The impact of financial planning, with Jennifer and Lisa Dazols of Modern Family Finance

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On this week’s episode of the Financial Planning Podcast, Jennifer and Lisa Dazols share the story of how financial planning transformed their lives. 

As the founders of Modern Family Finance and members of the Equita Financial Network, the Dazolses integrate financial planning, investment management, and coaching for women and LGBTQ+ households into their practice.

Jennifer (left) and Lisa Dazols

Modern Family Finance

The duo has the philosophy to first tackle money beliefs and then address the confidence gap when it comes to investing, but they both entered into the world of financial services with an outsider’s perspective. Jennifer Dazols had a long career in tech before they launched their firm, and Lisa Dazols has a background providing psychotherapy as a licensed clinical social worker. 

READ MORE: Why wealthtech running out of ‘free money’ isn’t as bad as it sounds

The couple said a desire to achieve financial freedom and take complete control of their lives planted the seed that would eventually grow into their firm. 

That pursuit of freedom also sent them on a trip around the world in search of what they call “Supergays” — LGBTQ+ people who are doing something extraordinary in the world — to document their stories in a full-length film

“For us, financial planning is about turning money from being a constraint in your life to having money be a fuel for your best life,” Jennifer Dazols said. “If we can think out of the box and use the income that we’re earning in this great life right now but is not sustainable in order to prioritize the things that we cared about, which included travel, which included taking time, which included having adventure, which included investing in passion projects … we could make our life work.”

During their conversation with FP Podcast host and lead editorial producer Justin L. Mack, Jennifer and Lisa Dazols talk about the ups and downs of career switching, the “Out & Around” documentary that took them to 15 countries and why financial planning is more powerful than you think. 

Listen to the new episode — as well as to all future and past episodes — by subscribing to the FP Podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get podcasts.

Transcript:

Justin L. Mack (00:02):
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Welcome to the Financial Planning Podcast. I’m your host Justin L. Mack, and it is my pleasure to introduce this week’s guests, Jennifer and Lisa Dazols. Jennifer and Lisa, thank you so much for joining us on the show this week. 

Jennifer Dazols (00:18):
Thanks for having us, Justin. 

Lisa Dazols (00:20):
Yeah. 

Justin L. Mack (00:21):
And as you can tell, listeners, things are a little bit unorthodox for us. We’ve got two guests checking in this week on the FP Pod, and they’re coming to us all the way from Taiwan. So we’re dealing with a little bit of a time difference here. It’s early and late all at the same time, but because of that, I want to make the most of the time we have together and maximize our minutes with these two fantastic folks. 

Jennifer and Lisa are the founders of Modern Family Finance, a full service investment advisory firm and member of the Equita Financial Network that integrates financial planning, investment management and coaching for women in LGBTQ+ households. This week we’re going to get into the mission behind their work and how they’re tapping into the power of financial planning for both themselves and their clients. Jennifer is a certified financial planner, a member of NAPFA and the FPA. 

(01:06)
She has a B.A. in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and a certificate in financial planning from Boston University. She was also named “Hero of the 500s” by Fortune magazine for her community contributions. Lisa, who is head of operations, comes from a background providing psychotherapy to the LGBT community at UCSF’s HIV clinics in San Francisco. She’s a licensed clinical social worker in California and has a B.S. in psychology from Santa Clara University, and a master’s in social welfare from UC Berkeley. Now, Jennifer, Lisa, like I teed up at the top of the show, a lot I want to get into this week. Your work in the industry and outside of it. But first, the first-timers’ toll here at the Financial Planning Podcast. We love looking at the pathways taken into this profession. So for you both, tell us, how’d you get here? How’d you make your way into the world of financial services? Was it something you knew you wanted to do? Of course, we mentioned some different backgrounds. Whoever wants to go first. Tell us how you made your way to financial planning today. 

Jennifer Dazols (02:07):
Sure. Yeah, it was definitely not a direct route as you can hear from our background. This was not our first career. I really see it as my second mountain or our second mountain, if you will. It’s really a career that came out of our own personal experience and our journey. So I spent 15 years working in corporate tech. And I had a great career and there’s nothing wrong with that path, but I really wanted to work directly with people on a one-on-one basis and hopefully make a deep impact in people’s lives in some way. And I remember kind of looking at my spouse, Lisa, a social worker and a therapist, and I thought, man, she’s got the halo in our family. She’s really helping people. What am I doing in corporate America? I’m running spreadsheets or something. And I realized actually I have a personal special skill and interest around financial planning. 

(03:04)
And anyways, long story short, that’s how the journey for us really started. From a desire to help our own family achieve the financial freedom to choose our own path in life and work. So about 12 years ago, we decided to take a one year sabbatical and go on a trip around the world. We had this crazy idea to start a passion project, and we made a film interviewing LGBT people around the world. But that really made us realize, wow, what a life we could have if we could do work that we loved, live where we loved, and just really have more control. That led us on a path of financial planning for our own lives. And then along the way, we started helping some friends and family just for fun. And then that’s kind of what led us to decide to start Modern Family Finance. 

Justin L. Mack (03:57):
Very, very cool. So a very organic growth of that passion. Again, something you were doing for yourselves and you realize, there is something here. There’s something very powerful here, especially for folks from the outside looking in. And I love hearing about folks who are career switchers. I kind of feel a kinship there. I’ve said it here on the show before that. I’m reporting for financial services now. But before that, I was an old-school newspaper guy for a long, long time. Crime, courts, public safety, that whole thing. You start to realize what you think of financial services until you actually look into it and touch it and realize what it means. It sounds like it’s all numbers and performance and chasing, you know what I mean? That’s the image I think portrayed often by advisors and planners and this industry at large. So it is really cool seeing that passion, and being able to share that story. So tell me more about the work being done at Modern Family Finance. What is the mission? Who are you helping?

Jennifer Dazols (04:55):
So we serve women and LGBTQ professionals typically in their 30s, 40s and 50s. So really again, this was an organic journey and it started with trying to, I mean, we started from a place where we felt constrained and felt like in order to live a life … we are from the Bay Area. To live in the Bay Area, high-cost city life, we would have to stay in these certain kinds of jobs forever. And it felt very constraining. How would we ever be able to travel around the world? How would we ever be able to take our family on adventures and do passion work that maybe didn’t create much income? So eventually, through financial planning, we were able to find a path for ourselves. And so we realized that we’re not the only people who feel this way. Our community also feels the way. There’s lots of women, lots of LGBTQ people who also feel similarly. So that’s how we ended up focusing on this particular segment. 

Lisa Dazols (05:56):
And me, I mean, coming as a background from a social worker, I was really interested in mission based work. And I think I saw that in financial planning. I think I saw that this is really, people are very stressed out about money. Money and anxiety can really affect people’s mental health. And I just saw this as a way that we could really work with a handful of individuals and couples and help to ease their anxiety, help to set them free. And we thought, well, if we could set ourselves free and allow ourselves to do cool passion projects on the side and work in a sustainable way on something we care about, there’s a rippling effect if we can help others to do the same. And so as a social worker, I could see the big picture and see that this is really a way to strengthen our community. 

Justin L. Mack (06:56):
Definitely. And Lisa, I would love to get some additional thoughts from you as well with your background as a social worker and looking at the mission-based focus of not only your firm, but thankfully seeing a lot of other firms, new firms popping up that have a mission focused to help these kinds of people or certain kinds of people. Just because of the gaps that exist. And as I’m sure when you guys started your firm, not a big surprise, that representation for all the different groups that you’re championing today, there is a wide chasm among the amount of financial planners and advisors. The demographics are what they are. We report them all the time at Financial Planning. Women, people of color, LGBTQ+, grossly underrepresented among planners and advisors. So stepping into this world, how do you tackle that? Understanding that you are providing a service that very few people like us are going to get, and they’re very rarely going to get it from someone who looks like them or is like them.

Lisa Dazols (08:04):
Yeah, I mean, when I was doing psychotherapy as a social worker in San Francisco, I would see people who had a lot of trauma, who had drug history, who were HIV positive, who were gay, who were trans. There was just such concern from them of being judged, and having someone who represents part of their community just allows this layer of trust to set in and for them to open up. And money is just so personal. I mean, I think that people come to us kind of like they’re looking for a therapist, but someone who they can unveil a little bit of their lives to. So yeah, we have a lot of trans couples, we have a lot of single women, we have a lot of lesbians, gay men.

Jennifer Dazols (08:57):
Have some straight couples, too. We’re not against straight couples.

Lisa Dazols (09:00):
Yes. We think they’re cool, too. But yeah, I think that it’s been a relief, I think for clients to find someone who they don’t have to explain themselves to. And it’s just when it’s a good fit, I think that’s where the power sets in, where people feel like they can be heard and make real change. 

Justin L. Mack (09:22):
Very cool. And another great segue into another question I’d love to ask. And that is, what does financial planning mean to you? Where does that power lie? We talked a little bit about that organic growth, it turned into something that was a profession because of what it was doing for you in your personal life. I want to go back to that. What kind of changes did you see personally that made you say, hey, we have to do this for others. We have to help people. There is real power in planning that we didn’t realize existed before. Anything you could speak on as far as what financial planning has meant to you and your family? 

Jennifer Dazols (09:56):
For us financial planning is about turning money from being a constraint in your life to having money be a fuel for your best life. And I think that’s really kind of when we saw that for ourselves and saw like, wait a minute. If we can think out of the box and use the income that we’re earning in this great life right now but is not sustainable in order to prioritize the things that we cared about, which included travel, which included taking time off, which included … and we were flexible about living abroad … which included having adventure, which included investing in passion projects like that, we could make our life work. So if we could focus on what it is that we wanted first, I mean I think it’s easy to kind of say, well obviously you should start with the goal in mind. But it’s actually really hard to do in practice 

Lisa Dazols (10:55):
And it just happened naturally. We were working our jobs, we weren’t thinking of career switching. Friends started asking us, hey, what are you doing? How are you doing this? We had two friends who were a couple who were getting married and they’re like … they were struggling with how to combine their finances and we’re like … and this is what we do for fun … how about we come over for dinner and help coach you through this? And we threw together slides and stuff. The therapist here, I’m like, tell us each about your background with money and how you were raised and we facilitate a conversation. 

Justin L. Mack (11:34):
Nothing wrong with that. Everyone has fun in their own way. Some people do game night. You come over, and we’ll replan your life over casserole. There’s nothing wrong with that. Either way is a good time. And at least there’s something beneficial instead of getting in a fight at the end of Monopoly. This is a lot more productive. So very cool. Very, very cool. 

Lisa Dazols (11:53):
Right. 

Justin L. Mack (11:54):
And with that, this is actually a great time to take a break and enjoy a word from our sponsors. But when we return, we’ll have a whole lot more with Jennifer and Lisa Dazols of Modern Family Finance. Stay locked. We’ll be right back after this break. 

And welcome back to the Financial Planning podcast. I’m your host Justin Mack, and we’re diving back into our conversation this week with Jennifer and Lisa Dazols of Modern Family Finance, coming to us all the way from Taiwan. The beauty of being able to work in a modern world empowered by things like Zoom. So thank you so much again for making the time, but we want to jump into the conversation. We talked about what financial planning means to you, how it’s transformed your lives, both personally and professionally. So let’s step outside of financial planning just for a little bit. Tell us about the “Out & Around” documentary. You mentioned a little bit at the top of the show. What was it all about and what kind of effort went into making that possible? 

Lisa Dazols (12:48):
Yeah, so this started 12 years ago. Before we were married, Jenni had wanted to go on a sabbatical and take a break from her Silicon Valley career. And I was very interested in Jenni, wanting to follow along. And basically we wanted to do a project together. We thought it’d be fun to do a blog about what gay people were like around the world. And as we started pitching this idea to people, just friends and people outside our network, we started to believe and really strive to make a documentary about Supergays around the world. So we actually traveled to 15 countries in Asia, Africa and South America. We conducted 50 interviews on video and then we came back to California and found some aspiring filmmakers who were quite good, who edited the whole film and really made it, took it to that professional level. So we actually had “Out & Around” go out on the film circuit, it had a TV premiere and we had a TED Talk. So it’s just been a way for us to really engage with the global LGBT community, and that kind of passion project also gave us the confidence here when we moved to Taiwan four years ago to start the Asia Rainbow Ride, which is a charity bike ride that raises money for the LGBT community. And that also stemmed from our film because when we were traveling in Asia, we met Supergays here in Taiwan who we later connected with. 

Jennifer Dazols (14:30):
And I think to kind of draw that out back to financial planning, I really tell people taking a sabbatical might be the best ROI that you could possibly do because it gives you a chance to take a break from life and really figure out what you want. And then we can go back to what we’re talking about. Financial planning is really how you create a financial plan to support whatever it is that you want. And that’s, really, “Out & Around” was the beginning of that financial planning journey for us as well. 

Justin L. Mack (14:55):
Definitely, yeah. Create something to figure out what it is you want, but you have to know what you want first. And like you mentioned, taking that time to establish that, probably really beneficial. You mentioned the other endeavors, the bike ride, of course you guys stay super busy. Just want to take this segment right here, one to mention anything else you guys are working on that we can share with the people, because again, I was so glad to have you both on because of the work you’re doing inside and outside of the industry, really just doing good for others. Raising awareness again, spending your spare time in your free time, helping your friends plan over dinner. Any other things or causes I want to mention right now while we have the time? 

Jennifer Dazols (15:34):
Well, I mean, I would say that part of the way we set up our business was so that we could support our ability to continue with passion products and time. And part of that is why we chose to go with Equita Financial Network. So when we were thinking about how we want to start our firm, we could have gone totally on our own. We could have maybe joined an RIA, but it was really important for us to maintain our independence and how we wanted to position ourselves and serve our clients and charge our fees. So we wanted to be independent, but we also wanted support and we believe in the power of community, which is what is really central to all the passion projects that we’ve ever done. So Equita Financial Network is a group of women-led advisory firms, and it’s a platform where we share resources from trading and investment resources. So I think that’s been hugely helpful for us. It kind of takes off the heavy burden of running an RIA so that we can focus on serving clients well and finding clients, which I think can take up all of our time already. So I think that’d be the other thing I’d mentioned. 

Justin L. Mack (16:37):
Moving forward, and we are talking now, firmly going into the last part of 2023. It has been a blur of a year, at least over here. I don’t know if it’s been the same for you both, but it’s hard to remember what happened in 2023. So we’re going to forget about that. We’re going to talk about next year. And goals for 2024. I don’t know if you’ve set any personal or professional goals that you hope to accomplish next year. Anything you want to mention that you’re working on or what is I guess the biggest focus if you had a priority for the new year? 

Jennifer Dazols (17:25):
I mean, as it relates to our business, we’re in our third year now, so we’re kind of getting into that spot where the business is starting to roll along and we’re feeling a lot more confident. So for us, our focus is really about hiring people. We hired our first part-time paraplanner, which is really exciting and just kind of growing a team and then scaling our practice. So really kind of growing the business. So that’s the business side. We feel like we have a great niche. We feel like we’re serving great people. We’ve been really lucky with the clients that have found their way to us. And then personally, we are also, we’ve been expats for about eight years now and we are finally ending our expat life for many reasons. But we are returning back to the SF Bay Area, which is where we’re from, after the school year. 

Justin L. Mack (18:12):
Okay, okay. And like you said, it’s been eight years since the change. I guess what was the primary reason for the change now? Anything you’re looking forward to, anything you’ll miss while you’re kind of thinking about it now? I know it’s probably a lot of work that goes into that as well, but putting the work part aside, any reflections you’d want to share here on the podcast about making that transition?

Lisa Dazols (18:38):
I think a lot of people, especially after COVID, have been thinking about traveling more or becoming digital nomads. And I mean, it’s been a great gift to us in our life. And our kids are fluent in Mandarin. I mean, our kids are 5 and 7, they’ve spent their little childhood abroad in Switzerland and now here in Taiwan. I mean, we’re really relocating back to San Francisco to be closer to family and to, it’s just time to go home. But I would say that if it’s something that you’re thinking about, go for it. We’ve seen so many different parts of Europe and of Asia. I’ve met really super cool people who are on different paths, so we highly recommend it. 

Jennifer Dazols (19:21):
Yeah, I think I’ve spoken with some aspiring financial planners as well who are interested in doing this remotely or doing this as a digital nomad. And it is definitely possible. It’s a little bit more complicated, but it is possible. So if anybody is interested in that and wants to chat, I’m happy to chat with them, too. 

Justin L. Mack (19:40):
Alright, awesome. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of folks who, like you mentioned, who are thinking about doing that and even folks from outside the industry who are just thinking about that, just going for it and just doing it. And would probably love to, we could do another podcast on the inside. And then with that, we’re actually going to transition into what has become a tradition here on the Financial Planning podcast, which is ending with some good vibes. And we talked a lot about the mission behind your firm now, the work that took you around the world for the folks that you ultimately chose to serve as financial planners in the creation of your firm. Representation, and how you got here from a very unorthodox past, which is always cool. 

(20:26)
With all that considered, I always love to ask my guests, what do you love most about your jobs? What keeps you coming back? Because with everything that we list that you’re doing, like I mentioned, a lot of work goes into all of it. It’s awesome to be able to say, we’ve done this and that, but we know that the steps along the way are not always easy. When you look back on all the things that you’ve accomplished … why do you do it? And whoever wants to start first. What do you love most about your jobs? What’s been the most rewarding part of the journey so far? 

Jennifer Dazols (21:00):
Oh, I mean by far it’s having meaningful conversations with people. I get to have the kinds of conversations with clients that are the kinds of conversations I enjoy having anyways with friends. And now I have this context for doing it and asking all kinds of probing questions. And so I love that so much. So that’s kind of number one. And then I guess I would say number two is we’re also a spouse team. So I know it doesn’t work for some couples, like, I cannot imagine working with my spouse. We actually, with the film back then, it was a test, so we knew we could make it work. We had very complementary skills. So I mean, believe me, I think we had a fight this afternoon about our marketing tactics. But still, all in all, it’s great to work together as family with your person. 

Lisa Dazols (21:54):
Especially if you have a family life as well. 

Justin L. Mack (21:57):
Definitely. And Lisa, anything to add on your favorite part? Looking back on your journey so far, again, doing work very much not like our industry, but now serving our industry. Anything to reflect on as far as my favorite part? 

Lisa Dazols (22:13):
No, I think we said it all. Sorry. I’m like, I can’t think of something deep. [laughs] 

Justin L. Mack (22:21):
Hey, that’s why you’re a perfect pair. She’s already got you covered. She’s taken care of it. Don’t worry about it. But I want to thank you so much both for sharing your time and your passion with us this week on the Financial Planning Podcast. And we’ll share a link so you can check out again, the “Out & Around” documentary, the TED Talk, the firm and everything else they’re working on. Thank you again, Jennifer and Lisa. 

Jennifer Dazols (22:40):
Thanks. 

Lisa Dazols (22:40):
Thank you. 

Justin L. Mack (22:41):
And I want to thank everyone for listening to the Financial Planning Podcast. This episode was produced by Arizent with audio production by Kevin Parise. Special thanks again to our guests, Jennifer and Lisa Dazols of Modern Family Finance. Rate us, review us and subscribe to all of our content at www.financial-planning.com/subscribe. For Financial Planning, I’m Justin Mack. Thanks for listening.

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