My Path From Public Accounting to Teaching Financial Literacy
About a year and a half ago, I decided to quit my public accounting job to start my own tax business. The work was unfulfilling. I was burned out, and I was searching for something more. I had dreams and ideas.
Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, has said that meaningful work and meaningful relationships are essential to living a happy and successful life. I often reflect on his words, and I couldn’t agree more. When I decided to start my own business, I was on a mission to find both.
Starting My Business
Like most new entrepreneurs, I took a pay cut. I had no clients and was confronted with the challenge of building a business from scratch. (Though many companies, such as LendingClub, will help you with financing your business while you work to get it off the ground.)
Although difficult, creating and building my business was exciting, interesting, and invigorating. I had goals, plans, and a vision.
I also had the time and opportunity to pursue other interests and passions.
My tax business was a way to make money using my certified public accountant (CPA) license. I had a knack for tax work. It came naturally. I enjoyed business development and building relationships with clients.
Why I Chose This Path
Communicating and interacting with clients is one reason why I started my business. Using my skills and abilities to help others solve problems and save money is rewarding. Some of my tax clients consulted me for financial planning advice, as well.
My dad gave me a lot of financial responsibility at a young age. He had been burned by multiple greedy financial advisers, so I learned how to manage money. What I learned was powerful because it came out of necessity.
I value honesty, transparency, and independence. The hands-on financial planning experience has been invaluable. I can easily relate to my clients and their needs. Personal experience developed professional confidence.
Looking to the Future
And recently, I decided I wanted to become a certified financial planner (or CFP). Taking a financial planning class and studying for the exam increased my knowledge and awareness. I knew the certification would bring instant credibility. Having both the CPA and CFP after my name would be a great combination. I’ve taken the exam and am waiting for the results.
I enjoy helping millennials manage their money. I can easily relate because I am a millennial and have seen their problems and struggles firsthand. Although millennials likely do not have the investable assets of baby boomers and Generation X, I find joy in teaching and explaining financial concepts to younger individuals. At this point in my career, I’m more concerned with helping individuals build a solid financial foundation than the assets under management (AUM) metric.
I have a long-term mindset and am willing to delay gratification. Millennials stand to inherit assets from baby boomers and Generation X. Establishing relationships and building trust with younger generations today will pay off one day in the future. I engage in financial planning to impact the lives of others, not to gain AUM. All individuals from all generations and demographics deserve my undivided attention and respect.
Teaching Financial Literacy and Starting Project Financial Freedom
I teach tax and accounting courses at the California University of Pennsylvania. I’m also teaching an accounting class at the University of Pittsburgh in the spring. I share real stories, scenarios, and problems based on my experiences. Real-world application is practical in preparing students for their careers.
Making a direct impact was a priority. Volunteering and giving my time was an important piece to the puzzle that I was missing in my life. This was a direct way to help others, make a difference, and share all the financial knowledge and information that I have accumulated over the years. So I took action and formed a nonprofit organization, Project Financial Freedom, to promote financial education.
I’m not sure if I ever would have had the time or opportunity to teach college courses or start a nonprofit if I was still working in public accounting.
Project Financial Freedom provided a platform that enables me to share financial information with high school students and community members. I created a method to use my professional skills to personally touch the lives of others. I found a purpose. The tools I share are proven and ones I practice in my life.
The lessons I teach are from my experiences. I hope others learn from the mistakes I have made and have seen others make. The content, topics, and concepts I teach are relevant and can be applied immediately. It is imperative to instill healthy money habits.
The Importance of Teaching Financial Literacy
Financial literacy is a nationwide issue. Project Financial Freedom is addressing the problem at the root cause. Informing our youth is a major part of the solution. Schools are the foundations of our communities. Better schools will yield better communities.
A common misconception is that financial planning is only for the wealthy. I would argue that it is essential for everybody. All individuals and families should have access to financial information, advice, and resources, whether through in-person mentorship or through online tools like Investopedia.
As a business owner and educator, it is my responsibility and duty to invest in our communities using my professional skills. We must lead by example and do our part. We must share our talents and lift others.
Project Financial Freedom is raising awareness and educating one individual, one family, one school, and one community at a time. Whether I’m serving clients, teaching students, or volunteering, I’m consistently advocating for personal finance and financial education.