the data part of it or if you like the technology and the marketing, you can work in a financial planner from and not be a financial planner. You can still, you know, just imagine if it was just that, that puts a smile on my face.
Nandita: 29:24 Yeah, and it's not that difficult the way you put it, right? Just one hour of your 365 days. And uh, as of now, I try to do that on my own because I of course wear two hats as you know, I also have my own business as it is to the investment advisor, so I kind of tell them why, how this profession is going to help you in terms of flexibility, in terms of the passion. You have to have a passion when you're looking for a job, don't look for a job, look for the career and if you love what you're doing and as you very nicely said, it's not all client facing. In fact, our students, if they can put a plug in here Delaware State University was part of the PT conference. This was the first time that the Delaware State University president was part of the PT conference, which is a technology conference for financial planning industry and they won the second prize there.
Rianka: 29:24 What?! Congratulations!
Nandita: 30:32 Thank you. Thank you. So, and uh, that all. And again, in this case what it was was we had taken two students from the financial planning minor and two from computer science. So it helped me, yes, the prize winning a prize is icing on the cake. But more importantly, it has the students realize that there are other things other than just client facing. And it had my program to go beyond the college of business to tell them, you know, what, you can also be part of this program.
Rianka: 31:08 I say this all the time. It's one of the most rewarding careers that you can have if you have a passion for helping people. If you have a passion for, um, you know, personal finance and making a tangible impact in not only your life, your family's life because what you learn is trickled down to your family and your friends, but also the lives of others. And then this is the career for you
Nandita: 31:33 in this career. You never stop learning. You never just going to the classroom. But every morning, one hour, I don't turn on my computer. I am on my iphone with my morning tea and I'm reading all the FPA connect, and NAFA uh, the forum where people are so upfront in sharing their experiences. If I have a client, I have a question about something people are so giving in their viewpoints as to. And then if there might be someone else saying, Hey, I think it is like this, I learn a lot from those ones. And on that learning thing, as I said, this is a continuous learning process. I'm hoping it's not just me. My next agenda is at this point I am preparing, I am enrolled in the, I say enrolled, right and enrolling in the android agent program so that I can help my clients and students understand tax planning.
Rianka: 32:42 Tax Planning is key. Is I have a, I have a love for taxes and tax planning and I'll put a plug in for, um, anyone else who loves to access. There's a IRS program that I volunteer. I volunteer on an annual basis. Um, I didn't this past year, uh, because my grandmother was in town from Santiago, Chile, so I made sure I spent, spent some time with her. But uh, there's IRS, a tax prep program, um, called Vita. And um, it's in a lot of communities where you'll go, you'll learn, it's like a five week program where you're going on a weekly basis and get up to date on the recent tax law changes, understanding how to read a 1040, which is your tax return, um, any, you know, student, retiree situations that, you know, we need to be prepped on and you go in and you prep taxes.
Rianka: 33:45 And I would say that's probably what has kept me in the loop on what what's been happening. And just like you said, it's constantly constantly ever changing and you're always learning. So I'll make sure I'll put these in the show notes of, you know, if next tax season you want to just learn, you don't have to be a financial planner. Matter of fact, I'm the only CFP that goes in and volunteer. Um, there's students that go in and volunteer. There's a retirees who are just like, hey, I do this every year. Um, there's this one guy named Dave. He's like, "Rianka, your back," like this is the highlight of his year during tax season because you know, he, he's retired but he comes in and so it's, it's pretty cool. Shout out to uh, the PG community college here in Maryland who has a really great program.
Nandita: 34:45 So when you talk about the students volunteering for the Vita program, can I tell you what I've done at my university in the financial planning program? Yes ma'am. I have voluntold them
Rianka: 34:58 voluntold. I love it. I love it. Nandita you voluntold the students
Nandita: 35:05 in the Vita program, they have to do that before they finish their finance, this is a requirement for the financial planning minor.
Rianka: 35:10 That's phenomenal. That is phenomenal. Hopefully, hopefully this hits the, the ears of other, uh, CFP board, a, a registered program directors.
Rianka: 35:25 Let me tell you, I am very dangerous when it comes to tax returns, like not only I can prep them, I can read them and tell them, you know, hey, I think I think here's an error, but it's because I'm immersed with it all all the time. And so good. That's, that's awesome. And you mentioned I wanted to take it back to, you mentioned that and Ah, you opened your own firm and I think this is truly the I don't know, I don't know if golden age, the right term for it, but there's a boom of solo advisors that are, that's happening and it's because there are clients we want to serve where typically in traditional firms we may not be able to serve. Um, and you and I read, um, that you opened your firm a, I think it was last year, right?
Nandita: 36:20 No, it's actually I started last year, but I got registered actually is just about a month to old Das Financial Health.
Rianka: 36:29 Yes. Oh, congrats.
Nandita: 36:31 Yeah, it's a month old. But I had some clients that were waiting to do an onboarding because I had created a relationship already.
Rianka: 36:41 Right. OK. And I also read that you created your firm so that you bring the lens of the perspective of immigrant and so that you can help other clients who may be in similar situations such as immigrant, uh, you know, you know, immigrating here to the United States. What are some of the nuances that may occur from a personal finance standpoint that we as you know, regular financial planners who may not have family members who are immigrating into the United States or may not have worked with, um, you know, a client in that situation. What are some of the nuances that we should be aware of in the profession?
Nandita: 37:30 First of all there is nothing called regular, everybody is irregular. Absolutely everybody is different, but that's what I meant by there's no regular financial professional, everybody has it. But yes, your question is to. The value systems are very different. Most of the immigrants come to this country for one main purpose and that is for to make sure that the children are better off for the sake of the children and what better way to make their children's life better off than education and financial literacy so that they don't. The next generation does not have to go through the same thing. And I will tell you when I came to this country, yes, I was qualified, yes, I had this, I had that, but I did not understand the financial maze of this country. Zero Knowledge. So then I talked to my immigrant clients, immigrant professionals or immigrant clients, they don't know what insurance in this country, what life insurance in this country, how it is a different ballgame than back in India.
Nandita: 38:32 They don't understand why they to pay such a high fee for the children's education and how there is a way to help them achieve that goal because the main goal is really education for the children and they are so lost because nobody tells them they all think that FASFA, you're done. They don't know that there are different ways. I myself didn't know. I'll tell you my own experience. I was, I have always been pro education. I stayed in a small house because I was saving for my daughter's education, not realizing that I could cover my assets, have a, my house would never be part of my FASFA form. So you see, I didn't realize that at all
Rianka: 38:32 right.
Nandita: 39:21 So these are the things that people did, financial professionals know. But uh, the new immigrant professionals don't know, and things that financial professionals don't know about the immigrant is their value system. So you need to get out of your comfort zone, talk to them and respect their value system, understand that, uh, what is important for you may not necessarily be important for them or what is important for them. You may think "Really, why do they want to do that. Why can't they make the child pay for the college?" It's a learning experience even for me.
Rianka: 39:56 Yes, I'll keep saying this. Um, you know, I think we as financial planning professionals, um, we can't. There's no cookie cutter approach to financial planning for retirees. It's like, ah, you know, it's disbursement of their portfolio and social security and Medicare and Medicaid, but for the younger professionals and especially for like immigrant professionals, there's no cookie cutter approach, just like you said so eloquently earlier there. There's one person is not the same and every family situation is different in what we can do a better job of as financial planning professionals and as a community in the financial service industry is be open minded and um, ask a question with not having an answer already prepared and a truly ask with the open mind their, their, their history, their culture. What's your experience with money just like what you said is as far as how education is so much more expensive here. But the purpose of, uh, you know, these clients, you know, these individuals immigrating here is for their children's education. So if you tell them right off the bat, it's like, well, let them pay for it. That's offensive to them.
Nandita: 41:15 Exactly. Exactly. I wouldn't, I wouldn't even signed the contract with you if you're telling me that.
Rianka: 41:22 Yeah. And so we, we can do a better job of meeting clients where they are instead of forcing them to be in, instead of forcing them to them to be where we are, you know, having them to, to buy into our thought process and our values, we have to learn their values. And become better professionals for it because what we learned from one client, we can, um, be able to support another client even better.
Nandita: 41:53 Yeah. And, and uh, for the, uh, immigrants in general, uh, I'm, I'm, I'm an outlier even in my own country, but I have learned that most of the immigrants, they don't want to question or authority and if you are the expert, you are considered to be the authority so they will not question and sometimes I kind of tell them, you see your doctor because I have a family as a client where the daughter is also the client and the husband and the wife are my sub clients. So the daughter having been brought up here, she asks me questions, respectfully, but she has full respectful because I happened to be her father's colleague. So she has a otherwise also these young ones have a lot of respect for us. So she asked me questions. Whereas the father has almost got blind faith in me and that puts a lot of pressure on me.
Rianka: 42:56 Yeah. Yeah.
Nandita: 42:58 But we need to understand that I cannot just say, hey, why are you not asking me questions? Right? I need to understand that that's where they come from, they see you, the expert. So you are the fiduciary. You have to be very responsible because they have full faith in you, they're not going to question you.
Rianka: 43:18 and you know, taking our time with them and just being patient. And I think a really great example of, since it's tax time right now is tax returns and um, you know, when clients come to me and you know, any client, but let's look through the lens of an immigrant client, um, and I'm reviewing their tax return and I'm just like, Hey, well, well where, where is this coming from? You know, I'm looking at various line items. I don't know, like the tax professional not review this with you. And they're like, no, I just signed it.
Nandita: 43:56 Exactly, right on the dot. They just trust the expert.
Rianka: 43:57 Yes. And I'm like, don't you ever do that again. You're not only paying for them to prepare your return, you're paying them to help you understand it as well. And if they are not willing to go through this with you and to explain with you what this means on why you owe taxes or why you are getting back a refund, then that's not the professional that you need to be working with, period. Yeah, no, education is huge.
Nandita: 44:24 You understand? And if the professional happens to be not of their color they are going to think, oh my God, he's going to think I don't understand. And that's, we need to do the education. I wish I could talk to all the immigrant seeing that, you know, what, get out of your comfort zone. Ask questions. This is America. You have every right to ask questions.
Rianka: 44:24 Yes, ask away.
Nandita: 44:24 Yeah, exactly.
Rianka: 44:58 Ask Away. So, um, before I let you go, I definitely want to talk about your involvement with the Center for Financial Planning, specifically the academic home and body of knowledge. As we know with the center, uh, that launched a few years ago. They have three spokes or you know, three avenues, um, that holds them up. Is the workforce development diversity and this new academic home and body of knowledge. What role are you playing in this ?
Nandita: 45:35 Well, I am the voice of the diverse, uh, academicians? We do have academicians. I think we have, this is the council of education we're talking about. We have a Texas tech professor and I am the other professor, but I will tell you I am the only professor of color and uh, in this whole a council of education, we have two people of color and one being me. So even there when I'm talking about the role of education, the role that academic institutions can play in the financial planning profession, I'm always talking about the importance of diversity even in the educational institutions. And that's where CFP board has been really. CFP Board has been very, very supportive. I will tell you this 36 month gestation period that I was talking about, if it wasn't for my passion, my attitude of never give up. And very importantly, the support that I got from CF people probably this day would not have happened.
Rianka: 46:44 Wow, that's amazing, to get that type of support.
Nandita: 46:49 And that's why, I mean, that's probably why I. for me, it is. I got something from them. For me, it's time to help others. I have reached a stage where, as you say, if I had to say something to the, uh, other, uh, other, uh, academic institutions that are starting this program, the main thing I can, I would tell them is, hey guys, you got your phd. Phd is so much political thing. It's not just about how intelligent you are. Once you got admission, you will get through it. But the point is not give up, never give up. And that's the same thing with starting a program, never give up. You have the passion and you can explain to others, don't give up. And it is possible. In fact, on that note, because of my involvement with this, a council of Education with the CFP board and um, my understanding where the financial planning industry needs what it needs and all of Delaware State University. I have decided to start right now working on an executive financial planning program at Delaware State University for career changes.
Rianka: 48:00 Phenomenal. That is phenomenal.
Nandita: 48:03 I know. I'm like, Oh, you, I think you're the first person, I'm saying this.
Rianka: 48:09 Oh, I'm getting an inside scoop.
Nandita: 48:13 I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I'm so excited because we planned to start it in September, within nine months, so people that are career changers and I want to cover the tri-state area and understand that yours you have. Can I use your word trailblazer? You have a trailblazer here that's going to walk the walk with you that has her own business, isn't academic, but has her own business, understands the struggles. And I am myself. I could hear you. So I'm hoping this will be successful, but uh, I don't give up. So that's all.
Rianka: 48:53 Well Nandita if you are behind it, I have no doubt that it will be successful. You are the firecracker.
Nandita: 49:04 I don't know whether I should thank you for calling me firecracker.
Rianka: 49:09 It's a word of endearment
Nandita: 49:11 I understand. And uh, and as I was mentioning the other day to you, I haven't changed coming to this country. I am what I have been for the 50 plus years of my life because in my college days they used to call me the small Jalapenos.
Rianka: 49:11 Jalapenos, were you the real spicy kind?
Nandita: 49:41 And in fact that reminds me, you use the word spicy. My dean called me very spicy. Like, yeah, I have a name dear, other than a Jalapeno and spicy, and firecracker. I do have a name called Nandita Das.
Rianka: 49:58 Right. And now, since since your college years, you are Dr Nandita Das CFA, CFP and all around a great person.
Nandita: 49:58 Thanks. Thanks Rianka.
Rianka: 50:09 OK. So, um, you know, as you look back on your career, on your journey, what are some of the ways that you have invested in yourself, either personally or professionally, that has supported the growth of you as a person and professional?
Nandita: 50:26 Personally, you cannot do it alone. I will tell you, I have a very supportive spouse as you say. I am a firecracker so I don't give up easily. So if someone tells me, hey, do you think this is possible, I will prove you wrong. Yes, it is possible. Do not doubt something. I will make it happen. And that's what has kept me going. That's how I ended up getting my CFP. And as I develop, even now, I am always. I am a lifetime student. I am always thinking of what are the courses I can take to learn, so that I can impart the same education or I can improve my teaching and the in the classroom setting and my client's experience that is always in the back of my mind. I'm talking sometimes with Jocelyn as to what to, Jocelyn Wright from the American College. And uh, she said, why don't you want to, do you want to do the RICP? So here I'm thinking about the RICP. It's not that I want initials behind my name because clients don't care about
Nandita: 51:38 they do care, but they don't care so much about the initials as they care about, as I say, not what I do or rather they care about what I will do for them. So I could have a phd, I could do all the analyzes. But the point here is what do I understand? Then what can I do for them? Can I walk in their shoe? Please understand what it is to walk in their shoes? And that's what they care about. It's not about the initials behind my name it is the package that comes with that is important for me. Right.
Rianka: 52:19 You know, as it has been said, you know, it's not what you say to a person, um, that they remember, but it's how you made them feel.
Nandita: 52:29 Yes, exactly. Very nicely said. Yeah. How you make them feel and that comes up. You can safeguard your body language and all, but ultimately it does show up what you make them feel.
Rianka: 52:40 Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Before I let you go, is there anything else you would like to share with the listeners?
Nandita: 52:50 I kind of already said this, but this is a profession that I love. This is a very accepting profession. This is very flexible and very fulfilling profession. If I can say the least, it's very fulfilling. Yes. It might not be an easy ride in the initial couple of years, but if you have the passion and the love to help people, you know, I compare this profession with doctors. Let's say the doctors, they have to go through and spend a lot of time with the residency program and they start earning pretty late. Right? But even when they start earning pretty late and they earn a lot after that, but the stress level is always there. I do not have that stress as a financial planner, if I know what I'm doing for my clients if I'm doing the right thing for them and if I can sleep well at night, I don't have that stress and yes, ultimately down the lane it will pay you off in terms of, not just totally utility, utility comes in terms of money and the satisfaction that I get. So it will pay you have both in terms of your finances and the non-monetary satisfaction that you get
Rianka: 54:13 the intangibles.
Nandita: 54:13 Yes. Intangibles, that's right.
Rianka: 54:19 Yeah, it is. It is. I recall, you know, helping my client, one of my clients, um, to be able to purchase a home that her great grandmother lived in, outside of, outside of this country. But she came to me saying, Hey Rianka, you know, there's this opportunity, the seller is, you know, the, the resident and selling the home and you know, I want to bring this back into my family and to be able to just help her navigate through that. And she posted on facebook a picture of her holding the deed to that home.
Nandita: 54:19 I'm emotional, Rianka.
Rianka: 54:58 Oh my gosh, I, I literally shed a tear and the next time I spoke to her, I was like, you make. You are one of the reasons why I do what I do. Like wow. And, and she was like, I couldn't have done it without you, like I would've been going crazy. So you're right Nandita, it's the intangibles. It's the tangibles, but it's moreso the intangibles, the memories, the ripple effects that we are given to our clients. And for you specifically, you are setting a ripple effect not only within your new clients but within your students. I want you to be very, very proud of yourself. And I know as women we, we, we try not to toot our own horn, so I'm gonna toot it for you that you're doing a phenomenal job, you are doing a phenomenal job with your students and when they see when, you know, as they present their self at these conferences or when they reach out and ask for help, they do it with so much grace and so much gratitude. And uh, I know they owed that impart to you for your stewardship.
Nandita: 56:04 Yeah, I mean I wouldn't take the whole credit on myself because I'm very tough on them. Yes. So sometimes I always am a little bit scared, like am I driving them away from me, but when they come back, they might just hate me in the beginning, but when they come back and they pickup the phone on a Friday evening just to thank me when the grades were not even at stake, when their courses are all done, everything just to pick up the phone on a Friday evening and tell me, Dr. Das, I appreciate. I know you yelled at me, you did this to me. I did not understand that. But I appreciate what you did for us. So that's my payback. That's my utility that I get from my, no amount of money can replace that. The joy that I get from that, no amount of money will replace that.
Rianka: 56:56 Yes, yes. Well, thank you so much, Nandita. Thank you for sharing with us your, your experience, you know, your, your uphill battle, your successes, your triumphs, you know, your experiences with your students and just being you. So thank you so much for being so open and I'm sure our listeners will have a lot to learn from.
Nandita: 57:15 Thank you, Rianka. Thank you for doing this. A big Kudos to you. I mean it, it is because of Rianka this has. This is possible. We need people, can we just clone you? Sorry. I had to say that so that we can have more verbs called Rianka.
Rianka: 57:38 Please tell your students that I have their picture on my desk and I smile. And so tell him I say hi. And I appreciate that verb. I, I'll take it. But, um, I think with technology, um, there, there could probably be some sort of cloning
Nandita: 57:59 I'm now put on that deal.
Rianka: 58:02 It is my responsibility to, to nurture and um, you know, you have the next generation, you know, be the change that we seek and I'm pretty sure you have a couple of, I guess Riankas in your students. Like I'm, I'm pretty sure that there's a few there. And so, um, it doesn't stop with me. It doesn't stop with you. This is, this is just the beginning of a very awesome shift in our profession and I am so excited that you are a part of it
Nandita: 58:37 Thank you, and you said it very nicely. It does not stop with you or me. If it does stop, then we have not done a good job.