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KUSUM SEN, CLU, CHS, RIS, CII, Financial Planner, Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network

KUSUM SEN, Toronto, Ontario

“Financial planning is more than a set of skills - it's a lifestyle.”

FINANCIAL PLANNER Kusum Sen began her career as a Financial Advisor in 1994, joining Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network and Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc. (DFSIN & DFSI) more than a decade ago. She is an independent Financial Planner who manages a large portfolio of clients, guiding them in both insurance and wealth planning. She provides information about the constantly evolving financial services industry and its regulations. Kusum is a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Certified Health Insurance Specialist (CHS), Responsible Investment Specialist, (RIS), and is working towards completing her Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. While she takes pride in her many accomplishments, her passion for financial literacy and education truly epitomizes career satisfaction for her.

“I had a strong background in sales, marketing, and communications prior to transitioning to the financial services industry,” explains Kusum. “My progress was exponential because of my total commitment to my career. I developed my client base independently, by initial contact and referrals which grew with client trust and confidence. I credit my holistic approach to client care and advising for my early success. I created strong bonds with my clients, their families, and spouses – some who may not have been financial decision makers at the outset.”

Kusum says when she was new to her role, it was often female spouses who would take a back seat in financial decision making, even though they would be very involved in family planning in general. As a woman and mother, she naturally cultivated relationships with them.

“At the time I was building my career, the financial services industry was more male-dominated,” she says. “Fewer women were taking on the challenge to earn industry accolades like I did, and independent professional female clients were noticeably fewer than they are today.”

You can watch a video of her discussing how women are “redefining the world of finance” here.

Financial Planning, Insurance, and Investments are Indispensable to Achieving

Financial Freedom

Kusum says that understanding the importance of financial planning is as simple as facing the realities of life and visualizing future needs. She stresses that “procrastination is the opportunity cost for financial security and freedom”.

“It may be an intangible concept for some people,” says Kusum “but protecting your financial security, for family and loved ones is critical. Visualizing your needs at age 65 when you are 30 years old can be challenging. As a Financial Planner, it’s an important part of my job to help my clients visualise the future. Few people think about setting up an independent living plan for retirement at age 30. It’s not like buying a gold ring that you can see, feel, and value at market price. Financial planners have a responsibility to educate clients to look into their future and prepare for unpredictable times which we all inevitably face.”

Kusum says that a relationship of mutual respect and trust between Advisor and client is key. She also believes that despite her credentials and qualifications to advise clients, there is no substitute for understanding the people she’s working with.

“My forte is providing professional advice to create the best plans and make a good assessment of the solutions a client needs,” she adds. “It’s like a doctor/patient relationship – if a doctor doesn’t first diagnose a condition, the patient can’t be treated correctly. Similarly, Advisors perform a financial needs analysis to target appropriate solutions for our clients’ needs and goals.”

Kusum adds that the impact of what we are all experiencing today; 40-year high inflation, rising interest rates, unemployment, and an increased cost of living – is not promising anyone financial freedom.

“People must weather this storm,” she says. “Professional advice and insurance planning is very important at a time like this. Death and critical illness are realities of life, and they can impact an entire family. What if a critical illness is diagnosed at a time when your savings account is diminishing due to inflation and every dollar matters to supplement lost income? When I speak to people about critical illness insurance, it's not for today, it’s to create protection for what we don’t know could happen tomorrow.”

Financial Planning is an Essential Service

During the pandemic, Financial Planners remained open for business. Whether they met clients in person or virtually, the industry was operating as an essential service.

“We were exempt from closure because we provide a service that people need under all circumstances” explains Kusum. “The reality is that when you’re in a business that protects the wellbeing of others when income is needed most, you are needed too. Whether it’s a health benefit, life insurance, or an investment, we protect lifestyles in challenging times. Aside from the pandemic, people are living longer today and the need for critical illness, independent living and extended care, without family support are on the rise. Naturally, so is financial planning.”

Kusum’s clients are professionals and entrepreneurs who benefit from wealth management strategies that can protect their assets, with a focus on tax mitigation and inflation protection.

“The pre and post-pandemic effects on health and investments have been challenging to navigate,” she adds. “Many people have been impacted physically and mentally across the world. Both clients and Advisors have had to become very tech-savvy to keep informed about the day-to-day changes in the financial markets. Some clients experienced setbacks because they didn’t have as much access to their Advisors as they needed.”

Kusum says, you can only accomplish so much in a virtual meeting, and some clients turned to “day trading” options and took financial advice from family members, neighbours, and friends.

“There is no alternative to professional financial advice. Playing the stock market like a casino does not create intergenerational wealth. When clients are left to their own devices they may feel like they’re taking control of the situation, but without good advice it’s difficult to know what to do when situations change unpredictably. Our role as Advisors is to ensure that our clients don’t develop a fear of participating in the investment process and the best way to do this is to educate them about the value of staying the course and not timing the markets. Personalized professional advice is the key to long-term success. Financial planning is more than a set of skills, it’s a lifestyle.”

Education, Financial Literacy, and the Financial Planning Lifestyle

Kusum truly embodies “the lifestyle”. She is always thinking about finance, it’s something she is deeply passionate about. She has achieved “Life Member Status” with the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), a US financial professionals organization. She is also a member of Verity, a women’s organization that supports the advancement of women through professional, social, and personal opportunities. She is a Financial Literacy Volunteer with JA Canada, an organization that runs the “Dollars with Sense” program across central Ontario, teaching grades 3-12 students about financial literacy, workplace readiness, and entrepreneurship.

“My friends outside of the industry ask me why I always think about finance,” she says. “Why I listen to financial news, read about finance, and talk about it – my answer is simple: finance is probably the most important thing for anyone to learn about. Not everyone has an interest in money matters, but we should all take the time to safeguard our financial future by educating ourselves. I believe it’s very important that financial literacy concepts should be taught in schools from a young age.”

Kusum volunteers with the Financial Advisors Association of Canada (ADVOCIS), the largest voluntary professional membership association of financial advisors in Canada. She is a former board member. She is also passionate about charitable work for Parkinson’s disease and cancer research.

“I’ve been an ADVOCIS member for the past 15 years,” says Kusum. “Their services include valuable educational courses and webinars encompassing insurance and investments in Estate planning and taxation for Canadians. I work closely with ADVOCIS on many of their programs. I am a mentor and opted to participate in the Advocacy initiative during the last provincial elections to share information about the services we provide, to best represent our community vis-à-vis the financial services industry. I am also contributing to podcasts and seminars on independent living, aging and long-term care with prominent organizations across Canada.”

Kusum’s educational interests cover the entire spectrum of ages and life stages. From people who are preparing for retirement to people who are just starting to learn about money, why we need it, and how we spend it.

“If children are raised to be smart about money and understand the world of finance, they may not experience financial setbacks,” she explains. “It’s never easy to leave the safety of the nest and venture into the world. Consumption is the mantra of the times; education is essential to safeguard their financial future through savings and investments, as well as learning about the value of time and money. Save early and save often – learn the skills which many working adults haven’t mastered.”

Kusum adds that making the right choices and being money-wise early can make the difference for a productive and successful life that is stress-free today and continues into retirement.

“Financial planning is a journey we may or may not opt into, but when we teach these principles and guide the next generation to be financially conscious, we put them on a path to success. Happiness comes with time and effort. To live debt-free and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, one always needs a good financial plan.”

April Potter is a veteran writer with expertise in financial services including nearly 15 years in debt restructuring. April has written for multiple online publications on a variety of subjects. Also a painter, her background in finance is balanced by her artistic endeavors.

Kusum Sen, BA, CLU, CHS, RIS, CII Financial Planner MDRT Life Member

155 Rexdale Blvd. Suite 406

Etobicoke, ON M9W 5Z8

Office 416 - 695 - 1433

Cell 416 - 606 - 6088


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