Viewpoint (Karen): A Wealth Expert Turns to the Needy
After a career in banking, and after spending the last twenty years in private banking at one of the major New York banks, I wasn’t ready to fully retire. I wanted to do something meaningful that gave me more gratification. I had always enjoyed my relationships with my clients, so I knew that I would be happiest continuing to work with people on a one-on-one basis. I used to work with the top 1%. Now, I wanted to dedicate my time to the other 99%--or, more specifically, with the hard-working, low-income New Yorkers who are struggling to make ends meet and who have the greatest need for financial guidance.
Looking on the internet, I found an organization on the United Way website called The Financial Clinic. That sounded like just what I was looking for! I started at the Clinic as a volunteer tax return preparer, and was hired as a financial coach when the tax season was over. The work and the organization have been more than I could ever have asked for. I find the work challenging, but very important and gratifying.
The issues that arise while working with the low-income and working poor population are very different from those I had seen before. My new customers range anywhere from seniors living solely on social security, to the previously incarcerated just reentering society, to homeowners who were victims of the mortgage crisis. Across the board, the vast majority of people who come to see a financial coach need help with credit repair, which includes restructuring defaulted student loans, resolving identity theft and dealing with debt collectors and court judgments. Some want to develop a savings plan. Until I did this work, I really didn’t fully appreciate that, for so many people, life is a constant struggle. I quickly learned that helping them really meant knowing how to make trade-offs, since most do not have a sufficient income to meet all of their expenses.
Another dimension to my job is that I am the only baby boomer in an office full of Millennials. Even the Founder and CEO is a generation younger than I. Although it’s true that we might not have the same points of reference, I fully enjoy working with these young, extremely smart, and totally dedicated folks. I’m energized by their enthusiasm and I find it inspiring to participate with them in the growth of our organization, which is only twelve years old. And from time to time, I think they, in turn, benefit from my years of experience working in finance.
This post-retirement experience has been incredibly interesting, mind-expanding and personally satisfying. If you had told me while I was a banker to the wealthy that I would have been doing this kind of work, I would not have believed it. It has been great to open a new chapter, build on my old skills and learn new ones. I hope to continue to be able to do that, again and again.
Karen has retired from banking, but not from using her banking skills for good.