Personal Finance: Is it the right career for you? (Guest post with Manisha Thakor)

If you’ve got a knack for numbers and love money, you might like a career in personal finance.  To help you decide, I asked personal finance expert Manisha Thakor (guest on my SIRIUSXM radio show tomorrow 7/29/11) to share a day in the life and her experience on the job… 

Q: How did you find your passion for personal finance?

A: My interest in all things personal finance started at an early age. I grew up in a small town in Indiana where cheerleaders and football players ruled. Being nerdy and socially awkward to put it mildly… it became VERY clear to me at an early age that "a man was not going to be my financial plan".   And my real secret weapon has been my parents.  My dad has always worked in finance and I can remember being around eleven years old and him teaching me how to use his HP12C calculator to see if I contributed my lawn mowing and babysitting money to an IRA and it grew at 6%, 7%, 8%, etc. what I’d have at retirement.  When I saw the size of those figures over time, yeesh – that sure got me hooked on finance!  And my mom has long been a staunch feminist. She used to read me books like "Free To Be You And Me" and gave me gender neutral toys to play with. So stir all that together and from a young age I had both the (harsh) social realization that not all girls grow up to be princesses and the inspiration and information from my parents to learn how to provide for myself. Being financially independent has completely changed my life for the better and I want to help as many other women achieve this kind of life choice and freedom as well.

Q: Is Personal Finance growing as a field?

A: Absolutely!  During the 1980s, 1990s, and into the early part of the 2000s, as a nation we spent well beyond our means. It’s going to to take quite some time for us to recover from that 25 plus year financial party.  On top of it, the financial landscape has become so much more complex of late, it’s essential to get education and help to navigate the financial seas.  I see the next couple of decades as being excellent ones for individuals interested in financial planning.  It may not be as "sexy" as the investment banking and hedge fund craze of recent years… but personally as someone who spent nearly 15 years in the financial services industry in a more corporate role, I find helping real people eliminate financial stress from their lives through financial planning to be incredibly rewarding – both emotionally and financially.

Q: What does it take to be successful in a Personal Finance career?

A: For readers old enough to remember the "Weeble Wobble" toy… it had a motto "Weeble’s wobble but they don’t fall down."  They were an egg shaped toys weighted at the bottom so no matter how close they came to hitting their heads on the ground and wiping out when someone knocked them over… they always bounced back up. I’ve found that kind of tenacity in the face of the inevitable road bumps you encounter when trying to build a career or business to be the secret sauce.  A close second is to never ever forget that business at the end of the day is about people.  Like many women, I spent far too many years thinking hard work alone would move my career forward.  Now that I’m in my 40s, I realize that so much of success comes from others.  It really does take a village – so while working hard to hone your skill or craft is important, I see now that to be truly successful you also need to get to know others in your field as well. Besides, it sure makes work more fun to have real, meaningful human connections in your work.

Q: What do you recommend for people who want to follow in your footsteps? 

A: Before going out on your own, be VERY clear on how you are going to monetize your interest or skills.  I’ve learned the hard way that "wanting to do good" is a lousy business strategy. Much better to want to earn a fair profit in exchange for providing a truly valuable service or product.  In my case I originally thought I’d make a living helping women in more of a one-on-one level.  But as I got a better feel for market demand and my skill set I realized I would hit the sweet spot of doing work that mattered, making a profit, and enjoying life… by helping women on a one-to-many basis through my speaking, writing, teaching, and corporate work.  It’s not the model I started off with but as every good MBA know… without cash, your businesses doesn’t last!  Or said slightly differently, I took something I had a genuine passion for, something I’ve long considered almost a hobby (i.e. a deep interest in personal finance) and turned it into a solo career – but it wasn’t a profitable solo career until I realized that trying to help the women of the world become economically empowered would be a much more impactful if I first demonstrated that through my own actions.  Oh – and never miss Maggie’s radio show. A constant stream of career wisdom is to be found there.  That’s my other key tip for others 🙂

Thank you Manisha for the insights and radio plug;).  For more great personal finance advice including Manisha’s inspiring "Women’s Financial Literacy Initiative", go to Through teaching, writing, and speaking about the basics of personal finance, Manisha helps working women who want to put themselves in the financial driver’s seat of their lives. As she likes to say… when you "Own Your Finances" you can "Own Your Life."

(Photo courtesy or Amagill.) 

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