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Forum Spotlight: Q&A with Special Programs Manager at the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education Kate Mielitz

Our April Forum, “     Building Careers in Wealth Management — Advisory Careers,” featured industry experts who shared what attracted them to their profession, along with the ups and downs of it, in regard to the 12 Tribes of Financial Planning model. Kate Mielitz, Special Programs Manager at AFCPE, served as a panelist in our forum. Additionally, she’s shared some of her own advice and insights in this Q&A.

What are some of the attributes that make you fit for an advisory career?

While financial counseling doesn’t meet the traditional definition of an “advisory career,” I serve in a foundation-building role that helps consumers prepare to meet with Certified Financial Planners. I’m a flexible thinker and a creative problem solver, and I love brainstorming.

Being flexible in how I approach challenges my clients face allows them to see that there isn’t a “one-size fits all” mentality to their situation or how they experience their financial lives. Helping my clients brainstorm solutions helps them see the control they have even when they often can’t see their way through to the end when we first start meeting.

What is your advice for those considering a career within this sector?

Find your place, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. I came into this field knowing that I wanted to help people. I also knew that giving investment advice scared the living daylights out of me. I enjoyed all the financial planning courses I took in graduate school, but I felt that I had to conform to the CFP® path—until I felt comfortable enough OWNING that that’s not my space.

My heart always has been, and always will be, in helping people with the foundational skills they need to create financial well-being for themselves. Knowing that my (former) clients and students have a more robust financial foundation because of the work I have done over my career is what lights me up! Whatever your path, do what feels right (your gut is your 6th sense) and stay true to yourself!

What characteristics or traits do you commonly see among successful advisors?

The client comes first. Successful advisors always remember and recognize that there are living, breathing human beings with personal goals and values at the end of every dollar, financial plan, or financial strategy.

They admit when they make mistakes. Owning that you made a mistake is one of the most important skills we can learn. Own the error, fix it, and don’t make it again.

Successful advisors know how to set their egos aside to help their clients.

They build relationships through networking. Meeting others at industry events can be overwhelming, but the most successful advisors I know approach these large-scale events as opportunities to make connections that truly matter. They follow up when it matters or when there is a purpose; it’s more than just an “It was so nice to meet you” generic message and then forgetting who you are by the next event.

What are the significant opportunities you see for young professionals entering the industry seeking an advisory career?

There is a stronger emphasis on people skills at all levels, which opens up so many opportunities. While Accredited Financial Counselors (AFC®) have specialized in the “soft skills” for more than 30 years, it is so exciting to see that the CFP® Board has added the Psychology of Financial Planning as a Principal Knowledge Topic.

I believe that this more robust emphasis on people skills is going to lead to stronger long-term relationships that will span generations, not just for high-net-worth clients but also consumers who are just making their way into the wealth growth and wealth management space.

Additionally, considering the expansion into more focus on human behavior, professionals (I hope) will be more open to collaboration, mentorship, and ways to expand their practices to include a broader clientele.

What impact do you hope organizations like Diversitas will have on the wealth management industry in the coming years?

Diversitas is leading efforts and discussions on DEI efforts that are fundamental to the growth and success of the wealth management industry. With these past and current actions and intentional planning for future endeavors, we will see stronger recruiting of diverse financial professionals who will stay in the industry and help it grow and change.

Furthermore, with the intentional work of Diversitas, we will strengthen advisory relationships throughout communities with a more diverse client base so that generational wealth becomes a more relevant and achievable goal for families throughout our country.

Kate Mielitz, Ph.D., is an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) with extensive experience providing financial counseling and education for justice-involved populations and authoring six peer-reviewed publications on that topic. She has provided financial counseling and education services for over 10 years to United States soldiers and their families, the general public, recovering substance abusers, families experiencing homelessness and college students.

Dr. Mielitz has a 20+ year background in financial counseling and education, bankruptcy, fraud, and collections. She obtained her Ph.D. in Personal Financial Planning from Kansas State University. Dr. Mielitz recently transitioned out of academia to help expand access for students and professionals to the AFC® credential and the financial services field at large.

Her passions include learning, pursuing her Certified Diversity Professional (CDP®) designation, and helping people have stronger, client-centric personal finance discussions. Watch her discuss all this and more in the Forum replay!