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The Hard Dollar Value of Financial Planning

Lei Deng is an investment advisor who helps her clients feel in control of their finances and be confident that they are on the right track to achieve their financial goals

This week, I have Lei Deng, CFA, CFP Principal, Investment Advisor for financial planning on the show. Lei is working to help her clients feel in control of their finances and be confident that they’re on the right track to achieve their financial goals. She serves clients all over the US and she’s fluent in English and Chinese
She is a Chartered Financial Analyst as well as a Certified Financial Planner®.
Lei came to the U.S. to pursue her Masters Degree in Finance from Washington University in St. Louis. Since then, Lei has enjoyed a career in investment management and has built expertise in investment evaluation, portfolio construction and asset allocation.
Lei’s family live in the suburbs of Saint Louis, Missouri. She and her husband Julio, love coming up with fun ways to celebrate her two children’s Asian and Hispanic heritage, mostly through food. She is also a board member of a local nonprofit.

financial planning


financial planning

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Lei Deng, CFA, CFP®


Lei is on a mission to help her clients feel in control of their finances and be confident that they’re on the right track to achieve their financial goals. She serves clients all over the US and she’s fluent in English and Chinese

She is a Chartered Financial Analyst as well as a Certified Financial Planner®.

Lei came to the U.S. to pursue her Masters Degree in Finance from Washington University in St. Louis. Since then, Lei has enjoyed a career in investment management and has built expertise in investment evaluation, portfolio construction and asset allocation.

Having watched friends and family struggle to find true advocates for their personal finances, Lei discovered that investing, while important, is only a piece of the puzzle in personal finance. That’s when she switched her focus to advocate for her clients’ overall financial wellbeing. Since then, she has enjoyed helping clients in not just investing, but also other areas of their comprehensive financial planning needs, such as tax planning, estate planning and insurance planning.

Lei’s family live in the suburbs of Saint Louis, Missouri. She and her husband Julio love coming up with fun ways to celebrate her two children’s Asian and Hispanic heritage, mostly through food. She is also a board member of a local nonprofit.

Well, thank you everyone for being here today. This is your host, Emily, a Woodruff. I have a special guest with you with us today. Her name is lay dang lady. You wanna give yourself or give an introduction of yourself and kind of what you do. Yeah, so, yeah. Um, I’m a fee only financial planning. So, um, it’s, you know, I think everybody probably have their own conception of what a financial planning or a financial advisor do.

And oftentimes that it’s funny cuz it doesn’t really match up exactly with what I do. So really people kind of think about is just managing investments, stuff like that. But. Being a financial planning. Ashley means that you kind of touch every single aspect when it real, like anything that is in your life that’s related to money, we should be able to help you with, you know, so that’s, um, that’s really, what’s fun about the job as well.

So that’s kind of a 10,000 feet view of what a financial planner is. So it just really everything that’s related to money. Perfect. So how did you, how did you. Started with your business. How’d you know, that this is what you wanted to pursue. So it was, it was a little bit funny cuz it was not what I intended to do from the get go.

But now I think back at it is inevitable like that I’m here today. So I actually immigrated from China and I came to the us for my masters. Yeah. For my master’s in finance. So when I was doing the program and. You know, when you were in a, you know, business school doing the finance program, a lot of times, really the most glamorous job, or like the sexy job are investment bankers.

You know, they talk about wall street all the time, investment banking or asset management. So that kind of was what I set my goal to. And I just had this such a narrow focus at the time. I didn’t even know, um, what’s in my peripheral version. So I kind of would just like, you know, this is my goal. I want to be.

Where, you know, I want to be doing this job that’s filled with glamor. I can prove myself worth. Yeah. That’s when I will be able to prove myself worth when I get the job. And, and then I did, um, I worked for hedge fund for several years, right out of school. And then I worked in research roles in asset management functions, and then I.

Where I wanted to be. I, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to make six figure before I turned 30, and then I did, and then it did not feel good for you fulfilling. Thanks.  but the, but the thing is, it felt like after I, I just had such a narrow focus and that was my goal. I didn’t think beyond that, but after I got to that point, it felt kinda empty mm-hmm  it felt like I, I didn’t know how was.

You know, contributing to this world and, um, and you know, so, but the day to day business, I have two kids, two young kids. So, you know, getting up for getting the kids, ready, take them to daycare coming, you know, like go to work and do all this stuff, pick them up, cooking all of this stuff. Just kind of. So that voice in my head, in, in the back of my head’s like, you know, are, is this really what you wanted to do?

Kind of just got drowned with the day to day business. I didn’t really have time to think about that. Um, after COVID, you know, I think a lot of us had really life changing experiences during COVID and I know you did  so, yeah. So after that, I really kind of, I got more time, you know, I don’t have to. Like kids are at home.

I just doing everything we can to survive that really. Put things into perspective of, oh my gosh, what’s my purpose. What is my value? And then really have so much time to sit with my own thoughts, which is dangerous.  so, so that’s when I just, you know, I just felt like I just kind of question started questioning everything, started questioning, is this really what I wanted?

And then I realized I never really had a second thought about my career choice. I never really thought about what I wanna do. It’s always about what. I think other people would want to do in my position. So, so who am I? So I actually just went on this rabbit hole of this huge self discovering journey of who I am and what do I wanna do?

So that was one, one portion of it. So, but I knew that was the corporate job was probably not for me anymore. Um, it’s I, I learned a lot from it. I loved it when I did, but it’s probably not for me anymore. Um, at the same time, right before COVID actually kinds. Everything kind of happened, you know? Um, interesting timing.

My husband left his previous firm. Um, he was a small partner at a CPA firm. He left his firm pretty abruptly and then started his own company. Um, but. You know, as entrepreneurs, you and I probably, you know, both know that it takes time. Yeah. To build up your business. It takes time. It’s not just, uh, it’s not just taxing on money.

It’s also taxing on your brain. Mm-hmm , you know, like self doubt, imposter syndrome, doubting yourself, you know, all of the things just creeps and. It was really, really hard time and that compounded with COVID. And so, but, but I was thinking back at it, we’re both very glad that this happened because it really kind of forced us to give us more perspective, forced us to prioritize, um, things in our lives.

So for, you know, for a while we only had my income coming in, so it. Huge shift, um, of what we needed to do for our day to day life, and really had forced us to think about what we value and what we want to keep. Like our, we really had to go into our budget and start slashing things and it was not fun, but it really made us realize what do we value?

What we enjoy spending money on? Um, what do we not? So. And then we refinanced our mortgage, did a lot of different things that, you know, is part of the financial planning process. Mm-hmm  we did that on ourselves. So, and fortunately thinking back at, it was kind of a miracle that we just weather through this rough patch unscathed, you know, so, um, And so it was really crazy.

And then I really, so after that I was doing investment research before, and it just really hard for you to be the index, you know, like S SP if you wanna perform better than SP five founder, that is such such difficult thing. And then I saw, I look at my spending every month and I say, okay, I saved hundreds of dollars every month from refinancing a mortgage.

We cut a lot of our spending, you know, we redid our budget. It. Type, but we didn’t feel like really we were deprived because we really kind of like aligned our spending with our values. And then, you know, so all of this stuff just made me realize the hard dollar value of financial planning, not just, you know, there’s a dollar amount to it, but there’s also the, the, um, the, the time that we.

It really kinda helped us to be stronger. You know, our relationship actually grew stronger because of that, because we were able to kind of have open communication throughout this whole process. Um, so it actually made our relationship stronger. So after all of that, we just realized, I just realized, oh my gosh, you know, like he was an entrepreneur, he started his phone firm.

He dealt with everything that we dealt with. We were dealing with now probably. But at the end of the day, it was great. You know, the freedom, like I I’m from China. So I still wanna take my kids to China. Mm-hmm  my husband is Hispanic. Like his mom is retiring to back to Mexico. So we will also want to take our kids to Mexico.

So there’s no job in the world. Like there are very few jobs in the world. Let me, let me say that. That will allow me to have the flexibility to take the kids. Back to experience their heritage, to, you know, yeah. To their heritage. So, so I was like, well, this is it. You know, when you piece all of the things together, There, it’s really hard to think of anything other than, um, being a financial planner and having my own practice.

Yeah. And that’s also really like where I get to directly influence and help people with their personal finance choices. And really, I really do feel like I make a difference and, you know, and, and so, you know, this whole time and I looking back at it, it really is very rewarding. So everything kind of rolled together.

The. Works in a mysterious way, you know? So, so I think it was I’m here for a reason. So, yeah. So just a long answer to your question, but I didn’t really start out, try to do financial planning, but it kind of all became inevitable. That’s great. That’s really great. So where, where are you located? I mean St.

Louis St. Louis, Missouri. Okay. But yeah, but we do like with technology, COVID, you know, the, the blessing in disguises that, you know, we can have a conversation, you know, even we’re so far away and the same thing with my clients too. So I actually do serve clients leading all over the us as well. That’s great.

That’s great. I kind of just try to keep track and see, you know, how many people I can thinking things. It’s fun. Yeah. That’s fun.  yeah. So it sounds like you’ve learned a lot in the last couple years since, you know, COVID, what’s something that your job has taught you that you think that everybody should learn in their lifetime.

Yeah. Just have more empathy to people. Um, you know, it’s not,

no, cause it’s not, not anything about money or anything, but really cuz being in my role, I see so many things that people don’t show others day in, day out. Um, and it. Super. I like super so powerful to me and I never, I would never take that for granted that this is a privilege that I get to experience this with my clients.

Um, but you quickly realize also that what people show on the outside might not be what they’re experiencing. A lot of us going through day by day. You know, sometimes we, we. Um, look like we have it all together. Mm-hmm  but maybe deep down we don’t and we’re very vulnerable. So. You never know what EV whatever anybody is going through, you know, so they might, yeah.

They might be having a really, really hard time. You just don’t know it yet. So trying to approach things with a little bit more empathy is, um, is, is what I have learned through this journey. And, um, there is this. Book that also came out in 2020. It’s called psychology of money. It’s my, one of my all time favorite books by Morgan Hazel.

Mm-hmm  um, so the, I encourage everyone. If you are interested in learning about personal finance to read that book, because it’s really. It’s an easy read. There’s no jargons. Um, and it’s really focused on not just the technical side of it. There is technical side of the, you know, financial planning in this book, but there’s also a lot more of how do you manage your emotions, your like understand psychology.

And one of the quote from the book is still is so powerful. And I, and I say it back to myself every day. It says nobody’s crazy. You know, so people make their financial decisions, um, or any decision in their lives because they had certain life experience. Mm-hmm  everything experienced before in their lives.

Let them to make this decision with what they have experienced. What now? Like what knowledge is available to them. Mm-hmm . They made the rational decision. It was the, nobody is crazy. Nobody makes crazy decisions, you know? Right. So that really helped me to reframe things and then helped me to, to, to really.

Try to leave behind of any of my preconceived notion of my assumptions. Mm-hmm  and just approach everything with a blank sheet of paper and, you know, really hold a space. That’s not judgemental for my clients too. Um, and, and, and I think it happens with everyone, not just, I’m just using example of my own work, but that really, and I really feel like that helped me to become a better person just because that.

I, I have a deeper understanding of, you know, sometimes we have to keep up, you know, Keep up a facade, you know, mm-hmm  so you never know what people are experiencing or feeling that day underneath. So, yeah. So just try to be a little bit more empathetic, try to, you know, build a bridge of communication instead of, you know, um, being so divided.

I think we, you know, I think we can all use a little bit more of that myself. Yeah. Even myself too. Yeah. No, that’s great. That’s I mean, and not to go down this rabbit hole for too long, but that’s kind of the meaning behind. My podcast name is no mercy business coaching. I am somebody who really struggles with mercy and empathy and, um, not seeing things as black and white.

And that’s part of it though, is that there’s, there’s good. That comes with that. But interpersonally sometimes it’s like, oh, Nope. Okay. Not everything is like that. You know, most things aren’t and I need to take a step back and realize that people are people and, you know, um, That’s just a little personal  application there.

No, I love no, I love that you shared it cuz we all do. I think we all do struggle with that. You know, sometimes it’s and is just so much easier if the world is black and white, isn’t it? Like you just don’t yeah. Would be

so. More on the financial side. What’s what’s some advice you would give somebody, give a, an entrepreneur or a woman entrepreneur that’s seeking you out for financial planning assistance. What’s some advice you would give them. Yeah. Um, so the first thing I would say is to get to know yourself better. So in, in a personal finance, as I’ve learned, um, it’s not a, like we just talked about, it’s not black and white.

There’s no one size fit all solution. So if you like, I would love to help you look at your finances and see what. You know, can get you to a better place. But first of all, I need to understand what drives you, what you love, what your values are, what is your personal experience with money, cuz all of that shapes how you approach, like it shapes your worldview.

It shapes how you approach the world. So that is really important and it really comes down to a lot of times for personal finance. It’s a choice. It’s it’s not about. It’s not about, this is the right decision. That’s wrong decision. Mm-hmm  most of the time, 99% of the time, it’s about a trade off you. If you choose a, you can choose B and then they both have the good things about them.

And then they both have something that’s not so good about them. So, Knowing the value, knowing what you love. If you really get to understand yourself more, we have a north star where we can, you know, we can have to guide us to yeah. To where we should go. So that is really, really important. So, and really oftentimes the clients that really do understand themselves.

Get get more out of it, you know, mm-hmm  because they it’s easier for them to make decision on certain things. And then they don’t feel cuz a lot of times they don’t feel FOMO. They don’t feel regret. Sure. They are not tempted by crypto  right. They’re not tempted or any other hot investment of the moment.

So they’re. So, yeah, so, so I think that’s definitely one of the first things, um, I would encourage everyone to do, and I think everybody can benefit from that as well. You know, not just in financial planning, if you come to me or not. I think that’s just a good starting point. That’s great. Yeah. Do you have anybody in your field that you love to follow on social media?

Yes, I do. I actually, I don’t use Instagram and Facebook a lot, like, well, I use Facebook re I’m, I’m trying to build up a more, um, more social presence, uh, social media presence. I know it’s very important. Um, but I do use Twitter a lot for my own networking purpose. I’m sorry about my dog.  that’s okay. He’s just to jump in.

okay. We love dogs here.  yeah. So, so yeah, so I actually, and then I think this is why I love the job that I do too. It’s I have this corner I’m in this corner, uh, called fee only financial planners. So for us, you know, basically what that means. I get the question aloud. What does fee only mean? Which basically means that, you know, we only get paid by our clients.

We don’t get kicked back or commissioned from any other resources. So that’s, for me, that’s a good way for me to make sure that I’m not, I’m like biased when I’m recommending things. You. Not saying that I would otherwise, but it’s, it’s always good to have this structure set up there. Sure. Um, so, but within this group, I actually, you know, before I become a field entrepreneur, I kind of felt like, oh, you know, we have the set amount, you know, just kind of the fixed mindset.

We only have this many people and I’m a, you know, I’m competing with every other financial advisors. Sure. You know, everybody’s a competitor to me, but once I kind of come into this space really helped me to. Stand that, Hey, you know, I, I can only take, um, probably 50, 60 clients and this business is not scalable and there are a lot of people out there that still need help, you know, so, and it’s not a competition, it’s a collaboration and, and we can all join forces together to also kind of, you know, do better, like more education to the general public about the things that can do and then make the pie bigger for everybody jointly.

So, so, so I, so that’s a long story to lead to that. I actually follow a lot of other financial planners, like the only financial planners on Twitter too. And I just love how they cause like I I’m a certified financial planner and I’m, you know, charter financial analyst. So it’s two pretty technical designations.

So the technical part. Is fine. Um, but really this job has a lot more interaction, you know, kind of how to, how do you not use jargon and use the concept? That’s how do you make analogy works? You know, how do you sometimes simplify a concept? That’s has a lot of nuances, but how do you simplify that to deliver this message?

So I love following. See how they do that. Cuz everybody kinda have their own flavor. They kind of approach it a little bit differently. So actually follow a lot of people, um, on like financial planners on Twitter and mm-hmm , you know, we’re, you know, a lot of women too, cuz. That’s what I’m really passionate about for women and immigrants, because that’s two biggest underserved, um, community.

Yeah. And, you know, yeah. So, and there’s just countless of research and study personal stories and stories that heard from, you know, the group that we met and a lot of different things that, you know, really. Made me want to focus on, on women to make us all feel like we are heard. So there are a lot of like female financial planners that I follow.

And then we kind of, you know, periodically get together to talk about this is what I see, you know, from my clients and, you know, something that helped them. And how do you approach stuff like that? Mm-hmm  so it’s really, it’s really cool to feel like I don’t have to put out. Armor or become combative. And instead we’re just a big, happy group of people that just wanna do the best, you know, for, for everybody.

Yeah. So it’s, it’s been, it’s been amazing, but yeah, but also people like, um, Morgan, Hazel, like, I, I love him. I just think that he really does really good research and then he can really, um, put everything really, um, in the straightforward way to communicate that. Mm. Um, and then, you know, um, there are several other, you know, people that’s in the personal fitness space as well.

If you want, like, I can give you a couple of links to sure. To their stuff. I, you know, like REIT Sethi, I think like a lot of people know him. Mm-hmm  um, and yeah, just, just all of the stuff, just so, yeah. So it’s say its really fun. It’s really fun to like follow them, see how everybody else does things and kinda like, you know, figure out my own style as well.

Yeah, no that’s. Um, is there anything additional that you would want our listeners to know about you and your business? Yeah, I just, um, yes. I just wanna know everybody to know that they’re doing a good job, you know? Um, I, I see this thing on this, in this group a lot. And then I think I’ve experienced this myself, a lot of imposter syndrome, a lot of highs when I did something great.

Something kind of paid off a lot of lows when I feel like I’m just. Biggest piece of us in the world. Like, you know, . Yeah. And, you know, I think we all go through a lot of emotional, you know, up and downs, but at the end of the day, you know, just, just show up, you know, just show up and keep doing what you do.

Give yourself space to, um, give yourself space to. You don’t have to be perfect, you know, mm-hmm,  be sympathetic. Like how, just treat yourself how you want to treat others as well. Sometimes we are our harshest critic, um, you know, have mercy on yourself. Yes . Yeah. So I think that’s really important, especially as women, you know, I think we tend to.

Focus on what we’re not doing well, which is great. Helps us to get better, but sometimes it’s also good to celebrate what we’ve done well, mm-hmm  and I just hope everyone, you know, and then if you have any question at all, any listener today, if you have any questions, you know, you can feel free to email me or DME, you know, with any questions and will love to help, you know, you don’t have to be clients and mm-hmm  we can just, you know, talk about what’s bothering you in, you know, so yeah.

All of that is welcome. It helped me to understand different perspective too. So it’s really a win-win situation. Yeah, that’s great. So where can our listeners find you? Yeah. So, uh, I have my own practice. I’m part of a big comp um, well, not big company. We’re very small, but part of a company called core planning.

So you can find my page on my first name L E I. Dash my last name D as in David, E as in Eagle, N as in Nancy and G as in George. So that’s my bio page. You will find a little bit more story about myself and, um, my contact information and some of my media, um, mentions. So if you, you know, if you have any questions specific from these articles or podcasts, you might be able to find that through there as well.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It was great to yeah, no. Great with you. Yeah. Thank you so much. Yeah, it was fun. Yeah. Well, we will cut this one for today and I will talk to you guys next week.

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