Financial Planner Finds Their Life Purpose – And Their Own Identity – In Helping Other Queer & Trans People

by River Nice

My name is River Nice and I am from Toms River, New Jersey.

So in 2016, I was new to Philly and I was working at this tech startup. Part of what I liked about working at the tech startup is that I could dress kind of however I wanted. A lot of us were just jeans and sneakers and hoodies, and because that’s very gender-neutral clothing I was able to just, like, relax and not have to worry too much about what I was wearing each day and how I felt in it.

What I didn’t like about working there was that it was a very new company and we did not have a lot staff and we were asked to work pretty long hours with no overtime pay or stock compensation or anything like that.

There was this one time I was at work and things were really stressful and really exhausting. And I hadn’t really talked to my partner very much. And so I phone – like, just went into a little conference room. We had these little, like, phone booth conference rooms. So I just like went in there, closed the door behind me, called her and just cried. And that was like the conversation we had that day was I just… I called her crying at like 8:00 PM from the office.

2016. The election happened that night. I was on my second date with a new person. And so we’re sitting outside this wine bar, the sun is setting, and then at some point the server just came over with just like this horrified look on her face and she goes, “He’s winning.” So that ended the date very abruptly. I was like, I have to go home.

Then the next day I went to work and, working at the tech startup, we worked in a coworking space and it was usually a pretty busy place. It was, like, pretty loud… people walking around and doing stuff all the time. But this day it was a national tragedy. Like, half the people who are usually there didn’t even come into the office.

I kind of had to sit and reevaluate with myself, like, this is a huge historical moment in my life. What am I going to tell people 20 and 30 years from now? What am I going to tell my kids and my grandkids that – what I was doing on this day or in this four-year time period?

And I realized, like, working at this tech startup, that was exhausting me, that was draining me, wasn’t the right fit. And so I tried to quit and my boss was like, Can we figure out some sort of compromise here? So she made me a deal that if I could stay part-time but choose my own hours, then I would have some flexibility to figure out my next move. And I could also train the other people there about the stuff that I knew and what I was doing.

I took that six months in the first half of 2017 and worked a little bit and went to a lot of activist trainings around that time. My partner had a lot of credit card debt from her own gender transition and I just sat down with her and helped her just make a budget and then a timeline. And once she, like, had that realization of like, Oh, this is going to be okay, she looked at me and she’s like, “This is the thing you have to do. You have to help trans and queer people with money. What professional in the world could I go to with this specific problem and specifically who I am and get, like, respectful, useful help right away?”

And I was like, “Oh, I never thought of that.” So I started telling anybody who had listened I’m going to help queer people with their money, somehow, someway. A friend of a friend reached out to me and said, “Hey, I am actually a financial advisor. And I think you don’t realize how regulated this industry is. Let me take you out for coffee and catch you up a little bit before you get yourself into legal trouble.”

So I talked to her for a little while and she told her boss about me and her boss was interested in meeting me. And so I was like, Sure, you know, like, let’s see what he has to say. So I went out to the office in the suburbs of Philadelphia and I met with this older, straight white man and told him about my passion and that I was going to find a way to help queer people with their money no matter what.

He was like, “You know, we actually could use tech support here in the office. How about I hire you to be the tech guy in the office, and then I’ll also train you to be a financial advisor.” So I started working at this financial services firm in July 2017. On the plus side, I was able to learn about how to be a financial advisor. The whole team supported me in getting the certifications that I needed to be a financial advisor myself. One of the downsides of working at this firm was that it was a much more business-professional type dress code than I was used to. And so I found myself every morning looking at my closet and trying to decide, Do I put on a skirt? Do I put on a suit? None of these suits quite fit my body right. Nothing feels quite right. And it got progressively more uncomfortable as I continued to work.

Once I completed the certifications that I needed in order to be a financial advisor. I started taking on my own clients and I was able to work with trans and queer folks from the get-go, people that I wanted to be helping, and that was really awesome. I was continuing to just look for more queer and trans folks that I could help. And that took me to the Trans Wellness Conference here in Philadelphia in August 2018. And I also checked out a few workshops while I was there.

And several of the workshops that year were about non-binary identity. I couldn’t tell you exactly what the moment was, but something just building up over the couple of days, I was just like, Oh shit, that’s me! But now I have the problem of having to get dressed for this professional office environment every day, while consciously knowing that I am not… I don’t identify the way that I’m presenting.

So that tension kind of builds up for a couple of months. And my boss could tell that I was getting really unhappy and unmotivated. There was a day he pulled me into the conference room and he was like, “Hey, listen, I can tell something’s going on with you. I want to help remind you about why you’re doing this. You’ll continue to work for me for another 10 years, then I’ll retire and you’ll take over your fraction of the business. And by that point, you’ll have so many wealthy clients and you’ll be making so much money, that you can have your own office, just like this one.”

So I just started crying in this office room. It’s a traditional financial planning practice where wealth is good. Capitalism is good. Creating as much wealth as possible is the goal. And that’s not necessarily true to my values.  It was probably only a month after that, that I put in my resignation. I was like, I can’t do this.

So in January 2019, I left this financial services firm and I started the process of creating my own. That time period of getting the business set up, but not being able to work with clients yet gave me some more time to figure out what would feel better for me personally and with my gender.

By May, 2019, I chose the name River and I came out on Facebook and then I launched the business in July. So it was really like my personal and professional life has been so tied together because I needed the professional life to feel better in order for the personal life to feel better.

So I started working with my own clients again, but this time from my home over video chat and phone calls, and I started helping people again. And this time I could say, This is who I am. This is who you are. The systems that exist are designed to be unfair on purpose, but what can we do to make your life better, to give you the information and education you need to give you the advice and plan that you need to get yourself into a better financial situation than you started in.

So here I am now in fall of 2021, I’m running my business, Be Intentional Financial. Being River, myself. I’ve had top surgery. I’ve been on testosterone for a year. I am loving both of those things. I’m not frantic anymore. I feel good in my day-to-day life. I feel like I’m moving at a pace that feels good. Client interaction is so heartwarming and fulfilling because I can see the positive impact that I’m making by being myself and helping people who are similar to me. And I’m just grateful every day.

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