Interview with SmartPath Coach, Renata Dixon
We recently spoke with Renata, one of our seasoned SmartPath Coaches, about her approach to helping clients reach their goals and how adulting in the corporate financial world created a desire to help others answer their burning money questions.
First, please tell our readers a little about yourself and your professional background.
I began my career in public accounting with a Big Four accounting firm. As many people know, working in a corporate role often requires long hours, especially during busy seasons. One night, after arriving home well after midnight, I thought to myself, “After all of these hours that I put in today, was anyone’s life impacted positively? Did any of this work help to make someone better off?” I couldn’t honestly say that it did. So at that moment, I decided to make a change.
What experience or experiences attracted you to the personal finance space?
Math was always my favorite subject in school, and I also enjoyed the idea of working with money. My interest in it piqued while I was in high school, and that’s when I decided to look into accounting as a possible career path. However, as I grew into adulthood, I quickly began to realize all of the things that I didn’t know about handling my own money. Yes, I knew about numbers, but the connection to my personal finances just wasn’t there. I had so many questions. I had to choose how much I was going to contribute to my 401(k) at work, but what did that mean? Now that I was an adult was I supposed to get a credit card so I could build my credit? All of the "adult" decisions came rapidly. It dawned on me that these extremely important topics weren't taught - or even required to know - before "graduating" into adulthood. I realized there were probably many others out there in the same predicament, and that was a problem to me.
What drew you to join the SmartPath team?
A few years back, I started researching jobs, certifications and volunteer opportunities in the area of personal finance just to see what may have been out there and how I could start to get involved. I didn’t find much in my area at the time. However, when I lost my job in 2018, I decided it was time to start looking again to pursue my passion for helping people win with their money.
I discovered SmartPath’s website late one night and was immediately drawn to our mission to help everyday people create a simpler, less stressful relationship with money. I was also amazed by the fact that they were willing to help with common issues like budgeting, saving, getting rid of debt… all of the things that I had been dealing with personally and desired to help others with.
When working with clients, what’s the most effective strategy for ensuring they are ready for retirement?
Make saving for retirement a priority as early as possible. If you work for a company and they offer an employee match, don’t wait until they begin matching to contribute. Go ahead and begin now so you can develop the mindset of saving then figure out how to cover your monthly expenses with the rest of your income. It’s easy to think that there are more important things to take care of like current bills or getting rid of debt, but things will continually come up that will deter you from saving. Creating the habit takes time and discipline. Make up your mind to invest in your future now.
What ideals do you try to communicate in your ongoing client sessions?
I want my clients to be empowered to take control of their money. They might not have made the best financial decisions in the past or be where they’d like to be currently, but it’s never too late to make a change. With the right information and the right level of commitment, everyone is capable of having true financial freedom.
Also, take time to get familiar with your finances. Know what you have in your checking and savings accounts, as well as what debts and monthly expenses you have. That might even include going over your credit reports with a fine-tooth comb to understand everything that’s going on. Once you lay it all out, then you’ll be ready to figure out how to move forward.