Bera-Small-Headshot PinterestIn her own words, Sophia Bera is “not your father’s financial planner…more like your financially savvy best friend!” Certainly, it was unending questions from her friends that catalyzed her move into the world of financial planning.

For those readers who think financial planning is all numbers and markets, note that Sophia was a double major in Theatre Performance and Women’s Studies in college! And, like many of the women we’ve covered in this series, Sophia references relationship-building and job flexibility as reasons for her foray into this area of finance.

Read on for Sophia’s thoughts on the planning profession, traveling the globe and mitigating emergencies through being financially prepared.

What initially drew you to this profession?

My friends were continually asking me about how to get out of debt, how to build up savings, how to buy a home and how to understand their benefits packages. I really wanted to help them.

I read all the personal finance books that I could get my hands on and then I realized that the next step was to become a CFP. Once I got into the profession it became apparent that most financial planners won’t work with clients unless they meet a really high asset minimum. That really bothered me – I wanted to be more accessible.

How do you approach financial planning and why?

It’s less about money and more about the freedom, stability and dreams that money can bring. When clients tell me their life stories and aspirations it really helps me build a financial plan that clarifies their goals, simplifies their finances and maximizes their financial situation.

A big part of my job is also educating clients because most people didn’t learn personal finance skills while they were growing up.

Why do you think there are so few women in this profession and what needs to happen for this to change?

This is such a good question.

I’ve seen a lot of women enter this profession and later leave for one reason or another.  So there are two parts to the problem: first, encouraging more women to enter the field and second, keeping them in the profession.

I think mentorship is extremely important. When I entered this field, I met a great planner – Scott Oeth – who became a mentor to me.  I ended up working at his firm as his right hand person.  He was so kind and encouraging. Scott is a big part of the reason why I stayed in this profession and he greatly influenced my decision to launch my own firm.

Another issue is that many women don’t feel comfortable “selling”, but I think we need to change the way we think about selling.  A large part of this field is selling investment products for a commission and that doesn’t sit well with me.  That’s why I decided to make Gen Y Planning a “fee-only” firm.

A new website – XY Planning Network – just launched to help Gen X and Gen Y firm owners establish their own fee-only financial planning firms and to connect them with Gen X and Gen Y clients.  I’m one of the founding members and I think the platform will help increase the number of women in this profession by giving existing female planners a bigger voice and more visibility in the industry. (The male to female ratio of the founding members of the XY Planning Network is 60% male to 40% female. While outnumbered by their male counterparts women’s representation in this community is almost double that of the overall CFP population which, per the CFP Board, is around 23%).

Please share one of your favorite financial pearls of wisdom with the GoGirl Finance community.

Life happens. When it does you’ll want to have an emergency fund.  Being prepared can turn a major emergency into a minor inconvenience.  Read about My $1,000 Day for more on this.

If you could change one thing about the personal finance world, what would it be?

That money doesn’t have to be scary.  Using your money to match your values will help fuel your dreams.

What dreams do you have?

I love traveling and seeing the world.  In fact, I just came back from Peru with my mom.

I’m actually building a virtual financial planning practice so that I can work with clients across the country from anywhere in the world.

My next goal is to not have to spend the entire winter in Minnesota! Instead I intend to spend a month next winter working from another country.

What’s your favorite frugal treat?

Hot tea and good conversation!  I love going to coffee shops with friends and just talking the day away.  In the summer, I love going out for ice-cream and then walking around one of the lakes in Minneapolis.