On the love of others as an affirmation of life, featuring Crystal Alford-Cooper

Crystal Alford-Cooper on the love of others as an affirmation of life

Crystal Alford CooperCrystal Alford-Cooper, CFP®, CDFA®, CRC®, is one of those people who knows everybody. On the rare occasion she arrives somewhere she doesn’t, give it five minutes, she’ll have collected six new friends and two life stories. She’ll also know whose mom has a procedure coming up next week; they shouldn’t be surprised if there are flowers and a get-well card waiting in the recovery room.

Her natural charisma may be to blame, or maybe it’s that she’s a carer at heart who wants to find out peoples’ needs so she can help fulfill them. Or maybe she’s just more comfortable than most about getting past the surface – a 10-minute conversation with your college-age child will have them diverting pocket cash to a retirement fund. It’s a helpful trait in her line of work.

Whatever her means, her motivation is clear: She loves people.

“I am fortunate to work in a profession that appeals to my natural skill set and my natural being. I’ve always been one who believed in saving, believed in investing and treating people well and wanting to see people do well,” Alford-Cooper said. “I don’t think anyone has to love people to be successful, but I know I have to love people to be successful.”

Alford-Cooper’s mother raised strong women. The details of her childhood and young adulthood easily leave the impression that she would have excelled in any business she chose. She has a powerful drive, one which has helped her achieve remarkable things but that at one point left too little for herself. The wake-up call came in 2014 while she was with a large firm managing over $1 billion when a painful, life-altering illness struck, complicated by stress. The experience changed her, she said.

“I realized I worked myself sick. It taught me a lesson that it’s not always about the money; it’s about doing something that you love to do, that you would do if you didn’t get paid to do it,” she said. “I knew I was never going to do that again. Now, when someone tells me they are overwhelmed with work and life, I tell them they have to take care of themselves. Ladies, you have to take care of yourselves.”

“It’s not always about the money, it’s about doing something that you love to do, that you would do if you didn’t get paid to do it.”

One of the ways she takes care of herself is through the personal fulfillment of helping causes she believes in. She is an avid volunteer financial educator, assisting people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to benefit from a highly credentialed financial planner. She has taught as an adjunct professor at a local community college. She is also an advocate for others’ achievement, through person-to-person mentoring.

Alford-Cooper currently serves on the Financial Planning Association® Board of Directors. She was also past president of the Association of African American Financial Advisors “Quad A,” where she gets the opportunity to shed light on a professional path that has shaped her life.

“It gives me the opportunity to help young people, and folks for whom this may be a second career. Seeing young Black financial professionals having an interest in the profession, and in obtaining credentials – it excites me.”

Alford-Cooper credits her career and success on all of those who have helped her along the way: her mother and sisters; Sally Law, the pioneering woman who founded Law & Associates; Janice Henderson, who now leads the practice; her fifth-grade teacher (with whom she is still in touch); and many others.

She never frames her commitment to others as an obligation, but a choice, and a source of joy. You never really know whose life you’ve touched, she reminds people, in a good way or otherwise. You can choose to lean into the good.

It’s simple, she said.

“I love seeing people do well, so, why not?”

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

This piece was featured in Aspire Magazine, a biannual publication from the Women Financial Advisors Network. View the latest.

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