Financial Planning with Heart: Laurie Dubchansky

Laurie Dubchansky Personal Finance

The ‘Wicked Pissah Podcast’ is a weekly interview series by the Financial Planning Association (FPA) of Massachusetts. In a recent episode, host Jeff Tomaneng and I discussed my story of becoming a financial planner after switching careers from nonprofit health care administration, as well as my volunteer work offering pro-bono financial planning to college students, the military, and the underprivileged. I’m grateful to be included, after recently receiving FPA’s Heart of Financial Planning Award.

My hope is anybody listening to the podcast has a renewed sense of pride for the financial planning industry and thinks about their part in preparing the next generation of professionals. Or, that it plants seeds and inspires someone thinking about jumping into the profession!

You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, their website, or anywhere podcasts are found. If you prefer reading to listening, I’ve recapped the conversation here.

My early careers combining psychology, health, and philanthropy

[2:00] I studied psychology at UCLA and didn’t learn about the financial planning industry until later on in my life. Funny story – I ‘accidentally’ practiced my first financial planning case with my best girlfriend in college. She was deep in credit card debt, so we created a plan to help her become more financially healthy. Sitting together at her grandmother’s table, we figured out how to funnel her paycheck into various envelopes, or buckets of savings. We also cut up her credit card with scissors!  It turns out psychology and caring for other people is a great asset in financial planning.

[3:00] My first passion is women’s health, especially in a hospital setting. After dabbling in peer counseling and getting my graduate degree at California State University, Long Beach, I became a hospital administrator. After I had my kids, I became a full time Mom and part time philanthropist and volunteer board member. Giving back to the community is in our blood; we raised our children to participate in beach cleanups and serve at soup kitchens.

[4:30] In 2008, I returned to the workforce as a nonprofit Executive Director with 13 staff. I couldn’t convince my employees to enroll in a 403b with a 6% match. They just said, “I can’t do it.” I didn’t understand what that meant, since the 6% match was basically free money for their future.

Discovering a career in financial planning

[5:12] When I left that nonprofit in 2012, I looked into the Personal Financial Planning Certificate from UCLA because it was interesting to me, first of all, but also to answer that question of why thirty-year-olds couldn’t enroll in a 403b. Really, it was to get smarter and study something I liked. I didn’t have any plans to change my career. However, after four classes, my professor told me I should get an internship because I had a knack and innate passion for financial planning work.

[6:00] My internship at a fabulous comprehensive financial planning firm turned into a job, and I stayed there for over three years. I finished my CFP and earned the designation while working at that firm. I realized I wanted to serve anyone who wanted to improve their financial future. Yet, the firm had a million-dollar minimum. But I knew some of the people who really needed our help couldn’t access it.

[7:10] I found that most firms want you to come in with clients with assets. So, I started my own firm in 2016. It’s called Havaplan Financial because I want everyone to have a plan. There are no barriers to getting help. I’m there for you, whether you have assets or not. You just need to have a desire for a healthier financial future. My lifestyle and life experiences of helping out friends with mortgage questions or the process of refinancing their home helped me talk to people at a level they can understand, regardless of their current situation.

Expanding financial literacy and education for all

[10:00] As I grew my business, I also did some financial literacy work on the side. That has always been my passion and I knew once I had my credentials, I could actually train others to educate more people. For example, the local United Way has its own financial counseling program that goes into local elementary schools and works with families and children. They have six staff, so as I trained the six staff, they’re smarter for themselves but also for the people they serve. I prepared some PowerPoints (how to use an expense tracker, what you need to know about insurance) so they could impart more knowledge to their constituents.

[12:00] With Habitat for Humanity, I provided a class for prospective homeowners. They’re required to put in sweat equity but during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they couldn’t frame houses. So, they did the financial literacy training with me instead!  So, if you look at your community and ask the right questions to find out how you can be most helpful, there will always be opportunities to give back. Nonprofits are happy to receive healthy education – of course, with no sales or strings attached. We’re fiduciaries who are doing the right things in the best interest of our clients, and nonprofits are doing that as well.

[14:09] Five members of the local Financial Planning Association of Orange County chapter built a virtual pro bono practice. We manage all aspects of that practice, from running virtual webinars to pro bono 1:1 sessions on Zoom. Twenty CFPs are signed up to provide two hours of volunteer time per week, so we can reach a lot of people. This effort earned our chapter the Power of Financial Planning Award, which we’re incredible proud of. We hope this will serve as a model for other FPA chapters.

[15:40] We have this great committee of volunteers passionate about helping others. That combined with my extensive experience around nonprofit organizations and the needs of our community has created a really robust pro bono practice.

[16:30] Technology really helps in the pro bono work. My practice at Havaplan Financial has also gone almost completely virtual. Zoom has provided some silver linings, along with the rest of COVID-19. For example, I can now look at couples on Zoom and sense how well they relate to each other. In person, they’d be across the table. But virtually, I can sense whether they want to sit next to each other or if they wish they were in different rooms!

Supporting nonprofit organizations with financial education

[18:30] I used to serve as a board member at an incredible program through the University of California at Irvine (UCI) called Lifevest. It’s provided through the Paul Merage School of Business Center for Investment and Wealth Management. Lifevest works with underserved 9th grade students by facilitating a weeklong experience. They actually live for a week in the dorms, receive financial literacy and life planning education by phenomenal instructors.

[20:45] WISE, or Women Investing in Security and Education, is another organization I’ve been involved with. WISE is comprised of passionate women in the financial industry who want to educate other women and girls on the basics, and encourage them to enter careers in the financial field. They present at colleges (business schools, accounting programs) and organizations like the Girl Scouts or Girls Inc. They’ve done a remarkable job shifting into a virtual environment, continuing to attract women into the industry.

Having fun outside of financial planning

[23:00] I love to bake magazine covers. If you see something really beautiful on the cover of a magazine, I’m going to make it! I also bake for volume – if we’re having an event, I can make 300 cookies for it. I’m also learning how to play golf, which is a whole new journey.  My golf teacher told me 300 swings per week is recommended!

[24:00] There are parallels between learning to golf and adjusting to a new financial plan. Both take discipline. They require you to stretch muscles you’ve never used before. There’s the mental aspect of visualization. Sometimes your intentions are really good, yet the ball goes off the fairway or your budget gets skewed. But with each new swing, or new month, you’ve got another opportunity to get it right.

[26:00] It brings me great joy to have other Financial Planning Association chapters learn what we’re doing with the virtual pro bono practice and inquire about starting their own effort. I absolutely love that ripple effect, because it helps more people receive financial literacy throughout the nation. That being said, the Financial Planning Association in Orange County has great membership volunteers, engagement, and programming. Chapters need all of that in place for a large-scale volunteer effort to succeed.

How do we grow the awareness of financial planning as a career?

[30:00] If I had an awareness of the financial planning profession when I was younger, I would have entered the field right away. But I thought if you worked in finance, you had to sell and be held to quotas. That idea was always scary to me, even though I created that assumption! But in the 1980’s, financial planning was relatively new. Even when I entered the field in 2013, I didn’t know much about it.

[32:00] To inspire a pipeline of financial planners into our profession, we all need to be more vocal about what comprehensive financial planning really is. Many financial planners are actually adjunct professors and have access to younger people who’d be excellent financial planners. We have to do better at telling students and younger people what we do and speak in a variety of settings to get our stories out there. There’s a real caring, human-service oriented piece of it. It can bring you great joy when a client shares how much you’ve helped them.  Maybe nationally, financial planners could take up this cause of inspiring the next generation of financial planners to enter the field.

Reach out to me

If you work with a nonprofit organization or group that could benefit from pro bono financial services, or are interested in learning more, reach out to me at I’d love to hear from you!