Catalina Franco-Cicero immigrated to the United States with her family at 8 years old from Colombia. As a first-generation immigrant, and the first person who learned English in her own family, she had the responsibility of translating bills for her mother, and for helping to organize the family’s finances.
As a first-generation immigrant, Catalina found that she had a notable financial learning curve when she headed off to college. Her brother helped her pay for the first semester of school under the stipulation that she pay him back. It was only when she arrived at school that she realized financial aid, like scholarships for the athletic programs she loved or academics, were available.
Although she focused the majority of her academic and early career on sports, continuing her education through her Master's degree. She was passionate about using sports in underserved communities by bringing students into universities to see the possibilities they had for their future. Catalina considered continuing her education to get her PhD, but quickly realized that financial planning was her true passion. Catalina had watched her husband pursue his CFP® coursework, and was ready to start helping immigrant and underprivileged families in a fiduciary capacity.
During a trip to South Africa, Catalina was able to see first-hand how the predatory lending tactics were negatively impacting citizens. She set out to make it her goal to make financial planning knowledge accessible to all people.
Catalina is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and has found that education and sports have given her a voice as a woman of color. She’s fascinated by helping her clients as a financial advisor, because she knows that there’s a knowledge gap, and the confidence gap, in minority groups when it comes to their money. Her work has focused on bringing positive change to underserved populations, and to spread financial knowledge in a fiduciary capacity.
What You'll Learn:
How underserved populations are often targeted by predatory advisors
How financial planning can empower minority groups to make exceptional decisions about their money and their lives
How Catalina ties personal wellness and fitness to finance
Different ways that Catalina strives to make a positive impact in the financial services industry
Why it’s important to bring in more diverse talent to serve diverse clients
The importance of knowing someone’s full history to serve them as a financial planner
Rianka: 00:00 Cat, welcome to 2050 TrailBlazers.
Catalina: 00:03 I am so excited to be here with you Rianka. We're going to have so much fun with this conversation.
Rianka: 00:08 Yes, we are. If you are a first time listener, just a reminder that theme of season three for 2050 TrailBlazers is money and culture. I think it's fair to say that one taboo that transcends many cultures is money. We just don't talk about it. Cat, you have a phenomenal background. You come from the world of sports education and now finance. You know, you are a first generation immigrant with your mom coming over from Colombia. Oh Gosh. There's so much to cover. As it relates to just culture and money, where do you want to start?
Catalina: 00:47 Well, I think let's start from the beginning to make sense of it all. We have to know a little bit about my background and how I ended up as a financial planner.
Rianka: 00:57 Let's start there.
Catalina: 00:58 Yeah, let's start there. So, I was born in Colombia, South America. I came to the United States with my mom and my two brothers when I was eight years old. I was the first one to learn English in the family. So what, that came that came with a responsibility and that was to be able to translate the bills for my mom, be able to, write checks out for her, answer phone calls, call utility, you know, companies for example, and translate for my mom because at the time there wasn't like press two for Espanol, it was like Cat, come over here translate for me.
Rianka: 01:39 Wow. And this is at 8?
Catalina: 01:42 Yes, yes.
Catalina: 01:44 So, it was very interesting, you know, just kind of living through that experience, through my mom because I learned at a very early age, the pressure, the stress, just the, the lack of understanding of a new financial system and how difficult it could be for an immigrant that's learning the, language, the culture and just how things happen in another country. It could be very frustrating and almost, you know, debilitating to a degree because if you don't know the language and if you don't know how money and the systems work in another country, not only are you trying to adjust your new family but you're trying to just make ends meet every day. And, it was that stress that propelled me to say to myself that I didn't want this to happen to me as an adult. It's like I didn't want to be stressed out like this every day. I didn't want to carry that pain into adulthood. But I never majored in finance, to begin with, which is the irony of it all.
Catalina: 02:53 But I did, you know, because I had that understanding and that lived experience. I made it a point to educate myself so that that wouldn't be part of my, my future. And, I did participate in sport at a very early age. I feel like sport was what gave me the window into many other opportunities, not just in developing myself physically and having that kinesthetic knowledge, but also in being coached by some really fantastic coaches. In martial arts, track and field, dance. I was also a student athlete, so I became, a rower in college. And so sports really became the vehicle for me to navigate the world. And in many ways I say that sports saved my life, you know, if I didn't have that outlet to be able to one release the stress that I felt at home because of our financial circumstances. It was also an opportunity for me to go to college.
Catalina: 04:02 Otherwise I would not have been able to do it. I'm a first generation college student, although I did well in school academically, sports is really what kept me going because I loved it so much. And when I transferred I went to a two year college, to start off with. And that story is also kind of interesting because college was never a part of the conversation when we were growing up. It was more a it was more of a, Oh, well I want to go to school. I guess the other high school students are going to college afterwards. Maybe I'll just go to the college down the street. It's a community college. And my mom's like, yeah, sounds fine.
Catalina: 04:45 And, I find myself going to my older brother Ivan, who was working because my brothers were also helping ends meet at the house. So, they were going to work and bringing money home to help support us. And so my brother said, he goes, okay, fine, I'll pay for your first semester of college Cat, but you gotta pay me back. And I'm like, okay, my first loan,
Rianka: 05:13 Learning about the financial system already, but internally within the family.
Catalina: 05:17 So I said, fine, Ivan. I think it was like $500 or something at the time.
Rianka: 05:24 Hopefully it was interest free, Cat.
Catalina: 05:29 Oh yes. I, but I heard about it a lot. Like, you better pay me back. I'm like, yes, I'm going to pay you back. Don't worry.
Rianka: 05:36 Right, and even with the college story I recall, jst because for the listeners, Cat and I, we have a history, like I've known Cat for many years now. But for you Cat, like I recall a conversation around just you going to the college campus or just like getting a tour and how that was new for you.
Catalina: 05:56 Yes. And how, I mean, I always loved school so I wasn't something that I feared, but I didn't know how it worked. And it's so it turned out that, you know, my brother gives me the money for her first semester of college and then I find out that you could get a scholarship to go to school because there were other people in my class that were like in the honors program and I'm like, there's scholarships. You could get money to go to college. I'm like, who do I need to talk to? So I ended up going to the director of the honors program and I said, you know, you really need to give me a chance because I really like school. And, if you just give me one, one opportunity to just prove it to you in one semester, I don't think you're going to be disappointed. And I don't know what I did during that conversation. The gentleman said yes. And so I got, one semester to prove that I was a good student and I ended up going, you know, the, the following two years to college for free in essence. Right. Cause I was in the honors program. But also during that time I found out that you could apply for financial aid. One of my advisors said, Cat, haven't you applied for financial aid? I'm like, what is financial aid?
Rianka: 07:10 Wow. So there's some learning opportunities here, especially if you are a financial planner or financial advisor and you're working with first generation immigrants and, and, or you know, the parents who have children who are entering into the education system. Is that just informing them, it things that we take for granted, such as, Oh, you know, we learn in high school that, you know, there are financial aid programs, you know, for, for college and or scholarships and or etcetera, etcetera. Right. But it sounds like there was just some information missing from, from, for you and, and it wasn't like your mom could pass that information down to you considering, you know, she was, you know, working,
Catalina: 07:59 Working and, just surviving. And, and you know what's interesting is that I would have qualified for some of these pell grants, but I didn't know about it and it would have helped, you know, significantly. So when I found that out and then I transferred to Barry University to finish out and, and get a bachelor's degree, I, I was a little bit more aware of applying for financial aid. I understood scholarships a little bit more. And then at that time I was also more aware of the opportunities of getting scholarships through athletic participation. And so they had just recently started their women's rowing team. It had only been instituted for about two years. And I'm like, well, I really want to finish school. I don't, I don't have the money to pay for it. What can I do? And so I tried out for the team because you were able to walk on and just try out.
Catalina: 08:55 And I said I could row. I had never rowed before, you know, but I knew how to be coached and I knew how to show up to practice and, and, and give it all that I got. So I made it on the team and lo and behold, they gave me an athletic scholarship and I could not believe it. I'm like, oh my goodness, this is amazing. So yeah, to all the people out there that don't know about it, I think part of it has to do when we talk about money and culture is that in South America you're not really encouraged to a, to go out and get loans, for example. You want to pay for everything out of pocket. So I think that was the mentality that my mom had is like in my brothers, he's like, no, you got to pay for it. Unless you could pay for it. You're not taking a loan out. Or we didn't really understand that. It was more like you've got a save for what you want to buy or, or pay for it. You know, in general.
Rianka: 09:47 Yeah. And even just the, you know, just advanced education for women. You know, I recently met a student, she's from, she's from Brazil, she's here on a student visa and, you know, she messaged me a couple of times over the year and then recently I went and spoke at a conference and she mentioned that, you know, hey, I'm going to be there and I can't wait to meet you in person. So it was like, okay, you know, like I'll, I'll make time to, to make sure I speak with her. And it just so happens that the, the panel that I was talking on was for the students. So awesome opportunity. We had an opportunity to talk afterwards and it was like a 30 minute conversation Cat. And she shared with me how, it was empowering to see a woman, a woman of color, a woman who is of, you know, have Hispanic background to be an owner of a business because you don't see that where she's from. You're not encouraged to push forward and, and get a higher education. And she was literally in tears sharing this with me because she, and again, with the financial system totally different from there, personal finance, totally different from there. And she's like, I want to learn what I can and bring it back to my community in Brazil and were staying in contact. Ah, I connected her with you.
Catalina: 11:11 Yeah, I'll be talking to her soon.
Rianka: 11:14 Yeah. So you see, yeah. So it's just is like, wow. You know? So yeah, it's yeah, it's understanding the culture of, of, you know, how you were brought up and also the limitations that your parents may not even know that they're putting on you. You know, when you come to America,
Catalina: 11:36 Especially, you know, what's interesting about the South American culture, and I can't speak about every single country, but in Colombia, one of the things that is really praised and encouraged is beauty, you know, so you are seen as your currency really is your looks as a woman and you're encouraged to marry well, you know, because that's your financial freedom ticket in essence. Right? But if you marry somebody who is well established, has a good job, you know that your children could go to private school, then you've made it, right. Even if it means that you pay for that in other ways. Right. It could be that you don't pursue your own personal career. It could be that you're in a relationship that's not really honoring to you as a woman. You know, by, you just kinda take it all because that's the expectation. And interestingly enough, you know, my mom is actually a hairdresser, a hairdresser and a beautician. And in many ways she did try to push that on me and I pushed against it, you know, because that's what she was, that's how she was brought up. Right? Like you just got to marry somebody who's going to take care of you. And you've got to look good. You know? And I'm like, that's not who I am. Nor do I want to be that person. I want to pursue my own financial independence in a sense. Not that we're all completely independent, but I don't want to be
Catalina: 13:02 married to somebody for the sake of my financial stability, you know? So that's something that I think women from South America really have to fight against. Something that I often find in conversations when I meet other women. You know, I live in south Florida, so there are a lot of South Americans here. And it's just interesting how part of that culture is here as well. You know, how, many of the women that come here don't understand that they can pursue their careers and that is actually encouraged, not every woman. So I don't want to put a blanket statement. There are a lot of professional women that come from South America as well. But I'm just saying that is not, it was not the way that I was oriented.
Rianka: 13:51 So Cat, for you, how did you break away from that? What was it? Maybe it was sports, maybe it was something in college, but what, what encourage you to kind of break away from what you were kind of taught as far as like your financial freedom is through marriage, but for you you were like, not my financial freedom is through education.
Catalina: 14:11 I think sports gave me a voice without giving me a verbal voice. It gave me a physical voice to be able to explore my power. You know, when you're able to, for example, row, rowing is one of the most difficult sports out there because it's, you know, everybody could say their own sport is the most difficult one, but I thought this one was pretty hard and I tried a few already. Because it's so, it takes you to a level of exhaustion, you know, where you feel like, Gosh, if I could do this, I could do anything. Because in a rowing competition, you could almost vomit at the end of the thing because you've pushed and pulled
Catalina: 14:52 so hard, you know, throughout. So I think that helped me explore my limits. And so when I was able to physically do that, other things didn't seem as difficult. You know, I'm like, I've rowed, I can do this, or I've done martial arts and been punched in the face, I can do this. You know, that gave me that, that, that power that my mom didn't have, you know, because she grew up differently because she had to navigate the world in a different way, you know? And she came from Colombia during the time of the, you know, the Medellín Cartel times, you know, so that was a very difficult time to be in South America or in Medellín, Colombia, you know, that was, that was tough. Okay. Resources.
Rianka: 15:40 I think we've all seen the Netflix, Narcos,
Catalina: 15:44 Narcos, and it's interesting. People watch that for entertainment, but I mean, it was a very serious and sad time in my country and you know, where people couldn't even be outside after dark, you know?
Catalina: 15:55 So, so for me it was, that's why I say that I believe that sports saved my life because they helped me explore an area of myself that I didn't know. And I met people that believed in me, you know, that pushed me and I had teammates that I could work with, you know, and I'm like, okay, together we can do this. And so I saw the world in a different way. I got to travel, I got to compete against other people. That's what encouraged me to, to push my limits. And the other thing too was that I, because I was so focused on my physical performance, I wasn't so focused on my physical appearance, you know, it was like, no, we got kick butt. We've got to show up to practice. We've gotta pull, we've got to do this type of split in the, you know, when we row, it's not about what I look like, it's about my performance.
Catalina: 16:41 So that was what helped me, you know, break away. But, but, but then I continued in, and education was fantastic. I met some beautiful and amazing and giving professors along the way who, who I had a lot of fun with, who I, who I got to collaborate on projects with. And so again, that expanded my view of the world
Rianka: 17:04 Also, it kind of pushed you, I mean, you, you loved education so much. You went for your phd.
Catalina: 17:09 Yes, yes. I didn't finish for the record. So, you know, I do have a, an interesting, I guess, journey into this world because I originally majored in physical education, so I taught for about five years or something. And then I started a business called fitness for kids. So I started a summer camp and I never went to summer camp as a kid, but I'm like, I want to create a summer camp that I wish I would have gone to.
Catalina: 17:37 So I did that and I ran that. And you could say that was like my side hustle for about 16 years. And then during that time, yeah, during that time, because teaching is a month appointment, I had the summers to be able to do summer camp. So when I went back to school, I took a year off from my regular teaching job because I was in the sun too much and I actually got told by my dermatologist that I had like five different types of dermatitis, which I didn't know. I'm like, what? You're not allowed to be in the sun. You got to find another career. I'm like, oh my gosh.
Rianka: 18:13 Whoa.
Catalina: 18:14 It was because of medical conditions that I had to leave that first profession. I was heartbroken, I was heartbroken, but I'm like, okay, well we got to persevere. So I ran my summer camp and I made enough money to live for one year.
Catalina: 18:29 And I said, well, I guess I'll just go back to school and my master's degree. And so I went back and I got a masters in sport management and I loved it. And the teachers there believed in me and loved me. And it just so happened that at the same time there was an opening in the Department of Sport, intercollegiate athletics and so, and recreation. So they, they had a position there for me that they kind of put together in wellness and fitness and all that stuff and, and teaching undergraduate students. So I ended up transitioning to the university level teaching, organizing programs, doing wellness fairs, all kinds of fun stuff. And then during that time I was itching, you know, to continue my education. And so I enrolled at the university to do a phd in higher education and leadership with a cognitive and international sporting community development. And so that took me to another world because during that time I developed a program called fun fit Fridays and I think you're going to see a theme here. I like the word fitness in a lot of things.
Catalina: 19:40 So that program became my other way of exploring the world because it was a program using sport as an opportunity to, create positive social change. And so we were using sport to bring into underserved communities to bring these children into the universities to see it as a viable option for their future. And the program got reviewed by a professor from South Africa who was at the time doing, just staying here for a couple months and teaching a class. And she loved us so much that she proposed it to the University of Pretoria in South Africa and they gave her a funds to expand it there.
Catalina: 20:30 Yes. So, so when she did that, she invited me to South Africa and, to, to see the program get launched because then we were now saying, okay, this could be a viable research project for me to do my phd on and now we could collect data around the world. Right. So that was the vision. We had a site in the United States, we were going to go to South Africa. And so when I went to South Africa, it was an interesting cultural experience as well because if you know about apartheid, you know, there was, you know, separation of the races, you know, white and black and the program was actually going to be used in a colored neighborhood. Now I didn't really understand that. I didn't know what that meant until I got there. All I'm thinking is like, oh, we're going to go to South Africa. This is going to be so much fun.
Catalina: 21:24 You know, and we're going to go help kids. And we go there and these kids look like me, you know, and I'm like, oh my gosh. And these are the most marginalized people of society because these are children that are the byproducts of mixed relationships. So if you're black and white and you marry and you have a child, you're ostracized from society. And I was like, oh my gosh, people here hate me because of what I look like and, or, and, and that was a shock to me. I was like, wow, but a blessing, you know, cause I'm like, wow, I'm doing something without knowing that I'm going to impact someone that looks like me across the globe, you know, and potentially open up other opportunities for them. So when I was there, I decided to transfer to the University of Pretoria, to do my phd.
Catalina: 22:21 And I began doing a lot of research and collecting data, not just there, but then we expanded to university in Portugal. And everything was going on great. And then I was going to Colombia to partner with another university and then during that time, the CFP program became available at the university that I worked at. And I told my husband, who is such a good sport. I said, Michael, you did totally take these classes. They sound so interesting. And he's like, oh woman, what are you getting me into? And, anyway, he starts taking the classes. He comes to the capstone class, he can't take notes and I said, well, I'll go take notes for you. You know, I'm a nerd. I, I like school. So I went and I fell in love with the class and I was like, oh my gosh, why isn't someone teaching this to people like me? To people like my family, you know, why isn't this knowledge accessible to everyone? Like where do people get this information? And so I told my husband, I said, listen, can you talk to your professor? Ask him if I could just sit in the class. I won't ask any questions. I just want to listen for the rest of the semester and I'll do your homework in exchange.
Catalina: 23:39 All right. My professor knows that that happened. So anyway, so Michael's like, yeah, totally. We'll totally will do it. So he says, yes, and I sit in the class and I'm just like, oh my gosh, really, something needs to be done about this. And I had this idealistic vision of the world through education and I thought I could do something about this. I can bring this to my community. And so I did the unthinkable and what some people would consider a career suicide, which was to drop my phd and, and pursue the CFP certification. Yeah. Okay.
Rianka: 24:27 I too have and still have this, this ideological type of optimistic feel of the world that one person can indeed make an impact and one person can indeed have a ripple effect for many generations and change people's lives. And I think that's the reason why we connected on such a more deeper level when we initially met, because we both came to the table with that. Just with, with that in mind when it came to personal finance and educating and, and being a financial planner. So with that transition, that one 80 basically drop of, you know, kind of leaving the sports world, you know, leaving your phd program and pursuing a career and personal finance. What were some of the, I guess the, the things that you didn't know or some of the things that were different from the sports world and what can we be learning from, you know, your, your background from the sports world and in, in the, in the financial services industry, what, what can we learn?
Catalina: 25:36 Well, so I'm going through school Rianka I'm thinking, gosh, this is awesome. I'm going to be able to work with so many people and teach them about budgeting and college funding and saving for retirement and risk management and we're going to put it all together it's going to be very holistic. And it's like getting somebody in shape. Right, you kind of outline their fitness plans. So the way that I envision is that we were going to be able to tackle all of these things. What I didn't know was that the financial services industry worked very differently than how things were actually taught in these courses. One thing that I felt was missing was a course on the different business models. Because I had to learn the hard way, you know, I, I get launched into this world and I guess one thing that was really positive was that my professor at the time was the president of the local FPA chapter.
Catalina: 26:32 And he said, well, everybody, if you're interested in being more active in your profession, you should join FPA. And so I knew from my previous career that that was a no brainer, right? You have to be involved. And I'm like, yes, sign me up, where's the next meeting? You know? So I got involved, but I didn't understand that there was a commission, commission and fee only, fe, Aum. I didn't understand all that. I'm like, what? I came from a world where like where I got a salary and if I did run my business, you know, I knew how that worked but I didn't understand the way that you got paid in this business. I didn't understand that it was a kind of eat what you kill type of thing. And when my professor told me that he says, Cat is an eat what you kill industry. I'm like, why are we using those words? What?
Rianka: 27:29 You're like, hold on, wait, wait, wait. And then also from a commission standpoint or from a fee structure standpoint, this is something I share, you know, when I have the opportunity, is that that can push out a lot of, of cultures or people from low socio economic backgrounds of being able to pursue a career in financial planning, especially if how they get paid is commission based. And so, but I'm sure as you know, there's many different ways you can get paid as a financial adviser, commission, fee only where you get paid a salary and all of this. But it's still, I know it was probably a shock to you at first of just saying, listen, I just want to help people. What do you mean I have to quote, eat what I kill? You know? And so, so yeah, I think that's something that our, our industry, the financial service industry need to think about, especially as we try to bring in more diverse talent more culturally, you know, the many different cultures and ethnicities as we try to bring them in. We have to understand there are first generation immigrants like yourself who may not have the financial resources to get back by parents. As you ramp up your business and the commission world, you don't have a two year, a window of being able to ramp up your business because of just your social economic background and you know, so yeah, I just want it to, I'll get off my high horse on that.
Catalina: 29:00 No, but it's true. It's true. Right? You do need to have a financial runway to make that transition. And I wasn't aware of that, right? Like I was, I was in shock and in so good thing that I knew how to manage my personal finances before I went into this because I had an idea that there was going to be a transition period. Right, right. So I was savvy enough to, to have prepared ahead of time saying, okay, this is a transition. I need to have an emergency fund, a, we're going to live on my husband's salary. You know, I can do this. Right. Just to kind of navigate what that's going to be like. But I would say that was like, that's one of the things that shocked me. Another thing that shocked me was in something that I always saw in sport is like we always trained together.
Catalina: 29:43 We always knew what our goal was together. There was a lot of collaboration in sport and I also was the beneficiary of title nine, you know, and, and a little bit about title nine and I'll kind of weave this in, is that it was part of like an offshoot of the civil rights movement, you know, at this one took place in 1972 but basically it was giving equal rights to men and women, right? That we couldn't discriminate against gender for, at institutions that were getting federal funds. So the way that this impacted sport, you know, was that if you were a school that offers sports, it had to be equitable based on the ratio of men and women that were enrolled in the university or college. And so I receive federal funds through scholarships in order to participate. I was able to have equipment, to participate with, you know, on like prior to that title nine women were not allowed to or not encouraged to participate.
Catalina: 30:44 There were limited, limited opportunities. We didn't have the same equipment. Maybe we had to do like, you know, bake sales in order to raise funds to get a uniform or even travel and so on and so forth. Right. So I was already the beneficiary of a world where there was a lot of, for the most part equity. I think we still have a long ways to go with sport. But I was in shock when I came to the financial industry where I felt it was very backwards in the way that we treated, women, the way that we treated people of different races, how people were judged. I was just like, gosh, this is a really nasty place. And what did I do? Like I honestly had some, you know, conversations with my husband and, and like, I thought I made a mistake cause I'm like, I, I really thought I was going to change people's lives and do something beautiful.
Catalina: 31:42 And it ended up being like a shock that plus, you know, there is that, that, you know, we don't talk about it too much, but just being in an environment that is very, that could be at times very competitive. And there's a lot of, maybe testosterone going, you know, where you do get harassed at your job. You know, and it was, I was in shock, you know, because I worked with so many men before in sports in, and it wasn't about what I look like. It was about my performance, you know? And so that part I was like, oh my goodness, no wonder corporate America has so many issues. They should go participate in sport before they go to work. Get a good work out, get some cardio in.
Rianka: 32:32 you know, it's anxiety away. Listen, let me tell you, I think that's a really good idea as far as learning how to be a team player, you know, learning how to be a team player you know, not seeing what, what, you know, you on a team. It doesn't matter what you look like. It doesn't matter your race, your socioeconomic background. The goal is to win as a team and how to collaborate as a team. You know? It's, it's something that I see with my husband first hand. You know, he played football all the way from elementary school to college. And you know, and he comes home and he shares with me some of the challenges at work, but he stays so level headed with it because he's just like, hey is it is what it is. Like I, I faced harder things on the field then and he, you know, then then what I'm doing here, it is just conflict management is this is no problem. You know, cause sometimes team members get in conflict with each other, but you have to learn how to stay level headed and just like, hey we're here for a goal. Let's less win.
Catalina: 33:40 Absolutely. You know, and I think that it would, you know, I always say that children should always be in sports in some type of sport or physical activity cause I think that does help you cope with a lot of things as you become an adult and it teaches you there's a lot of transferable skills from sport into the real world. So yeah, no doubt, no doubt. And he's able to manage in a different way, right? Because he's navigating a different world and in sport that he's like, yeah, I've seen this play before.
Catalina: 34:09 I know how to tackle this. Yeah. So, yeah, I know it's really interesting. But I would say that it's not all bad, you know, this industry has also afforded me the opportunity to meet some really fantastic people and very giving people, you know, you just have to make a very concerted effort to find those, those wonderful, amazing people out there. And I mean the FPA was, a resource for me to meet some of them. And I think I mentioned to you, I mean, I, I, got a mentor, her name is Carol Craigy. And that happened early on when I joined the FPA because the FPA was offering, a pilot program in, during, in the women in Finance Group to get a mentor, mentee thing going on. And it just so happened that I was able to connect with Carol Craigy just because our business at the time was called fiscal fitness clubs. And I'm like, ah, I love fitness, let's connect.
Rianka: 35:11 you were you are on it already know like, oh, fitness. Oh, what, what was that? Did someone say fit? Oh yeah.
Catalina: 35:26 You know, I would say there were a lot of things that were shocking, but there were also some really beautiful people that came alongside with me and helped me and guided me and gave me some nudges and pointers on how to navigate this, this career.
Rianka: 35:41 Yeah, I know Carol, she's a phenomenal woman and has done a lot for the financial planning community. And, and for, for a lot of women, for a lot of practitioners, but specifically for a lot of women, she's, she's a phenomenal person. And so, so Cat we have had the opportunity to kind of learn more about you and, you know, your background, your culture. Is there anything else that you want to share as far as like, you know, from the South American culture that can probably help us as practitioners if we are working with clients who are from that background?
Catalina: 36:22 Yeah, I mean, I think one of the thing to really understand is the distrust that some south Americans may have against banking systems, for example, or investing. I was actually talking to a neighbor that I work out with who's Argentinian and, I asked her about this. I said, tell me how you see investing in banking in the United States. Has it been easy? Has it been hard? And she said that it's been challenging because her history as an Argentinian brings with it the fact that Argentina in around like 2002, froze their banking system because they were going into an economic collapse. And so what that meant was that if you had any funds at a bank, there were no longer accessible.
Rianka: 37:10 Wait, hold on. So she was here in the states?
Catalina: 37:18 No, she was in Argentina.
Rianka: 37:20 Okay. She was in Argentina. Okay.
Catalina: 37:22 Yes. And she was still living in Argentina. So this is prior to her moving to the United States. And I was just trying to get more clarity as to what, how she was oriented around money and finance in general. And so she told me she's very distrusting of these financial systems because she brings with her that history of how the government has shut down when she was in Argentina, shut down the banks, and people couldn't take their money out, you know, and so this was in anticipation of like a, a, a serious economic collapse in Argentina, in around 2002. And, so she's very scared to invest in anything that is not, for example, real estate. Right. So that's one thing to think about when you work with south Americans. Many of them want to invest in real estate because it's something that they could see something they could touch. Yeah. Something that's tangible or they'll buy gold for example, you know, or they'll keep cash in their house. Sorry, all my South American friends out there, but you know, you do it.
Catalina: 38:29 Uh, because you never know what's going to happen. You never know what's going to happen. I mean, case in point right now with Venezuela, right? The government has basically, you know, shut everything down. There's no food, there's no banking system, really. What do people do? I mean, they have to use any physical asset, right? And so with that comes that distrust. So if a South American is coming to the United States and they don't have a really good understanding of the financial system, they're already scared. You know, they don't know what that means. They don't know what it means to invest, or they don't really understand, you know, insurance products are, or why do I need that? You know, they feel like they're being taken. So you have to be very gentle and really understand their whole story and their history, you know, why do they feel the way that they feel?
Catalina: 39:19 And also understand the dynamics. So for example, you know, have a client, sorry, I had a client that was a South American from Colombia husband and wife, and you know, it's a predominantly a male dominated society, right? So how does a female woman of color, you know, influence the decisions of a, of a white male Colombian, you know, like, that's tough as a financial adviser, how do you crack that? How do you build that trust with that family? Even though the wife wants to work with you. Right? And so it took a lot of education. You know, it took, you know, hours of teaching them, you know, what is an IRA? What is a Roth Ira? Why would you want to have a mortgage, you know, how to a 529 plans for example, work, you know, what is a, a Florida prepaid.
Catalina: 40:13 So I live in Florida, you know, educating them around that and the importance of that and kind of seeing things big picture and also teaching them how right now it's not in their best interest to pay off their mortgage early versus later. Cause that's something that they want to do. So for the most part, you know, South America is want to be debt free, right? Like whatever it takes to just own your house outright, that's really important. And in many ways I felt the same way, you know, like I want to beat that free, you know, but now I understand, you know, how to leverage and, and the, and how that could work to your advantage in certain situations. So that's something to consider, you know, and, and just the dynamics in their relationship, how to navigate those conversations, especially if even though the man, you know, and I hate blanket statements, but let's say, you know, the guy wants to come across as they know what they really are doing and maybe they don't really understand finances that well. You have to be very cautious on how you, again, navigate those conversations to make them, they still need to keep their, their, their position in the family. So how do you talk to them so that you don't talk down to them, you know, and, and, and bring in the wife.
Rianka: 41:27 And so it's kind of like, it's kind of like inception, the movie inception with Leonardo Dicaprio. You plant those seeds and to the husband, right? And in a way such that the next meeting, it feels like he almost came up with that idea and it's just like, oh, you know what? I think we should invest in a 529 plan. And then you as a financial planner can be like, you know what? That is a wonderful idea. I think that's great. Do you want to talk about the various investment portfolios you can invest in? That's what it sounds like. That's exactly what I thought. Thought about. What will, you mentioned that it's inception. So, so here's the thing. Watch the movie inception. Get some ideas on how to plant seeds of information. And, and, and you'll, you'll be, you'll be good to go. So it, so it sounds like this is, this is great information working with couples, families, individuals that come from South America.
Rianka: 42:27 There's a distrust in the financial system. You know, they don't, they didn't trust their government. Why in the world would they trust ours? And also the financial systems also understanding that debt is bad or at least in their prospective debt is bad. And so helping them learn how to leverage and navigate the financial system in their favor, and understanding that, you know, paying off your mortgage or, or may not be in the best light. It's almost like, okay, there are multiple balls in the air of, of goals. There's a lot of competing goals, which is for your family. What is the best way for us to navigate this? Understanding the importance of paying off this mortgage, but also making sure that you're saving for retirement so that when you turn the age of which you want to retire, you're working because you want to, not necessarily because you have to. And then also like, you know, helping, you know, building generational wealth, you know, and, and being able to leave money for your children, for your heirs and, and, and maybe also be able to send money back to your family that is, that's still in South America,
Catalina: 43:38 right? Cause that's very important is how do you take care of the needs right now? Sometimes it may be difficult to have the longterm vision because you do have some competing needs. And it could be for many of us that were supporting family, right? Because especially if we, if, if we came, with immigrant parents, you know, and they didn't save for retirement. So what does that mean for me, for example? Right? That means that I have to create a budget line to support my mom, for example. And that's just part of my budget, right? Because I know that she didn't understand that she's, you know, she did the best that she could, but I mean, we survived. That's basically what happened. We survive. So what do we do now to help the generation before us that, that struggled so much to get here that that had to learn everything?
Catalina: 44:31 Well, a lot of things the hard way, if you're like the beneficiary of, of those immigrant parents that you came here now you were able to get an education is like understanding that, that that generation is going to most likely want to, you know, support their parents. And so how do you bring that and honor that and respect that as part of their budget line and not say, no, you can't afford to do that. You need to save for your own retirement. Like that. I would just, caution, caution people against saying, because we really do honor and respect our parents for the sacrifices that they made for us.
Rianka: 45:07 And I'm hearing that a lot. That is a common thread that I'm hearing between first generation immigrants. You know, prior to our conversation, check back to the episode before Cat, I talked to Phuong and Phuong is a first generation immigrant. You know, her parents came here then she was born and she's Asian American and it's very similar up just like her parents didn't know English. And so she had to translate as well. So that is a, a common theme that I'm seeing that transcends cultures. But the commonality is between first generation immigrants and also first generation college graduates. Like it, that is a correlation that I'm seeing as well. It's like, okay, we're coming to America, you know, to, to, to, to have our children live that American dream and now they're educated and now we kind of feel like, all right, now we need to figure out how to financially support ourselves and then also, you know, be, be able to honor him and help our parents financially.
Rianka: 46:11 It's, it's a common theme also for, the black community, the Hispanic community. As far as being able to, especially if you're a first generation college graduate, like myself, I wrote an article for CNBC, I'll make sure I share in the show notes just about how we have to put on our financial oxygen oxygen mask first before we can help anybody. So it's like, yes, we want to help our family, but first you have to make sure you're in a financial situation that, that you're stable such that you can then help other people because when you need help, it's like, who's going to help you?
Catalina: 46:53 I agree with that. You know, and just putting some limitations around that because you could feel really guilty if you're doing financially well and your parents are not doing that well. Oh boy. Just, I mean, you feel it and you're like, oh, I should give more. But then you're able to just kind of talk through that with your clients and come up with something that is comfortable, that's realistic as far as the amount that they would give their families and not feel guilty. You know, say no, this is what you can do it while you're also saving for other goals. And it's
Catalina: 47:29 You know, meaning two things at the same time. But, but I can relate to feeling like, gosh, you know, my life is so much better but somebody came before me to help me get to where I am. So I can't ignore that. I can't
Rianka: 47:45 not honor that. Trust me, I know the feeling firsthand as well. So firsthand girlfriend, so less, less. Let's transition. This is a lot of wow, a lot of great information that you've shared with us and now I know you're at a awesome firm and a firm. You know when I was perusing the website it doesn't look like the other firms that are commonly that we see in the financial services world. So tell us a little bit more about your, your, your firm and then also what they think about Dni.
Catalina: 48:25 Sure, absolutely. So I went to Tobias Financial Advisors we are located in the, in south Florida, so like around Fort Lauderdale if you know where Fort Lauderdale is, we're on that area. And yeah, so we have a very diverse staff. We have four female financial advisors who are also bilingual, Hispanic heritage. We have three male financial advisors who are white. We have four other support team members who are also, you know, I would say we're all diverse, you know, and so what's interesting is that you could get to a point where it's a non-issue. It's like this is who we are. We're working together, we have a common goal. We like, it doesn't matter where you come from, but the benefit of it is that we're able to bring in different perspectives. And so prior to having our conversation today, Rianka, I wanted to get their take too.
Catalina: 49:27 I said, you know, I'm, I'm going on Rianka's podcast. I want to know what you think about this because I want your voices to be heard. And one of the women who recently joined our team said though one of the things that really attracted her to our, our team, our firm, was that there were so many women financial advisors and that she felt comfortable that if she needed to get a financial adviser, she would come here to, to talk to one of us. So that was, you know, from somebody who's recently added. That was a really nice compliment. Another thing too is because we are diverse, we understand different cultures, so we're able to serve a more diverse clientele and, and that's really neat because when somebody comes in and we get to know them a little bit better, we're able to better pair them with an advisor that's going to be a better match for them. So that's awesome. I'm like, oh my gosh. So it's not just about race, but it's also about personality, background.
Rianka: 50:26 Your culture,
Catalina: 50:28 Yeah, culture
Rianka: 50:29 It's huge.
Catalina: 50:30 It is huge. It is huge because it's almost like, okay, now we know what team we're going to put in this relationship.
Catalina: 50:35 And it's easy, you know? It's not like, oh, what am I going to do? I really want this client, but I can't, you know, match them with anybody
Rianka: 50:43 because it goes beyond numbers. Cat, you know? And, and I'm emphasizing the part on culture because it's like, yes, we're all competent when it comes to personal finance. We can throw numbers and spreadsheets at clients, but what does this mean beyond surface level? And that's when under that cultural competency comes into play.
Catalina: 51:05 Yeah. So it's fascinating and I absolutely love that and I hear that from my team members that they love that we're different, that we could meet different needs, that we have different, ideas and perspectives and yeah, the culture. It's amazing. I mean, really this is so unique and it's something that we all treasure so much because we know it's not like that everywhere. And not only are we diverse but we're also, I would say we're a teaching firm, you know, we're all about educating the next generation. We're all about sharing our knowledge. We're all about, you know, this is the way that I see this issue. What do you think? You know, what am I missing? And it's not, and it's something that that's not, it's encouraged. It's like, no, no, let's talk through this, this particular scenario. What if you did it like this or did you think about that?
Catalina: 51:55 And that right there is a gift because that doesn't happen again everywhere. You know, that you're able to talk to some of the more experienced financial advisors about some strategies and they're just so open and willing to help. I mean, that is amazing. And that the voices of the junior advisors too, are very valuable, you know, because they have ways in which they would like to lead a relationship or create a deliverable that may be somebody else that didn't think of that might be more, you know, palatable for the client. And so that's very cool just to see them in action and see them put things together. So it's, it's an environment that's conducive to creativity to, delivering things in a way that is going to be easy for the client that they could implement and see results. And, that respects it's team players, you know, us being the team players. And that's really important. It's very important to me, you know, because I've, I have no problem walking away from a situation in which I don't feel respected or, or honored for who I am as a person, you know? So I'm like, meh, that's not going to work. But when it does work, you're like, wow, I can't believe it.
Rianka: 53:15 I know you feel lucky to have your firm, but you're firm is definitely lucky and blessed to have you on their team as well.
Catalina: 53:24 Oh, thank you. Thank you
Rianka: 53:26 So before I let you go, Cat, and I know we can talk forever, so before I let you go. Yeah. See I told you there's nothing to worry about. Before I let you go, is there anything else that you want to share with the listeners? Leave us with before you go and save the world?
Catalina: 53:48 Oh my gosh. Well, you know, I think it's really important. You know, I talked about sports being a big part of my life and, and having the teachers that will come and lift you up and guide you. And I would not have been this, you know, I wouldn't have come this far without them. So I just want to just share that Carol Craigy, made a significant impact in my life. She's still my mentor. She's my dear friend. She's, oh wait, I guess I don't like to call people by the color of their skin, but I guess she's a white woman. You know, it was amazing that for her, what I look like, or my race or my background was a nonissue because she's taught me that when you learn to listen to people you put down or demolish cultural barriers, you know, you just, you just listened to who they are and what their needs are.
Catalina: 54:44 And, and that's really important. So she's taught me to listen a lot. And then the other person that I want to mention is Don Saint Claire. He's out of California. He's just a phenomenal teacher person. Just human being in general. And he's taught me a lot and he actually, you'll have this in common. His, one of his influencers and teachers is, Fernando Flores is from Argentina. By the, I mean, sorry, from Chile, where you're from or your history is from. And, you know, he's taught me a lot about how to navigate conversations in cool creative possibilities with clients and, and the fact that he's a male, a white male, that has extended his hand to teach me is significant because it's going to take people who normally we wouldn't expect to go out and educate others regardless of what they look like. But if you're an insider, right, we would say like you're maybe on third base, he'll say that he was born on third base, that he has no problem saying, okay, come on, let me help you get on third phase. Let me help you hit a home run. Let me help you become a fantastic financial planner. And that has been a gift and these are people that I met through the Financial Planning Association and I'm very grateful to them and we should all be very grateful and honoring of the teachers that have come alongside that have lifted us up to be where we are today.
Rianka: 56:20 Yes. Wow. Thank you so much for, you know, just sharing your story with us. Your background and how you have navigated the world of, of the financial service industry, specifically within the financial planning profession. And thank you for everything that you do for our profession as well.
Catalina: 56:39 My pleasure, and thank you for what you're doing you mover and shaker. So proud to call you my friend.
Rianka: 56:46 Thank you, Cat. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.