Deborah Hining is a Light Messages author and financial planner. She's been called a fairy godmother for her skills in helping people make their dreams come true, a title she wears with flair and pride. Deborah is the author of the financial how-to guide for women, Money Is No Object: How to Get the Life You Dream of, Even if You Think You Can't Afford it, and the lighthearted young adult financial planning picture book, The True Story of Cinderella and How She (Really) Became a Princess.
How did you get started as a financial advisor?
In 1992, a friend who was a financial planner talked to me about becoming one. He insisted I would really like doing it. I was teaching performance classes at UNC Greensboro at the time, and because I was in a non-tenure track position, it was about the easiest job on earth. I didn't have to worry about publishing, I had summers off and long breaks at Christmas and Easter. I was raising my children, and my schedule meant I worked only two days a week. "Work" consisted of sitting in a classroom, listening to students entertain me.
But something wasn't quite right. Although I was having a fun, easy time of it, I had become increasingly aware that I wasn't making a real difference in the world. I mean, how meaningful is it really to be teaching performance of Renaissance Poetry, or comparative studies of Celtic and Appalachian Literature?
After a summer in Wales where I taught a class in performance of Southern Literature, I returned to UNC-G to the fall semester. The first day, I encountered a professor who was supposed to have retired, but here he was, back in the classroom. I asked him why he was back, and he replied, very sadly,"I thought I was going to retire, but I discovered that I don't have enough money in my retirement account to make it. I need to work at least two more years."
At that moment, I decided to become a financial planner. If this professor, who was smart and educated and a leader in his field of study did not have the wherewithal to prepare properly for his retirement, I needed to do something to help others avoid the same situation. I began studying for the change in career that semester, and by July, I had become a financial planner.
What's been your biggest joy in working with clients?
Knowing that I have really made a difference. Because of me, people are able to send their children to college, to retire, to take that special vacation. Because of the work I have done, widows are not facing a life of financial hardship. People are reaching for bigger dreams and achieving them because I have pushed them to do more and be more.
Your biggest challenge?
Dealing with people who think it is all about money. Or people who never learn to trust me, who are afraid I will get rich off them. When I tell them that their money is less important than their dreams, they simply don't get it. My job, as far as they are concerned, is to make them rich, period. I shouldn't meddle in their private lives.
What prompted you to write Money Is No Object?
I was constantly surprised at how much people responded to just a little encouragement. If someone hinted that they would like to break out of the narrow confines of their current lives and go do something really daring, like start a new business or join the Peace Corp for a year, they absolutely bloomed when I told them that was possible and that they should go for it. Many of them successfully made huge leaps simply because I encouraged them to. If I could help a few clients that much simply by showing them how it is done, imagine how many I could help with a book that might reach thousands.
What's your favorite part of Money Is No Object?
The history part. It's fascinating to see how women have done amazing things without having control of money.
What do you hope women will take away with them after reading your book?
Truly, ANYTHING is possible, no matter how little you have to start with. All you have to do is want it badly enough and be willing to work hard to make it happen. I am hoping that they will be guided to reaching their full potential.
You've often talked about being called your clients' fairy godmother, helping to make their dreams come true. Who's your fairy godmother?
My mother and my sister were fairy godmothers to many people. They both had huge character, big, open hearts, and a desire to help everybody they came in contact with. My mother had to work until her final illness in her 70s because she was broke--she had given all her money away to help others. But she died happy. Money was never important to her, except as a way to improve the circumstances of others. My sister took on the financial responsibility of several families who were struggling, and she did it with an open, joyful heart.
But their generosity with their money was just a symbol of their emotional generosity. They had a way of making people feel good about themselves. They were always kind and enthusiastically supportive. They were true friends to everyone. If everyone could have grown up around those two, the world would be a much happier place.
What was the hardest part of the writing process in Money Is No Object?
The edits and rewrites. Ugh.
Do you have any advice for others wanting to write a self-help book?
If you have a book in you, it will insist on coming out. Any philosophical ideas you have need to be supported with facts and real, hard evidence. And be concrete about how to go about doing whatever it is you are teaching. During the course of my research, I read a lot of self-help books that were pretty squishy. "You want to do something special? Then just do it!" It's frustrating to want to learn how to do something and get no real step-by-step instruction, or to read some hopeful philosophy that is not backed up by real research.
We hear you just had a new arrival at your castle. Tell us, how does being a grandmother compare to being a fairy godmother?
Adults have already formed their characters, and they take full responsibility for who they are and the decisions they make. They are able to understand when I tell them to do as I say, not as I have done, because I have made mistakes and have learned from them. They think I am a fairy godmother because I help them to perform tiny bits of magic in the circumstances of their lives.
Corinne, my granddaughter, is brand new, unformed, and it scares me to think that I will be partially responsible for helping her to become the person she ultimately will be. I want her learn to build a life full of magic and grace, not just patch in bits of magic here and there. But she will be watching me as she grows up, and I can't get by with merely telling her that life can be as good as she makes it; I have to prove it to her by my own actions. That's going to take work.