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“Set Clear Expectations.” With Tyler Gallagher & Tania Brown

The most valuable lesson I learned is to set clear expectations at the beginning of any relationship. I no longer assume that my point of view is everyone’s point of view. I now do relational “check-ins” throughout an engagement to make sure I am on the same page with everyone. As part of our series […]

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The most valuable lesson I learned is to set clear expectations at the beginning of any relationship. I no longer assume that my point of view is everyone’s point of view. I now do relational “check-ins” throughout an engagement to make sure I am on the same page with everyone.


As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tania Brown.

Tania Brown certified financial planner and the owner of Passion to Impact, where she teaches people to make life decisions based on purpose, not payments. She started her career almost two decades ago as a financial advisor, where her role was to advise people on how to grow, manage and protect assets. Now, she’s a financial coach, teaching people how to move from money-stripping to wealth-building behavior. She’s coached thousands of people at some of the top Fortune 500 companies in the country, including Aetna, Nestle, General Mills, and Viacom. A veteran in the US Army, Tania’s journey to financial coaching was unconventional. At 20, she racked up debt and failed to pay a creditor. After the creditor reported her to her commanding officer, he demanded that she create a debt repayment and monthly savings plan. This lesson became a passion, sparking an interest in financial planning, and later, a career in financial coaching. Tania has been featured in multiple publications such as Forbes, Business Insider, Bloomberg, the Associated Press, USA Today and SaverLife. Her other passions include fostering teens, and volunteering.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Mypath to my career in personal finance was unconventional. I was a young soldier in the Army who used credit card retail therapy to cure my homesickness. I failed to pay my credit card bill, thinking out of sight, out of mind. My creditors thought differently and sent a nonpayment notification to my commanding officer.

As part of my lessons learned “after-action plan,” I had to create a debt payoff and a savings plan. This sparked an interest in money management that led to a nearly 20- year career in personal finance.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry?

As a new financial advisor, I met with many clients in the evening. Every appointment was 100 percent about business, but for some men, it was an invitation to a personal relationship. One of my clients, a single male, always asked to meet me for dinner to discuss his accounts. His reason, which made sense to me, was that he could only meet after work. Our meeting place was always a short commute from my office, so it was convenient for me.

To me the meetings were strictly business; to him our meetings were dates. After a few meetings, he made a comment about wanting to move forward. I asked, “With what?”, thinking he was ready to move forward on some of the planning ideas we discussed. He made it clear his interest was more than business. I cringed, realizing how our meetings could have been misinterpreted. I made it clear I was not interested. He has a great sense of humor and he took it in stride. Nearly 20 years later we are friends, and we still laugh about that meeting/date.

Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

The most valuable lesson I learned is to set clear expectations at the beginning of any relationship. I no longer assume that my point of view is everyone’s point of view. I now do relational “check-ins” throughout an engagement to make sure I am on the same page with everyone.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am excited to be working with SaverLife’s financial coaching team to help the 350,000+ SaverLife members build financial security.

SaverLife is a nonprofit that helps Americans build financial security by making savings easier and more rewarding. We have been able to provide timely information about how to survive the COVID financial crisis and are teaching people how to stay on track with their budgets.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

The “tipping point” happened at a women’s conference. The speaker, a well-known businesswoman, spoke about her fears of never feeling like she is good enough. I was shocked. To hear her verbalize everything I felt internally was life changing. I realized if she felt that way, everyone felt that way. Her parting words were, “Do it Scared.” My take on her philosophy is, “Throw up, and do it anyway.” Once I realized courage was acting in spite of fear, I stopped letting fear immobilize me. I now see fear as a “litmus test.” If I don’t feel a little fear, I know am not challenging myself enough.

What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?

Learn to discern Activity vs. Productivity: I read that activity is doing many things and productivity is doing the right things to reach your goals. The danger of activity is that busyness can give you a false sense of productivity. Early in my career, I spent over 40 hours per week on actions that had nothing to do with my goals. Frustrated, I listed my goals and worked backwards to what I needed to be doing daily. I then quantified the actions I needed to take to reach my goals. It’s hard to control anything you cannot measure. Quantifying gives you the ability to measure a goal. Once I quantified and started measuring my productive actions daily, I started to thrive in my field.

Progress will fall on the sword of perfection: I had to learn to discern when “done” vs “perfect” is needed. I used to spend so much time focusing on getting everything perfect, I missed opportunities to serve clients.

Not everyone will like you: This concept is so freeing. Letting go of expectations that everyone will like you, means your confidence doesn’t rise and fall with someone accepting or rejecting your services. You start to re-frame the “Nos” into being closer to a yes, and stop being afraid of selling.

Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?

  1. Ask what percentage of your potential financial advisor’s business represents clients like you. Ideally, broken up by age and income, you want to demographically represent a decent percentage of your potential advisor’s client base. For instance, if you are 65 and retiring, you don’t want an advisor that has 200 millennial clients and two clients like you. You want your advisor to have experience working with your demographic’s unique needs. For someone 65 and retiring, an advisor should be knowledgeable about social security, Medicare, pension options, retirement benefits packages, estate planning, long-term care, geriatric planning, etc. No one advisor can be an expert in all things.
  2. Ask about how they get paid. If an advisor gets paid by selling financial products, they may advise you to buy investments that are not a fit for you. Conversely, a fee-only advisor may over inflate the time spent on your plan so they can charge more. Most advisors care deeply about their clients, but you always want to be on alert for potential red flags in their advice.
  3. Pay attention to the affiliation of the advisor. The advisor’s professional affiliations may limit the advice given. For example, an advisor who works with an insurance company, their financial recommendations may be limited to only insurance, even when insurance is not the best fit. Some advisors may only be able buy and sell investments pre-approved by their companies. Most advisors are upfront about this, but there are a few who will try to talk you out of your desired investment instead of telling you the investment is good, but they can’t sell it to you.
  4. Ask about years of experience. Newer advisors are pros at cleverly hiding lack of experience. Specifically, ask exactly when they became an advisor and started working with paid clients. Ideally, you want an advisor with at least three years of experience. But preferably they would have 11+. It takes about three years to become competent as a financial advisor. Anyone with 11 years of experience has probably gone through a market increase, decrease, recession and boom. They have learned to keep their cool throughout market highs and lows.
  5. Trust your gut. After the last recession I spoke to several people who were victims of Ponzi schemes. All of them said they had a bad feeling about the advice being given to them, but they were too intimidated to ask more questions. This industry uses 50-dollar words to explain 5-cent concepts. You should not invest in anything you do not understand.

I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?

Financial advisors exist to help people grow, manage and protect their assets. A financial advisor acts like an anchor, keeping you grounded in sound financial principles and while at the same time being respectful of your goals, even when life, social media and the news try to steer you off course. This is needed at all stages of wealth building.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had so many angels in my life, it’s hard to pinpoint just one. I will say one of the most influential people in my life is Sergeant First Class Herbert Williams. He was my sergeant when I served in the Army in Hawaii, and everything I am today is a result of the example he set as a person and how he worked with me. He taught me to strive for excellence, to not give up, to not be afraid of trying something new, to expect the best of myself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As a Christian, I believe we are God’s masterpiece. We are beautifully uniquely flawed and created for a purpose only we can fulfill. No one in the universe is exactly like you. No one has your set of experiences, upbringings, personality and talents in the same combination you have, and you are doing a disservice to mankind by not sharing who you are with the world. That messy part of your life? It may be a message of hope to someone else. You are enough. You do not need to be “fill-in-the-blank.” You have everything you need to be who you were created to be. The world needs you.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I own Passion To Impacthttps://www.passiontoimpact.com/ where we teach people to make financial decisions based on purpose not payment.

Website: https://www.passiontoimpact.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/passiontoimpact/?hl=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taniapellewbrown/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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