From a young age, I understood the pressures of financial hardship.

I remember my mom — who as a single mother was raising me and my brother — would cry because she didn’t know how she would put food on the table. She wrote down every penny she spent, and at 82 years old, she still holds on to this habit. She tracks every penny, every day on a piece of paper. Through this practice, she taught me that little expenses add up to large dollar amounts, and also that that small dollars saved today can add up to large savings over time.

My mom’s experience made me passionate about helping others with their finances — especially women.

This passion later propelled me to take some professional risks. In 1997, when I was 33 years old, I left the wealth management company where I’d worked for seven years to start as an independent financial advisor. I felt there was no career path where I was working, and I wanted to build my own financial independence and success.

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With $35,000 in stocks, credit cards as my line of credit and sheer drive, I made the leap. Now, looking back, I’d advise others to take a more measured approach.

With $35,000 in stocks, credit cards as my line of credit and sheer drive, I made the leap. Now, looking back, I’d advise others to take a more measured approach. Have a business plan in place, find a mentor within the industry and consider a business consultant’s advice. But, at the time, I was anxious to get started, and I didn’t know where to turn for guidance.

I’ve gone through two divorces in my life, which meant I had to start over financially twice. It’s not been easy, but those experiences have further cemented my passion to help women avoid financial pitfalls.

For instance, I didn’t understand that by selling my home and combining assets with someone else, I was putting my own financial security at risk. I didn’t understand that by putting my spouse’s career above my own, I was compromising my own Social Security benefits.

For me, it’s been a bumpy road, but also an incredibly satisfying journey. The secret? Hard work, learning from other respected professionals and a relentless drive to help others by giving back.

My wealth management business has allowed me to give back both locally and internationally — particularly to women. I sit on the board of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and I am the chair elect of the NAWBO Institute. In both positions, I help women business owners access the resources and tools they need to scale their businesses. At the international level, I helped develop a microlending partnership with Opportunity International to help women business owners in Nicaragua launch and grow their businesses.

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By being engaged in philanthropy, I stay grounded, I stay humbled and I stay grateful.

I encourage other advisors to consider how they can give back. Find a cause about which you’re passionate. I have found, in the world of wealth management, I can become isolated from the real world of need.

By being engaged in philanthropy, I stay grounded, I stay humbled and I stay grateful. In addition, I’ve met some of my best clients through philanthropic endeavors. And while I have not pursued philanthropy in order to gain clients, I find that in pursuing my own passions, I find like-minded individuals.

Learning life’s lessons from my own mistakes, and by modeling other successful business owners, I have become a better business owner, a better financial advisor and a better advocate for other women.

My advice to all aspiring entrepreneurs, not just women, is this: reach out to others who have trailblazed their own path and somehow accomplished their dreams. And when you arrive, don’t forget to pay it forward.