A Mindful Approach to Managing Money
How Betty Wang, CFP® helps other women understand their finances and make empowered decisions about money
Founding her own financial planning firm wasn’t the plan for Betty Wang, CFP®. She started her career in finance: first in Chicago and San Francisco, working on the institutional side of the investment world with company pension plans and 401(k)s, then with a hedge fund/private equity group in Denver.
“In the private investment world, I was often the only female and the only person of color in the room. And we were holding these meetings in country clubs where, not too long ago, somebody like me would not have been allowed in. This is not where I want to be,” she realized.
Instead, Wang says that she wants to be an example to other women in the finance field. And she’s doing that as the founder and president of BW Financial Planning. She launched her independent, fee-only advisory firm in 2018 and serves clients locally in Denver and nationwide with virtual services.
Wang reflects that in her early 20s, she saw colleagues in finance fitting a certain stereotype (always wearing suits, pretty “stuffy,” and already coming from wealth). She wants to be an example and show people that today, working in finance can look a lot different, and women can create what works for them. “I think financial advising and planning can be amazing for working mothers,” she says.
Wang discovered the possibility of this new path when her two sons were young. Now, ages 13 and 16, the boys experienced health challenges and Wang stayed home to dedicate more time with them. During those years, she became friends with fellow moms and women who were smart and yet not savvy about their money or financial planning.
“They were intimidated,” Wang recalls. “And I thought that there has to be a way to make it more accessible, for them to be more comfortable. Not the paternal figure behind the mahogany desk advising them about their money. Then, maybe they would be open to all the possibilities.”
Seeing this gap, she decided to cater to women clients in her work. She wanted to create a practice that helped women in a collaborative way.
BW Financial Planning started without any clients and, at first, Wang relied on word-of-mouth referrals. “This was a project of my heart, initially,” Wang says, and she spent the first year focused on earning her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification, and then turned her attention to growing the business.
A self-described reluctant marketer, Wang started with a website, before eventually getting a Google Business page and putting more efforts into making sure her site appears in Google searches. She also sends out a newsletter to clients and prospects, focused on educating them about how to manage their money and opening their minds to what is possible when they get help from a financial planner.
When communicating with her clients, Wang makes sure they are aware of how connected money, feelings, and behavior can be. When Wang chose to stay home with her children, she did it out of maternal instinct, even though it would have been more financially lucrative to continue working full-time.
“Money and feelings are very interrelated. That’s particularly true with women,” Wang says. “I explain to them that it is totally natural, and something really important to be aware of, because it drives your behavior. I think about it in my own life: It drove me to leave a job and a city I loved, because my feelings for my child were bigger than what the math said.”
Wang grew up with complicated emotions about money, and that helps her connect with clients today. Her parents came to the U.S. from Taiwan with $100, and worked hard to provide for Wang and her brother. Wang recalls her earliest memories about money revolving around feelings of fear, scarcity, and envy. As a kid, she wanted to be “rich” so she could feel financially secure. Her finance career did that for her, but ultimately, being present with her children and helping other women with their financial planning provided more fulfillment than the larger paychecks did. So today she helps her clients take a similar mindful approach to managing their money.
“It’s something we all have to work on, and I work on it for myself: Asking why am I doing this? Why am I using my money this way? It’s about being mindful,” Wang says. “For some people, they want to make piles and piles of money, and that’s OK. For others, it’s about taking a step back and questioning, are these things that I really want? Or is this something that somebody told me I should want?”
Wang values the connections she has with fellow planners in the XY Planning Network, as well as the Denver arm of NAPFA. When she initially started her firm, she didn’t want her vision clouded by others’ input and didn’t seek out mentors or colleagues. In hindsight, she thinks it would have been helpful to ask for help and input from others sooner, and she encourages others to do so.
“Talking to other women who had already created successful financial planning businesses would have been really helpful. That was something I didn’t do for a long time, because I naively thought I could be totally self-sufficient. And I was worried that I would get advice from an unscrupulous planner or someone would tell me it was all about selling products,” Wang says. “I also knew I wasn’t going to be the person going to networking events and handing out my card. It took me a few years to figure out that I did need a wider community for support and colleagues I trusted. It’s really amazing to have people you lean on and who you trust, who can be a sounding board when you are unsure about things.”