Finding My Way

To be honest, I sort of stumbled upon the financial advisory world. It all began in 1999 when I accepted a receptionist position for a brokerage firm, Prudential Securities, in Johnson City, NY.  At the time, I had no idea what a “security” was.  I thought I was applying to a home security company, as in locks and alarms! Needless to say, I was introduced to a whole world of investments, financial markets, up days, down days, hot stocks and stocks out of favor.

I still remember the thrill of trade orders and confirmations.  At that time, orders were still placed over a wire system with an actual paper ticket and not web-based. Most days there was almost an electric charge in the air, markets were good, clients were making money and brokers were too. Those were happy days.

I distinctly remember the turn of the events when the market fell with the collapse of the tech stocks. Observing the impact of what we in the industry refer to as the “Tech Wreck” left me with some deep impressions. The atmosphere changed, tensions mounted, and I watched as clients exhausted their resources to meet margin calls. Witnessing the devastating losses brought on by taking too much risk taught me one of the most valuable money lessons I have ever learned; don’t take on more risk than what is necessary to meet your goals.

I learned a lot during my time at Prudential. There were wise advisors who were willing to share with me what they advised their clients and why. It was also the place I learned about the power of dividends. I was amazed by how, even in a down market, clients could receive so much income. Some of those dividend checks were more than what I was making in a month!  Dividends are a component you will no doubt find in my income-oriented investment strategies.

I was often asked if I would ever consider becoming an advisor myself.  I swore I never would!  Beside the fact that the test to earn your license intimidated me, I still had this notion that investing was very similar to gambling and I did not want any responsibility for a client losing money!

I moved on from Prudential Securities and ended up taking a position with a local insurance firm, The Partners in Waverly, NY.  I had moved, and this job was much closer to where I was living.  Although, auto and homeowners insurance are very important, I discovered I missed the world of investing and personal finance.  I was drawn to something there.

It wasn’t long before I found a way to get back into the business. I made an agreement with an independent financial advisor to sponsor me for the securities license exam in exchange for working as his office manager. It was a one-room office and most days I was there by myself, which gave me plenty of time to study.  I passed the exam and had only begun to work with some clients when the office closed.

Becoming an Advisor

I had every intention of staying in a supportive, administrative position but my job search ended up with me nervously accepting a position with an annuity company, AIG VALIC, advising annuity clients in the Southern Tier of NY and Northern Tier of PA. The company had extensive training for advisors and I soaked up everything I could about asset classes, asset allocation, investment products, and even Monte Carlo simulation. It was here where I was first introduced to the idea of helping clients save for future goals like retirement and education. I even learned some very basic needs analysis calculations. My nerves were starting to fade as I realized that with the knowledge I had, I could help people make better financial decisions.

Investments became less mystifying and investment strategies began to make sense. I was no longer afraid of losing a clients money, rather I now felt that I was equipped to help clients make good decisions so that they could reach their financial goals without taking too much risk. To this day, I am extremely passionate about educating my clients on the investment basics so they are equipped to make good decisions and protect themselves from being taken advantage of.

I had to move on from the annuity world when it became apparent that an annuity is not the answer to everything, a point that VALIC agreed with, but at the time did not back up with their pay structure. I am not the kind of person that can recommend a product just because of the financial incentive.

My career led me first to Chemung Canal Trust Co in Elmira, NY for a couple of years where I provided retirement planning advice to clients. I moved on to First Citizens Community Bank in Bradford County, PA as a financial advisor. As I continued providing investment advice, I found that clients needed help not only with investments but other areas of their financial life.  Questions arose like: How much should I be saving for retirement? How much life insurance do I need? How much is college going to cost? What’s the best way to save for college? Should I contribute to a Roth IRA? What’s going to happen to my assets when I die?

Just like with investing, I started learning about all of these topics.  I applied to Boston University’s program for Financial Planning. I extensively studied financial planning, risk management, investments, tax planning, retirement planning, and estate planning. Upon graduating, I went on to successfully earn my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification.

Expanding as a Financial Planner

As the area of financial planning began to become more of my focus I moved on to Corning Credit Union in Corning, NY where I implemented a formal financial planning program and worked as both a financial planner and an investment advisor. Finally having the opportunity to focus more on financial planning it became evident I had found my place in the financial advisory world.

After going on maternity leave and moving even further away from Corning, I decided not to return to the credit union as an employee and I made the giant leap of faith in starting my own practice. At first I focused solely as a fee only financial planner. When my clients needed investment services, I collaborated with other financial advisors. I also provided some coaching and consulting to other financial advisors. Working for myself gave me flexibility to be more available to my children than I would have had I been in a traditional office.

My son, Luke, is now 11 and my daughter, Ella is 7. The demands of parenting are different now and in the last two years I’ve added investment management back into my services. I’m affiliated with a national investment advisory firm, Belpointe Asset Management. They provide the infrastructure to do my job and because it’s an open platform I have autonomy in creating investment strategies for my clients. I also have a network of advisors and financial professionals I can collaborate with keeping me resourced with talent across the country.

Evolving into Financial Therapy

If you’ve ever had a session with me you know that the types of questions I ask in order to help develop a financial plan often lead to some deep and introspective conversations. It didn’t take me long to recognize that there’s more going on in these conversations than goals and money, emotions were playing a big role. Wanting to find ways to better facilitate those conversations I found the Financial Therapy Association (FTA). This network of professionals from both the financial planning and mental health fields were coming together to share research, practice methods, and models to address how people think, feel, communicate, and behave with money and improve overall well-being. You know this was right up my alley! While I’ve been involved in the field of financial therapy for several year, I just recently earned my Certified Financial Therapist-I™ designation. While I infuse the methods of financial therapy with all of my clients, I have recently started to offer financial therapy coaching sessions which is aimed specifically at reframing the scripts that have developed around financial well-being that may not be in alignment with one’s values.

Reframing Success

As I immersed myself in financial therapy I integrated it into your own life. I challenged my own scripts I had around money and in particular success. One of the biggest reframes for me was how I equated success to my career accomplishments, earnings, and a sense of having to hustle for my worthiness. Extensive but compassionate self-reflection and therapy helped me develop a healthy sense of self-worth, knowing I am enough just as I am. I now measure success by how I am living out my core values, doing meaningful work, cultivating meaningful relationships, and attending to my overall well-being.

It’s been an amazing twenty plus years! I could have never imagined how my career would evolve. I can’t wait to see how the next chapters unfold. I feel honored and grateful to be helping people cultivate financial well-being and live a life they love living!