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.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sometimes the best way to learn about something is through the lens of not having it. That was the case for Delynn Alexander and Reena Bland, who both learned about money because they didn’t have much growing up.
Today, the two are best friends and business partners in Durham, North Carolina. Whether they’re working on a complex financial plan for one of their clients or enjoying a little time off with their families at the beach, you’ll find the two of them together pretty much all the time.
Here they share their top money tips and the biggest mistake they see Americans making with their money.
Did your business partnership grow out of the friendship, or the other way around?
Reena: I would say we were more professional colleagues prior to partnering up. The friendship really grew out of spending so much time together at work. Today, we live about three houses from each other. Our kids are growing up together. Our husbands are forced to hang out with each other. We travel together, and we have fun. It’s really like a family. We’ve been blessed to be in a situation where we’re colleagues who respect each other and run a business together, but we’re really kind of like sisters.
You travel together?
Reena: We own a beach house together. We go to Vegas, Nashville; we’ll pretty much travel anywhere as long as we’re together.
Do you ever just travel separately or have a little family time of your own?
Delynn: I knew that question was coming. It’s not what we would enjoy, but sometimes we have to.
Reena: She missed a cruise with me earlier this year, which I’m not happy about.
Delynn: I know, it’s a bummer.
Reena: We had a work wedding and a friend’s birthday that we had to split up. We sound like we’re married, right?
Do you ever get into sisterly arguments?
Reena: It’s rare. And if we do, it’s short lived.
Delynn: Because who would we go talk to about it?
Why did you decide to team up?
Delynn: We decided that this is a complex business and, for our clients, two heads are probably better than one.
How did you first learn about money?
Reena: My parents both came to America from India in their 20s. They didn’t have a lot of money, but I watched them squirrel away as much as they could. They saved enough to send my sister and me to college on a very low middle-class income. I learned to appreciate the hard work that it takes to earn money and how saving a little at a time for many years can help you achieve a big goal.
Delynn: I learned about it through the lens of not having any. When I was six and my sister was four, my dad was shot and killed in a bar in Dallas. I lost my dad that night. He left us with nothing but some debt. Then I lost my mom to three jobs as she was barely able to keep a roof over our heads. I vividly remember crying in the grocery store because I knew we didn’t have enough money for the Fruity Pebbles my sister pulled off the shelf. I learned about what we did have money for and what we didn’t. It wasn’t a fun way to learn about it, but I certainly learned about it.
Your mom eventually worked for Northwestern Mutual?
Delynn: She went to buy life insurance. She saw first-hand what happened when my dad left us with nothing. And she realized that if something happened to her, my sister and I would be orphans.
The Northwestern Mutual representative she met with was moved by her story. He encouraged her to get into the business. That’s when I first started to understand the importance not just of saving, but good planning. She would listen to tapes from other financial advisors. Eventually, I picked a lot of it up, too.
What’s the best financial advice you ever got?
Reena: Save first so you don’t feel guilty about the money you do spend.
Delynn: We tell that to everyone. There are so many decisions in life to feel bad about. Let’s just take money off the list. It will make so many things in life better when you take feeling guilty about money off the table.
What’s the biggest mistake you see Americans making with their money?
Delynn: Not dreaming bigger. I think people need to take the time to sit down and talk about what could be. But so many people don’t, so they never save for those big things and never do them.
What’s your most satisfying moment in this business?
Reena: We just recently met with someone who thanked us for helping them do all the things they’re getting to do. That’s satisfying, when someone tells us they didn’t think they would be where they are.
Delynn: And, of course, they did it. We were just holding their hands along the way. But it’s fun to watch people live the life they dreamed about, and maybe pushing them to dream even bigger.