On paper, this woman’s job title seems pretty cut and dry: Financial Representative at Northwestern Mutual. In reality, it is anything but basic. Seema Sheth has made a career of advising people on how to manage their money. But dig deeper, and you’ll discover that she concentrates on women, teaching them to be more knowledgeable about their money and how to plan for just about anything life throws at them — divorce, job loss, death and moving, just to name a few. A first-generation American (her mother is from India and her father from Sudan), her experiences with defensive money management began with her parents’ divorce and later, with her career as a professional model. Her honest advice and ability to change the perspective of the way women view their money has made her a successful advisor. She recently was named as an honoree of the distinguished MOSAIC Award, which “recognizes new or first-generation immigrants and refugees who are making a significant contribution in their professions and in our community.” Meet Seema Sheth, our newest FACE of Louisville.
You will be receiving a MOSAIC Award this year. Tell us about why you were given such an honor.
I’ll tell you, I was completely surprised and honored by this award. I have worked hard since moving back to Louisville to make a difference. In fact, it was one of the primary drivers for my return to the state. It feels amazing to be noticed for that hard work and also to have a platform to share what is so important to me: the empowerment of people around their personal finance.
You were a professional model in Los Angeles and Colorado after college. Tell us about that career and what sort of lessons it taught you.
I learned so much from that experience. I learned to take myself far less seriously, to let criticism fall away from me and to parallel park like a madwoman on the streets of L.A.! In all seriousness, I learned that a career based on my appearance was fun but wasn’t doing anything to move the needle forward for myself or people like me. I learned that I wanted a career with more impact and that I wanted to put my intellect and grit to use, working to make change for those who historically haven’t had a seat at the table.
Now you are a financial advisor. How did your career in modeling help you to be a better financial planner?
While modeling, I had a hard time getting “financial professionals” to take me seriously as a client. I wasn’t the traditional 9-to-5 career woman, nor was I consistently flush with cash. However, that did not mean that I wasn’t worthy of a plan. I learned during that time that financial planning is about more than just numbers in a spreadsheet or the most amazing return. It’s about listening to people and helping them create a pathway for their journey and their objectives, which I work hard to do every day.
You have a focus on financial literacy, especially for women. What are some basic things that women should know about their money?
Women should understand that money is more than just a set of numerical facts on a spreadsheet. There is an emotional component to money that it is just as critical to factor into a financial plan. What I work hard to do is to help women not only understand their personal finance, but also to be empowered to make decisions about their money, lifestyle and future. Women should know that they are not alone in figuring this out. In fact, most people work with a financial professional to get their house in order. That women have been so often excluded from this conversation has created a cultural taboo around money. It’s our job to bust through that discomfort to make plans that are actionable, appropriate and motivating. Lastly, I think women should know that no one has it all figured out. I find that many of my female clients want to wait to have a conversation with a financial professional once they have their financial lives “in order.” Don’t wait! It’s our job to help you get that order in your life in the most efficient way possible.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging part is that I do not fit the mold when most people think of a financial professional. Because of that, I am often faced with the task of proving that I am as credible, knowledgeable and competent as I have worked hard to be. That being said, I am also different than the average guy in this field. Because of that, I am able understand and serve a different type of client. I am so rewarded in seeing someone find empowerment and clarity in her financial life after our work together.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
I would love to be a fashion editor at a fancy magazine. Why? The swag, of course! In all seriousness, if I wasn’t working in financial planning, I would like to find another way to give back to the women in our community. As a new mom, I have begun to experience how challenging the world is for parents. I’d love to work to create more equality for parents – both in finding affordable healthcare to creating more equitable and inclusive work environments.
What are three words that describe you?
I think I would best describe myself as passionate, empathetic and competent. Not the most thrilling superlatives in the world, but they are unyieldingly accurate. I am passionate about the work I do, the people I serve and the community I live in. I am empathetic and try hard to understand multiple points of view, and I work tirelessly to ensure that I am excellent and knowledgeable at what I undertake.
What advice do you treasure?
Coco Chanel said, “Dress shabbily, and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably, and they remember the woman.” And Shel Silverstein wrote, “Listen to the mustn’ts child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen very closely child, and listen just to me. Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ____________.
Lipstick! I always have 200 in my purse. It isn’t because I think makeup is a must. It’s because, to me, lipstick is a badge of honor. It’s like my superhero cape. When I have a lipstick in my pocket, I can do anything!
What is your very favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Experience the arts! We are lucky enough to have an amazing regional theater, so many small local theaters, a world-class orchestra and ballet, a fantastic opera and a center for the arts that hosts some of the best work in the country. If you aren’t seeing a show a month, you’re doing something wrong.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
The list is so long, it’s a bit embarrassing. I just finished reading Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s collected works My Own Words, and I am currently reading The Power. I also have Behold the Dreamers, The Wise Man’s Fear and Oathbringer on the list.
What are three of your favorite things right now?
As the mother of a newborn, I am obsessed with my Tula baby carrier. Honestly, it’s the only way I get things done! I can have two hands and snuggle my nugget at the same time. I am also a huge fan of Code & Quill notebooks (started by a Louisvillian!), and Lamy Fountain pens, because who doesn’t feel fancy using a fountain pen?!
Thank you, Seema! To learn more about Seema’s work at Northwestern Mutual or to contact her, visit louisville.nm.com.
Thank you to Adele Reding of Adele Reding Photography for the beautiful pictures of Seema.
To be inspired by other great women in Louisville, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.