Nikki Gajoo-Frielinghaus is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), certified life coach, certified money coach, certified business archetype coach, and an NLP practitioner. Nikki is also the founder of Opulentus Wealth Management, an advisory practice based in South Africa, and Imali Coaching, where she assists individuals, business owners, and couples to transform their relationship with money.
Today, Nikki joins the show to discuss self-growth and personal development, the decision to shift from CFP to coaching, and what inspired her to make this leap.
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00:52 – Jonathan reads another five-star review from a recent guest of the podcast
02:04 – Jonathan introduces today’s guest, Nikki Gajoo-Frielinghaus, who joins the show to open up about the loss of her father and financial lessons that came out of that experience
13:08 – The shifting dynamic of finances in the lives of couples
21:34 – Differences between CFPs and CMCs in South Africa and America
30:35 – Nikki’s career progression
35:33 – What inspired Nikki to launch Opulentus Wealth Management
45:34 – How Nikki differentiates coaching clients from financial planning clients
52:02 – One piece of financial advice to heed and one thing to completely ignore
57:23 – One thing Nikki would like her clients to know about her and the one question she would want to know the answer to
1:00:36 – Jonathan thanks Nikki for joining the show today and lets listeners know where to connect with her
“I’d say, for me, a turning point in terms of finances was at that point in time – after the age of fourteen – because then I sort of got a reality check. My mom did whatever she could to provide for us, but instead of getting five Christmas presents, we were only getting two. So, that shift in terms of our financial situation became very apparent when my dad had passed on.” (06:31) (Nikki)
“At that young age in my teens, I was very clear no matter where life took me, what was going to become very important for me in my lifetime would be financial independence. And not only financial independence, but just independence in general.” (11:21) (Nikki)
“I think it would definitely be linked to legislation, definitely from a tax perspective. So I think that’s the big thing because we’re both CFPs. I’m part of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa. That’s my geographic location, and I guess yours would be the USA. So, I’d say the biggest thing would be legislation linked to tax laws.” (21:54) (Nikki)
“I’d say, for me, it was more looking internally, introspecting, and realizing that there was so much more that I needed in order to advise clients, specifically clients who had larger sums of money. And that is what led me to the CFP qualification.” (34:21) (Nikki)
“I’m unsure of what your experiences were in the States during Covid, but here in South Africa, because I work with a lot of either business clients or investment clients, the initial knee-jerk reaction was, ‘Cash out! Cash out! Cash out!’ Now, you and I both know that is the wrong thing to do. You stick it out. The market will rectify itself. You stick to your goals. You keep calm. You keep going. But, it didn’t matter what I said to clients. They were not interested in hearing the technical side of it. They were so driven by emotion, and I just couldn’t communicate with clients.” (39:54) (Nikki)
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Jonathan DeYoe: Hi there. Welcome back to the Mindful Money podcast. Before we get into today’s episode, I really want to read you another one of these five star reviews that a listener wrote in. But the listener was also a guest. So somebody that was listening and she was listening, then she came on as a guest. She’s still the listeners. That’s great. So she says, I had the opportunity to both listen and be a guest on Jonathan’s show. He’s got a very diverse guest list. He makes each guest feel comfortable. This allows everyone to shine. Now, the questions he asks aren’t check the box questions. They’re tailored to every guest. He approaches money mindset, uh, by selecting fabulous guests from different industries, and he shows, uh, the shows are a perfect length. And during the show you learn about his own challenges. He’s very open with his successes with money and with wealth. So if you’d like to leave a review, please visit ratethispodcast.com mindfulmoney. Again, that’s ratethispodcast.com mindfulmoney. Your reviews obviously mean a lot to us because they tell all the Google algorithms and YouTube algorithms and everybody that they should share us more broadly with the universe and more listeners means we can do more good in the world. So please, if you’re able, leave a review. And we thank you. So on today’s episode of the Mindful Money podcast, I’m chatting with, and I should have asked you how to say this before we started. Nikki Gajoo Frielinghaus or Frylinghouse?
Nikki Gajoo: Frielinghaus
Jonathan DeYoe: I got it right the first time. Frielinghaus Very German. So Nikki is a certified financial planner, a certified life coach, a certified money coach, a certified business archetype coach, and an NLP practitioner. She’s the founder of Opulentus wealth, an advisory practice like our advisory practices, you know, here in the US, based in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, South Africa. And she’s the founder of Imali Coaching, where she assists individuals, business owners, couples to transform their relationship with, you know, given all the letters after her name, Nikki is always learning, but it’s not just academics. She’s got a really deep interest in topics of self growth and personal development. Her favorite quote, and I love this, is the greatest glory in living lies. Not in never failing, but rising every time we fail. Nelson Mandela. Nikki, welcome to the Mindful Money podcast.
Nikki Gajoo: Thank you, Jonathan, for having me. Hi there, listeners.
Jonathan DeYoe: Thank you. Thank you. I’m excited for this because you and I have kind of a. We have a very. We’re on opposite sides of the globe, but, uh, we have a very similar path where we have this financial advisory practice. We also have this coaching and money coaching practice. I’m looking forward to get into this. So, first, where do you call home? And are you there now?
Nikki Gajoo: Okay, so where I’m at right now is not my place of birth, though. It’s always been in South Africa, but just in a different state as you know it. So, home for me is Ravonia Johannesburg. As many of you may be aware, Johannesburg is the economic hub of South Africa. So this is my home.
Jonathan DeYoe: And you said you grew up there?
Nikki Gajoo: No, I actually grew up in a very small town in a different state. The town is called Newcastle, and I lived there right until the age of about 18, until I went off to college, spent four years at college, and when I was done, I got my first job at one of the banks in South Africa. And that required me to move states, and that is how I moved to Johannesburg. And this has been my home since then.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, I’d like to start with some questions about. And this will be different, I think, and maybe it won’t be. Maybe I’m sort of fantasizing about what it’s like in Africa, South Africa versus the United States. But what did you learn about money or entrepreneurship growing up?
Nikki Gajoo: So the entrepreneurship part is a very easy one. My dad had his own construction business, so I literally grew up playing on construction sites. So while, uh, many girls played with dolls, I played with tea sets and filled my cups up with cement or sand. So, yeah, at a very young age, my brothers and I were exposed to entrepreneurship and basically writing your own paycheck. In terms of money, this is a bit of a tricky one, Jonathan, because I was about 14 years old when my dad passed on. So my mom then became a single mom with myself and my two siblings, being a young mom of three kids. So everything I knew about money prior to the age of 14, I’d say was empowering. It was fun, it was exciting, it was like whatever you asked for, you got. Because my dad was financially well off, we were financially well off at that point in time. When my dad had passed on, he had made financial provisions for the family. But my mom wasn’t really good at managing finances. And I also come from a culture where at that point in time, the husband was the provider, the husband took care of the finances. So my mom found herself being very overwhelmed at that point in time, being a young widow, having three kids to raise, and also having a huge lump sum of money to manage, literally for the next about, I’d say 20 to 25 years, because my youngest brother was six at that point in time. And I could see how overwhelmed she was with everything from the loss of my dad to now taking over his business as a person who had never run a business before, and also having to manage finances, having to raise kids. So I’d say for me, a turning point in terms of finances for me was at that point in time, after the age of 14, because then I sort of got a reality check, if that made sense. My mom did whatever she could to provide for us, but instead of getting five Christmas presents, we were only getting two Christmas presents. So that shift in terms of our financial situation became very apparent when my dad had passed on. It was like going from getting whatever you wanted, ask and you will receive, to getting to a stage where ask. But either mom would say, not right now or maybe later or no, and then having to work with what you have. So for me, that’s the two differences I’ve experienced around money at a young age.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So I don’t know if you know anything about the show or what the foundation of the show is. Mindful money, the podcast. But almost two years ago now, my brother passed away and he had 16 year old and 13 year old at the time. So right around your age, my family lost. My brother’s family had the same experience, and they’re actually having the exact same experience you’re talking about, except that not as good at provisioning, not as good at planning, my brother didn’t do as good at planning to leave them in good shape. So this podcast has actually started because I wanted to find a way to give people advice and some education who didn’t have access and didn’t feel like they had access. Right. So you’ve just hijacked. The show is going to go down a completely different path now, and I really, really appreciate that. Okay, the first question that’s coming to my mind, there’s thousands, um, of them right now. Was there another adult, I’m assuming when your dad passed, your mom was a mess, and this is probably a long, long ago, so there’s a lot of. I don’t want to dredge up any emotions, but if we have some, that’s fine. Was there another adult that you sort of not glommed onto but you approached? And did you have an uncle or an aunt or a grandma or a grandpa or somebody, a close family friend that you would say, my mom is a mess. I need to talk to this person. And then how did that relationship develop, and were they good with money, and did that affect your interest in money or your knowledge about money at that time?
Nikki Gajoo: So quite a few questions, Jonathan.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, lots of stuff. Sorry about that. Just dumped you. Changed everything for me.
Nikki Gajoo: Firstly from my side, my condolences to you and your family. I’m sorry for your loss.
Jonathan DeYoe: Thank you.
Nikki Gajoo: Okay, so a, uh, bit of a tricky one. My dad was the oldest of six siblings, so his brothers and sisters actually leaned on to him for financial advice and for guidance. So with my dad no longer being there, his two younger brothers stepped in to assist my mom, both with the business as well as just finding her feet from a financial perspective initially. So my go to people during those years was my two uncles for anything, and their spouses. Being a teenager, being a female, you’re growing, you’re changing, and you need a mom. And my mom tried as best as possible to pull herself together. There were some challenges around mental health at that point in time, which you can understand as she was grieving and trying to cope with her loss. And I guess we all were in some shape or form as young as we were. And I was fortunate with my two uncles, their spouses, and some of the other members from my maternal side of the family also stepped in to try and support us wherever they could be, it emotionally or whatever we needed during that point in time. And I guess what I learned from them from a financial perspective, and this may take the show to another level as well, Jonathan is, as a female, I started becoming more and more aware of the gender differences between males and females in society, and specifically in relation to the culture that I came from and apart from my mom. I started looking at my aunt and uncle and their relationships, and I noticed that it was always, and please, I’m not hating on guys here. It was always the male who was in charge of finances. It was the male who made all the major decisions in the household. And the female was there. She was the caregiver, managed the household. Yes, she did have a job, but it was never on the same level as the partner. And I started to see the inequality, if that made sense. And, Jonathan, at that young age, in my teens, I was very clear. No matter where life took me, what was going to become very important for me in my lifetime would be financial independence. And not only financial independence, but just independence in general. I always looked at my mom’s situation. She never planned for my dad to pass on, but it happened, right? And my dad, on the other hand, obviously didn’t plan to leave my mom and the family at such a young age and have her take on the responsibilities. And in doing so, he didn’t really empower m her to be an equal or empower her when it came to household decisions, be it financial or whatever decisions which, when my dad passed on, my mom was now literally a hot mess, trying to pick up and do everything, things that simple, things like budgeting, like paying accounts. These were things that my dad took care of. Right. And now she was the one having to manage all of this.
Jonathan DeYoe: So, yeah, I’ve been in the financial services world for 26, uh, seven years now, right. And, uh, what I’ve noticed in that time frame, and this still happens, if you have a couple that comes in and maybe you have the same experience and they’re older, the man handles the finances in most cases, and I would say most, meaning 80%. I think 20 years ago, it was 90, 95%. Now m it’s 80%. And I got to tell you, my strongest, most disciplined, most intelligent client is a woman, and she’s been managing her four generations of family finances for 50 years. So there’s exceptions to this rule. But today, and I’m wondering if you have the same experience in your practices. When a couple comes in, it’s either equal or oftentimes women are actually taking the lead and making many decisions. Do you have that same experience, Jonathan?
Nikki Gajoo: It’s like a mirror, right. So I’m finding the exact same here in South Africa as well. I’d say early in my career, there was stall males making decisions. What I am finding lately, over the last five to ten years or so, is that a lot of decisions, uh, are joint decisions. So couples are more open to joint financial planning. And there are instances where you’d find that the female is more stronger than the male, be it emotionally, financially, and she tends to take the lead. I had to put in emotional, sorry, and she tends to take the lead in the finances. But also, I’ve now experienced two sides of this, and my response has been from the advisory side now. But when I look at my second practice being the coaching practice, one of the areas that I practice in is couples money coaching. And that experience has been absolutely mind blowing because the couple’s money coaching just focuses on the thoughts, behaviors and emotions of the couple around money. And it’s actually not uncommon. When working with clients, you hear the saying opposite attract. And that is what I tend to find with all the couples that I’ve worked with and I am currently working with. And the gender is irrelevant, but you will find one person is a staunch saver and the other person is a compulsive spender. And I chatted to some of my colleagues as well, and I said to them, is this only happening to me? But it seems like every couple has this dynamic. And they’ve actually said to me, this is actually quite common, but it’s only when you hone down. So when you look at it from a financial planning perspective, it’s more around the joint finances and coming together. And it’s not about who’s making the decisions, it’s what are you planning together for? What are your joint goals? Whereas when it comes to the couple’s coaching, you separate the couple, right. And then you look at each person’s individual emotions and behaviors around money. And that is when you start picking that one person, just to avoid conflict, tends to agree to go with the other person who’s much stronger. And that, for me, was absolutely fascinating and mind blowing. And then the work we do with the couples is to create a safe space where we actually encourage communication. Because, uh, couples money coaching is only about communication. It isn’t even about the money, it’s about communication. And for the party that wasn’t heard or seen before, to now allow them the platform to be seen and heard and going forward, to have both partners in the relationship be able to safely communicate their needs to each other without worrying about or fearing any conflict, and then reaching their joint planning goals together and the success of it.
Jonathan DeYoe: So what happens when, and this is very personal, when one of us, literally us, my wife and I, one of us is just not interested. I know how this works. I know the dynamic. I see it every day. I work with people all the time. And I’m like, okay, this Saturday, let’s sit down, let’s look at things and see, you see where things are and things and the moving pieces and the stuff and she’s like, nah, you’ve got that. You know? So what? In that circumstance, like, if something happens to me tomorrow, then my wife is in exactly the same circumstance your mom was in.
Nikki Gajoo: Yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: Even though we’ve attempted to loop it in and let her know, and she’s got access to the spreadsheets and all the stuff, and she sees it all and know just, you’ve got this, don’t worry about it. I don’t need to know. Sometimes she’ll be like, oh, I’m all nervous because I don’t know. Okay, let’s talk about it. But it’s never like a regular practice. You must advise a regular practice of some kind.
Nikki Gajoo: So, Jonathan, what you’ve mentioned is actually quite common, right. But I’d say irrelevant of gender, because sometimes you’d find it’s the other partner in the relationship who’d be unwilling. So it doesn’t matter which partner it is. Right. So when we find a situation like that and, uh, one partner will approach us and say, this is the problem that I’m having with my partner, and it’s coming across that they’re not willing or not wanting to actually approach this, how do we break the ice here? So what we do is, like, in your scenario, we would spend time with your wife, right? Because how it’s coming across to you is that maybe she’s not willing or wanting to look at the finances or empower herself. Maybe that’s how you are perceiving it right from your point of view. And we actually sit down with her and there’s different exercises that we use to actually understand what’s going on there. And this may not surprise you when I tell you this. Earlier, uh, on, you asked about what kind of led me to my journey. There could have been some trigger event, and that could have happened in, uh, her early days. It could have even happened a year or a month ago or something that could have happened to make her believe or feel that this is something that I don’t want to do. We have a very gentle approach in terms of getting to it without putting a client in a situation where they find themselves in a space of shame or embarrassment. That is not what we do. But we use an approach where we facilitate healthy communication. And maybe for some reason, if she’s unable to communicate that to you, she would communicate this to me and jointly I would probe her and facilitate the conversation to now see how is it she could approach you in a way that doesn’t bring up conflict and in a way that creates a safe environment for her to effectively communicate. Why is it that whenever you bring this up, she may come across as not collaborating or not wanting to? Look at this.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’ve had enough therapy to realize that some of the backstory might be because the way you keep saying this is the way I perceive it. So it may very well be that I am very aggressive around my financial opinions. And so when I have a financial opinion and I want to share it and say, hey, what do you think about this? And this, she’s like, you’ve got this because I’m too aggressive. So my perception is because of the way I maybe come across. I appreciate that’s a good thing. That’s a self learning right there.
Nikki Gajoo: Self learning, Jonathan. And I actually applaud you for this awareness as well, because a lot of clients are not aware of it.
Jonathan DeYoe: This is probably 1213 years ago, there was this investment that I really wanted to do, that she really didn’t want to do. And back in the day, I was married once before, and I had a couple businesses before, one of which had some legal issues. So we had a prenup to protect her from my legal issues. We had separate money. Right. And so we had this big discussion about this investment that I wanted to make. Because I’m an investor, I like investing in everything. And I said to her, we should do this together. And she’s like, no, I don’t want to do it. And I was like, uh, I’m going to do it myself with my own money then. Right. Of course, fast forward, like, eight years, the investment totally fails. Like, I lose every penny. I started actually talking more about joint decisions are usually better decisions.
Nikki Gajoo: Let’s see, Jonathan, this speaks to what I said earlier on, right. You were the one who was willing to take the risk, but she was more conservative and prudent in her decision making.
Jonathan DeYoe: Some m risk is prudent.
Nikki Gajoo: Okay, maybe bad choice of, uh, know. And you still went ahead, but can you see how it’s two different personalities?
Jonathan DeYoe: Yep. For. Yeah. One of the things I noticed, the CMC and the CFP, those are designations we use here.
Nikki Gajoo: Yes.
Jonathan DeYoe: So it’s the same registration. It’s the same designation body that’s sort of governing it. Do you know what the difference. I mean, you’re doing it there, I’m doing it here. I wonder what the differences are. Is it just like the different tax structures that we live under?
Nikki Gajoo: So I think it would definitely be linked to legislation, definitely from a, uh, tax perspective. So I think that’s the big thing, because we both CFPs. I’m part of the Financial Planning institute of Southern Africa, so that’s my geographic location. And I guess yours would be USA. So I’d say the biggest thing would be legislation linked to tax laws. And the other difference then, though, I mean, it’s more on the product recommendation side of costs. That’s a huge difference as well, based on our naming convention and the different types of product categories, et cetera.
Jonathan DeYoe: So would you explain that? I mean, you might know better what’s there and you might know what’s here as well, but I don’t really know what the product categories are. Could you explain that? What’s available in South Africa, invest in, ensure, all that kind of stuff?
Nikki Gajoo: Sure. So I think our categories, ah, are very similar to yours, but our naming convention differs. So you’ve got stocks, we’ve got shares, you’ve got mutual funds, we’ve got unit trusts. Life insurance, I think remains the same wherever you are. Right. So that’s a commonality there then you guys have the 401, we call them retirement annuities here. So I think it’s just different naming conventions also like things like, uh, estate planning. And I have worked with a client from the US who’s now based in South Africa. So I’ve also seen for things like, uh, estate planning. You’ve got it there, we’ve got it here. But the taxation differs, of course. Also still on fiduciary, still on the subject of fiduciary matters, we call them wolves, and you call them last testament and wolves, I think, on your end. So it’s very similar. But what differs is the naming convention and also things more from a tax perspective.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I’ve paid a little bit of attention about the differences in the cost of the investments, the price of those shares or the mutual funds or those kinds of things from the UK and the US. And the US in the last 25 years has driven the price of the actual products down. The UK is kind of going through that same process and they’re a little bit behind. There’s still products that you can invest in that are two and a half percent internal costs in the UK. There’s still some of those in the US, but they’re more rare now, do you have that same experience? Are there internal products where the internal costs are, uh, really prohibitively expensive?
Nikki Gajoo: Yes. I do recall a, uh, podcast, and I think the gentleman that you were interviewing was Gil, if I’m not mistaken. And I think there was some questions around this. Right? So in South Africa, it depends on whether you’re utilizing a financial planner to manage your fund, or whether you’re going direct and utilizing a fund manager or an investment platform directly. So if you’re using a, ah, certified financial planner, we actually have a pricing structure in terms of legislation and what is it a financial planner can actually charge to the fund? Right. So over and above your admin fees for the fund, your fund management fees, or whatever costs are associated to the fund, over and above that, there is a certain percentage, a minimum and a maximum that a certified financial planner can charge. Now this becomes a negotiation or a discussion between the client and the financial planner. You also have some clients who actually say, obviously you and I both know the higher the cost to the fund that impacts the return at the end of the day. So a lot of clients often say, invoice me separately and I will actually pay you, um, out of my own bank account, as opposed to paying you from the fund. So also in terms of fund expenses, uh, as well, over the last five to ten years, a lot of work has been done to try and transform funds to what we call more new generation funds. Where the fees are much lower, you have access to more fund managers. Even if you’re switching portfolios, the funds are very low. Even if you’re looking at stopping an investment, the penalties are much lower or non existent. So there’s a lot of that that has been done over the last few years. And South Africa tends to follow the steps in the footsteps of the UK. Right. Then there’s the other aspect where a lot of clients tend to go direct to market. So this would be a fund manager, and this is traditionally clients with, and I’ve seen on your website, you’ve got a particular entry amount in terms of clients that you advise. And I think that is quite important because you can’t be everything to everyone, right? So with more, I call them sort of, and this is no disrespect, but more sort of lower income sort of clients, clients who are just starting their investing journey. When we see the amounts that they’re looking at investing, be it a recurring premium or a lump sum, then we’d say to them, listen, it makes more sense for you to go direct. However, we’d guide them in terms of fund management choices, et cetera. And by doing so direct, it’s much cheaper for them. And also from an ethical perspective, it’s the right thing to do. And they also tend to have the capacity and also those type of firms, they make it very easy for clients to invest direct. It’s not a client, for want of a better word to say, like a high net worth client who’s got millions of rands and who really actively needs the assistance of a financial planner to manage the portfolio. And then you can actually, then justify the fee that you’re actually charging the client.
Jonathan DeYoe: There’s a few fine points in there that I think we should pull in. There’s two avenues I want to go down. The first avenue is we’ve just opened the door to this question about who needs a financial planner, who needs a person like you or I to actually sit with them and do the work, and then who maybe doesn’t and can do it themselves. And I struggle to identify and speak respectfully of both sides. That’s one thing that I think it’s important to talk about. And then the other thing is the similarities. The UK, South Africa, the US, both in the cultural dynamics of the changing power structure in families around money, and in the industries themselves as they shift to lower cost. It’s just really interesting to note that it’s a global phenomenon. And of course it is, right? Of course it is. It makes perfect sense. So let’s go to the second one lead. Do you think the US leads this? Or do you think it’s just something like, what is that? We’re all drinking from the same psychological big pool cup, and we kind of come to this decision, you know, couples should be more even, and we’ll get there eventually, and then prices should be more reasonable and we’ll get there eventually. Is that just a normal process?
Nikki Gajoo: So, Jonathan, I definitely say the US leads the market. You know what they say, when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold. Right? And in all fairness, uh, South Africa is a third world country. We are very much a follower, and we take our leads from, as I’ve mentioned, the UK, because we implement a lot of the legislative changes that the UK does. So we tend to follow in their footsteps, but holistically, I’d say the leader at the forefront is always the US. What I have found, though, and I.
Jonathan DeYoe: Don’T know, for better or for worse.
Nikki Gajoo: For better or for worse. I’ve also found, though, because a lot of South Africans tend to immigrate to Australia, and there’s a huge expat community of South Africans there in Australia. The financial planning system in Australia and South Africa is very similar, if that makes sense. So that’s a commonality that I’ve picked, um, up over the years with clients having moved to Australia, and also with my studies in terms of the money, coaching, I’ve been fortunate to work with other classmates from Australia and other parts of the world. So you build relationships and we can ask the type of questions that you’re asking me to get a better understanding of what’s happening in a different country.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I want to get to this first question of how do you tell who needs a planner and who doesn’t? But there’s a path I want to go to get there. Okay, so tell us how you, uh, started. You got out of college, you started working at the bank. Did you go, I’m going to get the CM m, right, then I’m going to get the CFP, I’m going to get the thing? Or did it develop over time? And then what were the triggers that said, you know what, I’m getting the coaching thing, I’m getting the planning thing, I’m getting the business thing. So what led you to get all this education?
Nikki Gajoo: Sure. So after college and getting my first job at the bank, it was what we call here in South Africa a graduate recruitment program. So it’s where they take individuals on and they train you in different areas of the bank. And upon completion of the program, you get to choose which area you’d like to work at. And then you start your career progression in terms of where you see yourself in three to five years time. So for me, that cycle, instead of going for 18 months, I was done with the cycle in about nine or ten months. And I progressed very quickly and they couldn’t hold me back because they have deliverables in each part of the bank in the different areas, be it strategic, operational that you work at. And I just overexceded my deliverables. And then I reached a point where my peers were still completing the program, but I was done. And at that point in time, the concept of private banking was becoming, it was a relatively new, but quite a big concept in South Africa. And what the banks were looking was implementing what they call a bank assurance model. Now that particular model is quite common in the UK. So basically what it means is at the bank you have bankers who deal with clients’banking needs and you have a financial planner linked to the banker who deals with the client’s financial planning. So ideally, my seniors at the bank saw me in a role as a private banker. So I started shadowing the private bankers just to get an understanding of what this role would entail and whether I’d like to proceed with the role. And it was during that point in time I found, uh, the role of the financial planner to be more interesting and attractive to me because of my previous studies studying finance and investments at college. And I thought to myself, hold on, I think I’m in the wrong role now because of corporate politics. They were quite keen on having me pursue the role of a banker. So when I asked for the role of a financial planner, they’ve basically said to me, no, we don’t see you in this type of role. So I thought to, you know, I’m young, I’m starting off my career. I’d really like to explore this role of a financial planner further. I started job hunting and, uh, I was successful, and I got a role at an insurance company here in South Africa. And that was where I’d say I bit my teeth into the insurance industry. And then from there, it moved to financial planning. So I spent about four years there. And during that time period, because I predominantly specialized in advising clients in investments, I realized that I had a lot of knowledge gaps. And then I thought to myself, hey, the CFP qualification would definitely add more gravitas to my qualifications, and it would allow me the learning curve to hopefully close the gaps that I had. And that was how I decided to pursue the CFP qualification. So there was a postgraduate qualification that I had to complete first, and once I was done, then we’d sit for board exams. And that was what led me to the CFP qualification. So I’d say for me, it was more looking internally introspecting and realizing that there was so much more that I needed in order to advise clients, specifically clients who had larger sums of money. And that was what led me to the CFP qualification.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m just going to insert something. It all seems very rational and very well thought out and very. Was your experience as a 15 year old girl, was that always kind of in the background? Did you remember my mom had this huge sum of money? She didn’t know what to do with it. Or was it really just this whole rational progression?
Nikki Gajoo: So, Jonathan, great question. It was only when I listened to your podcast with Gil and he actually mentioned that a lot of advisors tend to go into this role based on a trauma experienced in their life. Did I have the biggest light bulb moment? And I can truly say that was definitely one of the contributing factors that led me to this career choice.
Jonathan DeYoe: I just wondered about that. It just all seemed rational. Too rational. So I’m glad. Thank you for admitting that. Now, how does that progress into this coaching?
Nikki Gajoo: Yeah, I’ve practiced as a certified financial planner for many years. I mean, I went on to other corporates, took on other roles. I moved my area of specialization from individuals to businesses, and that came to me quite easily. And I think that could also be because I was exposed to business and entrepreneurship at a very young age as well. I found it quite easy to communicate and work with business owners, but I was also reaching a stage, Jonathan, and I’m uncertain how it works in the states. But in South Africa you have different categories of people who advise. You’ve got the certified financial planners and they can charge fees for hourly consultations and plans. So it’s more of, uh, a fee for advice service, and then you’ve got the advisors who then place products and they earn commissions. And I was very clear the products and commissions was not for me. I was definitely going to sell to clients, but what I was looking at selling was advice. And I found that at that point in time, and this was about eight or nine years ago, and this still exists in South Africa, there were not many fee for advice practices. And I realized that if I wanted to do this, the only way I could do it was actually by going out there and actually going the long, hard route of establishing a, uh, practice by myself. And that was actually what led me to found opulentous wealth eight years ago to allow me to create or found a fee based practice and create my own fee based model. And that led me to my own practice. Do you have a question before I continue?
Jonathan DeYoe: I do. Okay. You have this practice, you’re kind of at the vanguard. We were talking just seconds ago about the cultural changes and the driving of the prices lower. And for there to be product that’s available at a lower cost, there have to be people like yourself setting up businesses that use that product and offer that lower cost product to clients. So you’re literally at the vanguard. You’re where we were in the states like 25 years ago when we started pushing this stuff down, and now the money is flowing from brokers and banks to Ras and fiduciaries. Right? Which is a beautiful thing. So I’m sorry to interrupt. No, continue the story. But it’s very impressive. It’s an impressive thing to make that decision. I could go the easy way, make a whole bunch of money, be very successful, but not serve my client the way I think it’s appropriate to serve my client. So kudos to you.
Nikki Gajoo: Thank you. So it has been quite a journey, as you can imagine, uh, starting up a practice, being much younger and competing with the bigger practices out there. But it’s been interesting. It’s been really fulfilling. Uh, and during that time, I realized whether it was myself or other members in the team, when we worked with clients, they’d come in, uh, we’d put together the most amazing plans, have wonderful discussions, agree on timelines and a whole lot of things, and I’d find a yo two down the line. You’d contact the client, and the client would literally ghost you. They would not pick up calls, they would not respond to emails, they would not return text messages. I think to myself, what went wrong here? And eventually, when you’d get hold of the client, you’d actually find out that they don’t want to meet with you because they’ve actually paused their financial plan or they’ve actually cashed in an investment without you somehow finding about it. Or something has happened that has caused them to move off track. And because of that, they just didn’t want to face you. And I’d often just take it so hardly on myself. And I chat to my own business coach and my own life coach and introspect and think, what is it that I could have done better? Maybe there’s something I’ve missed. And that has always been going on for the last few years. And literally three years ago, when Covid hit us, that was when this whole concern know, is it me? Is it them? What am I doing wrong? What can I do better? That really came to the, you know, I’m, um, uncertain what your experiences were in the States, but here in South Africa, because I work with a lot of either business clients or a lot of investment clients, the initial knee jerk reaction was, cash out, cash out, cash out. Now, you and I both know that is the wrong thing to do. You stick it out, the markets will rectify itself. You stick to your goals, you keep calm, you keep going. But, Jonathan, it didn’t matter what I said to clients. They were not interested in hearing the technical side of it. They were so driven by emotion, and I just couldn’t communicate with clients. And I realized maybe I need to go for workshops on effective communication. But I saw that as a huge gap. And because it’s Covid, you’re working from home. You’ve got more time available to now research and do things that you couldn’t do prior to Covid. And that actually set me on a path of really what I call deep discovery. And that was what led me to the money institute in the states and the certificate in money coaching and the entire money coaching course. And then when I was done with one, I realized, oh, I might as well, just get it all know, because I could see with the clients that I work with, they individuals, they’re couples as well as business owners. So for me, it didn’t make sense to only do one. And by studying the coaching, I realized that what my clients needed at that point in time was either money coaching or financial coaching, and not financial advice. But the only thing I was equipped to do at that point in time was giving financial advice. The behavioral aspect of just, I’ll uh, be honest, Jonathan, I just couldn’t handle know. And uh, that was what led me to the coaching aspect. So in many ways it’s just a natural progression because I mean, whether it’s advisory, whether it’s coaching as you are experiencing yourself, both still have the commonality around finances and money, right? But the approach is really different. One is more technical, the other is more emotional and behavioral. So that has been my journey.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I got really exceedingly, amazingly, ridiculously lucky. So when I joined, it was Dean Witter. It was a big wirehouse us. It became Morgan Stanley. It was a big company. As a salesman in 1996, the first speaker I saw was a guy named Nick Murray. And Nick Murray is like no nonsense. He said, the benefit you provide to your client is emotional stability. You can’t predict stocks, you can’t predict which fund is going to do better, you can’t predict anything. You just broadly diversify. You own it all. And the key is holding on when everything falls apart. And so, Jonathan, what you have to do, this is literally five days in. Jonathan, what you have to do is you have to learn how to, when they can’t be strong, be their strength. You have to have a communication system set up so that they know. And so for 25 years, I’ve just had this constant communication, constant flow of information, constant. And so when they have an issue, it’s like we have this conversation. But I wasn’t raised with the technical, I was raised with the emotional. And so then when Kahneman wins the Nobel Prize for behavioral finance, and there’s more Nobel Prize, and I’m reading, I’m studying all this behavioral finance, I’m like, yeah, what do you guys of like, that makes all the sense in the world? So I just got really, really lucky with training day one. It was awesome. I love your journey though. Just fantastic.
Nikki Gajoo: I mean, Jonathan, you are so know, if I could go back in my life, I wish I would have met know that would have just made my journey so much easier, and I would have gone a different way. But I’m so pleased to hear that that has been your journey, because I truly believe as much as I hold the CFP designation, it’s all about behavioral finance.
Jonathan DeYoe: It is, 100%. Do you read blogs and listen to podcasts from the States?
Nikki Gajoo: I do.
Jonathan DeYoe: So you know Michael Kitsis?
Nikki Gajoo: I’ve heard of him, yes.
Jonathan DeYoe: Okay. So in the States, he is, I think the most. And, um, when I first saw your. I’ve got this designation, he’s like the number one in the states. He has all the designations and an MBA and this and that. He’s got them all. And you look at his name is this long. His designations are this. Like, it’s crazy how many designations he has. So when I need technical stuff, because actually, I’m not a CFP, I’m a CPWA, which is a chartered private wealth advisor, and I’m an AIF, which is an accredited investment and fiduciary. So I’m different things. I’ve never done my CFP, and I’m not going to right now. It’s too much work.
Nikki Gajoo: It is a lot of work.
Jonathan DeYoe: It’s a lot of work. But whenever I had a technical question, I would just go to Michael Kitsis, because Michael Kitsis has always taken, whatever, the new law, the new tax code, and just broken it down. And he has a podcast on it, a blog on it, and go, okay, I get that. Like, it makes sense. Go to the experts, bring the experts in, and I just focus on behavioral. You. I would highly recommend checking out kitsus.
Nikki Gajoo: I will, uh, definitely do so. Thank you for that.
Jonathan DeYoe: You could be the kitsus of South Africa. I mean, you could keep adding the things on, be the expert, have the blog, and have the podcast. Absolutely. So let’s go to this. Someone comes to you and they have financial questions. How do you differentiate between. This person needs coaching right away, coaching versus planning.
Nikki Gajoo: So what we do, Jonathan, is that we offer clients a, uh, 30 minutes exploratory call. Right? And it’s during this call, I’ve put together a whole lot of questions, which I use as well as the other planners in the team, to very quickly, yet respectfully get to the reason, as to why the client would like to meet with us. And as you would know, being in the behavioral finance space, it’s all about listening, right? And you actually listen to what is it the client is saying. And, uh, very quickly. So some of the members of my team, I sometimes need to help them out. But because I’ve been doing this for a while, I’d be able to listen and realize whether a client needs coaching before the advisory side or whether they just need advisory. And nine out of ten times, and I think a lot of it has to do with the south african demographic and the challenges that we face here in South Africa. But nine out of ten times clients tend to firstly need coaching and it’s only once we go through the coaching and we try and change and we address behavior and a whole lot of things, then can we move into the advisory side of uh, it.
Jonathan DeYoe: Wow. And so do you have like a formal coaching process that you use before you start the planning?
Nikki Gajoo: Yes, so it depends. In the past I’d do traditional financial coaching, but now because I’m a certified money coach. So my first, uh, just quickly listening to a client, I’d be able to tell whether they firstly need to go, whether they either need the money coaching process, which is very specific, or whether they’d need more of the general financial coaching process. So we’ve got processes in place for both. With the money coaching we follow the process that I’ve learned from the money institute, whereas the financial coaching process is something that I’ve put together using the coaching frameworks that we have in South Africa. And by the end of the process we’re able to gauge a person’s readiness in terms of their commitment to a uh, financial plan. A lot of times, and I don’t know how familiar you are with South Africa, but we currently have an almost 36% unemployment rate. So when clients are coming to you, they’re not coming to ask for advice to invest like $6,000 or whatever. When they’re coming to you, it’s more coaching related, it’s more around issues like debt management, budgeting, these are issues that are uh, things that with a uh, coach and collaboration you can find ways to more educate a client and try and coach them out of a negative situation until they reach a stage where a lot of changes have taken place around mismanagement or poor um, behavior decisions and then they’re more confident and more ready and able to move to the advisory side of things where, you know, the commitment will be far greater because we’ve addressed a lot of the issues around the coaching side of things.
Jonathan DeYoe: Wow. I have spent my entire career. Oh, do you have the phrase the 1%?
Nikki Gajoo: We do.
Jonathan DeYoe: Okay. Yeah. Okay. So I’ve spent my entire career working with probably the 5%.
Nikki Gajoo: Okay.
Jonathan DeYoe: It’s not all 1%, but um, I’ve always tried it. While my peer group has said we need to move up market, we need to move up market, we need to serve people with more money because it’s easier to serve one person with 10 million than ten people with 1 million. So people would always try to move up market, move up market. And I was always like, I need to help people that were like my parents when I was a kid. I need to help people that just like what you’re doing, the coaching and stuff and the structure really isn’t there that good in the United States for that. That’s my retirement transition. That’s what I’m moving towards in my life. And you’re doing them both at the same time. Is that hard? Because on the one hand you’ve got people where they’re committed and they’re doing it and they’re going through the plan and they’re following it and they’re investing and they’re being successful. And then the next day you’re coming over here and you’re saying let’s work on your debt management and let’s work on your emotional stance around money and is it hard keeping them both up?
Nikki Gajoo: Uh, so for me, Jonathan, that’s the reason why I decided to separate and have two different business entities, right? And the good thing is if you uh, a founder of a practice, you can even get people in to manage and run the practice for you and you decide which of the two you want to be at. Right. And for me, so currently, because the coaching side of the business, Imali coaching is pretty new, I tend to spend most of my time within the coaching practice and my team runs with the advisory practice because it’s well established. It’s eight years in counting. Our uh, strategy is one where we retain clients. So there’s a lot of organic growth, new clients who come in, though I will do the exploratory call, I’ll see where the client fits in. And if it’s more from an advisory perspective, I’m quite competent that the planners in my team would be able to proceed with things from the advisory side. The coaching side for me is mean, whichever way, Jonathan, I love both sides of it, but I feel my heart is gravitating more towards the coaching side of things. I feel from making a difference in people’s lives you do on both sides, but I just feel a greater sense of fulfillment that comes from the coaching side, if that makes sense.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yes. And it’s interesting. I do think the people that have the money and are investing, they need coaching too. It’s not as if they don’t benefit from the other designation. Right? For sure. So there’s a ton of noise out there in the world, and we need to move towards wrapping because I want to sit here and talk to you for the next hour because this has been great. But in every episode I ask a series of very simple, very similar questions because I want listeners to get value in terms of what should I do, right? So there’s a ton of noise out there. Can you just name one or two things that somebody could do today, tomorrow, and if they did that thing and committed to that thing, they would be more financially successful and have more well being.
Nikki Gajoo: Okay. So I think the first thing that comes to mind, and this would be from a financial coaching perspective. I’m going to use the word budgeting, but I do recall in one of your podcasts, one of the speakers gave a different terminology for it, but for the life of me, I cannot recall it. So I’m just going to use budgeting. Right. And, um, the reason why I say that is I’m certain not only in South Africa, but also in the US and globally, interest rates have started increasing. Even though the pandemic is over, we’re still under some sort of financial distress globally. And I believe that the first place a person should revisit is actually their budget. Right. And look at it. And I’m also stealing from another speaker here. I think it was Scott who actually spoke about the fine line between needs and wants. Right. And that comes up when you look at your budget, right. Because there’s a lot of things that are necessity. And yes, as humans, we all have needs and wants, right? But it’s defining, if you can afford to pay cash for those wants, go ahead and do it. Right. But, uh, there’s a difference between a pair of nike sneakers and just a pair of sneakers that you can buy from target or wherever, right. They’re both going to protect your feet and they’re both going to get you to wherever you need to, right? So for me, the first thing I’d say right now is try and keep your budget as lean and mean as possible. So in the event of anything going wrong, interest rates going up higher, which put pressures on your home loans, your mortgages, or any other debt that you may have. If you’ve got a lean budget, you would be able to have some surplus to accommodate for that. So for me, the budgeting is the first thing. Then the second thing that I’d like to say is be more authentic and honest about where you are in your life. So, you know, a lot of us tend to tell ourselves stories and the fantasies about how great we’re doing financially and how well we tracking towards our goals. But the reality is, and I don’t know about you, Jonathan, but personally, as a business owner, the pandemic did affect my practices. And in terms of my own personal financial goals, I am out by at least three to four years. And this is me being open and honest. But it took a great deal of honesty for me to be real with myself. And what I’m trying to say to people out there is be real. Because now I know if I’m out by three to four years, hey, I’ve got a new practice that’s another source of income. Right. So chances of my gap getting smaller is far, uh, likely now that I’ve faced the reality of what’s happening out there. And for me, absolutely, those would be the two most important things that I’d like to share.
Jonathan DeYoe: And then, because not all the noise is intelligent, what are a couple of things that people hear about that they should stop doing?
Nikki Gajoo: Oh, my word. Don’t hate me for this cryptocurrency.
Jonathan DeYoe: Oh, I love you for that. All things like it, like all the little sexy, hot whatever it.
Nikki Gajoo: I mean, this is really big in South Africa right now, right? So clients would say to you, oh, why should I? If they’d say to me, Nikki, you’ve given me this recommendation in terms of implementing my financial plan, but it’s going to take me, like five to ten years to get to where I need to get to. But I can just invest in cryptocurrency, and in a few months, I will have ten times that amount. And I say, by all means, go ahead and please call me when you reach that value. So the big thing for me is the cryptocurrency.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Uh, it’s a big thing for me for about ten. I’ve written on it. I’ve thought, uh, it drives me crazy. Literally. Just yesterday on LinkedIn, I had a back and forth conversation with a guy who was getting 10% a month. And I’m like, and he said he doesn’t think it’s risky. I’m like, okay, good luck, I wish you the best, but it’s not going to happen.
Nikki Gajoo: Just listening to you say that is, if it’s too good to be true. It really is.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. If it looks too good, smells too good, it’s too good. It can’t be real. I love it. Actually, I had that same thought when I read his email. I was like, or his little LinkedIn note, I was like, can’t you see that that’s not possible. Anyway. So, uh, two quick personal questions. Well, maybe they’re quick, maybe they’re long. I don’t know. Is there anything your clients don’t? I know you’re an open book. You’ve been very open, and I appreciate that.
Nikki Gajoo: Sure.
Jonathan DeYoe: Is there anything your clients don’t know about you that you want them to know about you?
Nikki Gajoo: I think some of my clients, because a lot of the clients that I now have are clients that I’ve acquired when I started up the practice a few years ago. So one of the things that a lot of clients don’t know about me is that I was previously married. And one of the main reasons. Well, I’d say married and divorced in less than a year. And one of the main reasons or contributing factors to that was actually finance.
Jonathan DeYoe: And you want them to know that?
Nikki Gajoo: Well, I mean, if clients ask or if I need to share, or if it comes up in conversation, it’s not something that I’m embarrassed about at all, especially because even post divorce, I was able to. And this is my story about being independent, financially, emotionally, et cetera. I was still able to. Yes. It’s not a great feeling. You’ve been through it yourself as well. But I was still able to get back on my feet, move forward with my life, establish my new practice, and just move forward.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Independence is bliss. Independence is the best way to go.
Nikki Gajoo: Yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: If you could get the truth about any question about your life and future, what question would you ask?
Nikki Gajoo: Okay. I also recall this from some of the podcasts. And I thought to myself, I just hope and pray Jonathan does not ask me this question. I just hope. And, you know, Jonathan, for me, if there’s anything I would actually like to know is, and it’s actually a simple one, is where would I be in the next ten years? Because I find myself at crossroads right now with two different practices, a great deal of commonality between the two. And one’s tugging at my heartstrings. Been my first baby, eight years and counting. The other is a new venture. Uh, and why this tugs at my heartstrings is because I actually received an offer for my advisory practice from a company that I didn’t even mention that I was actually looking at selling. And they just approached me, and I found myself actually wondering whether I should consider the offer. So, for me, my question would be, is where would I be in ten years? Would I still be linked to both practices, or would it just be one practice? Uh, so it’s more around that, more around a, uh, career sort of question.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, it’s totally, I think I asked myself that question. I’d like to know the answer to that as well.
Nikki Gajoo: But you’ve mentioned your retirement, uh, plan c, so you’ve already been thinking about it.
Jonathan DeYoe: It’s a 20 year retirement plan. I think about it all the time and I’m like, what would I do with my time? Retirement just seems, I don’t understand it. But, uh, all the people I know, they’re retired. They have a great time. So I’ll figure it out. Tell people how they can connect with you. Where do they find you?
Nikki Gajoo: So, Jonathan, the easiest would be one of the, well, either of the website. So it would be ww imalycoaching.com or ww opulentuswealth co za awesome.
Jonathan DeYoe: Vicki, thank you so much for coming on. This has been eye opening and enlightening. I very much appreciate it. All those things will be in the show notes. I just want to say thank you.
Nikki Gajoo: Jonathan, thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s been an absolute blast. And uh, yeah, look forward to listening to the podcast later.
Jonathan DeYoe: Thank you so much.
Nikki Gajoo: Take care.