Non-citizen entrepreneurs are an integral part of the economic engine that makes the United States a competitive global force. These business owners create new jobs, revitalize neighborhoods and boost local economies in their adopted homeland.
An entrepreneurial spirit drives their quest for the American dream. Immigrants were nearly twice as likely as native-born residents to start a business every month in 2012, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In fact, the share of entrepreneurs who are immigrants grew from 13.7 percent to 21.7 percent from 1996 to 2012.
“I am really passionate about working with non-citizen business owners because they contribute so much to our economy, and that trickles down to healthy communities for our kids to grow up in,” said Karol Jimenez Pagano, a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual based in Miami.
Pagano has made it her mission to work with non-citizen business owners who have come to the United States with the goal of building a better life for their families.
Pagano helps her clients envision their goals and then works with them to plan financially to achieve them. That includes a plan to protect their business and families if something should happen to them. She also helps business owners to think about the value of their business and how the wealth they are building will be passed on to their family.
A design major in college, Pagano never imagined she would find such professional satisfaction working as a financial representative. She decided to switch careers after a friend introduced her to a Northwestern Mutual advisor.
“We began chatting about financial planning, and it clicked,” said Pagano. “Up until then, I had been developing the creative side of my brain. But I always felt something was missing. I liked the idea of owning my own business. I was intrigued, so I took the leap.”
“Financial planning can be emotionally exhausting for families. It’s important to have the right team in place so families feel comfortable about executing their plan.”
Pagano also drew from her personal life when deciding on the career move. “My father needed long-term care. My siblings and I had to pool our resources to make sure he was properly taken care of in Puerto Rico,” she said. “That experience made me passionate about this business because I understand what families go through if they don’t have the proper planning in place.”
She views her own Latino background as a plus when working with non-citizens. “I understand and appreciate the culture and values of the Hispanic families that I work with,” said Pagano.
Listening to Life Stories
Taking the time to listen to clients is crucial. “What I enjoy most is sitting down with people and listening to their stories. That’s how I learn what’s important to them. I find their stories inspiring. Everyone has a different journey.”
Pagano works hard to make sure clients understand U.S. estate tax laws and the consequences many of her clients face if they don’t take adequate steps to protect assets. For example, people often use the death benefit of a life insurance policy to pay off the mortgage or cover college
Once she has a client’s consent, Pagano works with them to help build a “dream team” that may include an accountant, estate tax attorney and other professionals who collaborate to create a customized plan. There can often be additional planning considerations for non-citizen business owners who may have family or assets in other countries as well as the United States.
“I connect clients with a network of professionals who are knowledgeable. But most importantly, I connect them to people they can trust,” she said. “Financial planning can be emotionally exhausting for families. It’s important to have the right team in place so families feel comfortable about executing their plan.”
With the right financial planning in place, non-citizens business owners can live the American dream, confident that their hard work and contributions are protected for generations to come.
“There’s a soft spot for non-citizen business owners because they contribute a great deal to our country,” she said. “They deserve our help.”