I have spent the last 35+ years in the Financial Services Industry transforming how people think about money.

When I think about the various life experiences I had that later shaped my career, I am transported all the way back to 1st grade at Miller Elementary School when Ms. Bloss announced there would be a representative from Security Bank at school that day for anyone who wanted to open a savings account. I don’t think I truly understood what that meant but I had a nickel in my pocket that day in 1972 and saving it didn’t sound like a bad idea. I remember being so excited to show my mom the savings account ledger with a five-cent balance.

It would be four more years before I had my first real experience with money. I was 10 years old standing in the little Harveytown Store. On this particular day, my mom needed three things. She gave me some money and sent me into the store. Now, I might have only been 10 years old but I loved numbers and was really good with math. I also love chocolate! I quickly found the items mom needed, added up how much they cost and discovered I had enough to get a bag of Hershey kisses. I grabbed them and quicky went to the register. The cashier gave me my total and I was devasted. I did not have enough money! I was in utter disbelief. I had carefully added up each item. The confusion was written all over my face and the cashier could see it. There were people in line behind me so she leaned over and quietly said, “you owe tax honey”. TAX? What is tax?! The gentleman behind me handed the cashier a few coins and I left. Thinking back, this experience truly marked my life.

On another occasion, I went with mom to the A&P Grocery store. It was “Cancer Day” and every canned good in the store was only ten cents. Our buggy wasn’t just full, it was overflowing. As we approached the cashier, I remember asking “do we have enough money to pay for all of this”. Mom assured me that we did. I watched as she handed the cashier colored money. I had never seen money like this before but the cashier accepted it and we left with more groceries than I had ever seen in my life. To this day, my mother hates for me to tell this story as it was the only time in their lives she and dad were on food stamps.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that if I wanted things in life, I would need money to get them. I had two older sisters who baby-sitted to earn money but I was too young to get in on that game. So I went to my dad and asked “what can I do to earn some money”?  We sat down at the kitchen table and made a list of chores I could do around the house: make my bed, wash the dishes, take out the trash, run the vacuum and wash the car to name a few. Then dad assigned a dollar value to each task. We created a chart for me to check off what I did each day that I submitted every Friday for my allowance. Notice, when I was a child an allowance was earned, not expected; but I digress. This was exciting to me! When I found something I wanted, I would simply go to the list of chores and figure out what I needed to do to earn enough money to buy it.

I remember my first paycheck; aka, allowance. Dad and I sat at the kitchen table where he tallied the chores I had completed that week and then proceeded to put $2.50 on the table. I was so excited! Dad then said, “when we go to church this Sunday, you should put 25 cents in the offering plate”. To this day, I can see my father sitting at the kitchen table every Saturday evening writing a check. He would take that check and place it in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. As soon as we got to church on Sunday morning, he would take an envelope from the pew in front of us and place the check inside. Later, I would watch as he placed the envelope in the offering plate as it passed by. This was his tithe; 10% of his earnings that he faithfully gave back to God every time he got paid. He wanted me to do the same. At that age, I didn’t fully understand why we were doing it but I loved my dad and if he did it, I wanted to do it too. God honored my dad’s faithfulness and has honored mine too.

My dad taught me how to earn money but my mom taught me how to be thrifty and stretch my dollar. As a child, I don’t remember mom paying full price for anything! She had 3 kids under the age of 10 in the late 60s. Plus, she and dad agreed she would not work outside of the home until the kids were out of high-school. She shopped sales and clipped coupons to make ends meet. Plus, we had a garden and every summer she would can half-runner beans, tomatoes and freeze corn. I remember she and dad bought a full-size freezer one year. They split a side of beef with one of dad’s buddies and packed that freezer full of meat wrapped in white butcher paper. Her other savings habits included depositing money each week into a Christmas Club.  And whenever it came time to shop for school clothes, there were a couple of hard and fast rules. First, we were not allowed to try-on anything that was dry-clean-only, much less buy it! This was considered a luxury and was not in our budget! Second, we never got to bring the clothes home on the same day we picked them out. Mom used a service called, layaway; a concept that would allow her to lock in today’s price for a period of time into the future. An interesting concept that once again would mark my life.

Money is absolutely necessary and affects every relationship we have whether it be business, personal or romantic. As kids, we had no idea if we had money or not. It wasn’t something that mom and dad discussed with us. We never knew how but there were always birthday presents, Christmas presents and we took vacations. There was only one time I ever remember hearing my parents talk about money. To be honest, they were fighting about money in the bathroom with the door closed near the back of the house. I crouched down in the hallway outside the bathroom and listened in. I had never heard my mom raise her voice to my dad nor my dad raise his voice to my mom. What was happening to our happy home?! The door burst open, my mom grabbed her purse and screamed, “I’m leaving!”. As she walked past me, I grabbed her leg and pleaded, “please don’t go!”  Thankfully, she didn’t leave. Later, I would learn that mom had made a mistake in the checkbook which created a cashflow problem.

It’s interesting how the events of our life shape and mold us. As I became a mother and watched my own children go through school, I saw first-hand there is zero financial education in our school systems; zero…zilch! Early in my career, I was approached by Junior Achievement who asked if I would be willing to volunteer my time to teach an 8-week educational course on Finance at South Point High School. Knowing how important finances are to every relationship we have as adults, I wasn’t about to say no. The program was engaging and taught the students how to write a check, balance a checkbook and even buy and sell stocks. While living in Florida, I had another opportunity with PACE Center for Girls in Jacksonville, FL; a very similar program teaching these girls about all aspects of money. After moving back home to Huntington in 2015, Mountwest Community & Technical College contacted me about teaching a Budget Course as part of the school’s curriculum. I will never walk away from an opportunity to provide financial education as knowledge is power. I always say, “If you know the rules, you can win the game!”

Recently a local business owner was selling his business and came to me for advice. At first glance it looked like a lot of money but the closer we looked into the legal structure of his business along with how the deal had initially been structured there was going to be double taxation on the entire deal. Yuck! That was a message I did not want to deliver. Since the deal had not closed, we had time to rework it. Using Business Attorneys and CPAs from our network of professionals, we were able to work with the buyer to restructure how the deal would be paid out ultimately saving tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. Granted, they still paid an enormous tax bill but it felt good knowing that because of our knowledge and expertise it wasn’t near as much as it would’ve been had they not worked with us. I consider that a win!

In my personal time I love DIY (do-it-yourself) projects, crafting and repurposing furniture. I love to design on a dime and credit my mom as she instilled in me the value of a dollar. So if you happen to see me out at Hobby Lobby with my cart running over during a 60% to 70% off sale, well that’s because I’m that person who buys things when they’re on sale and stores them until I need them.

As I think back on these events that shaped my life, it’s no wonder I’ve spent more than 35 years in the Financial Services Industry transforming how people think about money. I truly love helping people discover financial solutions; it’s who I am at my very core. We are all placed on this planet for a purpose and this is most definitely mine.