Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profiles series, where you’ll get the inside scoop on their best money tips.


The thoughts that go through a parent’s mind when a doctor tells you your child has cancer are indescribable. Desiree Mustafa got that news when her son was 10-months old. Amid all the terrifying thoughts and worries, she didn’t have to think about money. She’d been saving for some time for exactly this kind of what-if.

As a financial advisor, you’d probably expect her to have savings. But many of Mustafa’s money habits were formed long before she became an advisor.

Mustafa lives near Denver with her husband, Hash, son, Mik'hail, who is now cancer free, and their two dogs.

How is your son doing today?

He is more than 4 years in remission. He’s a healthy, happy and rambunctious 5-year-old.

How did you make it through his battle with cancer?

My faith and relationship with God was an immense help. But I had to learn to be strong for my son. Nothing is easy, but you have to choose to walk through it and be the best parent you can.

What do you want to teach your son about money?

I’ve already started to instill the concept of working for money. Starting at the ripe old age of four, I had him learn to take all the dishes out of the dishwasher and put them on the counter. He gets a quarter when he’s done, which he puts in his Mickey Mouse piggy bank. I think it’s important to learn at an early age that you don’t get everything handed to you. But then beyond that, I want him to learn about saving. And not just saving for things he wants in the short-term, but long term things too. When he gets his first job, I’m going to help him start saving right away for retirement.

The best financial advice you ever received?

To put something away early and often and to make it a priority under all circumstances. Boy was I glad I had taken that advice when we got my son’s diagnosis! It was just one less thing to worry about. I pulled money from my savings and didn’t worry about it. I just focused on my son. Planning for all the things that go right is so much fun. But the need to plan for all the unknowns and what-ifs became so real for me when we went through my son’s cancer.

Who is your role model?

My dad. He gave me that advice and he taught me how to be financially savvy and secure. He owns an accounting business and has been very successful. He gave me my first job when I was 14. He taught me how to work for money and how I always needed to set some aside. I really appreciate that he helped me a lot financially, but he always made sure I had some skin in the game. For instance, he helped me buy my first car, but only after I’d saved $3,000 on my own for it.

What’s your most satisfying moment as a financial advisor?

Seeing the people who I work with hit milestones. When the goals they first told me five or 10 years ago become reality, that’s very satisfying.

How do you give back?

I’m very involved with Northwestern Mutual’s program to raise money to fight childhood cancer. I obviously have a strong connection there. My team does a lot of volunteer work in our local community to support that effort.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

I have a Bible verse app on my phone and I read a new verse.

What’s one random skill you wish you were better at?

The piano. I’m actually trying to learn to play right now. Music is a great passion of mine. I have been a singer for a long time. But the piano is new.

What’s your favorite part of the day?

Any time that I can spend with my son.


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