Deaf Awareness Month Feature - Q&A with with Stephanie Summers, a deaf advisor in the wealth management sector.
September is Deaf Awareness Month, which aims at increasing public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture. The first International Day of the Deaf was celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in 1958. The day of awareness was later extended to a full week, becoming the International Week of the Deaf, observed annually throughout the last full week of September (to commemorate the first World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf, which took place in September 1951). International Week of the Deaf begins September 20. This month emphasizes the positive aspects of deafness, encouraging social inclusion and raising awareness in our communities nationwide.
We sat down with Stephanie Summers, a Deaf advisor in the wealth management sector, to learn how she is celebrating this month with her colleagues and what her experience has been in the industry.
What made you want to study financial planning?
I am sharing a personal story of how I got started. When my father-in-law passed away in 1996, I witnessed the financial challenges my mother-in-law faced and highlighted an important issue – the need for both partners to be actively involved in financial matters. My decision to pursue a career change in finance is a testament to my determination and commitment to address this issue. I cringe when I learn husbands or partners do not involve their wives or partners in discussing finances.
Becoming the first Deaf woman to earn the Series 7 General Securities license is a remarkable achievement. My achievement not only breaks barriers but also sets an example for others to follow. As far as we know, I became the first Deaf woman to ever earn the Series 7 General Securities license. I have a strong passion for financial literacy and empowering deaf women to broaden their knowledge and take charge of their personal finances.
What has been your favorite part of working in the field so far?
My favorite part of working in the field is when confusion leaves the client’s mind and understanding replaces it. It is really about the clients and their vision of attaining their goals and I am just guiding them along the way. The dynamic nature of financial planning and the need for customization in each client’s situation also keep the job interesting and ensure I continue to learn and adapt. This adaptability is essential in a field where circumstances and financial goals can vary greatly from person to person.
Why is it important for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to be represented in the financial planning industry?
According to the National Deaf Center 2019 report, there are 75.5% of Deaf people without additional disability in the labor force.
The importance of representation of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community in the financial planning industry cannot be overstated. Here are several key reasons why this representation is crucial:
- Direct Communication: Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may face communication barriers when seeking financial advice. Having financial professionals who are part of the Deaf community can facilitate direct and effective communication, ensuring that important financial information and decisions are not lost in translation through interpreters or third parties.
- Cultural Understanding: Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals have unique cultural and linguistic experiences. Having professionals who understand and respect this culture can lead to more tailored and culturally sensitive financial planning, which can be especially important in sensitive financial matters.
- Empowerment: Seeing Deaf and hard-of-hearing professionals succeed in the financial planning field can inspire confidence and empowerment within the community. It sends a powerful message that Deaf individuals can excel in any career, including those that traditionally involve complex financial matters.
- Closing the Employment Gap: As mentioned in the National Deaf Center report published in 2019, there are 75.5% of Deaf people without additional disability in the labor force. Having a representation in the financial planning industry can help address retirement planning strategies.
What do advisors need to know about working with deaf and hard-of-hearing clients?
As financial advisors, we bring so many tools to our clients to help them achieve their financial goals. But to do that, we really must understand them – not just about their money but about their needs and their experiences.
So, what can you do to make your practice more accessible and inclusive to deaf and hard-of-hearing people? First, take the time to ask them what they need. Ask “What is the best way for us to communicate?” Listen to their needs.
Some tools that can be used:
- You can hire a sign language interpreter if the person signs. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf has a search tool on its website to find interpreters and agencies in your area. Companies like Linguabee and Purple Communications provide remote interpreters by video.
- Speech-to-text apps. Of course, this is one-way communication and it’s important to ensure the deaf person also has a way to communicate back to you.
- Zoom has a live transcription service for free. Again, keep in mind that you will need to have a way for the deaf person to be able to communicate back to you.
- Use additional visual aids and graphs from different investment companies. They have no shortage of those!!
- Add captions to your social media videos. It is easy to do and if you aren’t sure how, ask Dr. Google.
- For those who are not technology savvy, good old paper and pen works!
Stephanie Summers joined Kramer Wealth Managers in 2006. As an advisor for Kramer Wealth Managers, Stephanie focuses on creating a compelling vision with clients and initiates Kramer’s focus on woman advisors. Stephanie has been involved in finance since 1989 as an analyst for the Sallie Mae and Federal Government. Like her associates, Stephanie serves pre-retirees and retirees, corporate executives, business owners and not-for-profit organizations. Stephanie’s assets are her warmth, humor and financial skill. She delights in helping clients truly understand their portfolio and how it functions to serve their dreams.
Stephanie holds her series 7, 66, and life insurance licenses. She is, in fact, the very first deaf woman advisor to ever earn the Series 7 General Securities license. Stephanie received her BS degree from Gallaudet University and her MBA from George Mason University.
Stephanie has a strong desire to see more deaf women empowered to broaden their financial literacy and take charge of their personal finances. She has served as a board member for Deaf Women United and various non-profit organizations. She is actively involved with other community organizations. Stephanie and her husband, Mark, are the parents of two very active twin boys.
Securities and investment advisory services offered through FSC Securities Corporation., member FINRA/SIPC. FSC Securities is separately owned and other entities and/or marketing names, products or services referenced here are independent of FSC Securities.