"How I Did It" Series with XYPN Member River Nice

6 min read
April 01, 2024

We're excited to share another member story from our "How I Did It" series.  

Deciding to take the leap to start your own financial planning firm can be very scary. And actually "leaping" can feel overwhelming. There are so many decisions and responsibilities. How am I going to make this work? What business model should I use? How do I manage compliance? How do I market myself? What's this going to cost?

While the questions are the same for advisors starting their own RIA, their decisions are as individual as the advisors making them. In this peer-to-peer guest series, we take a deep dive into those decisions as XYPN members share their stories, resources, regrets, and successes experienced while launching their financial planning practice. 

Looking for a roadmap to start your own independent RIA? Check out our  comprehensive guide to starting your firm!

In this edition of the "How I Did It" series, we’re exploring the journey of XYPN member River Nice (they/them), owner of Be Intentional Financial, and capitalism critic. 

In 2014, River Nice was coming into their own building websites in the tech industry. As someone raised by a CPA, River was following the practical career path. But that practicality was soon upended by the 2016 presidential election. 

As a queer person, there was an immediate question looming:  “What can I do for my community?” 

Computer science was no doubt a practical pursuit. But, at some point, the opportunity cost morphed into something else: River needed to find an avenue that proactively supported the needs of their community. 

Avoiding finances is—on its face—normal. But it’s more of a symptom of the shame and isolation that so often surrounds finances. River found that not a lot of folks around them felt confident in budgeting, paying down debt, or working toward their financial goals—a topic they’d taken a personal interest in. 

Enter a job opportunity at a small practice under a national broker-dealer. Their computer know-how and passion for financial literacy were a match made. It was there that River completed their Series 66 and Series 7 and started working with their own clients (read: starting to collect the tools to financially empower their community)

River was off to the races, quickly bringing in a healthy client volume. But being a queer person in their 20s, River’s client base was by and large other queer people in their 20s. And these clients all had one thing in common: they didn’t meet the AUM minimums of the firm.

Just 18 months into the job, it stopped feeling like a door to the future. It started to feel like a grind. River was balancing the feelings of a misalignment between the early 20s, early career, the LGBTQ niche they were serving, and the metrics of the traditional model. 

And just as soon, it was time to look to the future. River was invited into a conversation framed on “the next 15 years of your life,” with their former broker-dealer. 

It’s worth noting that for some, knowing what’s to come in your career is comforting. Getting a “sneak peek” into the next 15 years of a career you’re passionate about is one thing. But it's another to be shown the same insights into a career trajectory you’re already feeling uncomfortable about—that’s a completely different story. 

River was also on their gender journey at this time. Dressing the part to go into a physical office was a stark reminder that they didn’t fit the traditional financial advisor mold. River was balancing personal and professional discomfort. It was the kind of discomfort that turned a Kitces.com podcast episode from “easy listening” to a “how-to-guide.”

That same week, River heard Phuong Luong’s episode about serving underserved communities with accessible financial planning. It was the same kind of community that River wanted to give back to. So, they got Phuong on the phone and saw that independence was possible, there was a market for this kind of planning, that it could be profitable, and that there was support. She was the one who told River about XYPN. 

That conversation ignited River's entrepreneurial spirit. They had already observed the barriers and biases present in traditional financial institutions and knew there was an opportunity to create something different. Something better. River envisioned a space where clients could receive personalized, unbiased advice tailored to their unique goals and circumstances instead of planning for traditional life stages. 

They were leaning into that “gut” feeling that things were not aligning with the values at their prior firm. But River was realistic and honest with themselves about the money involved in starting their own RIA.

Within 2 weeks of listening to the interview, River put their plan into action. 

Armed with determination and a vision for a brighter future—and the privilege of having a supportive family who could provide a safety net—River set out to establish Be Intentional Financial. 

By July 2019, they had changed their name to River, their pronouns to they/them, and launched their own RIA.

Launching Be Intentional Financial 

  1. Create a budget
  2. Make a website
  3. Reserve social media handles
  4. Decide if physical space fit their practice—it didn’t

River started by asking themselves: What is the minimum viable product? How many clients could I support? Does that change if I don’t manage assets? What would I have to charge? 

Marketing—an inevitable necessity—happens next, and almost always feels more like a test than a business strategy. Throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks is the most attractive approach. But River’s reframed the puzzle. Instead of trying to find the in-your-face sales pitch that resonates with your ideal client (and doesn’t make you squirm), they look at marketing as a way to make yourself visible to the people already looking for their help.

In that same vein, XYPN has provided the support to help River make the transition from working on a team to being a team of one. No one can become all things to all people—that’s certainly true in the case of trying to become both a legal expert and financial planner during RIA registration. But River didn’t have to. They leaned into the XYPN Forums to ask questions to lean on for information and questions, into the compliance team’s wealth of knowledge, into the experience of a mentor. And it’s worked. 

Since making that list—and hiring a business coach who's helped them prioritize what needs to come first in the business—Be Intentional Financial has found its groove. 

In 2023, River had a profit of $140,000—maybe surprising themselves most of all. Going independent was a big financial risk. But it was a risk that River wasn’t alone in taking. Their personal network—family, friends, and partners—believed in their vision and mission fully. River cashed out their own 401(k), their partner at the time lent them money, and they took on credit card debt. 

But the biggest measure of success wasn’t monetary. Don’t read it wrong: there’s value in the ability to be able to solely provide for yourself and your partner. But for River, the power they have over their day-to-day and the ability to set their own client standards—which in part includes a non-negotiable that clients must respect their pronouns—are huge. 

The Be Intentional Financial Philosophy

Their success goes right back to the original “What can I do for my community?” question. Bringing a firm owner is everything in the ability to prioritize your own values. River can decide how to charge the number of clients that mesh with their capacity and leave enough time to offer free consultations and workshops. 

One of the key principles guiding River's approach to financial advising is transparency. They believe in demystifying the world of finance and empowering clients to make informed decisions with confidence. No hidden fees or opaque agendas here—just honest, straightforward advice.

Right now Be Intentional Financial’s services cost what they cost. Sliding scale pricing is still a few years out. But River puts their values at the center of everything—employing reparations-based pricing for Black and Indigenous community members—just another testament to the freedoms of independence. 

Another cornerstone of River's philosophy is inclusivity. They understand that everyone's financial journey is unique. That's why they take the time to listen, learn, and tailor their services to meet the diverse needs of their clients.

But what sets Be Intentional Financial apart is their commitment to education. Half of the business is dedicated to supporting financial literacy. The business works so that River can work to host conversations on sustainable investing strategies, LGBTQIA+ savings priorities, or community outreach programs. 

River's First Year Expenses

Rivers First Year Expenses

Your firm, your terms. It can be done. Show me how.

Colby Goodrich Headshot

About the Author

Colby Goodrich is XYPN's Content Designer. In her role, she works to create member-centered designs that help bring the XY Planning Network experience to life. When she isn't busy supporting the connections that matter, she loves to go camping in the pacific northwest. 

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