Meet Engage Ambassador Nicole Corning
Get to know the latest Engage Woman!
Please introduce yourself to the Engage community! Who are you?
My name is Nicole Corning. I am the Managing Partner of the Buckman & Corning Financial Strategies Group. I advise primarily on corporate and non-profit retirement plans and have been named one of the Top Women Advisors by the National Association of Plan Advisors, NAPA*, in 2018, 2019, and 2020, and, in 2020, I was named one of the 401 Retirement Advisors by the Financial Times.
Prior to coming to Arizona, I resided in Washington, DC and had a career in politics. I am a published author, host a weekly podcast, and write a blog that is featured on WorkingMother.com with a focus on empowering women. I have appeared on the Katie Couric Show and have been featured in Financial Planning Magazine, NAPA-Net Magazine, and Plan Sponsor Magazine & Investment News. I am active in the nonprofit community and currently serve as the inaugural chairwoman of the American Retirement Association’s Council for Women. I graduated Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I have been (mostly) happily married since 2001, and I have two sons and three rescue dogs. My family is my world and empowering women is my mission.
What is the one change you believe would lead to the biggest improvement for women’s economic security?
As women, we must first unlearn all of the damaging messaging we have learned growing up – some of it conscious and some of it unconscious. The worst lesson most of us have been taught is not to talk about money: it’s bad manners, it’s impolite, you should mind your own business, and if you have too much people will want it and if you have too little you should be ashamed. But, as women, the way we get through life is by reaching out to our tribe to help us. Our close friends know almost everything about us and vice versa. But, when it comes to money, most of us know nothing about our friends’ finances. If we, as women, incorporated talking openly about finances with our friends, we would shift the feelings of fear and shame to empowerment. Once women make that shift collectively, there will be no stopping us.
How did you get to where you are in your career? Why do you do what you do?
As a young woman, I never liked money or numbers, so I’m probably the most surprised that I ended up owning a financial advising firm. I started out working in politics but quickly became disillusioned in DC, as I felt the dynamics were about winning and not about doing the right thing. I was actually pretty lost after I left politics and accidentally stumbled into a career in banking and finance. What I realized is that I don’t like numbers for the sake of numbers. But I do like numbers when they mean something. I found that the work I did as a financial professional was a way for me to directly improve people’s lives and that the numbers were a means to an end. Being a financial advisor affords me the opportunity to get out of bed every day and go to work knowing that I am making the world a better place, one person and plan at a time.
What do you wish you knew when you were a 20-something starting out?
I was raised by two hippie parents, so I wasn’t taught about money or finances. I had to learn by going to the school of hard knocks. I wish I had a fairy godmother in my twenties who gave me a simple cheat sheet to becoming financially secure: save ten percent into your retirement plan, keep six months of expenses in a safety net account, credit is good but debt is bad, own your own home and pay it off completely – and work on accomplishing them all at the same time, as they are all equally important.
What role do politics or policy have in your life? What are your legislative priorities, if any?
I still have a passion for politics. Having lived and worked in DC as a young woman, I saw firsthand how a few vocal people can have an enormous impact. People don’t believe me when I tell them that if they contact their representative’s office that outreach can actually sway a vote. It’s almost like a mini-focus group some elected officials use to determine what their constituents want them to do. So, if you have a strong feeling about a piece of legislation, send an email or pick up the phone and make your voice heard. As for my own legislative priorities, they are very much focused on strengthening retirement for working Americans. Right now, I believe passage of the Secure 2.0 legislation is critical. As a side passion project, I have a personal desire to modernize antiquated language and outdated regulations in our ERISA tax code to be more gender-fair and inclusive. For example, there is a doctrine that governs retirement plans called the “Prudent Man” rule. To me, language matters, and I’d like to see that rule officially changed to “Prudent Person.” Also, there is a family attribution rule that is premised on men being business owners rather than women, so it can put female business owners at a disadvantage if they are married to or even have a child with a man who is also a business owner.
What attracts you to Engage? If you have already co-hosted an Engaged Presentation, what was it like?
I have been drawn to Engage because it is focused on the things that women care most about, specifically holistic financial security. Engage takes off of the table the political issues that divide us and gives us a platform to advocate for and learn about how to empower ourselves financially. I hosted a virtual Engage event with women across the political spectrum, and they were all enthusiastically drawn to the message of Engage. I think most Americans are sick of the divisiveness and vitriol in our current political climate. Engage offers us a space where we can genuinely come together to accomplish the things we care about the most.
Who are you most inspired by right now?
I am most inspired by the people in my life who are doing hard things. I have a dear friend who left an abusive relationship and is now a single mom to her two young daughters, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. Watching her bravery inspires me. I have several friends who have transgender children and are scared to death for them. But they are embracing and supporting their children, while trying to understand how to best support them. That kind of unconditional love inspires me. I have several family members who struggle with addiction. Every day they make the hard choice to stay clean and sober for themselves and for us, their family members. That kind of strength inspires me.
What is one thing you have seen, read, or heard that you would recommend to everyone?
I just read the most powerful book about race in America, entitled How the Word is Passed. I think it should be required reading for everyone. It approaches race through the stories of ordinary people in a way that is non-judgmental. It brings empathy and understanding to a subject that has become polarized.
If you could have any job in the world for one month, what would it be and why?
I would love to go back to being a bartender for a month. It’s how I put myself through college, and I find myself missing it still to this day. I met some of my best lifelong friends during my time as a bartender. I loved my regulars. I felt like each shift was a chance to throw a party and create an environment for people to relax and enjoy themselves.
Who do you love to follow on social media and why?
When it comes to social media, I tend to use it as an escape. It’s like cotton candy for my brain. My favorite person to follow currently is Amber Lewis on Instagram, @amberinteriors. She is a brilliant interior designer, and I love the vibe she creates through her design work.
Why do you think it’s important for women to engage with the political system?
If there is one thing that I’d like any woman reading this to know, it is that they can make a difference politically that will change the world for the better for themselves and for those they love. They can have a huge impact by making the commitment to speak up and have their voices heard. Make that call, send that email, educate yourself, and be the change.
Nicole is the Managing Partner of the Buckman & Corning Financial Strategies Group.