For Dr. Dawne Collier, an OB-GYN hospitalist from Chicago’s South Side, having the financial freedom to pursue her various passions has always been a key goal.

But several years ago, that took on new meaning when Dr. Collier was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “I had some tingling and numbness in my left hand, so I went in for an MRI expecting it to be a pinched nerve or something,” she says. When Dr. Collier was growing up, she watched her aunt battle MS, so in medical school she paid close attention to its symptoms. “When I met with the doctors to go over the results, I saw a lesion and I immediately knew what it was.”

One of the first calls she made after her diagnosis was to Andrea Williams, her Northwestern Mutual wealth management advisor.

BUILDING A FINANCIAL PLAN

Dr. Collier’s financial planning journey with Williams started several years earlier when the two met at a business coaching class. Dr. Collier, who has a strong entrepreneurial streak, was already running a business with her husband that rehabs properties to sell or rent. In addition, she was interested in creating a business that would help teen girls learn about their reproductive health, as well as promoting positive body images through educational books, speaking opportunities, courses and other forms of media.

Juggling these different ambitions meant she had a lot of financial questions. “Andrea was smart, down to earth and I felt like I could ask her any question without judgment. She’d just give me a straight answer or would talk through different options,” Dr. Collier says. “With Andrea’s help, my dreams felt even more attainable.”

Eventually, the conversations about her business and retirement goals led to a discussion about financial planning. “Dr. Collier was like a lot of my clients, she was saving and had pieces in place financially. But we were able to help her with a strategy and plan that shows her how those pieces will work together to get her to retirement, and then how she will withdraw from different accounts to efficiently generate income in retirement,” Williams says.

In addition to recommending an investment strategy to help build wealth, Williams talked through with Dr. Collier how the costs as well as income from her side businesses could be incorporated into her overall financial plan. She also recommended that Dr. Collier add life and disability insurance to her financial plan in order to protect her income.

“I was initially a little skeptical, but Andrea really explained why life and disability insurance were so important — we insure our car, why wouldn’t we insure our income?” Dr. Collier says. “Boy, am I glad that Andrea pushed me to get it. After my diagnosis, I probably wouldn’t have had the same options I did then."

STAYING ON TRACK

With her diagnosis, the ability to work on her business goals became even more important for Dr. Collier. “We sat down and updated her plan to eventually give her flexibility to work part-time or retire early from her career as a physician if necessary,” Williams says. That included being a little more aggressive for a time with Dr. Collier’s businesses and investments, along with a few other changes.

The good news is that Dr. Collier’s symptoms are mild, and she has a positive outlook. “I realized that right now, I can do all the things that I’ve always done. I remind myself that I’m still the same person,” she says.

STAYING PREPARED DESPITE COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit, Dr. Collier was understandably concerned. “My Soror’s husband died from it — he was 48,” Dr. Collier says. “I was still going into work — babies were coming, no matter what. We took precautions, but I was obviously at higher risk of getting COVID.” Like the stories of so many doctors, she would come home from her shifts and isolate herself from her husband, just in case.

Then there were her business concerns. What would happen if tenants lost their jobs and couldn’t pay? Were her investments still on track to give her the flexibility to work part-time and focus on her business goals?

Dr. Collier checked in with Williams to get some needed peace of mind. “If, God forbid, she got COVID and the complications that can come with it, we’ve planned for that. We talked through some options to move cash flow around so she can make mortgage payments if her renters are unable to pay,” Williams says. “And finally, when it came to the markets, I talked her through how we plan for ups and downs.” In Dr. Collier’s case, she had time on her side, because she didn’t need her investments right away. The course of action was to do nothing — which have allowed her investments to regain their value as the markets have climbed back.

Today, Dr. Collier is focusing on what she’s passionate about — making an impact on her community. “Whether that’s my work as a physician entrepreneur, investing in property on Chicago’s South Side or serving as a role model for people who look like me, I love the opportunity to improve the lives of the people I come into contact with,” Dr. Collier says. “I’ll have the flexibility to retire early so I can focus on my businesses and on helping my community because Andrea protected my dream.”

The testimonials presented may not be representative of the experience of other clients and are not a guarantee of future performance or success.

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