A financial advisor is listed in Yentil's "5 people you need in your inner circle for professional success." Winnie is my financial advisor. I think so highly of her and I'm so glad she let me feature her! If you're in the Birmingham area (or not, I'm sticking with her when I move to NY) consider adding her to your team. - elyse
Name: Winnie Njaaga
Hometown: Birmingham, Al
Current location: Birmingham, Al
Undergraduate Major and institution: Business Management at Auburn University
Take me back a decade, what did you want to be when you grew up? Gosh, I used to be a fierce dreamer. I really believed I could be anything I wanted to be, the hard part was figuring out what it was that I REALLY wanted to do. I played around with every possibility, envisioning myself as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, and even a singer just to name a few. It's not until I got my first job at 14 I realized that I didn't really prefer working for someone. My mom and dad had always been self employed and as I watched their business flourish, I realized that I wanted to be my own boss. I knew I needed to have freedom to make my own schedule, be a visionary, and lead others the way I would want to be lead. So I started honing in on business, not knowing what kind of business I would be in. The only thing I knew is that I better follow something I'm passionate about because otherwise I knew I was going to be miserable and unable to sustain let alone flourish.
What do you do now? I am a financial planner. I work with successful young professionals, families, business owners, medical professionals and people approaching retirement. I help them plan for the what can go wrong in life (defensive financial planning), and I help them plan for what can go right in life by growing and managing their money, minimizing taxes, retirement planning, wealth distribution (we call this the offensive side of planning).
Tell me about your college application process? How did you decide on a school? I knew that financially my best option was to go to a college in Alabama. I personally didn’t want the burden of student loans because of out of state tuition. I applied to Alabama, Troy and Auburn. Growing up I always wanted to attend Alabama. Since Tuscaloosa isn’t too far from Birmingham, my family and I used to frequent the town for different events. I became familiar with the town so I naturally envisioned myself going there.
The applications for Alabama and Troy were easy. Auburn was the toughest application because they had short essay questions to fill out. Auburn's application was much longer.
The only reason I applied for Auburn and Troy was because I didn’t want to put my eggs in one basket. I wanted to have other options in case I couldn’t go to Alabama. I got in to both Alabama and Troy fairly quickly. Auburn took their time. When I finally got the acceptance letter from Auburn, my family and I decided to go take a tour of the campus. I had never been before. I literally fell in love. It felt like home as soon as I stepped foot on the campus. That feeling coupled with a scholarship made my decision to go to Auburn a no brainier for me.
How did you decide on an undergraduate major? I knew I always wanted to major in something pertaining to business, because of my passion for it and my entrepreneurship spirit. I just didn’t know what exactly in Business I should major in. So I went back and forth between a few options until I picked Business Management. I chose it because the curriculum had a well balanced mix of classes from different subject areas of business.
What was the hardest part of your undergraduate studies? How did you get through it? The hardest part of undergrad was picking my major. I was so nervous because I didn’t want to mess up and regret my choice. Other hard parts included a few specific classes that I hated, but had to take; I.e. computer programming, ugh! It was like learning a foreign language that you have no interest in. Igot through all my hard times because of the people around me. I was so blessed to have a great support system around me. From my family, to my awesome roommate, to close friends, classmates and professors who cared about me; I was surround by a wonderful community.
Did you consider graduate school? If so, why did you decide against it? I did. I even bought the GMAT study book the day after graduation. My family really believes in education, so they pushed me hard to go. However, for some reason I never personally felt compelled to go. I just wanted to gain experience in the business world in the hopes of one day starting my own. Which makes sense because I learn most by doing.
What do you enjoy most about your job as a financial planner? I enjoy the overall career because it allows me to serve people in a purposeful way and I absolutely love that. The fun part is sitting down with people and getting to know their hopes, dreams, fears and what is most important to them. Everyone has a story and I love listening to them. The opportunity to listen and encourage is one of my favorite aspects of my job. My other favorite part is seeing people take action for the better.
Watching my clients gain new levels of financial freedom is of course my goal and it brings me joy, but their other non financial achievements are important to me as well.
For example, I was having an annual review with a client and I pulled out notes from our first meeting. It had only been nine months since we wrote out his three year goals like: buying a house, buying a ring to propose, growing spiritually, going back to school to get his masters and getting a promotion at work. It was so inspiring to see that he had achieved 3 out of the 5. I enjoy seeing my clients grow and achieve greater things. It's what fuels me through the challenging aspects of this career.
How is your time spent? What should someone entering your field expect? Most of my time is spent with clients or potential clients. Whether that be face to face or on the phone. Another portion of my time is spent working on financial plans and recommendations. I also spendtime studying or working on professional development.
Tell me about your typical workday. It is different literally everyday.
Most days I get to the office around 7:30 am. I get coffee first thing; haha, I have my priorities straight. I check my email, look at my calendar to get a feel for the day. I then start to tackle the urgent things I didn't a chance to finish from the day before. After that time block is done, it's usually time to start meeting with people or I'm making calls to set up meetings for the next week. That's what I do the majority of my time. Meeting and seeing people, whether clients or potential clients. After I'm done with meetings, I start doing administrative duties. My assistant handles most of it, I just check over it to make sure it's the way I want it. Afterwards, I go to the gym. I used to HATE working out. Now I've made it a habit and I look forward to it. It's my stress reliever and I feel accomplished after I'm done. When I'm done, I usually go home to read and wind down unless a friend wants to grab dinner or hangout.
Two days out of the week I work later into the evening in order to meet people who can't meet during the day. On these days I workout in the morning or during the afternoon.
I have an ideal schedule. I haven't mastered it yet, but I'm getting better with it. Yes to progress!!!
Tell me about all of the additional training you've been doing. It seems like every time I talk to you you've just passed a new test! Are those certifications required by your company? If not, how do you motivate yourself to study? I'm always learning. There is so much to know in the finance industry and in order to be relevant and serve my clients well, I have to embrace learning and growing. There are training classes my company offers that I attend regularly. There are also credit hours that we must complete every year to keep up with changes in the industry as well as to keep our licenses active.
As far as exams for certifications, there are three that my company requires. Any beyond that is up to each advisor. I've finished the required courses, but I love growing so I plan on taking several more to get different certifications and designations. The two motivators for me are that the knowledge I receive helps me better serve my clients and it also helps me differentiate myself from other advisors.
It's hard to start studying, but once I start I gain momentum. And once I pass an exam I get fired up to start studying for the next one. It's a feeling of accomplishment. I love that feeling! Passion for what I do helps while studying because the topics really interest me. The tough part is balancing actual work and studying. That has been difficult for me because Its hard for me to focus on multiple things at once. I have to intentionally focus. So I've been stretched in that aspect. It just goes back to embracing growth.
goals & dreams
What challenges have you faced achieving your career goals? I'm tempted to just keep it simple and say getting people to slow down from their busy lives and go through the actual planning process. Even though that's true, it's so surface.
If I'm being real and transparent, it's myself. It's what I allow to seep into my mind, like fear, doubt, and false stories.
It's an everyday battle I fight. Some days are easier than others, but I love challenges because they allow me the opportunity to grow. I've been doing a lot of growing and I still have more to do.
What has aided in your growth? My faith, my family and friends. I know in order to grow and be who and what I want to be, I have to surround myself with positive, successful, like minded people. Also being intentional about what I feed my mind is important. That's why stopped watching certain TV shows; I immerse myself in great books that pertain to my profession, faith, and personal growth instead. As much as I read now, It's hard to imagine I used to hate reading growing up. Reading forces me to slow down from all the busyness. It helps me relax, reflect, learn, take inventory, be inspired, and grow.
What's your ideal career? An ideal career for me would be one that allows me to make a major impact on people's lives, while making a lot of money (in order to continue to make a bigger impact), and that allows me to spend quality time with those closest to me, all while having fun.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I see myself, God willing, as a wife, mother and a Wealth Management Advisor. I want to grow my practice where I have a team of at least three people helping me achieve higher levels of impact. I want to have a good steady work flow going which will allows me to spend quality time with my family, which is very important to me.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to your career? I would tell them to really know what they are getting themselves into. Do your research, do internships, job shadow and get to know people in the career. It's a fun and rewarding career, but it is also very challenging and comes with a lot of responsibility. You to be committed. You have to be relentless. You have to have integrity because you will be tested.
I would also tell someone interested to have a big enough "why." Your why is what gets you through the valleys. Vision is very important as well, it will make and keep you motivated.
What are some simple words you like to live by? Live. Laugh. Love. hahaha, I'm kidding. It's a summary of my mission statement: Faith. Love. Grow. Be intentional. Make an impact.