Marguerita Cheng is the founder and chief executive officer of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. She’s been a financial planner for 22 years and has been a spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign. She believes the financial industry needs people from more diverse backgrounds, and to support that mission, she serves as a Women’s Initiative (WIN) advocate for the CFP Board. To hear more about Marguerita, watch the interview video with her below.
Lauren Hong: (00:12)
Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm really excited to hear a bit more about your background and also just insights about the financial services industry at large, especially within financial planning. So before we get started, would you mind sharing just a little bit about your background and your focus?
Marguerita Cheng: (00:28)
Yes. Sure. My name is Marguerita Maria Chang. I am multi-racial and multicultural. My dad was born in China and came to the U.S. by way of Taiwan and my mom is eastern European, Irish descent, born in upstate New York, attended high school in Texas, lived in the Netherlands, and overseas. Why am I telling you that? Because it's so important. You know, I never looked at myself as being extroverted or gregarious, but the ability to connect and relate with others is so important for our profession.
Absolutely. I'm sure that helps you day-to-day and just connecting with clients and understanding different perspectives and all of that as well.
Absolutely, that was kind of the fast forward version. So what's interesting, and a lot of people don't know this about me, is I'm actually a career changer, even though I've been a planner for 22 years. I actually studied corporate finance and east Asian language and literature in college. My first job, every job is a real job, but I would say especially if you've had some of those service jobs when you were younger, they definitely teach you character. But my first job post-graduation was at a Japanese investment bank, securities firm. And I wrote the newsletter for English-speaking investors. So that was my first job in the world of finance. And that job was using all my skills, but something felt missing. And that's when I discovered the discipline of personal finance. And I was like, wow, this is super cool. I can take these concepts of strong balance sheets and statements of cash flow and apply those to individuals and families.
And also what you're focused on today on a day-to-day basis.
Absolutely. Because you know, I'm in my 20s, I was well aware, even though I was one of those kids that was like 17 going on 40, I was like, who's going to take me seriously in my 20s? How can I be sitting across from clients, telling them about retirement planning? They're going to look at me and be like, you know, what do you know? Still, I helped my husband with his career. We also made sure our financial house was in order, paying down student loans and credit cards, buying a house, and giving birth to two babies. And then I was like, you know what, that's it; I have street credibility. I'm going to be a planner.
That's wonderful. And you've been doing it for some time and been very successful at it, which is all positive. So, I'd love to hear a little bit more. You know, the industry has been changing so much, with new learnings and new business models and that sort of thing. So I’d love to just hear a little bit more about how you keep up with it all. I mean, just look at COVID the last year. I mean, so many firms are going virtual now, you know? And what do you feel like you're doing to stay relevant, not only what you're advising the clients, but also just from a business perspective? Are there podcasts you listen to or articles that you read or that sort of thing? How do you stay current?
Sure. I mean, the one thing that is constant is change, so early on, I have always done work virtually because I had three kids when I entered the profession. My daughter was three, my son was six months old, and I hadn't even given birth to my third. And I remember my boss looked at me or people in the office, like, you know, that laptop, like you're not going to get reimbursed for it. And I don't care. I bought this so I can do my financial plans at home when my kids are taking a nap. So gosh, I was always at the forefront because the way I saw the world is there's only 24 hours a day. And I have to make sure I am really managing my time. I do read a lot. I follow, of course, Michael Kitces; I'm part of the advisor growth community, the AGC; and a huge fan of Kate Holmes in innovating advice. I’m based in DC, so there’s tons of options. I don't necessarily need to agree with everything I read and I think that's really important because you want to read a different perspective, so you understand what clients are reading and feeling and experiencing.
Absolutely. Now those are some really good resources as well. I'm sure being in DC, you probably stumble upon all kinds of talks and speakers and all of that as well. So, it’s good to go to a hub for knowledge.
Absolutely. Sometimes we're probably a little bit too wired, but I mean, I wouldn't have it any other way. Right. You can always turn it off. Right. You can always turn it off.
That's true. That's true. Absolutely retreat in your own way. So, then tell me a little bit more about what makes you sort of the proudest of working for your company or within this industry? You know, I think sometimes I feel like you can get a bad reputation. And I feel like there's been a lot of push to have that not be the case. So I'd love just to hear more of the positive about you. What wakes you up and what makes you proudest about what you do on a day- to-day basis?
So I absolutely love this question. In fact, last night I asked my eldest daughter, she's like, well, mom, what do you think? I think that when I first entered the profession, I didn't really see anybody who looked like me and I'm not just talking about gender, race, ethnicity. I also mean demographic. You know, I didn't see a lot of young mothers. It was very isolating. I don't want to misrepresent what I think of this profession; it presents amazing opportunities for everyone. It is not about pushing people out, rather bringing people in, you know, we need more women, we need more people of diverse backgrounds, whether that's racial, ethnic, religious diversity, and even sexual orientation, because we want our profession to reflect the communities where we live. Right. And so I do think that when people hear financial planning, some things come to mind, like why do I have any money to invest?
The other thing that comes to mind is people think boiler room or Wall Street, but we really like building relationships and nurturing relationships. And I guess what I'm most proud of is the work we do. You know, the work is intellectually stimulating. It's emotionally gratifying. I mean, it's hard work. When I can put my head on the pillow at night, knowing I am making a positive impact in the lives of my clients, their families, and the communities— that's what gets me up in the morning. What gets me really excited.
Yeah. Now as you pointed out, I think you're right, there can be those stereotypes. And then there's the work that you mentioned, right? There's the investment side, there's financial pain. I think sometimes it's easy to forget about the real emotional side. I mean, you're talking to people about really difficult long-term plans and it gets into family and personal. And so you have an opportunity to see the inside and really help to shape those dreams and goals, which is really powerful work.
Absolutely. I mean, I think that the other thing I'm really proud of is not just what I do, but what the community of planners does to help their clients. You know, I've had some clients who have experienced tremendous adversity, like loss of loved ones to COVID, right? Or job loss. The COVID, it's hard. I can't bring back their loved one, but their loved one planned and knew that financial planning isn't just about investing, but it's also about protection planning and estate planning for those you may leave behind. And that my words are cracking a little bit, but that gives me a tremendous sense of pride. I really want to make sure that I'm changing the face of what it means to grow, protect, and transfer wealth.
Absolutely. And I know you mentioned the diversity, equity, and inclusion pieces of it. And I know we were talking earlier about the work you've done with NAPFA, so I’m happy to link to any public videos or things that might be out there. As I know, you've had a voice and a lot of those conversations as well, so do you mind sharing a little bit more about this question: what is the most unpopular opinion in the industry and how do you address it? Is there a particular unpopular opinion about, I don't know, the way about doing business or approaches to investing? I’d love to hear challenges you're seeing internally and what you're doing to overcome those.
Well, sure. I mean, I think when I entered the profession, some of the same conversations we had then we're having now, like you can't make money if your clients don't have assets under management. I think that yes, clients do need to invest to reach their goals. But I think what's really important, I want to dispel this myth that there is room for different business models and different compensation models. There's nothing wrong with AUM. There's nothing wrong with subscriptions. There's nothing wrong with retainers. It really comes down to what services do you want to provide? What is most appropriate for the audience you're serving? So I just want to dispel that myth; there's room for many different business models to serve different clients and support different practitioners’ lifestyles.
Yep, absolutely. Sometimes I feel like you see firms, or it's kind of a one-size- fits-all, you know, versus really focusing on who they're going after or what the right business model is from a cost standpoint or what have you. So I think that's a fair point to really say that you've got to find the right fit for you and for your firm, too.
I think another myth is that now they say millennials, but they said Gen Xers didn't want to pay for advice. And I don't think that's true. People can download an asset allocation model off the internet. They may not want to pay you for that. What if you help them, hey, what's the best way for you to withdraw funds, to get your three children through college and save for retirement at the same time, that's a value to them. And they might be more inclined to pay for that. So I think that's another myth. Young people don't want to pay for help. They don't want help.
Very, very fair. Great. Well, is there anything else you'd like to share, any other resources or thoughts as we wrap up here?
I would encourage people to be involved with any of the professional associations, because no matter how long you've been in the business, whether you just graduated or just passed the CFP® certification exam, we need all of you because we need everyone to play an active role because we all have so much to contribute. So that's what I would say.
Excellent, Marguerita, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate the insights you've been able to provide, and we'll make sure that I link to the groups and associations you've mentioned below. So folks can check it out a little bit more, but again, thank you for your time. And we will continue the conversation online.
Thanks so much for having me. Great. Thank you.
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