Rising Star Award
Founder, Just Wealth
When Phuong Luong switched career tracks a few years ago, from teaching to financial planning, she found the core of her professional life remained the same. She’s still an educator.
Today, instead of instructing fifth and sixth graders, she’s working with middle-income clients at her firm, Just Wealth.
“A lot of times, I’m the first financial planner they’ve ever talked to or have ever worked with,” Ms. Luong said.
They come to her not understanding their employee benefits or the difference between long-term care and long-term disability.
“I also do personal financial education with clients,” Ms. Luong said. “It’s where I get a lot of joy because I love teaching.”
Ms. Luong is an InvestmentNews Rising Star.
She describes herself as a “personal finance nerd,” a passion she developed as she watched her Vietnamese parents struggle with the family’s budget.
Her father worked in manufacturing and shipping, industries in which layoffs were always a threat. Her mother was an administrative assistant in a medical office.
“I grew up with a lot of financial insecurity in my household,” she said. “It was a way of coping with that stress that I felt in my family and trying to figure out a way to help them. It brings me to an emotional place thinking about it.”
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Ms. Luong worked for eight years teaching math and special education in New England schools where many of the students came from families struggling with poverty and unstable housing.
“I couldn’t help tackle the problems for students that I wanted to tackle,” she said.
That feeling was part of her motivation for enrolling in the certified financial planning program at Boston University, a school where she also had earned a master’s degree in education.
She obtained her financial planning certificate in 2014, the same year she left the teaching profession. Her first job in the financial sector was with a nonprofit organization in Boston that provided financial coaching and counseling for people who live in public housing.
Ms. Luong, 34, stayed at the nonprofit for three years before founding Just Wealth in 2017.
She said she “works across the income and wealth spectrum.” Most of her clients earn between $75,000 and $200,000. She charges clients a retainer fee.
Her clients have varying amounts of assets, and some of them struggle with student loans and other financial obstacles. They are first-time wealth builders who essentially are taking Ms. Luong’s class.
“I still teach,” Ms. Luong said. “I still coach. I still develop a curriculum.”
One of the people who encouraged her to enter the financial planning profession was Robert Glovsky, vice chair and principal at the Colony Group. Ms. Luong won a scholarship for the Boston University program named after Mr. Glovsky.
“At times, she’ll say I’m her mentor; I’ll say at times she is my mentor because I’ve learned a lot from her,” Mr. Glovsky said. “I’ve learned from her about helping people who are less fortunate because that’s not a sweet spot in my practice.”
He also has seen Ms. Luong give presentations at conferences, a setting that allows her to tell her story of making her way in the investment advice sector as a first-generation immigrant.
“She’s not shy about [relating] what it’s like being a female of color in a profession dominated by white men,” Mr. Glovsky said. “She’s a role model for young women who want to get into the profession.”
Ms. Luong, who’s a member of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, said she learned about racism in depth when she became a financial planner and started reading about the country’s economic and financial history.
“In America, it’s still hard for people to even admit or to understand that we have a racism problem,” she said. “It’s embedded in our institutions. It’s embedded in our laws. It’s embedded in the way we invest. It’s embedded in our economy.”
Ms. Luong wants to help address the resulting disparity.
“It’s why I got into the field, to close and alleviate these wealth gaps,” she said.
Another of her CFP Board activities is serving as vice chair of its Council on Education, where she advises the organization on programs like the one at Boston University.
“She’s a real student in so many ways,” Mr. Glovsky said. “She will get better and better because of her thirst for learning.”
— Mark Schoeff Jr.