I consider it a privilege to be a part of such an amazing team here at Financial Finesse.It has now officially been four years since I made the decision to leave my financial planning practice to join the financial wellness movement and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. I’m also pretty stoked to always have a group of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals available to provide me with a second opinion on my own financial decisions or to just help me validate that I am on the right path with my personal financial life plan.

In today’s blog post, I would like to put one of our resident financial planners on the “hot seat” for a quick Q&A session. Kelley C. Long, CPA/PFS, CFP® joined Financial Finesse in February with a wide range of financial planning expertise and she has made numerous media appearances sharing this knowledge in a simple and effective manner. As a volunteer member of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, she is a spokesperson for Feed the Pig and 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, whose missions are in complete alignment with both her personal mission as well as Financial Finesse’s.

Fun Facts about Kelley:

  • She is a certified BodyPump™ instructor at the Chicago Athletic Clubs
  • She is the current President of the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago
  • As a tree hugger disguised as a city slicker, she maintains a worm compost bin in the loft of her condo
  • She was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan, most recently listed in Smithsonian Magazine’s “20 Best Small Towns”
  • She still knows all the words to her high school fight song

What does the term “financial wellness” mean to you?

Kelley: To me, it’s a state of being: debt free, at least 3 months of expenses tucked away, and on track to retire when I want. Money is a tool to help me live, not a source of stress. I feel in control of my money and a good plan for the future.

What inspired you to join Financial Finesse?

Kelley: My entire career, I’ve sought a way to help “everyday people” with their burning money questions without having to sell them a product or manage investments while still making a comfortable living. So far, Financial Finesse is the only place I’ve found that enables this fabulous opportunity.

Tell us about what influenced you to become a CFP®?

Kelley: As a bank trust officer in 2007, I had a series of experiences with women and financial panic that made me really buckle down and learn more about basic finances so that I could help comfort them and help them make plans to move forward. I ultimately wanted to do ONLY this and started on the path to the CFP®.

What are some of the most common misconceptions about financial planning?

Kelley: The most common misconception I’ve encountered is that financial planning is only for people who have money. People wait until they feel like they can “afford” to plan, when often the plan must come first.

What advice do you have for someone just getting started in their career?

Kelley: Max out your 401k contributions and get out of debt ASAP. Get used to living on less than what you make. And as your income rises, get in the habit of taking one half of the increase and applying it toward savings or other long-term financial goals.

What advice do you have for people approaching retirement in the next 5-10 years?

Kelley: Start thinking now about how you will go from a paycheck mindset to a spending down savings mindset. Run a projection now and update it every year to make sure you’re on track or getting closer every year. Focus on paying off debt and weaning any adult kids off the parental payroll so you are only supporting yourself in retirement.

How should newlyweds approach money management decisions? (Note: Considering Kelley just recently celebrated her 4 month wedding anniversary, I figured she may have some strong opinions to share on this topic.)

Kelley: First, newlyweds need to learn about each other’s individual money DNA. Find out how your spouse feels about money, what his philosophies are, how he makes spending decisions and what he thinks are your biggest money concerns as a couple. Figure out where you differ on your money approach and then work on ways to still work well together financially. Agree on what a “big purchase” is and agree to never make a “big purchase” without consulting each other. Also agree on an amount that you can each spend freely every month without any scrutiny and agree that the rest of the money will be shared equally between both of you toward your family goals.

Finally, know that it may be awhile before you find a money system that will work for you. Be patient, over-communicate, make no assumptions and keep trying new things until you find a way that works for you. Be flexible.

Favorite financial planning tool or resource: I love the goals tool on feedthepig.org. Anyone who asks me about money outside of Financial Finesse gets directed to this website.

Favorite personal finance book: I can’t pick just one. My top 3: “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez; “It’s Not About the Money” by Brent Kessel and the “Wall Street Journal Guide to Personal Finance.” I recommend these books to anyone looking to start improving their financial education.

I would like to thank Kelley for taking time out of her busy schedule to share some of her thoughts and experiences. Just like the rest of the financial planner team here at Financial Finesse, Kelley really demonstrates a strong desire to help others improve their financial lives. I particularly enjoy hearing about her message that financial planning is for everyone no matter what their financial health may be and no matter which season of life they are experiencing.

If you work for a company that gives you access to unbiased financial planning guidance, take some time to interview a CFP® professional and pick their brain for financial knowledge. You can also visit letsmakeaplan.org to search for a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner in your area or findapfs.org to find a CPA who specializes in personal finance as well. Just don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions to make sure they are providing you with unbiased financial guidance with no strings attached.