How one AFC Candidate uses experience, education, talent, and passion to educate the masses.
Sara Lohse is an AFC® Candidate and the Director of Marketing at BFG Financial Advisors. She creates financial resources to help people of all ages build their path to financial freedom and change the way we think about retirement. Read on to hear Sara’s story and all the amazing work she’s doing with BFG!
AFCPE: What led you to a career in personal finance? And what inspires you to continue doing this work today?
Sara: My path to personal finance was a windy one. I began in the advertising world and ended up taking a full-time position as the Director of Marketing for BFG Financial Advisors. At the time, I didn’t really have an interest in finance and had a negative opinion on financial advising. I saw it as a way for the rich to get richer while leaving behind the rest of the population. Of course, I quickly learned this is untrue. The firm I worked for had advisors who really cared about their clients and strictly upheld the fiduciary standard. They gave to charities and helped their clients do the same.
Still, I didn’t feel like it was enough. I wanted to help those who couldn’t afford an advisor or weren’t yet at the stage in their life where one would make sense. I recognized that financial literacy was the key to financial success—especially when we’re young. If you can start building the habits while you’re young, even if you’re not earning a lot of money, those habits will grow with you while you increase your income.
With my company’s support, I began focusing on the creation of free and inexpensive resources that would teach valuable personal finance concepts and help people make better choices with their money.
This effort grew quickly and became its own entity: Brotman Media Group. This sister-company publishes books and workbooks, develops online courses, hosts live webinars, produces a podcast, publishes articles, and actively makes an effort to spread quality financial information.
Being able to make a difference in people’s lives and see the growth and change it has brought to my company has only made me more passionate about the work I am doing and drove me to pursue this designation to make a larger impact.
AFCPE: Practitioners are always looking for creative ways to provide relevant content to consumers. Online financial literacy courses are a great way to reach a large audience. Can you talk to us about how you create your online courses for BFG University? What do you enjoy most about it, and any advice for those looking to start a new course?
Sara: The courses on BFG University were a heavy lift but a lot of fun. The free course, Introduction to Personal Finance, was actually my first big project that I pitched when joining the company. I had been working alongside the company for years when they were my client, and had heard them say, time and time again, that we need to be teaching these concepts in high school. One of the reasons stated for why we weren’t was that teachers didn’t have the necessary education themselves to teach it. But we did. It was also very important to me that this course be free, so that there was no barrier to entry for students in lower-income families. As long as you had access to a computer, you could take the course. I also didn’t want it to be too long in case students didn’t have a computer and wanted to do it in one sitting a public library.
I started preparing for this course by researching different platforms for hosting it and chose Thinkific. There are other options out there, this was just the one that fit my needs at the time. I knew who I wanted my audience to be: junior high and high school students. I needed to figure out what content I could include that would be the most useful for my audience.
I used a very in-depth and precise research method for determining the content: I texted my friends and posted on Facebook. When I started this project, I was 24. I had been out of school for a few years and officially in the adult world, but I knew there was so much that I and my peers did not know. So, I texted friends and asked what personal finance topics they have no idea about and wish they were taught in schools. Everyone had the same answers: budgeting, interest, taxes, student loans, and investing, to name a few.
I used these answers to form the curriculum, structuring the content to build on itself and follow the path that the student would need to learn the concepts. I started with the basics of bank accounts and interest, went into credit cards and credit scores, and ended with topics that they may not necessarily need yet but will, like paying for college, understanding employee benefits, investing, and taxes.
Because these topics are meant to be basic, the few years I spent working with the firm gave me most of the information I needed. I also partnered with the associates in my firm to get their expertise on the topics. They helped me figure out what information was most important and lay it out in a way that was easy to understand.
I turned their notes into scripts and sent them into the podcast studio to record their voiceovers. I designed the slides to provide a visual of the information and overlaid the voiceovers. Each section was turned into a quiz to make sure students understand what we’re teaching them.
Overall, the process is pretty cumbersome but once it’s finished, you have an evergreen product that can be impactful for years.
AFCPE: You also have a podcast. Can you tell us a bit about your podcast? How did you get into podcasting, what do you enjoy most about it, and any advice for those looking to start a podcast?
Sara: While the podcast was created before I joined the company, it has now effectively taken over my life. I love it. The show is called “Don’t Retire… Graduate!” and the purpose is to reframe what retirement means, because the traditional concept is outdated and unhealthy. Retirement used to be what happened when you turned 65 and your company gave you a gold watch and a pension, and you had a few years to fill before you ultimately kicked the bucket. Now, people are retiring in their 20s or 30s, or retiring at 65 and living to be 100. Daytime TV and shuffleboard just aren’t going to cut it.
We explore new ways to view retirement, like as a graduation into your next chapter, and ways to continue to thrive and be productive during that time. We ask you what you want to be when you grow up—because they stop asking us that when we’re 12—and share tips and strategies for doing just that.
Podcasting is a fun way to spread a message to a wider audience and can be done on a large or small scale based on your goals. We’ve partnered with production teams that help with the technical side. I handle guest management, post-production, and marketing. And our host handles the financial expertise and makes the show a fun listening experience.
If you want to get into podcasting, I recommend reading John Lee Dumas’s latest book,
The Common Path to Uncommon Success. He is podcasting royalty—the founder and host of Entrepreneurs on Fire. His book shares a lot of great information about how he found success.
The biggest takeaway I would cite from his book is this: niche down until it hurts.
Podcasting is a huge medium and there are thousands of them out there, so the more specific you’re able to get about your focus the more likely you’ll reach interested listeners. The more you niche, the smaller the pool of competitors will be. Think of it this way: there may be a thousand personal finance podcasts. But maybe there are only 300 finance podcasts aimed at women. And only 100 of them are aimed at women who started businesses. And only 10 of those are aimed at stay-at-home moms who started businesses without having to leave the house. The more specific you get, the less competition you’ll have.
Additionally, think about why you want to start a podcast. If it’s because you want to make a lot of money quickly from ads and sponsors, you are going to be very disappointed. We’re on season 4 of our podcast and we’ve never run an ad, had a sponsor, or, frankly, made a dime off the show itself. But that’s not why we started it.
We started it so that we could move from being authorities in our space to influencers and start affecting people’s decision-making in a positive way. We also started it to build credibility for our host (my CEO, Eric Brotman), so that he could more easily get booked on other podcasts and reach their audience.
While we haven’t made money off the show itself, we’ve brought in clients from all over the country into the advising firm because they heard Eric or myself on someone else’s podcast.
AFCPE: You are currently an AFC candidate. How did you learn about the certification and why did you decide to pursue the AFC?
Sara: I actually learned about the certification through a guest on our podcast who was an AFC®. I had been working in the personal finance media space and the financial advising space for years but had no formal education in finance. Additionally, with all of the resources I was creating, I was hiding behind the advisors at my firm because they had designations that I didn’t have. I wanted to be able to stand on my own and have the authority to share the information that I’m so passionate about spreading.
I already had a strong level of financial knowledge and I have a degree in psychology, so my background really aligned well with the program. I liked the focus on presenting the information to others which was where I really thought I’d find value in the program.
AFCPE: What have you enjoyed most about the program so far and/or what would you say to someone who was thinking about pursuing the AFC?
Sara: I’ve liked that the information is straightforward and allows for real-life application. I would tell someone that they should do it if they have interest in teaching financial concepts.
AFCPE: Tell us about a project or initiative you are currently working on?
Sara: I’m currently building out a financial wellness program! Financial stress gets in the way of EVERYTHING. It can be hard to focus on work and be productive if you’re worried about money. It not only hinders you in your life, but it can also hinder the success of the company.
One of the benefits in my company’s employee benefit package is that we all get full access to all services that we offer clients and at no cost. I have my own financial advisor, I have people managing my investments, etc.
This is such a powerful benefit, but it’s only easy for us to offer because it’s what we do.
A few years ago, we developed the Corporate Financial Wellness Program. We partnered with a large, national engineering firm and became a piece of their employee benefits package. Each year, we host educational webinars for their employees and have advisors visit offices around the country to meet one-on-one with their employees to discuss their finances (or hold meetings via zoom for those we can’t meet in person). We explain their employee benefit options and help them choose what is best for them, make sure they have the right beneficiaries on their accounts, discuss their goals and retirement timelines to make sure they’re on track, and answer any questions they may have about their money. The program is covered completely by the engineering firm and is offered at no cost to their employees.
Seeing the success of this program and how valuable it can be to both the company and the employees made us want to do more—but we can’t be sending advisors around the country every day. And there are a lot of smaller businesses that don’t have the budget for that level of depth.
So, I am working on tiering out a program that can have similar benefits on a smaller scale. We’ll be building packages to fit a business’s size and need and can include bulk discounts on our books and online courses, live webinars, Q&A sessions with advisors, and financial workshops. I just finished writing a short e-book on 10 ways to support your employees’ overall wellness and that will be promoted on our podcast as well as podcasts we guest on and social media as a free download lead magnet to promote the program.
Connect with Sara!
BFG Financial Advisors:
Facebook/Instagram: @BFGFinancialAdvisors, @DontRetireGraduate
Sara answers the Friday 5:
My Why: Because the world deserves better than Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman.
My Favorite Quote: “It’s okay if you fall down and lose your spark. Just make sure that when you get back up, you rise as the whole damn fire.”
My Hero: My parents, for raising me when I know it wasn’t easy, for sitting back and letting me take chances, and for teaching me to be my own person, whether they meant to or not.
My Favorite Resource: My coworkers. Google is great, but you don’t always know the sources. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by talented and ingenious individuals who are patient enough to let me learn from them.
My Best Advice: You are the sum of those you spend the most time with. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, teach you, and push you to be more than you are.
For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: Do not wait. Time is your biggest asset. Find help and resources that are reputable and start forming those habits.
For a new professional: Don’t settle. A job can give you stability and stature but if you’re not doing something that ignites your soul, you’ll never be content.