Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profile series.
When she was 12 years old, Qunnie Lin and her older brother, Hang, left their home in China to join their parents, who had moved to New York City several years prior. While they focused on school and assimilating into their new country, their parents continued working seven days a week, saving money for them to go to college.
“We were a typical immigrant family — we always had four or five people staying in our living room when I was a kid,” Lin says. “I always tell people I have been pretty lucky in my life, but my success is really the result of my parents’ hard work, and the work ethic they instilled in me.”
Her parents’ support helped Lin attend the State University of New York at Buffalo. While earning her degree in finance, she was offered an internship with Northwestern Mutual that ended up charting the course for her career. “I enjoyed being a part of the company’s close-knit culture and I had a couple of amazing mentors who really believed in me and helped me stay motivated,” Lin says.
That was more than 10 years ago. Lin now works as a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor with her team in downtown Manhattan. Below, she talks about how her background shaped her career and why she believes that finding the right balance is the key to achieving personal financial wellness.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome when you started out?
I was 22 when I joined the company and definitely not the picture of a typical financial advisor. Getting started was a big challenge. I didn’t have any connections I could reach out to so, instead, I took on more than 100 new clients in my first year — mostly young professional millennials like myself. And since I do speak Chinese, our clientele is predominately Asian American, which is an underserved community in financial services. There was a lot of rejection to deal with at first and I definitely faced a big learning curve. It took years to build, but we’ve grown with our clients, which is really gratifying.
How did that shape your financial planning philosophy?
Though many young people earn good salaries, the education system we have doesn’t spend much time on financial literacy. So once they graduate from college, a lot of them don’t understand how financial planning works and most of them are still in debt. I was lucky because my parents taught me to save first and then spend. I try to instill that same mindset in my clients and encourage the ones who are parents to teach their kids how money works.
How does financial wellness fit into your career?
I’m a huge believer in balance in life. Your spiritual well-being, your physical fitness, your relationships and your finances are all tied to each other. On paper, my job is to help my clients with their financial wellness — and a lot of times people stress out because their finances are not doing well and that affects their mental state. But our job is also to help our clients plan ahead for any unforeseen events, and the pandemic really showed the success of this approach — all of our clients have been OK during this scary time.
So financial wellness is really all about finding that balance for yourself by making sure that you are planning ahead, budgeting and working hard. I want to make sure that you save money for your retirement and your future goals as well as unforeseen events. But I’ll also help you allocate some of your money for vacations and shopping. Life is too short not to have fun. But I want you to go on vacation knowing that you can relax because you planned for it and deserve it.
You work with a lot of female and male clients. Do you see a difference in how women and men approach financial planning conversations?
Our male clients tend to be a little bit less open. They just want to get the work done. Almost every woman client I have is OK with being a bit vulnerable with us — sharing their concerns as well as their goals. They’re also more open-minded about planning for the future. And this might be because I live in a big city, but my married female clients tend to earn more money than their husbands, so they are the decision-makers and the ones running the household.
In terms of investing, I see that as more of an occupational differentiation. The clients I have who work in the financial and IT industries — male and female — tend to embrace more risk. But doctors and other medical professionals tend not to have as much financial knowledge, so they’re often more conservative. This is where I need to do my job and help educate them on how investing principles would work best for their personal time frames. That’s why people come to us.
What do you love most about your job?
It’s the personal connections we make and the positive impact we have on people’s lives. Seeing clients graduate from college, get married, have kids and buy their first homes — it’s wonderful to know that we helped with all of that. I get invited to celebrate a lot of milestones with them, from weddings to baby showers, so it goes beyond a strictly professional relationship.
Northwestern Mutual has an amazing way of cultivating internal relationships as well. My team has become close friends with other colleagues, and we check in with each other all the time. It sounds cheesy, but I do consider them to be a part of the family.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love boxing, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years. During the pandemic, I also took up running and biking. I also have two very young nieces whom I spend a lot of time with — we have a great relationship. I have a lot of great people in my life, including my amazing team. I also spend a lot of time encouraging my parents to enjoy life more. I am grateful they are very healthy but with every inch of their bodies, they still want to work. I keep telling them there’s a lot more to life than saving money.