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I stood alone in the courtroom facing the judge. I did my best not to make eye contact with the other people in the room. The judge looked down at me from behind the bench and said, “Miss, how did you get here today?”

Five years before that day I was fresh out of grad school, had a great job, and was living in New York City. I loved my life, but I was in debt from school and I wasn’t really making any money. It was a time when everyone was talking about homeownership as a way to financial success. Mortgages were easy to come by, at least for everyone else. It all seemed out of my reach.

One day my older brother called me, “Listen, I was thinking we could team up, use your good credit and my building skills, find a house, fix it up, and sell it for a big payday.” I didn’t really know anything about buying or fixing houses, but maybe everyone was right. Maybe this was the responsible financial thing for me to do. He talked me into it. We came up with a plan, I got financing, and I signed the papers to buy a fixer-upper. Everything was in my name and he was in charge of the rebuild.

I lived far away, and after many months started to sense that the budget and timeline were veering way off track. I would check in, ask about progress and he would brush aside my concerns, “It’s all good!” But time dragged on, and the bills that began as a trickle turned into a tsunami. During the work day my cell phone would ring a dozen times from debt collectors. I tried to ignore it and go with the age-old strategy of hoping it would somehow work itself out.

So finally, one day I confronted my brother. I told him it was the end of the road: the bank was going to foreclose on the house. My brother, whose personal motto is “a deal a day”, shrugged and replied, “We’re fine. You’re always over-reacting.” Stunned, I realized that I was in over my head and he couldn’t help me. To save myself, I would have to face the consequences.

That’s how I came face to face with the bankruptcy judge. I never dreamed I’d be there. Everyone else in the room had a similar story about how one bad decision would lead them to bankruptcy.

But that day the judge didn’t care about my story. “Miss, that’s real interesting, but I just want to know if you have a car you didn’t include on your list of belongings.”  I answered him honestly, “Your honor, I walked here.”

Today I am a financial planner. Maybe it is no surprise that I love nothing more than helping others see how their money choices are connected to a bigger picture.  I’ve learned from experience that clarity about money is freeing. And that’s when the fun begins.

One thing I’m doing to help the planet

I donate to and support community-led organizations working on the frontlines of climate change in the Deep South. I am also more mindful of my meat consumption, since I know how critical that is to my carbon footprint.

Outside of work, my passions include

  • Lifelong learning: reading, podcasts and good old-fashioned conversations.
  • Relationships: I have a tremendous tribe and invest time in it whenever possible.
  • International travel: In high school I lived a year in Argentina. It forever changed my worldview. Since then I’ve been to 40 countries.

One goal I’m saving for

The education of my two young children. And maybe an international family trip.

Primary way I’m advancing my career knowledge

I invest extra time in understanding the nuances of impact investing and how it could create economic freedom where it did not exist before. I am also learning more about different approaches to shareholder engagement and its role in affecting change.

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