Words by Teresa Hemann
Photos by Andrea Westerlund
I’m the daughter of an engineer and a nurse so you’d think I have my sh!t together, right? I mostly do but it took trial and error and probably took longer than it should have. I got my love for numbers from my Dad, and my compassion from my Mom. Unfortunately, neither of them taught me the essentials of day-to-day living – budgeting, credit cards, identity protection, etc.
My mom was my best friend. We talked every day. One day, my worst fears came true: Mom had passed away suddenly from a heart attack at 48 years old. I was only 28 but I was tasked with settling her estate. I’d just lost my best friend and now I had to go through the intimate details of her life. She didn’t have life insurance or savings (she thought she had plenty of time left) and her retirement plan beneficiaries hadn’t been updated in many years. Her children were left with nothing but memories.
Four years later, it happened again. My fiancé passed unexpectedly with no will and no insurance. He “never got around to it.” I started over again.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, my dad was living in Florida. We’d gotten closer over the previous 10 years but he’d struggled with the isolation that the pandemic imposed. On his 59th birthday, my dad took his own life. It was two weeks after he retired from his job, which meant his life insurance policy had expired.
I’m not telling you this because I want sympathy but to explain why I’m so passionate about financial education. I have seen families torn apart, struggle, and dig themselves into financial holes because they don’t have this foundational knowledge. That’s a big part of the reason I started WIN (Women’s Impact Network) Rochester.
WIN started as my big idea to make a difference, meet new friends, and do more business within the Rochester community. It was born from the idea that with the right guidance and foundation – like financial literacy – women can change the world.
When I first decided I wanted to start a nonprofit, I turned to my two friends – Rachael and Maureen (we call her Mo). I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and we all bring unique skills and perspective to the table.
Rachael was born and raised in Rochester. Her family, albeit loving, wasn’t open with her about real-world experiences. She had to learn through her own mistakes. Fortunately, she found wisdom in mentors that supported and guided her. She wants to share that experience with other women through WIN. She’s also a networking genius. Find her at one of our events and she’ll introduce you to everyone!
Mo is a self-proclaimed “transplant from Maryland that passionately calls Rochester home.” She loves everything local and is a skilled event planner. If you’re impressed with our events, you have Mo to thank. She’s been a mentor and mentee many times throughout the 20 years she’s spent in various education and marketing roles. Mo understands the impact that a mentor relationship can provide.
So, I guess that leaves me, right? I’m Teresa and I’m who I am because of the tragic things that have happened to me but also because of the amazing people I surround myself with – like Rachael and Mo. I’m passionate about teaching and planning, so it makes sense that I’m a licensed financial advisor. That’s why I want to expose as many people as possible to financial literacy education, which is sadly absent from most school curriculums.
WIN Rochester is founded on three pillars: mentor experience, financial literacy, and business networking. Rachael, Mo, and I consider ourselves valuable resources for women in the community – professionally and personally. We understand the life-changing effect that mentoring, financial education and networking can have so we’re sharing our collective knowledge and expertise with the women of Rochester.
Because let’s face it – adulting is just plain easier with a supportive network to get advice from and laugh with!