- JANICE TUFF
KAM SIEMENS, CFP, RRC, CLU, CFDS, DBA, Sr. Financial Consultant, IG Wealth Management, Terrace, BC
“Educating, enriching, and empowering the people I serve”
Sometimes, the most difficult part of a journey is finding the courage to take that first step.
Kam Siemens’ family made a very long journey from India to Canada when Kam was just two years old, and the courage her family showed as they built a new and better life in this country left a lasting impression. “I was only two when I came to Canada. But my immigrant parents left their family behind. I watched them thrive and appreciate the small things in life, sometimes things we all take for granted,” she says. “My family members came with very little and they built everything through sheer hard work.”
No one should be afraid to talk about finances
Everyone has their own journey. Kam is now a Senior Financial Consultant with IG Wealth Management in Terrace, B.C., and she understands that taking that first step in any new journey can be daunting. Whether it’s starting a new life in a foreign country or beginning a new chapter after a major life event, finances will likely play an important role. Yet Kam finds that it’s a subject many people are either afraid or ashamed to talk about.
“In a lot of families, talking about money is a faux pas,” she says. “That’s why a lot of young adults don’t know a lot about the financial world. And by the time they seek it out, it’s a foreign topic. They’re very afraid to come in and talk to a professional about it for fear of being judged. And that should never be.”
Growing up, Kam’s own family was always open about money and finances. She was raised by her grandmother, aunt, and uncle, who operated a family business, and there were no secrets about the financial dynamics of running the company. “They were always open about that sort of thing,” says Kam. “They talked about revenues coming in, money going out, what you get to keep at the end of the day.” Her grandmother, in particular, was adamant about getting educated. “You get yourself educated, she’d say, so you can take advantage of different opportunities in life.”
It's advice Kam took to heart. Earning her diploma in business administration, accounting and management, Kam’s initial path was leading her to entrepreneurship, but in the mid-nineties she veered towards finance. “I started off going into the finance industry to get my feet wet. Then I was thriving and absolutely loving it.” Never losing that entrepreneurial spirit, she started her own financial planning practice with IG Wealth Management in 2004.
Everyone has their own path and a unique perspective
The values her family instilled in her while growing up – a hard work ethic and the importance of education – are foundations of her practice, and she makes it a priority to ensure clients are both empowered and engaged in their financial planning. That means she works hard to truly understand clients’ needs. “For me, it’s all about the fundamentals – yes, there are numbers, there’s a graph, but really, before we dive into any of that we need to understand the core values of the client. Each client is unique. So for me it’s understanding what makes them tick. What is it they want out of life? It’s going to be different for different people.”
It begins with at least a couple of meetings. Kam not only wants to get to know clients, she needs to also understand their relationship with money and what they feel they need to make themselves feel financially stable. “It makes a difference moving forward,” she says. “Even though certain strategies make sense financially, their beliefs and their history with money might alter the overall financial plan.”
“For us, each time a client comes in, our goal is that they learn something new every time. We want to educate clients in the process so they can understand how they are going to fulfill their goals and that there’s also a timeframe behind it. Education is a big part of it.” So is commitment.
Clients need to have a personal attachment to their financial plan and a commitment to the process to achieve their goals. Kam works to build trust to make that all important buy-in, followed by creating consistency, which in turn motivates clients to see their progress, and helps them see that their goals will eventually come true.
“It could be as simple as getting their first home,” she says. “It could even be planning their pregnancy. OK, we’re planning to get pregnant. Our income is going to be decreasing, so we need to save extra for this.”
Navigating clients through divorce
The best part for Kam is seeing clients achieve their dreams. But the reality is that sometimes financial planning is also about getting through tougher times. Several clients are couples, and throughout her practice Kam has seen a few couples separate or divorce. It’s a stressful stage of life. It’s also complex, especially when it comes to sorting out assets and finances.
“The question always came up, is this fair? There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye,” she says. That’s why I wanted to make sure I had the right education for it, as there’s a lot of different pieces. I would have thought before, ok, that seems fair. This is a balance sheet, you’re getting this, you’re getting that. But it’s not necessarily that way. You really have to explore all aspects of the settlement.”
Kam attained her Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist designation so she could provide a high level of guidance and ensure settlements are fair to both parties. “We’re not here to make sure one party gets more out of the settlement than the other. It’s to make sure it’s fair for both, and that both are going to be ok at the end of the day.”
Helping clients through a divorce also means looking to the future and asking the hard questions to make sure clients will not only be ok today but also down the road. “The financial statements might seem fair,” says Kam. “But let’s say, for instance, that the wife is to keep the family home. It might be a bigger home. But the reality is, can you actually afford that asset? Can you upkeep the maintenance, continue to look after the financial aspect of it?”
Kam also takes a good look at other assets, like pensions, that people often underestimate in terms of their worth. RRSP and other types of investment accounts, for example, may have tax liabilities attached to them.
As Kam has learned, for some, talking about finances is uncomfortable at the best of times, but during a divorce, it can be very emotionally charged. “My role is to take the emotional piece out and bring the reality in. It’s hard because you get connected to both parties and you want the best for both of them. But there’s these emotions. Not everybody wants the best for each other. That’s where I come in. You might not care for each other anymore, but you need to be fair.”
That moment when someone sees their dreams come true
Kam cares about all clients, and when they achieve their goals – be it coming out on the other side of a divorce or realizing dreams they once thought would never be possible – it’s powerful.
One experience that’s always stuck with her is with a client who found love later in life and wanted to have the freedom to retire early and enjoy the rest of his life with his wife. What did retirement look like to him? Travel. He wanted to take one big trip a year along with many little trips along the way.
This client was in his peak earning years and was able to set aside the funds he needed. Once he retired, he achieved his first goal: a European cruise. “He came back with magnets for me from every country he’d been to,” Kam remembers. “He was in tears and said, ‘all I can say is thank you for allowing me to achieve my dreams’. They send me photographs of their travels every year. That’s pretty powerful, that he felt he needed to say thank you to me because he’s able to live out his dreams. All he had to do was commit to the process.”
Always giving back to the community
Commitment is a key word for Kam. Her commitment to clients reflects how much she’s committed to her community. “Giving back to the community is a very big part of my practice,” she says. “Giving back to the community that has given so much to us and that put their faith in us.” It’s no surprise that education plays a role – her team has put on educational sessions for individuals. They also recently held a fundraiser for a hospital. Outside of her practice, Kam coaches kids and young adults in competitive volleyball, and hopes that the experience helps lead them to succeed in their lives after graduation.
“So many people have given me opportunities and I feel like I need to pass that on. It’s very key to me. I’m the kind of person who is always giving because I had some amazing human beings that mentored me and coached me. Their message was always to give back.”
Kam is intent on carrying forward the learning and opportunities she was given during her life. She wants people to know that for every person who is successful in life, it had to start somewhere.
“It’s never too late to start. For that person, I say, coming through these doors is not as scary as it seems. There’s never any judgment passed.”
Starting a new chapter, reaching your dreams, achieving financial security, it all begins like every other journey: taking that first step.
Janice Tuff is a professional writer and communicator who got her start in radio copywriting.
Three decades later, she continues to draw upon the valuable lessons learned in her radio days: grab your audience’s attention quickly and always tell an engaging tale.
Kam Siemens CFP, RRC, CLU, CFDS, DBA
Senior Financial Consultant
Investors Group Financial Services Inc.
IG Wealth Management
104-4644 Lazelle Ave
Terrace, BC, V8G 1S6
T: 778-634-2808 C: 250-615-7926