If you read my last article, you will know I am on a one-woman mission to change the perception of the word "millennial." I've heard it associated with negative words like "selfish," "privileged" and "under educated" too many times.
So for my next trick, over the next few weeks, I will present you with six absolutely amazing millennial-aged professionals changing the game and breaking barriers in their professions.
Shannon is a CFP, a CIM and the founder of the New School of Finance. What does that all mean? She's a total trailblazer in the Canadian financial planning industry; winner of Flare's 30 Under 30 and Notable's 2014 Best In Finance. She is taking the stuffiness and jargon out of finance. Her focus is helping fellow millennials understand and manage their money and prepare for the future.
Caitie Drewery: So what is the New School of Finance all about?
Shannon Simmons: We offer awesome, accessible and affordable financial planning for personal finances and businesses! We do this through fee-only financial planning and online financial courses. Basically, we make financial planning rad.
CD: What's your business origin story? How on earth did you end up starting your own company?
SS: Well, I started on Bay Street working with high net worth clients at a private investment management shop. I liked my job, but something was definitely missing. After the 2008/2009 crash, my peers were wondering where they could go to get financial advice since they didn't meet a lot of investment management minimums. Sadly, there wasn't anywhere they could get custom financial advice that was unbiased for an affordable price.
So, I quit my high-rolling Bay street job and decided to do a one-year projected called The Barter Babes Project. For this one year, I gave financial planning consults to over 300 women in exchange for a bartered good or service. Absolutely no money was allowed to switch hands. This was an attempt to make financial planning fun, affordable and accessible to young women. After that year I was broke, but hooked. I loved working with this demographic and being an entrepreneur. So, with that New School of Finance was born in 2011 and the rest is history!
CD: And your Barter Babes project got some serious media attention too. A huge part of the reason the media loved your story was because you were bringing a different perspective to the financial world. Do you think being a millennial, with a millennial perception, was valuable to your business?
SS: The financial landscape is changing and conventional financial advice is becoming dated. A lot of the rules that applied for older generations don't apply to us anymore on the whole. The fact that I am a Millennial and my peers are Millennial, I hear and experience the true economic realities for this generation. This gives me an edge because I get to make a financial plan that takes the new normal into account.
CD: What has been your biggest success moment?
SS: The launch of the New School of Finance online school was the biggest thing ever. It was months and months of blood sweat and tears and my team worked so hard. Our first student enrolled within 10 minutes of launch and it was the most exciting thing ever. There was a lot of dancing and jumping and hugging.
CD: Any advice for a budding business grad looking to jumpstart their own career?
SS: Say yes to every opportunity until you find your path, you never know where you may end up.
Being a young female can be tough in the financial industry. Finding female mentors who are in leadership positions is key to success. These women can help you navigate the landscape and offer support for your career path. Also, be prepared to work your butt off.
CD: What does the word "millennial" mean to you?
SS: I proudly identify as Millennial but I do think the word is being a bit overused now. To me, Millennials are a group who face totally new economic realities and have experienced an unprecedented shift in technology at a young age. We have very unique advantages and challenges. It's exciting and terrifying to be a Millennial.
CD: Bonus question - what show are you binge watching right now?
SS: Jessica Jones. It's fantastic. Netflix is killing it.
The Shannon Simmons Crib Sheet - My Top Takeaways
Shannon is so inspiring. And like so many millennials, she wasn't satisfied with the opportunities and direction of her industry. So she picked up her machete and starting cutting her own path. She's a great role model for those of you finding themselves at a loss in their industry. Here's the 4 quotes that stuck out most to me:
"A lot of the rules that applied for older generations don't apply to us anymore on the whole. The fact that I am a Millennial and my peers are Millennial, I hear and experience the true economic realities for this generation."
"Finding female mentors who are in leadership positions is key to success. These women can help you navigate the landscape and offer support for your career path. Also, be prepared to work your butt off."
"We have very unique advantages and challenges. It's exciting and terrifying to be a Millennial."
"Say yes to every opportunity until you find your path, you never know where you may end up."
Next, meet a real "fairy beer mother." Introducing the lovely and whip-smart Community Manager Kendra Nicholson, the woman behind Steam Whistle's online content to their ever-growing community of fans.
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Find and foster different mentors for your varying skillsets. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been before to various acquaintances, friends, and professionals through our various social networks, which can be a huge source of support in a sometimes formidable technological world. Seeking out the help of someone a little bit more seasoned is one of the best things a millennial can do (just make sure to stay in touch with them). Having some outside perspective can help you sort out what you’d like to do in your life.
Everyone who has something to learn also has something to offer. While millennials are often branded as being a tech-savvy generation, that is often a simplistic view. Millennials do offer that, but, in many cases, they offer a far more realistic answer to certain situations. That’s why offering to mentor someone in the basics of your strong suit can be so useful for you and your mentorship student. By simply opening up your mind and thought process to another person, you’d be surprised how much both parties end up learning from it.
Despite widely reported issues surrounding our average student and personal debt, millennials aren’t actually doomed to a life of financial ruin. In fact, nearly half of all people in their 20s have started saving their money in a dedicated account. It turns out that the biggest hurdle facing millennials and their money isn’t a lack of ability when it comes to saving money, but a lack of trustworthy/good advice when it comes to money matters. To put it simply: we need to stop viewing our parents as the sole authorities on financial advice in our lives. Various studies show that millennials tend to struggle with finding a good source to provide financial guidance, and ultimately end up standing in place. We’re not saying to cut out the opinions and advice of your folks; they probably have some great tips and tricks (and, you know, respect your elders and all that) for you. But that advice should be paired with firsthand financial knowledge, and that’s on you to seek out and learn. You’ll be thankful that you took the initiative to understand (and control) your financial future, and so will your family back home.
Do you like Netflix? Of course you do. Do you like sleeping? You don’t even need to answer that. Are these in short supply sometimes? Now that’s the most problematic bit. One of the things that people often overlook in their lives is scheduling a block of “Me Time.” It seems like we stretch ourselves pretty thin in a lot of ways (work, relationships, home care, etc.) and when we crash, we crash hard. This makes dealing with the overwhelming nature of life and its endless possibilities extra tough. If your brain is in overdrive, how can you make a coherent choice about anything? It’s not impossible, but it’s still hard. That’s why a diverse array of business leaders and industry thinkers have been examining how we live our lives, and they’ve all come to the same conclusion: the work-life balance needs to be rebooted, and we can start by severely limiting how much work and digital noise we bring home with us. This is why it’s so important to budget out proper rest and relaxation time time for napping, relaxing, and binge-watching the shows in your Netflix queue. For every step you take towards realizing yourself and your dreams, make sure to take a moment to recharge and congratulate yourself for the forward momentum you’ve generated. You’re not being a Lazy Millennial; you’re ensuring that you’re not headed towards a midlife crisis down the road. Maybe the older generations could stand to take some advice from you for a change. The road map to Being A Millennial is being written every day, and there’s no right or wrong way to navigate this relatively unique point in history. But as long as you’re pushing forward and keeping your dreams in sight (no matter what form those dreams may take), you’re on the right path. Good luck!
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