Understanding one’s relationship with money is essential to financial literacy
BY WINONA HAVIR
My “Nâi nai,” (grandmother) realized that if her children remained in China they would all be killed. She found passage for them, including my father, on an American ship leaving the port of Shanghai. My Zû fù (grandfather), had already passed away and my father realized that he would probably never see his mother again. That gut feeling was correct. I still hang onto the letters we received decades later from a woman in China who said she was his mother asking us to send money.
My father’s ship was captured. Three years later the Americans liberated him from a wartime prison camp and took him to the Port of Los Angeles. The kindness of strangers and the will to not just survive but to thrive inspired him to finish high school, go to college while working three jobs, and realize the American dream. He also understood the importance of financial literacy.
As the daughter of an immigrant, I often heard the phrase from my father, “We don’t have any money!” I was embarrassed and didn’t understand why we stood in line to get huge blocks of orange cheese, powdered milk, and a loaf of white bread. In fact, echoes of “we don’t have any money” played in my head over and over long after I had established a successful career in financial services and earned numerous degrees and designations.
Yet despite our often-limited finances, an agent from Occidental Life sold my father a life insurance policy on me which enabled me to graduate with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees without any student loan debt.
Why do I tell this story?
It is my “money story.” It shows the importance of understanding where the foundation of my relationship with money came from. It can also help us build awareness of the impact of unconscious bias towards anyone who appears different and how this potentially hinders our ability to build a more inclusive thriving community and culture both personally and professionally.
Through my money story, I came to understand my father had been teaching me to be more empathetic and to give back to help others gain access to the basics of financial literacy.
1. Have a practical plan that is customized to your budget, lifestyle and risk tolerance.
2. Get a trained professional you can trust and who is there to cheer you on throughout the process.
My money story has guided my professional journey. It also shows why diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are so important to me and our industry.
Diversity’s place in insurance and financial services
As a founding member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council, I strive to advance our mission to be the industry experts on DEI. We encourage NAIFA membership to serve and promote an environment of multiculturalism, equity and inclusion. We provide the tools and resources to educate and increase financial literacy from Wall Street to Main Street America.
Diversity, as it is defined, recognizes the range of human differences, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical abilities or attributes, religious or ethical values, national origin, and political beliefs. Within our industry, we need to embody an understanding and appreciation for diversity of thought and practice and encourage diversity in advisors and agents, as well as company leadership. Only with diversity within our profession can we serve the full range of Main Street communities throughout our nation.
Groups like NAIFA and Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS) are leading efforts to create and promote a culture that attracts new, diverse members into our organizations. They deliver value through a variety of educational programs based on our DEI work. NAIFA’s Diversity Symposiums, for example, offer engaging speakers who challenge servant leaders in our industry to think and act differently by understanding new and different points of view.
Progress is evident in the recruitment of diverse peoples who represent the ever-changing community and culture where we serve and live. As our profession increasingly reflects every Main Street in America, we are gaining agents and advisors who ethically serve the insurance and financial needs of everyone with an emphasis on financial literacy and education.
Women and diversity
Women have many compelling and often challenging money stories. These stories may illustrate their need for financial services and financial literacy education. They may also inspire women to become financial professionals or involve themselves in the DEI efforts of groups like NAIFA and WIFS.
Serving the needs of women as professionals and clients is a key component of advancing DEI in our industry. Women have been disproportionately affected by economic hardships, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their careers. They have suffered more financially, some to the point of having to leave the workforce. Some media outlets have begun using the term “she-session” to describe our current economy, and women of color are even more likely to be affected. It is our obligation and duty as financial professionals to help these women rewrite their money stories.
An important part of financially empowering women is providing professional opportunities for women in insurance and financial services.
Women are often best served by other women who understand their circumstances and challenges. This is why the WIFS mission to “Attract, Develop, Advance” women is so important. We can promote financial literacy simply by sharing our stories, giving women access to financial education, and, even more importantly, attracting women to financial services careers.
I remember that as a young woman in our profession it was so difficult when there were many around me who I could not relate to, let alone trust. I was fortunate that I crossed paths with a financial professional who took a chance and believed in a young girl from East L.A. who didn’t look or act like any of his other agents. This has become another important part of my money story. Women and those from diverse communities need opportunities in our industry. They need mentors and the support of great associations like NAIFA and WIFS.
Only as we continue to expand diversity within our industry will we improve financial literacy and promote financial security for everyone, everywhere. We will be able to edit out lines like “We don’t have any money” and help women and people from all diverse communities rewrite their money stories to reflect greater financial success and prosperity.
WINONA “WIN” HAVIR currently serves as the EVP of Business Development for Educators Insurance Resources Services Inc. She represents The Horace Mann Companies which was “founded by educators for educators.” Havir serves as a trustee for NAIFA. She is one of the founding members of the NAIFA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council and holds a DEI Certification from Cornell University. She is a founding member and past president of the Twins Cities chapter of WIFS.