Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profile series.
Born in upstate New York to immigrant parents from India, Monica Sinha spent her early childhood in Connecticut, where she grew up speaking English and Hindi. When she was 9, her family moved to Tokyo for her father’s job, where they lived for the next three and a half years.
“I had an opportunity to get to know the Asian culture, but we also spent a lot of time traveling and we visited more than 40 countries,” Sinha says. “Between the ages of 9 and 13, I was exposed to all different cultures and languages. It made me realize that everyone around the world is really the same and that we’re all pursuing the same aspirations.”
Today, Sinha works with her 10-member team as a wealth management advisor in Edina, Minnesota. She named her practice Mila Wealth Management to reflect her multicultural childhood and commitment to holistic financial planning.
“The word ‘mila’ has roots in different languages, where it means dream, miracle and gracious — and in Hindi, it is a verb that means ‘to meet,’” Sinha says. “I chose it because aligning aspirations with a strong financial plan allows our clients to accomplish their dreams and live life fully.”
Below, she shares how her experiences have informed her career path as well as her understanding about life, money and the lessons she is teaching her children.
How did you first learn about the value of money?
My parents came to this country with very little but their aspirations to pursue an education. They are self-made people and they worked hard to build what they’ve created. I came to understand the value of money by observing the deliberate choices they made to save money and reach their goals. For example, they saved enough to pay for me and my sister to go to college. I went to the University of Wisconsin and my sister went to an Ivy League school, so that was no small undertaking.
Though all my needs were met, I recognized at an early age that I would have to fund my wants. I started babysitting when I was 12 and later worked at a YWCA and a dental office. I learned the value of having to earn whatever I wanted.
How do you teach your kids about money?
One of the biggest challenges for parents today is that the electronic nature of how we pay for things — whether it’s a click online or swiping a card — makes it difficult for kids to connect to an actual number.
I remember babysitting to save for a sweater but when I got to the cash register, I had forgotten about the tax. So I couldn’t buy the sweater — even though I was probably only cents short of the total cost. In this day and age, kids don’t really get that; this is probably true for some adults as well. We don’t pay attention to the cents because it doesn’t matter as much. But if you’re paying in cash, it does.
My step kids are 4, 6 and 8, and we have a baby on the way. So my partner and I talk to them about understanding the value of things you want and that you don’t need immediate gratification. It’s OK to save up for something. We believe doing chores is about contributing to the family, but we’ve talked about coming up with different projects for them to earn money for something they want. They’re still little, so we haven’t completely put it into place, but that’s our plan.
Did your background influence your choice to become a financial advisor?
Though I majored in economics, I also studied finance and marketing, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what type of career I wanted. I just knew I didn’t want a desk job. I come from a family of scientists, doctors, engineers and attorneys, but my personality doesn’t fit that mold.
After graduation, I got an internship at Northwestern Mutual that gave me exposure to the company’s work. I’ve always loved talking to people and hearing their stories, but I wasn’t expecting the job to be so well aligned with what I knew I wanted to do.
I think being from a different culture has been an asset because it makes me feel approachable to all different kinds of people. My ethnicity and being raised bilingually, as well as having lived abroad, gave me the gift of being able to relate to all kinds of people and all kinds of stories.
It took about three or four years before I felt confident that I could really build a significant career. After that, I couldn’t be swayed to even consider doing something else — and I’ve never looked back.
Being raised bilingually, as well as having lived abroad, gave me the gift of being able to relate to all kinds of people and all kinds of stories.
What is your philosophy when it comes to financial planning?
Our team’s financial planning philosophy is rooted in wanting to help every single client get on a path to being financially secure. I do my best to ensure that I’m inspiring each client to save the right amount of money to hit the goals that they say they want to achieve, and that the monies they are saving are being invested in tax-efficient and well-diversified accounts.
I won’t say we have a financial plan for a client unless their plan is stress-tested against things that could go wrong. We advocate having strong emergency funds, disability insurance and life insurance to protect against any unforeseen curveballs. During the pandemic, it’s been really rewarding to see all the financial plans we’ve put into place over the past 20 years work so well despite getting blindsided by something we never expected.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see Americans making with their money?
First, leaning into credit to buy something before they can really afford it. Second, not recognizing the value of saving by paying themselves first. A lot of people pay their bills, what they view to be their fixed expenses, and then live their lives from a discretionary spending basis. Whatever is left, they call their savings, but often that is not enough to meet their long-term savings goals.
What do you enjoy most about being a financial advisor?
I consider financial planning to be more than a job — it’s a calling. I’m honored to be an intimate part of my clients’ lives. Aside from my friends and family, it has been one of my greatest blessings. The best rewards of this career are the heartfelt “thank yous” from clients, especially those who say they wouldn’t be where they are without having worked with me and my team. No matter what other successes we have, those heartfelt expressions of gratitude always mean the most.
Monica Sinha uses Mila Wealth Management as a marketing name for doing business as a representative of Northwestern Mutual. Mila Wealth Management is not a registered investment advisor, broker-dealer, insurance agency or federal savings bank.