KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Managing finances is an overwhelming task for many individuals across the country. Whether it’s the never-ending stacks of bills on the kitchen counter or the financial jargon that takes multiple rereads to decipher, sometimes it takes a financial planner to sort through it all to make everything more accessible. Senior Anna-Maria Astor from Kyiv, Ukraine, has been preparing to help others understand their finances as a personal financial planning major during her time at Western Michigan University.
“I’ve seen how financial planning can change people’s lives. Financial well-being and security create a foundation for living without distress,” Astor says. “One challenge is that financial literacy is not common in many U.S. households, which is why bringing awareness to the matter is important for professionals. The opportunities to help people are limitless.”
Studying to be a thriving member of this industry takes plenty of time and experience. Preparing to enter the workforce, Astor has been honing her craft by engaging in professional development experiences while at Western as the president of the Financial Planning Association of WMU and as a member of Delta Sigma Pi, a co-ed business fraternity.
“Planning professional workshops and social events with my team for our members to start networking has been challenging, but has also been a very rewarding experience,” says Astor. “I’m glad that we can give young professionals so much exposure to the financial planning industry through what we do.”
Astor has been gaining professional work experience herself, as well.
“As a finance intern at Stanley Black & Decker, I’ve been exposed to the corporate world’s tools and structure. The experience combined a variety of tasks—starting from creating systems to help the team gain financial insights and finishing with leading a winning team of interns for the company’s innovation challenge,” she says.
Astor is also a personal finance coach at the Sanford Center for Financial Planning at Western.
“This position has been an amazing professional and learning experience. I’ve had an opportunity to help many people with their financial situations as well as promoted financial literacy on campus.”
While in her position at the Sanford Center, Astor found a mentor in Eldon McCabe, assistant program manager at the center.
“Eldon has become a great mentor for me since the moment I transferred to WMU during my junior year. He was the one who introduced me to financial planning as a career and he’s also the one who is always sharing new opportunities in the industry with me and many other young professionals. I’m incredibly grateful for everything he has done for me,” she says.
As Astor continues to help people reach their financial goals, she hopes others aren’t afraid to take risks, try new things and create valuable relationships.
“The most important advice I have learned is to network,” she says. “I’ve had the most amazing experiences because of the people I know, which is why I truly believe that the people in your network define your success.”
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