My financial advising career began in the summer of 1983 as a 21-year-old intern at my dad’s office. Until then, I didn’t understand how much he enjoyed working with people and how much they loved working with him. He had chosen financial planning as a second career when I was 14 years old, and while he wasn’t a certified financial planner, he understood people and the stock market and had created a business around building relationships and helping people make money for their lives.
I remember watching him leave before dawn and get back after dark. That wasn’t exactly a lifestyle I wanted but I saw how driven he was and how excited he got as he told me some of the success stories. From an industry standpoint, the Dow was breaking records and recovering from the doldrums of the 1970’s. It was an exciting time! I had planned to major in dietetics, but ended up ditching it in favor of business. The reality was that I was dietetics major in order to help people live a healthier lifestyle so, at least to me, choosing business and financial planning was just a different way to help folks live a better life as well.
After I became licensed in 1984, I opened my first account with a very large initial purchase. I built the relationship and he was working with me, not my father. Many of my father’s colleagues (all men) assumed my father had given me the client. While it was frustrating to be a woman and have people make that assumption, my father and I knew the truth. He had taught me to get to know a person and learn what they needed and help find a solution for them. This new client respected me for how I was helping invest for his retirement. Our Women’s Leadership Alliance (WLA) was created to help change this conversation. We want to help women today by mentoring, coaching and showing them ways they too can succeed in this industry.
Even today only 16% of financial planners are women, but I would bet there are many more if we counted women who work in the offices as support staff, not just those who have a nameplate. I have three women who work with me and we operate as a team. While these women may not want the responsibility of running the firm, they are integral to the client experience we’re creating at our Raymond James & Associates office in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.
Not only do I love helping people, just like my dad, I wanted a career that showed my children their mom is strong; I wanted them to understand they could be anything. Growing up, they saw me working long hours but now they understand. My son & daughter now see what I was working toward and how good I am at what I do. That alone means the world to me. I also want to be an example for other women interested in this career. I am involved with WLA because in 35 years in the industry, I’ve always found tremendous value in working with a business coach and I want to share some of that with others. There are plenty of motivated women out there and the WLA can help more of them find their path.