Our second-annual list features the top 300 mothers working in wealth management today. We asked some of the best how they got there and what they do to help working moms plan for the future, teach their own kids about money, and blend work and home life. See the winners and find out why these advisors are the best of the best.
Cheryl L. Young
What drew Cheryl to financial advising and medicine, her first love, is similar: behavioral psychology. “There’s so much to do around the emotional side of decisions,” Cheryl says. And that’s how she tackles the biggest issue her customers face—planning for the future. “I always tell the client: ‘Think about where you’d like to live when you’re 55, 65, 75 and 85.’” Another prompt Cheryl likes to give: “‘Name all the things you love.’ Women never say ‘myself,’” Cheryl says. So she encourages women to “not hold themselves back and know they can do anything they want.”
As a child, Elaine saved her allowance to buy stock. And her father taught her how to read the market in the paper. Those early experiences taught Elaine a lot about “the emotional side of human nature and how we react when the market goes down”— insights she uses every day, especially with what she considers moms’ biggest money challenge: “Traditionally, financial planning covers emergency funds, college planning and retirement, but it gives less guidance on balancing distant financial goals with special present experiences,” such as vacations and even self-care. “Taking care of your family,” Elaine says, “starts with taking time for you.”
When Julia got married at 19, she planned to have kids right away and stay home. Getting pregnant proved difficult, so she worked her way up at a local bank, got licensed as a financial advisor, and opened her own business at age 23, which now has offices all over two states. “Finances are the last thing working moms want to think about,” Julia says. But once you create a plan around them, a lot of the other aspects of life fall into place. Her approach—outlined in her book Fit Money: 7 Steps to Get Your Financial Life in Shape—is to focus on short-term goals over, say, 30 days. Then, “when I’m thinking about saying yes or no to a commitment, I ask whether it’s going to help with whatever my goal is.” If the answer is no, then that’s what she says.
Advisors were predominantly men when Winnie was expecting her first baby. “And you didn’t see female advisors pregnant,” she says. But “I didn’t know happiness until I had my first child.” Now the mom tells powerful professional women: “Don’t think about having children as sacrificing your career. You’ve been working so hard; a child is the biggest gift you can give yourself, and with every child, you become more successful. It’s really about being much more efficient.” She has doubled her business since having her first child, and the self-described introvert realized that social media was a way for her to bring in clients while she was taking care of her baby at home.
While waiting tables at a restaurant, a patron offered to take Maureen to see a trading floor. At age 14, “I was hooked,” she says. After business school, Maureen began her career on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and then joined Merrill Lynch, where she has been for more than three decades. “I’ve watched my clients’ children grow up, and now they’re my clients,” Maureen says. Her approach to teaching kids about money is old-school. Even if children don’t necessarily have to work, she sees value in them having jobs, like she did. When her older daughter got her first paycheck, she asked Maureen, “Who is this FICA person, and why did they take money out of my check?” “It’s important to understand how the whole thing works” from the get-go, Maureen says.
Lisa A. Petrie, CFP
Early in her career as a certified financial planner, Lisa led seminars and classes for women on leveraging the stock and bond markets to plan for retirement. Back then, Lisa says, “many women handled the checkbook, but their husbands handled stocks and bonds.” Three decades later, Lisa says women are much more hands-on, not just in their families’ finances, but also working in the industry. One of the main issues mothers in Lisa’s practice face is balancing the needs of aging parents with those of growing kids. She recommends “stepping in early as opposed to later when it becomes harder for your parents to make decisions.” And to keep an eye out for signs that things are becoming overwhelming for them. “It can change overnight,” says Lisa, who also helps clients prepare their children for when it comes time for them to step in.
"I almost feel like I am running two businesses: my house and my wealth-management practice,” Diane says. “And in both areas of my life, I’ve created a great team of support.” In fact, delegating, Diane says, is the secret to her success. “I’ve had to learn that even though people might not do things the way I would do them, things don’t have to be perfect—as long as it gets done and you’re not sacrificing your client’s bottom line.” The greatest financial issue mothers face, Diane says, is taking on the role of mothering our own parents as we are still taking care of our kids. “It’s such a weird transition. You’re used to seeing your parents as a source of strength,” Diane says. “What works is opening the lines of communication early and often. Start slowly: ‘Mom and Dad, let’s talk about where you might want to live in the next few years if the house becomes too much for you to manage,’” recommends Diane. “Learn about their financial situation while your parents are still healthy and sound of mind, and you’ll end up with a much better result.”
When Judith’s first job sent her to Latin America as an investment advisor, she quickly realized the power she had as a wealth advisor to do good in the world. “You are able to influence your clients to effect change,” Judith says. Together she and her clients built schools, hospitals, community centers and libraries—helping local communities and establishing a legacy. But Judith relates to the guilt working moms feel. “With all the things we have to do to balance our multiple jobs, it’s ingrained in us that we have to work hard to compensate for that. And then the extra hours we put in make us feel guilty that we are not spending time with our kids.” She suggests women break this vicious cycle by charting the financial milestones they hit. “I say to clients: ‘Let’s look at what you’ve accomplished. It is absolutely worth spending time with your family. Money doesn’t mean anything if you don’t spend time with the people you love.’”
Laura W. Wellon
Laura “had no idea” how handy her psychology major would be when she became a wealth manager. But now she sees psychology as one of the best majors, besides finance, to prepare you for a career in financial advising. “People tell you about their family history, themselves, hard things they’ve been through, mistakes they’ve made—things they don’t even share with their family,” Laura says. She insists that women be involved in family wealth planning because “80 percent of women are going to outlive men.” Two big concerns they have are “Will I run out of money?” and “What do people like me spend?” She tells them: “There isn’t one person who is just like you. What do you want your money to do for you?” Then, Laura and her clients work together to figure out the best way to allocate resources.
Kim is good at surmounting hurdles. Like, really good. She went to the University of Virginia on a full track-and-field scholarship and was hoping to compete at the 1984 Olympics until an injury sidelined her. So her father suggested she get a job working at Chase Manhattan bank while she trained for a shot at the ’88 games. But Kim fell in love with the market and never looked back. The next hurdle she wants to clear: helping women maintain control of their finances. “I have seen it happen so many times, where a woman gives that power to a man,” Kim says. “I’ve always said to my daughter: ‘You must stay engaged in the workforce, you must have your own money, and you must manage it. Never relinquish that power to a man.’”