Forum Partner Karma Forrestal was featured in the May 7 Dimensional Perspectives column, “Empathy and Expertise: How Financial Advisors Are Helping Clients During COVID-19.” As one of the members of Dimensional’s Women and Wealth Community, Karma shares how she has been advising her clients through this global pandemic. Karma joined Dimensional’s Women and Wealth Community in 2017 as one of its original members.
More Than Financial Advice: The Power of Empathy in Difficult Times
Karma joined Forum in 2012. With nearly 20 years of experience in the financial planning and tax planning fields, she has experience working with individuals, small business owners, divorcees and retirees. As one of the founders of the Forum Women’s Initiative, Karma is committed to helping women become financially independent.
Karma’s journey to becoming a financial advisor took an unusual path, one that nearly detoured to other professions including high school math teacher and personal fitness trainer. In this Q&A, Karma shares some of her personal story and advice for those interested in becoming a financial advisor.
What career path did you think you would pursue when you were in college?
Initially, I went to college to become a high school math teacher and had visions of coaching girls’ basketball. By my junior year, I had determined teaching middle school/high school kids would not be a good fit, so I dropped the teaching major and graduated with a mathematics major. Not having any clue what I wanted to do, I visited my college guidance counselor toward the end of my senior year for some help. She told me a financial advisor had recently stopped by the career center with a job opportunity as an administrative assistant and she encouraged me to check it out. I ended up applying for the job and getting it.
How did your career trajectory change from that point on?
Now more than ever, I am a strong believer that most things happen for a reason. About six months into that job, I found myself feeling bored at work. During my one-year review, my supervisor and I had a candid conversation about the fact that I was not feeling challenged and was concerned about my career path. I had decided that I would leave financial services and become a fitness trainer as I have always enjoyed being active and sitting behind a desk was not working for me.
However, my boss had something else in mind. He challenged me to dream big and step out of my comfort zone and become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional. I took on the challenge, and three years later, I earned my CFP® certification.
It was time for me to take a leap of faith and leave my current firm to build my own book of business. I joined Forum, and I became a partner in 2016. When I decided to become a partner, I took on the role of advocate for myself as a female advisor in this industry.
What stands out to you when you think about the clients you work with?
I feel so grateful for the chance to work with each and every one of my clients. I think about how they started on their investing journey, and almost every one of them began investing because someone close to them told them to make a commitment to saving and make it a priority. I can tell the same story, and it is something I will always appreciate – that someone took the time to help me find my way. I consider it a privilege to have such wonderful clients.
What advice do you have for those considering a career as a financial advisor?
Regardless of whether there are good markets or financial crises, it is important to know that choosing a career as a financial advisor will come with stressful days. I have learned that two things are essential in this role: having a support system and focusing on your own health and well-being. In my experience, the support system that works best is made up of colleagues, mentors, peers, family and friends.
Finally, you must prioritize taking care of yourself. A few years ago, a colleague told me that if I did not take care of myself, I would not be able to take care of my children. I think that is true of our professional life as well. Being a financial advisor is tremendously rewarding — recognizing your clients benefit more from having you there to support them when you are rested, happy and healthy.