After earning her CFP, Millennial financial advisor Sophia Bera launched her career working in both traditional firms and the start-up world. But she recognized rather quickly there was a gap in the marketplace she wanted to fill.
Steady streams of friends asked questions about their personal finances. Questions like, “What’s the difference between a Roth IRA and a traditional 401K?” And “How do I balance savings goals & debt management?” She knew she wanted to help people like herself, people who were just getting started with their professional lives. And she also knew this wasn’t a niche more traditional firms were itching to cater to. It became clear; to do it well she needed to step out on her own.
Bera admits she made excuses for awhile. Eventually her mentor offered her sound advice and convinced her it was time. Bera remembers, “He asked me, ‘What’s the worst thing can happen?’ And believe me, I came up with a lot of bad scenarios. But he corrected me and said, ‘The worst thing that can happen is you’ll have to get a job in financial planning.’” She realized the thing that she was so afraid of wasn’t really that big of a risk. She knew then it was time to take the leap.
And leap Bera did, landing on her feet as the founder of Gen Y Planning. She works with clients in their 20s and 30s across the United States building what she calls a location independent company. She does her best to save her clients time and energy by providing her services virtually. All of her contracts are online and her meetings are video chats.
Currently her business is pretty evenly split; half of her clients require financial planning only and the other half need asset management too. But Bera differentiates herself from more traditional asset managers by refusing to shy away from advising on 401Ks. “I help clients build asset allocation for their 401K plans. Many financial planners don’t include that in their services because they don’t make money on those transactions. But where is your money when you’re in your 20s and 30s? It’s in your 401K!” She understands it’s important to guarantee her clients are making decisions that are appropriate for their age and risk tolerance.
But don’t misunderstand; she isn’t giving this advice solely out of the goodness of her heart (though she is incredibly sweet). There is sound financial reasoning behind her actions. Bera explains, “There is 30 trillion dollars in wealth that’s going to transfer from Baby Boomers to Millennials in the next 30 years and nobody is focused on what that means.” She recognizes that if financial planners don’t start engaging with younger clients now they are going to miss out on huge opportunities in the future. It’s that kind of forward thinking that makes Bera and her business model so impressive.
Sophia knows that comprehensive financial planning is essential throughout life. She also believes that financial planning shouldn’t start after you’ve earned the “required asset minimum” that many financial planners demand. Her passion is to help clients determine how to use their money to match their values. It’s an important puzzle to solve regardless of your age or net worth.
Many people don’t want to just save like crazy until they’re 70 when they can’t or won’t be able to enjoy it.
Millennials are in a curious position having experienced their parents and mentors suffer under recent economic turmoil. They watched family members who worked hard for their entire lives lose jobs, homes and economic stability. “Many people don’t want to just save like crazy until they’re 70 when they can’t or won’t be able to enjoy it,” she explains. Her clients are searching for the sweet spot between living for today and saving for tomorrow. Bera is determined to help them find it.
Many Millennials are finding that balance through non-traditional career paths. Bera reports that several of her clients are entrepreneurs. She sees entrepreneurship as the new job security for Gen Y. “There is a HUGE opportunity to build your own brand and the Millennials that I’m seeing that are very successful are doing this well,” Bera admits.
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to Give You Momentum
- Sometimes What We’re Most Afraid of Isn’t That Big of a Risk
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But her advice even if you aren’t an entrepreneur is to think like one about your career. Discover what makes you unique and how to set yourself apart from the competition. That’s job security. Admittedly that is what makes the difference for her. Bera capitalizes on the things that make her marketable. She calls them her career “Swiss army knife.”
Sophia explains, “So many of my clients are entrepreneurs and bloggers and freelancers, doing cool, interesting work that they’re really passionate about. And so then the question becomes how do we strategize around inconsistent income.” According to Bera, the financial challenges inherent in non-traditional career paths really aren’t on the radar of more traditional financial planners. Serving her clients has forced her to become an expert on those issues. Guess you could say her clients have helped sharpen her Swiss army knife.
So many of my clients are entrepreneurs and bloggers and freelancers, doing cool, interesting work that they’re really passionate about. And so then the question becomes how do we strategize around inconsistent income.
When asked how or if she saw the traditional idea of retirement changing for Millennials she answered, “I see it changing pretty significantly, actually.” She believes it’s time for the discussion to shift. “It’s not so much about retirement – the focus needs to be on financial independence.” She wants to help her clients make smart choices with their money so they can live the life they want today and in the future. The key is finding a balance between enjoying life now and setting money aside for both mid-term and longer-term goals.
Bera does that by offering two different plans at Gen Y Planning. The first option provides financial accountability and becomes a more long-term client relationship. However, for those who aren’t ready for more comprehensive services she also offers 90-minute quick start sessions. These “one and done” deep dive video calls focus on two issues of the client’s choice and result in an email detailing Sophia’s recommendations.
Sophia Bera’s website declares she’s not your father’s financial planner. One conversation convinced me. Bera is building a business that caters to her target clients’ financial needs and lifestyle requirements. Her forward thinking business strategy, utilization of virtual tools for customer convenience and passion for what she does appear to be a recipe for long term success.