Growing up, my parents instilled in my siblings and me the value of education. My father was the first in his family to graduate college and my mother went to college also. For my mom to raise six kids and then be able to mold her own career once we were all in school was unusual at the time. Her life was a great example for me, my sisters, and the community.
From the time I was young, I wanted to earn my own money. And I was very certain when I grew up, the man of the family would not make all the decisions, especially about finances. First my high school business teacher and later a business mentor were influential in feeding that conviction.
That business teacher was married to a dentist (which meant she didn’t have to work). In fact, culture dictated that women stayed at home, but she ignored it, becoming a teacher who transformed our school’s business curriculum from steno classes to classes that got us ready for the business world, not just the secretarial pool. Often she would take students to visit different businesses. I admired her business knowledge … and fashion sense, too. She was always dressed professionally and she showed us that it was okay for women to earn their own money. Because of her, I became laser-focused on earning my own. Over the years, we’ve done more than keep in touch; she is now one of my clients!
When I started in the industry in 1975, I was an administrative assistant. My mentor, who ran the business then, was well established in his career. He took me to meetings to show me what he did for a living. I remember hearing often in meeting these stories about how clients’ lives had changed in significant ways. He mentored his clients and it was awe inspiring to me. I’d hear, “Because of you…” followed by a story of how a family was able to take a vacation, a couple was able to buy a house, parents sent their kids to college. A dentist told us how he saved $75 per month for 25 years at the suggestion of my mentor and eventually became a millionaire. It was stories like these that inspired me to become a financial advisor.
Today, I am the President of Stephens Wealth Management Group. The same firm where I got my start now bears my name. I’ve made top advisor lists in Michigan and nationally in publications including The Financial Times and Barron’s. I feel recognition is important to attracting and mentoring young women who are considering the financial planning industry. I am involved with the WLA because I am tired of talking about getting more women into this profession and want to take action to be part of the solution. Part of changing the conversation, is mentorship. By showing what’s possible, we hope to launch more women into a profession that has been extremely rewarding for me.