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5 Lessons from the Godfather: LeCount Davis, Sr. Shares Wisdom from a 40-Plus Year Career

LeCount Davis Sr., CFP®, has been making history since he first received his CFP certification in 1978. He was the first African American CFP® professional. He founded the Association of African American Financial Advisors (Quad-A) in 2001. And he’s always focused on making an impact in his community and profession. All reasons why he is a winner of a Lifetime Achievement in Diversity and Inclusion from InvestmentNews.

The next generation of history makers have much to learn from him, said 2050 TrailBlazers host Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®, in a recent episode highlighting an industry trailblazer in celebration of Black History Month.

Lesson No. 1: Find Your Champions and Allies

Davis knew that if people had more knowledge about their wealth and finances, it would have a ripple effect of good on their financial lives. That’s what led him to financial planning and to founding his first company, LeCount R. Davis and Associates. In doing research for how to realize his vision of providing planning for all aspects of a person’s financial life, he found the International Association for Financial Planning (one of the organizations that merged to form FPA in 2000. The other was the Institute of Certified Financial Planners). He went to a few meetings and met several people who shared his vision, including then IAFP president Alexandra Armstrong, CFP®.

Armstrong did not engage in what Davis described as “benign neglect” of him when he was the only person of color in the room, she welcomed him and he started volunteering on several committees within the IAFP.

Another person Davis recalled as being an ally was Robert Ginsburg, who after Davis got his CFP® certification told him that would get him to the table, but it wouldn’t get him anything off the table. Ginsburg invited him into the inner circle, showing him the inner workings of the financial planning profession.

Lesson No. 2: Be the Champion to Bring People into the Profession

In 2001, Davis founded the Association of African American Financial Advisors, or Quad-A.

“I knew that if we didn’t have that type of group, [we had to] put the group together that would be able to approach the industry in certain numbers,” Davis said. This would ensure that black financial planners had the numbers to generate the respect of the industry and make progress.

His company underwrote all the expenses for the organization in those initial years, so Davis knew the organization had to grow—both because his pockets were not that deep and because he wanted to reach more black planners.

But credit is due all around, Davis said.

“I was the first president of the association, but you got a lot of people who came after me who did wonders for Quad-A,” Davis said, giving praise to Lazetta Rainey Braxton, CFP®, in particular. “If they had not put in the sweat and tears and blood they did, Quad-A … would not have gotten to where it is right now.”

Lesson No. 3: Stick to Your Goals

In your profession and your life, there are always going to be trials, but you have to press on. Identify your goals and stick to them.

“There are going to be tough times, but you’ve got to tough it out,” Davis said. “Joy and pain are just like sunshine and rain. You have to first have the ability to withstand the hard times.”

Lesson No. 4: Always Learn

Strive to always learn about your profession.

“You must be students of your profession,” Davis said. “You can never stop learning.”

Lesson No. 5: Practice What You Preach

Some articles out there show financial planners don’t always follow their own advice. Doing that affects your credibility, Davis said.

“People see what we do, they don’t just listen to what we say,” Davis said. “So if we’re going to tell them to do certain things, they’re going to wonder why we are not doing the same thing that we’re telling them to do.”

The next generation of planners should take these lessons from one of the profession’s history makers.

“My generation and me, I’m able to do what I do because of advisers like you,” Dorsainvil said to Davis. “I’m able to do what I do very easily. It’s not the easiest but it’s easier than maybe you’ve had it.”  

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Mentoring: The Key to Retention of Diverse Hires

The business case for diversity has been a topic of conversation since the 1980s. And it feels like only recently the financial planning profession in particular is ready to take some action.

One of the many takeaways from CFP Board’s inaugural Diversity Summit held last October, is that we can start advancing the profession today by mentoring.

“Mentoring is crucial if we are going to get minorities up to speed in our profession,” said Louis Barajas, EA, CFP®. “Mentors help speed up the success process for financial planners. Especially those also servicing underserved clients.”

Charles C. Adi, CFP®, said his mentoring relationships accelerated his learning curve.

“It enhanced my textbook education with the practical/emotional side of the business,” Adi said. “My mentor definitely prevented me from making mistakes while delivering advice and challenged me to be my best daily.”

Mike Alves, CFP®, CLU®, CRPC®, said mentoring is the reason he even chose financial planning as a profession.

He went into finance through the investments route at Merrill Lynch, but he found something was missing—helping people.

Alves met a colleague who was a CFP® professional who suggested the CFP® designation.

“He said if you want to help people, you have to get your CFP®, and he was right,” Alves said. “If it weren’t for him, I would not have been a CFP®. I might have been out of the industry altogether.”

Adi’s mentor motivated him to get his CFP® certification.

“If it were not for her, I probably would not have pursued the CFP® designation when I did,” Adi explained. “I would have pushed it off for a few more years. Especially since none of my clients asked about it.”

Informal Mentorships Better

For years companies have implemented formal mentoring programs for women and people of color, but the most impactful mentoring relationships are informal.

Studies show that informal mentoring programs are responsible for deeper relationships that last longer than those forged from formal mentoring programs, according to research cited in the book Diversity at Work. The book also reported that mentees in informal mentoring relationships reported higher job satisfaction, higher salaries and more advancement opportunities.

Alves’ story indicates that’s true.

“For some reason I felt a connection,” with the people he chose as mentors. As a result of these relationships, he was able to learn more skills quickly.

Studies show that women and people of color face a harder time finding a mentor. Alves says look for people you have a connection with. It doesn’t have to be somebody from your same cultural background. None of his mentors were Latino, it just has to be somebody who cares about you and who you connect with.

FPA Latino (3)What Makes for Successful Mentoring Relationships?

Barajas mentored numerous people over the years—not all financial planners—and he says it takes both sides to make the relationship work.

“Mentoring is about a give and take. Both sides have to offer something. Both sides have to be engaged. Both sides need to be vulnerable and share what’s worked, what hasn’t and stories about their lives,” Barajas said.

In addition to effort on both sides, showing appreciation is also key, Alves said.

“Make sure you appreciate the time and advice that a mentor gives you,” Alves said. “If someone is trying to help you, you should show appreciation.”

Barajas will give a talk on mentoring for FPA’s new community, FPA Latino on Feb. 28, at 2 p.m., EST.

“I’m hoping that we attract mentors who are willing to share their stories and mentees who are hungry for advice to help grow as individuals as much as financial planners,” Barajas said.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Grooming Future Clients by Teaching Them Financial Literacy at Young Ages

If you want to build predicative relationships that produce income, referrals and loyalty, then start seeding your network and community with financial literacy resources and experiences for kids.

Yes. You can get current clients and groom future clients by helping to make it easy for others to teach children about money while kids are young.

By others I am referring to parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and community leaders.

By young, I mean kids 3, 4 and 5.

You want to give families every chance to optimize their success as a unit and as individuals. This means starting the financial education and compound growth processes early, when they have the most impact and can make the biggest difference. You want to shape habits and feelings—not correct them—if you are lucky enough to do so.

Let this be clear and plain for everyone to see. Let this be a testament to who you are. As Garrett Planning Network founder, Sheryl Garrett shared with me, it is simple. When you invest in kids’ financial education, it sends a strong message on exactly what you value and stand for. Championing youth financial literacy and making it easy to teach kids about money tangibly demonstrates leadership, long-term thinking and social responsibility. It shows concern for families. It signals you understand the constant pressures they confront daily when it comes to managing money, including addressing the “gimmes.”

Nothing could be more organic and authentic than financial service professionals helping address one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century: youth financial literacy. It’s a threat to kids’ futures and the stability of family life. Kids who grow up with poor money habits and money mindsets seem more likely to turn into adults with those same behaviors, attitudes and feelings. In my opinion, it is a horrific cycle to cultivate and perpetuate.

Kids Know More About Money Than You Think

Here are two things you may not know.

One, adult money habits and attitudes are set by age 7 according to a 2013 Cambridge University study.

Two, research from Ecole Normal Supérieure in Paris, France reveals infants understand more than many adults think.

You may or may not believe the research. I believe it. Why? I have led financial education programs and experiences for more than a quarter million children in eight countries and nearly 40 states. I have talked to kids and the people who teach them a lot about money. What I can share with you with one-hundred percent certainty is, young kids have ideas, feelings and associations related to money.

If you are a doubter, start asking the children in your lives about money. Generate your own firsthand data on the relationship they are developing with it. Find out for yourself what we are hardwiring into their heads and hearts about this essential topic.

Do not be fooled by whether they are able to articulate cogent explanations of personal finance concepts and terms. Stay alert to what they say, think and feel about the subject. Tune in to their habits and attitudes.

What you may conclude is this is exactly the time you can be of the greatest assistance to kids, parents, grandparents, teachers and community leaders. It is precisely when the wealth builder versus spender battle is being won and lost. It is the determinative and pivotal point when you want to sow the seeds of financial freedom and security into kids’ thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns.

Be that voice and source of resources. Impart that financial knowledge for kids and families. Have them associate those memories and mindsets with you.

Here are some tips on how to go about it.

  • Volunteer to read to kids. Read them storybooks with a personal finance lesson. You can do it at schools, after school programs, youth clubs, community agencies or in your office. And/or you can provide clients and community organizations with story books and other “incentives” that teach children about money. Naturally, two of our favorite storybooks are Sammy’s Big Dream and It’s a Habit, Sammy Rabbit!
  • Offer parenting workshops on a monthly or quarterly basis. You can do them live or online via a webinar.
  • Include a parenting tips column in a newsletter or a blog.
  • Write columns for local newspapers and online blogs.
  • Survey and quiz clients, prospects and community leaders on what they learned about money as children. And, do the same with respect to what they are passing on to the kids in their lives whether they be their own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.

Advising Parents on Teaching Money Skills

What should you advise parents to teach young kids’ money?

Start with and stick to the basics—saving, earning, spending smart, giving wisely, investing regularly and tracking your money.

Stress saving. Here is why. Saving has multiple benefits. It’s a cornerstone upon which many other money and success skills can be taught. Saving teaches discipline, delayed gratification, preparedness, planning and goal-setting. Saving protects us from poor spending choices. Saving positions us to invest with less risk. Saving provides more freedom and choices. Saving builds confidence and character. I strongly agree with pioneering research scientist Thornton T. Munger who said:

“The habit of saving is itself an education; if fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought and so broadens the mind.”

In terms of how to teach, I strongly favor strategies that are interactive or participatory. Learning by doing is one of my favorite education strategies. Keep things simple and “sticky” if possible—in other words easy to remember. Here are a few ideas for your consideration.

  • Give kids short money slogans on the core topics cited above that they can say out loud, write out, color or decorate. For example, three of my favorites are: Saving money is a great habit; earning money is fun to do; and save and grow.
  • Read kids storybooks with a personal finance lesson. Have them repeat key messages and phrases out loud.
  • Have kids play store, practice shopping and making change.
  • Have kids write out grocery lists. Or have kids make check marks on grocery lists.
  • Have kids organize and stack coupons.
  • Play personal finance games with kids.
  • Have kids make their own personal savings jar.
  • Sing and color with kids. Sammy Rabbit has several toe-tapping tunes that are available for free on Spotify and YouTube like: “Get in the Habit,” “S-A-V-E,” and “Lemonade Stand.”

If you can help ensure kids master these topics you will have set them up for financial success in life. Those are the kinds of relationships and memories everyone values!

Sam Renick

Sam X. Renick is an award-winning financial educator, children’s author and songwriter. He is the driving force behind Sammy Rabbit and his Dream Big Read financial education strategy. You can learn more about Sam and Sammy at SammyRabbit.com.