Marina Hernández, EA, CFP®, CEPA™, is the co-founder of Swiss American Wealth Advisors. She also works through The Crossborder Planner and Crossborder Academy to provide U.S. expats and immigrants with free financial education and planning. Marina spoke with Matt Fizell, CFP®, about forging your career path in an unpredictable world, and the interesting tax and financial planning needs of Americans living overseas. Hear more of Marina’s thoughts by listening to the episode — including how planners, firms, and the next generation can create meaningful diversity and inclusion in the profession.

Finding your path when life is unpredictable

Marina Hernández came to financial planning as a career changer in her thirties, but the seeds had been planted back when she was a child growing up in Argentina. 

According to Marina, it’s a country that “has a big crisis every 10 years,” so it trained her to react to big events constantly. You don't know what's coming, and you don't know when, as she puts it, but you do know that something big is always coming. As an Argentine, she approaches big events with the question: “How can we use this event as an opportunity? How can we end up in a better situation than we were before?’”

Marina’s life has been filled with “big events.” At every stage, she found a way to remain agile and to make decisions that were consistent with what was important to her. She says, “One thing that it taught me is that life is very unpredictable. You think that you have a plan, but then things shift to right in front of you. That can be very stressful, but as long as you have a clear set of values, then you have the tools you need to react.”

Helping the underserved in the profession

Those values of adaptability and self-determination led Marina to the financial planning profession. In her twenties, she had been a CPA. She found a great job as a tax advisor, but the reactive nature of the work bothered her. She says, “I was helping my clients clean up mistakes that they had already made, but I wanted to help them with decisions before they made mistakes.”

She researched becoming a tax planner and, many years later, she learned about financial planning. It felt like a perfect fit. She says, “It was tax planning, but more than that. You could help clients with retirement planning, estate planning, risk management, and teach them how to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their assets.” She was hooked.

With her experiences as an immigrant to the U.S. and then as an expat, Marina realized that families like hers had a unique financial burden. She says, “The United States has this unique thing where it continues to tax its citizens even after they leave the country. So any American being abroad has to deal with two levels of financial systems and tax systems.” 

Marina says that there are over 30 million Americans who were born in a different country, and between 8 and 20 million Americans living overseas. She realized that represented a huge number of people who weren’t being served by the traditional financial planning industry, and decided to help them.

She used her special knowledge of U.S. taxes to begin educating immigrant and expat families by founding The Crossborder Planner. During the pandemic, she helped business owners apply for the PPP loans and helped expat families, who were far away from loved ones and no longer tied to the physical location of their office, return to their home country.

Why representation matters in financial planning

Marina also advocated for another community that’s been underserved in the professions: Latin-Americans. “I didn't know anything about financial planning until I was in my late thirties,” she admitted, “because there are not a lot of Latino financial planners.” She explained that lack of representation means that a lot of people don’t see themselves as a candidate to join a group or profession. She adds, “We don't realize that we censor ourselves that way, but we decide that we cannot do certain things.” 

Marina feels the responsibility to be visible as a woman of color, because she wants other people like her to understand that they belong and they have a role in this profession. “We can do a lot of good working with clients,” she shared. That’s also why she’s advocating for DEI in the profession.

When it comes to increasing the diversity, equity, and inclusion in financial planning, Marina believes that everyone has a role. She says, “The responsibility is shared by those of us who are already in the profession, and those who aspire to be in the profession.”

For example, she says that planners can become more aware of the composition of their networks, and seek out opinions and information from financial advisors of different races and ethnicities. She says you can do that through LinkedIn, and by following what they’re doing, you can learn great information and hear about efforts to make the profession more diverse. They can also become involved with diversity and inclusion efforts within their firms or professional associations.

How we can all elevate the profession through diversity and inclusion

To minority advisors or aspiring advisors, Marina advises, “Really be intentional about seeking other advisors who look like you. Just as an example, she recommends The Association of African American Financial Advisors, a great resource supporting black professionals and empowering the black community with financial savvy to build generational wealth. 

She also recommends that new and aspiring planners seek the advice and mentorship of others who believe that it's important to expand the diversity in this profession. Don't be afraid to ask for guidance from white advisors. A lot of them understand that this is an issue and they want to contribute to the solution. Marina believes these advisors are more than happy to give you a hand, to make it easier for you to learn about opportunities in the profession, and to help you have more opportunities for advancement.

To firms who want to make a difference, Marina recommends that they become involved with BLX Internships. They provide opportunities for black and latino advisors or aspiring advisors to get work experience and mentoring, and her company is participating.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How Marina’s upbringing in Argentina prepared her to manage frequent upheavals in her life and career
  • How her agility led to a fascinating niche
  • Why she’s passionate about diverse representation in financial planning
  • How planners, firms, and the next generation advocate for diversity & inclusion

In this episode of YAFPNW, Marina Hernández, EA, CFP®, CEPA™, and Matt Fizell, CFP®, talk about:

Interested in following Marina? Follow her on LinkedIn!