Featured Member: Lilly Rivera

After 12 years of working for Royal Caribbean, Lilly Rivera was laid off during the 2008 recession. Fortunately, her mom, an accountant, taught her to save for a rainy day and contribute to her 401k. “This was my emergency moment,” says Rivera. Soon after, she met with a financial advisor to get guidance on managing her finances during the uncertainty of the moment. That interaction changed her career trajectory: “It was like a finance class. The advisor spent so much time with me, educating me on the dos and don’ts of how money works,” says Rivera. “He made me feel so comfortable.” When she asked how much his service would cost, he told her it was free, and that she should simply pay it forward.

Today, almost fifteen years later, Rivera is an independent financial advisor and owner of Brickstone Financial. She pays her “debt” forward by providing her clients access to financial products and education. “As an independent financial advisor, what I provide my clients is the opportunity to shop around for the best price and the best package for them,” says Rivera. “As a personal shopper of sorts, I can look around and see which companies are going to offer you the best deal—the best interest rates, low fees, and bonuses.” 

Like many other business owners, Rivera faced her share of challenges during the pandemic. Not only did she get sick, but she also had to balance being a business owner, a mother of two, and a caretaker of a grandparent. “I take it day by day because the stress levels can get enormous. It’s understandable. We’re not used to having all these things happen in the middle of a pandemic with everything else that we have going on in life,” she says. In addition to adjusting to the stress and anxiety of living through a global pandemic, Rivera also had to make some changes to her business. 

One adjustment was connecting with clients via Zoom instead of in-person. It’s been a challenge for her because she believes clients “can’t always see your passion on Zoom.” And when it comes to your finances, you really have to feel comfortable with the person you’re working with. “You’re giving them all your personal information, your family’s personal information, and hoping and trusting that what they’re going to pitch to you is the right thing for you.” After her experience in 2008, Rivera knows the importance of trusting your financial advisor and all the wonderful education he or she can provide. Her current position incorporates that aspect of financial education by helping clients see the future of their savings. “I always tell my clients that the decisions you make now will show how you’re going to live later.” 

If you want to start a business, Rivera advises women to prepare to become financially independent in case they are not making enough money at the beginning. “When you see that your part-time or side hustle is taking off and that it’s taking over your full-time job, then that’s the time to go. But take your time,” says Rivera. Besides financial preparation, it is also important to become knowledgeable about your community and about who might be able to support you on your journey. That’s why Rivera has been a part of IAW for several years. She believes that being able to connect with like-minded women who can relate to her journey is a true asset. “You meet other women who are so like-minded that you click with them. Since they’ve gone through the same thing you’re going through, you have a great resource for bouncing ideas off each other.”