Integrity Trumps Money and Prestige for Certified Financial Planner

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By the age of 36, I achieved what so many Americans wished of themselves — I transcended social class. I had the perfect job, working as a Certified Financial Planner and investment specialist for one of the largest wealth management companies in the world. My annual income jumped from $36,000 to well over $100,000 in just seven years.

I worked incredibly hard. Within three years I obtained the CFP designation, received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance (graduating Magna Cum Laude), and gave birth to my second child, all while working an average of 50 hours a week.

One downside to my dream life was that my mentor/business partner had become obsessed with me to the point that my work life became intolerable. Forced to make a sexual harassment complaint by my manager—against my pleading objections—the firm opted to sacrifice me to retain their $1.5 million producer, despite an inordinate amount of evidence and nine years of dedicated service. I was overwrought with grief.

They offered me a settlement, which my attorney said I would be foolish to refuse. I took their blood money and started my own independent financial advisory practice — but my heart was no longer in it. Not wanting to mislead anyone, I did little to obtain new clients. Regardless, I managed to match my former average salary two years in a row.

I decided last December it was time to take a chance and follow my heart to make a real difference in the world by sharing my story with others to help them learn from my experience. I notified my clients that I was taking a leave of absence through early March. A friend of mine took over account management for 25 percent of the revenue. At the same time, I terminated my office rental, website, software subscriptions and phone service. 

In March, along with my friend, I’ll meet with each client to let them know I’m moving on permanently — sad but needed. Although I could work out a better deal, I expect to receive one year of the annualized account revenue in exchange for my business. It’s not about the money and prestige anymore; it’s about quality of life. I proved myself and that’s enough for me. I’m willing to live on a fraction of what I used to make to teach my children the definition of integrity.

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