March is Women’s History Month and is a time to honor women’s contributions throughout history. At Merit, women represent more than 52% of the 200 employees, and that number is continuing to increase.
To celebrate the women at our firm, we spoke to four of our female advisors across the country. We wanted to get to know them a little better and pick their brain about their favorite money tips and biggest money mistakes. Meet our contributors below:
- Chrissy Lee, Chief Operating Officer (Alpharetta, GA)
- Emily Boothroyd, JD, CFP, CPWA, Wealth Manager | Partner (Wilton, CT)
- Baylee Bryant, Wealth Manager, CFP (Des Moines, WA)
- Hollis Hardiman, CDFA, Wealth Manager, Partner (Wilton, CT)
- Kate Redden, CFP, ChFC, CKA, Regional Director, Partner (Denver, CO)
Why did you get into finance, and why are you passionate about wealth management?
Emily: When I first transitioned to wealth management from being an estate planning attorney, many wealth concepts still needed clarification, so I was not passionate at first. However, after I earned my CFP® and felt like I genuinely understood planning and investment concepts, I wanted to translate the information I learned and shout it from the rooftops to make it easier for other non-finance majors to understand and use in their daily lives. I love having long-term relationships with families, seeing the plan evolve, and seeing how our decisions positively impact their lives for generations. I see people retire, move to a new home, welcome children and grandchildren, and plan the financial backbone to support these exciting changes and challenges. I am grateful that I get to tell my daughters that I love what I do.
Baylee: I’ve always loved broader economics and finance, how resources pass through hands, and for what reasons. It wasn’t until college that I realized I wanted to work one-on-one with people. I supported myself in college, and it was a struggle. But it taught me how important it is to manage what you’ve worked hard for wisely. The money you make is the result of your hard work and time. All the amazing wealth managers I know are, at their core, most passionate about helping people.
Hollis: As a child of divorced parents, I saw how finances could really destroy a family. Wealth management is a second career for me, and I’m passionate about empowering other women with their finances. My father was a CPA, so I always had a little bit of a number fascination.
Kate: I was initially drawn to finance because I liked numbers. Math was my favorite subject. I helped my dad with bookwork, which seemed like a strange hobby for a young child, but my dad taught me a lot. When I entered high school, numbers were still my strong suit, but when I went to college, there were only a few options to choose from. I ended up getting a business degree with a focus on finance. Back then, there weren’t many types of finance careers – your option was really to be a stockbroker. When I graduated college, I worked in sales, earning 100% commission. It wasn’t exactly what I’d dreamed it would be, but there was a tool we were given called a financial plan. I thought it was valuable and could help someone figure out how to reach their financial goals. Through a process of elimination, I came into financial planning. So, 10 years into my career, I found a place that offered financial planning as a focus. I became passionate because I saw my client’s lives changing as a result of the financial plans I was putting together for them.
Chrissy: I started on the Fixed (insurance) side of the business and quickly learned I wanted to be on the securities side. I grew up with very limited resources so when I was growing up, I would constantly observe and read about successful people. I realized there are few proven ways to accumulate wealth – be very talented and business savvy and open your own business OR invest. I started investing and it opened my eyes to so many opportunities. I wanted to be a part of the business that was helping me come out of a limited past. I love helping others and love seeing others accumulate wealth and build a future for their children.
Who is your mentor/role model?
Emily: My first mentor was a fantastic advisor at another firm who is a father to four kids and cared about the people at his firm. He once caught me hiding at an investment meeting in the back and forced me to pull my chair up front. He encouraged me to ask questions and push myself into more of a lead advisor role, and it was great to have someone put their faith in me. One of my favorite mentors is Lori Price, who built a truly unique practice from the ground up when women were still excluded from many conversations around wealth and wealth management. Lori is decisive, intelligent, and incredibly thoughtful. On top of being as successful as she has become, she always reminded me of how important my time with my family is. She encouraged me to spend time with my husband and daughters – finding balance instead of solely focusing on work. It’s made me a better mother and advisor because I can empathize with my clients and understand why money matters.
Baylee: Warren Buffet! If you ask anyone who the best investor in the world is, most people would answer Warren Buffet. But, although he’s a great investor, he’s not the best in the world (that title would go to Jim Simons for the returns he made with his hedge fund Renaissance Technologies). So, if Jim Simons made better returns, why does Warren Buffet have three times his wealth? Simply because he’s been in the game longer. Buffet bought his first stock at 11 years old and is still investing into his 90s. That’s over 3/4ths of a century of consistent investing. He’s a case study for staying the course—fun fact: 99% of Warren Buffet’s wealth today was made after his 50th birthday.
Hollis: Lori Price, who I’m lucky to work with at Merit Financial Advisors. She’s taught me everything I’ve come to know and how to think and problem-solve critically.
Kate: In a male-dominated industry, you have to be okay with having a role model that may not look like you. My former boss introduced me to financial planning and comprehensive wealth management. I learned a ton from him about the business, working with clients, and being a leader. By the time I had my first child, we’d figured out working remotely (this was in 2004) and capped my work for a few years so I could have both: a career and a family. He was really ahead of his time and was incredibly instrumental in helping me get to where I am today.
Chrissy: It was my first boss in the financial industry. She was different from what I thought female bosses were like. I definitely had biases growing up and watching these shows that depicted female bosses as being mean. She carried herself with so much confidence yet she never told any of us what to do. She encouraged us to try things and to speak up. And when she made a mistake, she owned it and apologized. She was NICE. I learned how to be confident and comfortable in my skin but to be humble.
What is your favorite money tip?
Emily: Don’t compare yourself to others. I often forget it, but it’s imperative when it comes to money. Your financial situation and plan should be about your life, not someone else’s. So often, we look over the fence and see what someone else is doing and think that should be our plan when we don’t know the details of others’ lives. Focusing on creating a plan and strategy that reflects your details, goals, and risk is much more important than outside noise.
Baylee: Automate your savings each payday, even if you start with only a small percentage of your paycheck. Automate the minimum payments to any credit cards or loans that you have. If you ever forget, you won’t pay the penalty on top of interest. Automating overrides a million little willpower choices throughout your day (like, should I buy this new furniture or save? Should I go out to eat tonight or have a night in?) and keeps the intentional direction you’ve set for yourself at the front of mind. It makes long-term goals your priority when psychologically, small, everyday goals would take precedence.
Hollis: Make your own money. I don’t think it has to be a lot; I kindly encourage all women to keep their foot in the door in some kind of earning capacity.
Kate: Spend less than you earn. Just about every financial planning issue or topic comes back to that. Everything else goes out the window if you can’t get that nailed down.
Chrissy: Track your spending and have a budget. No matter what your income or net worth is, you should always know how you spend your money. My husband and I have an app that we input every dollar we spend.
What will you teach your children about money?
Emily: I want to teach my girls to create a financial situation that reflects their values and gives them freedom and security in the future. I also want them to learn about tradeoffs in any decision-making environment. It’s not just about what you make; it’s about what you keep.
Baylee: The biggest thing I want to teach my children is to save when they can so they’re not scrounging when they have no choice. Money comes in seasons. It’s rare to have an entire lifetime free from hailstorms and wildfires. There will be good seasons where you get the job or promotion you’ve always wanted, and everything goes swimmingly. But there will also be bad times: a parent needs care, a kid racks up a medical bill, or maybe an extended season of unemployment. You can’t prepare for every bad situation, but you can prepare for bad seasons in general. Then come what may, you’ll be better off handling it.
Hollis: I don’t have children, but I am an over-involved aunt. My nephew wanted this $100 toy last week, and I tried to give him some perspective by asking him how many hours he’d have to work to pay for it. That helped him understand that you have to work for the things you want. He didn’t get the toy.
Kate: My children are almost 16 and 18, so close to being grown. I took a stance early on to try and model what was important. We have a mantra in our family called, “Give, save, spend.” For every dollar that comes in, you give off the top because generosity is essential in our family. You save off the top because if you’re trying to save what’s left over, there won’t be anything left over. And then you spend the rest. The top value I want my children to learn is generosity. We have a family giving fund that we set up years ago, and we have a conversation about it. We let our children choose what they’re passionate about to direct the funds to. I want my children to live a life of generosity.
Chrissy: My kids are 24 and 22. My husband and I were very purposeful in what we wanted to teach our kids about money. It wasn’t so much teaching as it was leading by example. When we were starting out in our careers while they were young, we didn’t have a lot. But we never bemoaned about the things we didn’t have. We made it fun, we did things with them that were free and fun, like going to the beach every weekend. As we started accumulating wealth, our lifestyle didn’t change that much. We are still in the same house, driving cars that have been paid off years and years ago. They saw that money did not rule over us. Both are amazing at giving, investing, and spending! All three things are necessary to live a meaningful, enjoyable life!
What was your biggest money mistake, and what did you learn?
Emily: I grew up watching poor financial decision-making on the part of my family, so I never really knew what good financial management looked like. My family went through bankruptcy when I was a child, and we moved houses almost every year and a half as I grew up. So, I needed to understand the value of saving for larger goals like a home or retirement. When I began making money, I spent too much on little “treat” items I never got to have as a kid and consistently went over budget at the expense of my savings goals—quintessential nickel and diming. I now know my tendencies, and how to identify the tradeoffs I must make to reach my goals. Understanding my personality regarding financial decision-making was a bumpy road but understanding my values and identifying temporary dopamine hit spending vs. spending on things I value is crucial. I still have to remain conscious of it, and my husband and I discuss our plan regularly to ensure we are on track.
Baylee: My biggest money mistake in the past was underestimating my earning potential. I grew up in a culture where men were expected to make the money and women were expected to manage it as efficiently as possible on the family’s behalf. Because of that, I stayed at jobs I was a little bit overqualified for a little bit too long, and probably stressed myself out way too much over saving every last penny. Being a saver is not a bad thing. But remember that savings isn’t just what you make OR what you spend – it’s the gap between the two. If one side of that equation is overweighted in a way that could be easily changed, then you’re probably saving a little less efficiently than you could be.
Hollis: When I was younger, I didn’t understand how interest worked. I had a credit card and racked up more than I could afford. Now, I’m very careful about what I put on my credit card and make sure to always pay it off every month!
Kate: I’ve always been good with money and careful with it because that’s how I was raised. Some of the things I would do differently…I was only required to have a job once I graduated from college. As a teenager, you learn a lot from a job, how to manage your time and money—seeing my teenage son with a job and knowing that responsibility is good for him. I feel fortunate that I didn’t have to do that, but I feel like I missed learning to manage money independently.
Chrissy: I did not start investing as early in my youth as I should have. Investing at an early age is so important! You let money work for you. That’s what I learned once I understood the power of investing. My kids started very early; we opened accounts while they were in junior high. Hopefully I learned from my mistake and helped my kids gain a head start!
As of the writing of this article, 52% of Merit’s employees are female, a fact we’re very proud of. Merit’s President, Kay Lynn Mayhue, is also female, a rarity in the financial services industry. At Merit, our mission is to empower our clients to be financially wise, protect and invest their wealth, and build a legacy for the next generation to help them reach their financial goals. Reach out today for a complimentary consultation!
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