Investment advisor and former high school and college hoops star, Deja Foster, talks financial literacy to participants at a conference hosted by the Memphis Office of Youth Services this past summer. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)
Deja Foster was a basketball force while hooping for Georgia Tech. (Photo: ramblinwreck.com)

Deja Foster, a former two-time captain of the Wooddale High School girls basketball team and a former captain and assistant coach at Georgia Tech, transitioned from basketball into financial services.

I arranged this Q&A with her during the course of a recent chance encounter as I fleshed out plans for this edition’s focus on financial literacy.

Karanja A. Ajanaku: You were sitting in Starbucks recently reading/studying a book about retirement. Why?

“Simply put, financial literacy is teaching people the skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources and that takes continual education.” – Deja Foster

Deja Foster: I was reading the book on retirement planning because I am currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Alabama in financial planning and counseling. When I am finished with the program in December of 2019, I will be able to sit for the Certified Financial Planner Exam and the Accredited Financial Counselor Exam as well. So I was reading/studying for a test on distributions and tax implications for the various distribution methods.

More about the program:

Graduates holding this degree from The University of Alabama can assist families as they focus on consumer assets management, planning, investing and financial decision making.
In this specialization, students will study economic and social influences on the family and learn how to help individuals and families achieve their financial goals. By taking two courses each semester, students may complete the M.S. degree in less than two years.
Those who complete the financial planning and counseling area of study from UA develop a more holistic approach to financial planning that focuses on the client’s financial and non-financial goals when creating a long-term financial plan.

KAA: This past summer, you spoke to high school students attending a conference hosted by the Memphis Office of Youth Services. What did you tell them? What response/reaction did you get? Was that response/reaction normal relative to how people tend to respond when you make such an outreach?

DF: We talked about financial topics specific to young adults in the 18-22-year-old range. Those topics included: the importance of budgeting and saving, managing your credit, compound interest and getting started early with investing. It was early, so the response was very bland at first, but once we opened up the floor for questions we got a little more engagement from the crowd.

I generally speak to a broad range of age groups and every group’s response is a little different. The older they are the more engaged and energetic they are. Money is a vulnerable, uncomfortable topic to speak about, so I always try to keep it light and relatable. According to a survey by Wells Fargo, 44 percent of Americans see personal finance as the most challenging topic to discuss with others, more so than subjects like death, politics, and religion.

KAA: Do you use the term financial literacy? If so, how do you define it? And if you do, would you say you are financially literate?

DF: Yes, I do use the term financial literacy. I also use the terms financial education and financial empowerment. Simply put, financial literacy is teaching people the skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources and that takes continual education. I honestly wish it was something that they taught in schools. Yes, I would consider myself financially literate.

KAA: Who was your role model for the interest you have?

DF: For me I did not have any role models that piqued my interest in the industry, rather I became interested out of necessity. Once I graduated from college and began working, I found myself still living paycheck to paycheck, but I was making more than enough to pay my bills. However, my lifestyle was eating up my cash flow.

At that time I was coaching women’s basketball at Georgia Institute of Technology and was looking to transition to something that dealt with numbers and people. The more I researched what financial advisors did the more I fell in love with the career path. I got my start in January of 2016 and haven’t looked back since. …

I have a couple of mentors in the industry, the biggest two being my supervisors Kathy Fish and Kerry Jackson with Fish and Associates, two Certified Financial Planners here in the city of Memphis. Kathy founded the firm 27 years ago and Kerry, her daughter, has been in the industry for the last 10 years. We are an all-women’s financial planning firm and we have a passion for financial education. (http://www.fishandassociates.com/ )

KAA: You are involved with MULYP (Memphis Urban League Young Professionals). Is this subject a priority for the group? If so, how does the group go about meeting the need it sees?

DF: Yes, it actually is. We have a Financial Literacy and Empowerment committee. The committee develops and implements programming that provides educational awareness surrounding financial health ranging from personal finance & wealth management, homeownership, and general healthy consumer habits.

The Financial Literacy & Empowerment committee also supports programming that supports entrepreneurship development. The committee meets once a month on the second Wednesday at the Memphis Urban League Building, 413 N Cleveland St. Committee members are welcome to bring fresh ideas and assist with the planning of events/programming.

KAA: Is there anything you would like to address that I have not asked you directly?

DF: I think the relationships that we have with money and our money history is a topic that we do not talk about nearly enough when we discuss financial literacy. Our relationships with money are learned whether we believe it or not.

(Deja Foster, an investment advisor, can be reached at 901- 653-8587; Instagram: @dejamfoster.)