From Brooklyn to Asia with Love
When I was 30 years, 8 months and 1 day old I got my first passport. I was so excited to finally be able to travel the world and share stories of all the things I had seen. But my journey to global euphoria was slow and not quite steady.
Growing up as a little girl, in the mid 70’s, in Brooklyn, NY I had no idea that we were part of what you would now classify as low to middle income. Our community was rich and full. We loved and respected each other, our neighbors and our friends. We never talked about money but somehow we managed to “manage.” At the early age of 11, I experienced what not having money meant. It was a more superficial experience for me but my experience, nonetheless. It was the fall season and families were gearing up for Back to School. I remember so vividly, not being able to go back to school shopping because we didn’t have money “for that.” We had just enough to pay the bills. (If only my adult self could have told my 11-year-old self that, that was what really mattered, I probably would have been less traumatized.) My mom was a single parent and I was the youngest of three. We spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents and they seemed “financially stable.” My grandfather was a decorated war veteran and policeman and my grandmother was a stay-at-home mom of five. My grandparents did a lot of traveling and I always admired that. I never gave thought to how they afforded it. Perhaps they managed their money well, perhaps they didn’t. I suspect they fell somewhere in between
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to really learn and appreciate the value of money, the evil it possessed and the joy it could bring. My family had moved to Florida and I began spending more time around teenagers who were doing things like traveling abroad and they seemed to have such worldly experiences. As I was nearing the end of my high school years, students were completing final semesters abroad and preparing to “go away” to college. I couldn’t travel abroad, and I didn’t go away to college. Instead, I received a local university experience where I had to work part time and often take courses at night. While I have a college education, it came at a price that is truly unconscionable – student loan debt. My mother is an excellent researcher, and she helped me identify grants that were available, however they weren’t enough and when it came to academic debt we were a bit naïve. Academic debt, left unmanaged and un-understood, is a terrible joke that lenders play on uneducated families who just want to get into college. As my student loan debt grew, I began to further understand the real concept of the evil that lurked within the walls of academic debt. Part of me felt like, it didn’t matter the cost of the loan, all that mattered was that I needed to graduate and I didn’t want to give society another reason to say NO. My skin color did that all by itself. I didn’t grow up seeing a lot of examples of the person I wanted to be, and I was determined to be a college graduate.
After college, I started to work in a meaningful career and my passion began to shift towards creating an environment for myself that I could be proud of and fully support. I started to think more holistically about money. How would it contribute not only to my life but to the lives of others around me? I wanted my money to support both the tangible and intangible needs and desires. I also knew that I didn’t want to be defined by money whether in the red or black.
As time passed, I began to better understand what it meant to be fiscally responsible, much different than just “managing to manage.” So while I had learned to create and work within budgets and save for retirement and rainy days, I had yet to fulfill my desire for travel. As I mentioned, it wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I got my first passport. I wanted to travel and be able to afford it! I had enough student loan debt to hold me just fine, and maxing out credit cards wasn’t an option for me. I leaned on the research skills that I learned from my mother and learned to find travel steals and deals that would help keep costs down. My travel journeys are just beginning but in the short 14 years that I have had a passport, I have managed to visit multiple continents and many countries. With a few of my favorite stops being Costa Rica, Hong Kong and Thailand. I am so inspired by the beauty I see when I travel abroad and the opportunity to embrace the uniqueness of other cultures.
Fast forward to today, I have my student loan debt in check and I am confidently walking in my truth and working to contribute to the growth and success of others. I believe that we live in a world where people can be kind and good, however we have deep rooted biases that cripple us as a society and don’t allow us to fully walk in our personal truths. Through my professional work, I have had the ability to help financial advisors and investors contribute to doing well by doing good and harness their investment dollars to create change. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed how we are in desperate need for economic inclusion for all people and specifically people of color. It was with those needs in mind that I shifted my career to work with CNote. Through my work with CNote, I’m excited to embrace a new and exciting challenge, helping to scale a high-growth financial technology company that is motivated not just by profits but by building a more inclusive economy as well. Through my work with CNote, we are helping to bring viable economic solutions to the very communities that I lived in as a child. So, in many ways, I feel like I have come full circle and look forward to what the next phase of my journey looks like.
Article by Danielle M. Burns, MBA, AIF, Head of Business Development for CNote. Prior to joining CNote, Danielle worked for First Affirmative Financial Network in a variety of Business Development roles from 2004 to 2019 most recently serving as Vice President of Sales and Marketing where she worked with a highly collaborative team that was responsible for the growth and profitability of the firm’s distribution channels. Danielle participated in all aspects of the sales and marketing process, attended and spoke at industry events and educated advisors on how to navigate the Sustainable, Responsible, Impact (SRI) investing and ESG landscape. Her background emphasizes business strategy and consulting and executing integrated campaigns, marketing communications, product launch and system development.
Danielle began her financial services career in 1994 with Wachovia Corporation where she worked for both Wachovia Bank and Wachovia Securities performing a variety of management duties over her nine-year tenure. Danielle serves on the board of Green America, a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982, whose mission is to harness economic power to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Additionally, Danielle serves on the SRI Conference & Community Advisory Board. The SRI Conference & Community is the longest running gathering of asset managers, financial advisors, researchers, academics, mission-driven organizations who share the common goal of deploying private capital to address some of our most pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges.
Danielle is a certified trainer for Walking on the Glass Floor, which promotes Diversity and Inclusion for Women in Leadership and is passionate about working to narrow the wealth gap and create investment and economic inclusion for all. Danielle holds an MBA with an emphasis in marketing and the AIF® designation. Danielle, her husband and their son live in Noblesville, IN.