Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profiles series.

In many ways, it’s not surprising that Anitra Blue-Francis became a financial advisor. Going back to childhood, she has always been a planner. “I always had a plan A, a plan B and a plan C,” she says. “My plan A was to go to law school, but my plan B was to get a degree in something that would take me somewhere if I didn’t pursue the law.”

It was while studying finance at Louisiana State University that Blue-Francis began a summer internship at Northwestern Mutual. There, she met several mentors whose influence helped change the course of her career — instead of taking the LSATs after graduation, she started her own personal practice in Metairie, Louisiana. Here, she shares the advice from mentors that shaped her early views on work and money, and how she likes to pay it forward.

Who were your first clients?

My parents. They have always been my No. 1 supporters. Even when I was an intern, they opened their financial lives to me. I remember them having an advisor — and I realized he was not giving them sound advice. I feel fortunate that I was able to intervene in my parents’ financial plan because it changed the trajectory of their financial future.

What did you learn about money from them growing up?

My parents never talked directly to me about money, but I knew they wanted to provide us with a certain lifestyle — not so much of material things but of exposure to different walks of life and experiences. It was important for them to take us on family vacations. We did Disney World and those kinds of places, but we also went to historic locations. I remember visiting the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and seeing his childhood home.

As I got older, I realized that our lifestyle was clearly the result of choices my parents made in their education and their careers. They wanted the resources so that we could go on family vacations or live in a certain neighborhood; my parents live in the same home to this day. So, I felt that if my parents provided me with this lifestyle, this should be at least the standard. Anything below this would not be acceptable and anything above this would be an accomplishment.

Your original career plan was to be an attorney. How did you end up as a financial advisor?

While I was in college I expected to go to a summer program for pre-law students, but I didn’t get accepted. So, going on the strength of my academic advisor’s recommendation, I interviewed for an internship at Northwestern Mutual in Baton Rouge. I had never heard of Northwestern Mutual and didn’t know what the company did.

My mentor, an advisor named Kirk Bennett, introduced me to another advisor, Kevin Chadwick. I remember telling Kevin I was planning on going to law school after graduation, and he said, “You’re going to make a lot of money, but you’re going to be working 90 hours a week. And you’re going to get into student loan debt.’”

I didn’t want to take out a $100,000 or more in student loans — especially since I had a full scholarship to undergrad and was able to graduate without any debt. Plus, I enjoyed the internship and it intrigued me to the point where I wanted to see where this career would take me. I have never looked back.

I still talk to my high school academic advisor — she and I haven’t stopped talking since I was 15 years old. She’s always been someone that I could turn to.

You’ve been fortunate to have mentors early in your life. How do you like to pay that forward?

I have. I still talk to my high school academic advisor, Lawanna Davis — she and I haven’t stopped talking since I was 15 years old. She’s an inspiration and has a strong entrepreneurial spirit. She had a Subway sandwich shop for 15 years, sold it and built her dream home. She’s always been someone that I could turn to. She was one of my first clients, too.

I have always been led to lead by serving others. I have had various leadership roles over the years. I was a leader in my network office to help facilitate trainings and served as a joint work partner with advisors with less experience. Currently, I’m responsible for recruiting, developing and growing new advisors in the network offices for the greater New Orleans area. I am inspired by what Michelle Obama said, that when you’ve worked hard and “walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you … you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

How do you give back to your local community?

Every year my husband, Byron Francis Jr., and I sponsor an event called Pictures With Santa. We live 30 miles west of New Orleans, so children in our community have to travel far to see Santa. So, we got the idea to do something locally. We have a photographer onsite who will print photo packages for a nominal fee. My husband plays Santa and I play Santa’s elf along with two associates from my office, and we give away cash door prizes to the parents to assist with some of the financial strain that comes with the holiday season. We just finished our third year of doing it this past December; the number of people we touch grows every year.

What do you want your two kids, Hunter Joe and Avery, to learn about money?

That it's your responsibility to not mismanage what God has given you — that you need to be a good steward of your money, that you need to manage your money responsibly for your household, and you need to help other people.

What’s your biggest financial goal?

I’m hoping to build a legacy that will impact the lives of the people I love most. Specifically, I would like to assist my husband in growing our real estate investment company so he can devote 100 percent of his time to it. My husband is a fire safety engineer technician, but he has a passion for renovating residential homes. He finds the properties and determines if we should flip it or hold onto it to create some income. And my mom, who became a real-estate agent after retiring, is listed as the agent for our properties, so everybody’s happy.

What do you love most about your job?

It’s so rewarding when I get to watch people reach their goals. I think of it as serving others to achieve their financial goals. As long as I am serving others, I am impacting the lives of the people they love the most.

One set of clients comes to mind: When they met me, I immediately started carving out 10 percent of their cash flow toward an emergency fund. The husband wasn’t very happy with me at first, but we've been working together now for 10 years and they recently told me they would not be where they are today if I hadn’t forced them to put 10 percent aside in addition to helping them plan for retirement. They know that I have their best interests at the forefront of my mind. And now we’re working on their immediate short-term goal of building their dream home.

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