Credit Karma VP Dana Marineau: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Look For Before Hiring a Financial Adviser”

An Interview With Tyler Gallagher

Tyler Gallagher
Dec 6, 2019 · 8 min read

Knowing what questions to ask a financial adviser is only the beginning. Doing your due diligence by asking questions of a financial adviser is important, but so is researching the adviser, reading reviews, and checking accrediting boards to ensure the adviser is a member in good standing. Remember, it’s your money and future at stake, so take the time to consider several advisers and find the one that’s right for you.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dana Marineau, Vice President of Brand, Creative and Communications, and financial advocate, at Credit Karma.

Thank you so much for doing this with us, Dana! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I entered college thinking I would be a news anchor when I graduated, but I ended up switching into being an English major with a Marketing minor. This involved a great deal of creative writing, which introduced me to the art of storytelling, and storytelling got me to where I am today and keeps me here.

In my career, I’ve been able to help create stories that inspire people to take action or do something different.

Earlier in my career at Electronic Arts, it meant inspiring people to play games. Today, at Credit Karma, it’s helping people make real, meaningful financial progress.

I was fortunate enough to find a career that combined everything I enjoy — writing, storytelling and insights.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

This isn’t necessarily “humorous,” but an incredible lesson I’ve learned is around the partners I have surrounded myself with when tackling our meatiest business problems. I have worked with many of the most lauded advertising agencies in the world, and I’ve had “career defining moments” with almost all of them. But my great take away, which I learned the hard way, is that if you don’t calibrate carefully and make sure you have exactly the right partner in the bunker with you, you can’t possibly be successful long term.

For me, I prioritize partners who are business-first and client-first. What matters most is having people on your team who understand the strategic priorities and needs of the business. I feel very strongly that your successes and failures are directly related to the kinds of teams and people you hire.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Credit Karma recently announced Credit Karma Savings, which are free high-yield savings accounts in the U.S. with a competitive rate, no minimum deposit to open and no fees.

Credit Karma is not becoming a bank — rather, we partnered with MVB Bank, Inc., Member FDIC, to bring members savings accounts where they can take advantage of a high-yield rate and help them optimize their money.

There’s a savings problem in America. Nearly half of Americans don’t have $400 in savings to cover an emergency expense, so we hope to make savings accessible to every American and help them grow their money over time.

This product is for anyone who wants to start growing their personal savings, no matter where they are on their financial journey.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

One of the things I often talk about is how to scale as a leader and a manager. As my team and scope of responsibility grew, I had to empower and trust others to do the day-to-day work. I learned quickly that other people can do the work and take on responsibilities, and they won’t always do it the same way I would have. It’s a big hurdle for many leaders to see there is more than one “right” way to do things.

I do remember that feeling of relinquishing control and empowering other members of our team to make decisions and do the work. It’s a super valuable lesson for any leader and a great way to signal to others that team empowerment and team advocacy is your number one priority.

What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?

It’s important to prioritize yourself and your needs outside of work. Once you identify what brings you joy, work hard to maintain the balance between those things and your work, even if that means dedicating a bit of time to that activity each week or month.

Have self awareness of what burnout looks like and feels like to you. Keep that in the back of your mind so when that feeling approaches, you don’t allow yourself to reach a breaking point.

Allow yourself to take time away from work — whether that means an hour or a week — and demonstrate that to your team. They will hopefully feel comfortable taking the necessary time away if you live the value yourself and do the same.

Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview — As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?

If you’re thinking of paying for financial advice, you should do some homework to find a qualified professional that will help you reach your financial goals.

Knowing what questions to ask a financial adviser is only the beginning. Doing your due diligence by asking questions of a financial adviser is important, but so is researching the adviser, reading reviews, and checking accrediting boards to ensure the adviser is a member in good standing. Remember, it’s your money and future at stake, so take the time to consider several advisers and find the one that’s right for you.

Are you acting in my best interest?

Any financial adviser you hire should be acting in your best interest when managing your money. But when you’re considering hiring someone ask them how they intend to work in your best interest. The CFPB recommends asking an adviser to put in writing any potential conflicts of interest.

What certifications do you have?

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a list of more than 180 different designations issued to financial professionals.

Some of these designations require individuals to have completed certain coursework, show proficiency in their field, have practical work experience, and participate in continuing education. Ask any financial adviser that you’re considering what certifications they’ve received and then research the organization that issued them to find out.

What are your specific areas of expertise?

Managing money requires a vast array of knowledge. An adviser certified in a particular area might not have strong experience handling the types of financial issues you need help with. If your primary goal is to get out of debt, hiring a financial professional with expertise in investing might not make a whole lot of sense.

You may decide to work with multiple professionals to get the most-comprehensive advice from a true expert in each particular field.

How do you charge?

You don’t want to overpay for financial advice because your adviser is padding the bill. That’s why you should find out how much a potential adviser charges, how fees are structured and what services are included.

Find out how any potential advisers are paid and ask the adviser to explain how charges are calculated.

How will you invest my money?

Finally, if you’re hiring a professional to actually manage your money for you, rather than just help you make a financial plan, it’s imperative you learn what the manager plans to do with your funds.

Consider asking about the adviser’s investment philosophy.

I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?

Over your lifetime, your financial plan and goals can evolve. Everything from making a career change to buying a home can have an impact on your financial life. When a big change happens, it can help to have someone by your side helping you make financial decisions.

Whether you are just starting out in your career or retirement is on the horizon, solid financial advice from a professional can be a big help in reaching your financial goals.

But you need to know what those goals are — and do some homework to make sure you aren’t spending beyond your means to afford this adviser — if you want to choose the right financial adviser for you.

The right financial adviser for you is the person who offers the services you need, charges within your budget, has the right background and training for your needs and, above all, is someone you trust. The decisions you make around how you manage your money can affect the rest of your life, so it’s important to do your research and stay informed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

A former boss of mine taught me a value I believe in most, which is that one of our most important jobs as leaders is to support, advocate and unblock for your teams. She demonstrated that value every day for me, and in turn, it helps me live that for my team today. That to me is the definition of what great leadership looks like, and I feel fortunate to have worked for someone who taught me that.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Ideally, it would mean everyone has a clear understanding of their path to financial wellness and progress.

At Credit Karma, we’re working hard to help our members make sense of their finances.

Everyone deserves to feel confident about their finances. Credit Karma can give you the tools to help you make real progress — from searching for credit cards, to filing your taxes with Credit Karma Tax, monitoring your credit, shopping for loans and more.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I recommend following the Credit Karma Instagram handle for actionable tips and relatable content to help anyone along their path to financial progress.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Tyler Gallagher

Written by

CEO and Founder of Regal Assets

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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