Nicole Standish, AFC® is a personal financial counselor that works primarily with military personnel and their families, helping them build financial literacy and gain control of their finances.
AFCPE: What led you to a career in personal finance? And what inspires you to continue doing this work today?
Nicole: I made a ton of financial mistakes as a young adult because I did not have access to financial literacy resources growing up. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned some fundamental concepts. I also learned that there were a lot of people who did get that knowledge growing up and my lack of knowledge put me in a much more vulnerable position. I decided that helping others to understand and have control over their finances would be a great opportunity to give back and pay it forward.
AFCPE: This month is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. As someone who is deaf, what advice would you give to professionals with clients who are deaf or hard of hearing, or individuals with disabilities? Is there anything important that you want to shed light on or resources you would recommend?
Nicole: I would remind them that a disability doesn’t necessarily mean cognitive challenges. They aren’t there to be pitied or judged; they are there for your experience and knowledge. Talk to them as you would any other client, unless a specific request is made for accommodation.
There are apps that transcribe conversations, ASL interpreters, and video conferencing tools to help with communication challenges. These tools create better opportunities to connect with the client (instead of just their caregivers, spouses, family members, etc.)
Everyone is not comfortable with disclosing disabilities. And some people don’t see their differences as disabilities at all. Both are perfectly okay. In general, whenever possible, just enable the accessibility functions on that Zoom call and use good communication strategies with all clients. As an educator, I’ve learned that most accommodations for those who need them are also helpful for many that don’t.
People with disabilities face all of the common challenges, plus additional challenges relating to their disabilities. But they are people who deserve the same opportunities for financial freedom as anyone else.
AFCPE: You just earned your AFC! How did you learn about the certification and why did you decide to pursue the AFC?
Nicole: I learned about the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program when I first got to Germany from another military spouse, however, I’d missed the deadline to apply. So, I signed up to be notified when the application opened back up. I applied because I really wanted an opportunity to help others. The chance to learn something new and to help empower others was just too good to pass up. In particular, I learned about money as an adult and I’ve been on a mission to empower children, teens, and young adults to understand what money is and how it works.
AFCPE: What have you enjoyed most about the program so far and/or what would you say to someone who has a disability and was thinking about pursuing the AFC?
Nicole: I love the people! AFCPE® is an organization that really supports their members through the process. As long as you ask for whatever you need, they do their best to accommodate you.
AFCPE: Tell us about a project or initiative you are currently working on?
Nicole: Right now, I’m working to help service members and their families equip themselves with the tools necessary to create their own money gardens. It’s important that they maximize their benefits now, so that they can reap the monetary benefits later in life.
AFCPE: What is the best way to connect with you?
Nicole: It’s best to email me at email@example.com.
Nicole answers the Friday 5!
- My Why: My children. I grew up in a household where money talks just didn’t happen. By the time I got to college, I’d learned only that money doesn’t grow on trees and that there was a special kind of money for going out to eat (that we never seemed to have). I want my children to really learn about money: its value, its ability to grow, its ability to benefit society. I want them to be financially savvy so that they can build wealth. With wealth comes access and power to make a difference in the world around us. Plus, I want them to have “McDonald’s money” from time to time. 😊
- My Favorite Quote: “This too shall pass,” is my living mantra. I use it for every aspect of my life, good or bad. In the good moments, it reminds me to be present in that moment because it won’t be there forever. For the not-so-good times, it reminds me that “joy comes in the morning light” and that there are often rainbows and sunshine, even after the worst storms.
- My Hero: My mom. My mother is a force to be reckoned with! She is a fighter who raised us to be strong and independent. She left a very abusive marriage and struggled to support us; we lived in shelters for some time. But she always made sure we knew we were loved. She went to college when we were in high school and showed us how college could open doors for us. She got her Masters Degree while being a single mom and working full-time. I’m always inspired by her unwillingness to do anything with less than her best effort.
- My Favorite Resource: As a deaf person, communicating in the age of masks has been particularly difficult. AVA is a transcription service app that allows people to talk into my phone while it captions the conversation. It has really allowed me to return to independence.
- My Best Advice:
- For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: Be patient with and extend grace to yourself and others in the process. It’s not easy to pivot as an adult, but it is possible.
- For a new professional: Respect and dignity are so vital to build with clients. Listen to their Whys. Clients, especially those with disabilities, aren’t there for your pity. They are there for your expertise; provide that for them.
- For parents: Teach your children early about money. Teach them how to make their own money gardens. It’s vital to them and for generations to come. If you don’t know how to get started, ask for help.