Invested in Connecting Women: How Crystal Leigh Walker is empowering women with financial confidence
Host Olivia Hails speaks with Crystal Leigh Walker, a financial planner and investment strategist with Northshore Financial Strategies, an all-female investment firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Crystal shares the story of how she came to focus on serving women and helping clients prepare for unexpected events.
49 minute listen
- A series of personal crises led Crystal to recognize the importance of preparing for unexpected events, through both organization and conversation.
- Part of her goal as a financial professional has been to ensure that her clients are not forced to learn financial lessons the hard way.
- Through her practice, Crystal works to empower women with financial confidence so they can take action toward their goals.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the author(s) and are subject to change without notice. They do not necessarily reflect the views of others in Janus Henderson’s organization and no forecasts can be guaranteed. Opinions and examples are meant as an illustration of broader themes and are not an indication of trading intent. They are for information purposes only and should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security, investment strategy or market sector.
The information contained herein is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or tax advice. Circumstances may change over time so it may be appropriate to evaluate strategy with the assistance of a financial professional. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and subject to change. Laws of a particular state or laws that may be applicable to a particular situation may have an impact on the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of the information provided. Janus Henderson does not have information related to and does not review or verify particular financial or tax situations, and is not liable for use of, or any position taken in reliance on, such information.
Olivia Hails: On this episode of Invested in Connecting Women…
Crystal Leigh Walker: I think this is why I chose to be a financial planner, because I think having a financial plan, number one, in place, at whatever level that plan needs to be, whether it’s really intricate or just beginning, it gives us a basis to know where we are now and where we could be in the future.
Olivia Hails: I’m your host Olivia Hails and this is Invested in Connecting Women. Today I’m honored to have Crystal Leigh Walker with us. Excited for you all to hear her story and for her to share the journey of how she has gotten to where she is today.
One thing I want to start with, though, is I’m a big reader of all books about money and love languages and women and all of the things, and there’s a book that I recently read called “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist. There’s a quote that reminds me of our guest today, Crystal.
It reads, “When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. When you make a difference with what you have, it expands.” Now, you’ll understand why that quote resonates so much with who I know Crystal to be at the end of this episode today, hopefully.
Crystal is a financial planner and investment strategist with Northshore Financial Strategies in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She’s a CFP, a CRPC, a CKA and has over 22 years of industry experience. She’s a mother, a wife, a daughter, a business owner, and blazing a trail by combining her heart with her immense knowledge of financial planning.
So, let’s prepare to have Crystal share her story. I want you all to buckle up and know that today’s theme is do not let crisis be the reason that you are forced to learn financial lessons the hard way. So, without further ado, let’s jump in. Crystal, thank you so much. Welcome to the podcast.
Crystal Leigh Walker: Thank you, Olivia. I really appreciate you allowing me to have this time together with you.
Hails: Absolutely. So, tell us a little bit more about who you are and how you got here.
Walker: Well, like you said, I’m a financial planner. I have been in this industry since 1997. Currently, my business partner and I work as an all-female investment firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I am a mom of two adult children, and we also have custody of a 17-year-old nephew that we absolutely adore, and that’s it.
Hails: Well, that’s definitely not it, but that’s, I guess, maybe what occupies your time on most days.
Hails: How did you first get involved in the financial services industry?
Walker: So, I got involved in the industry, like I said, in 1997. My uncle had an investment firm he had started in the late ‘60s in life insurance and then went forward to become one of the gurus of the 403(b) industry in the Chattanooga area. And so, when he hired me, he actually hired me to provide the technology for the firm. Because he was an entrepreneur in spirit, and we were all paper back then, and so he was the first one to really work with contact management software. We also wanted to do scanning and get away from paper because that was coming to the scene. So, that’s how I started.
After working with him for a year and a half, I thought to myself, well, you know what, if this is going to be where I need to land, then I need to get licensed. So, I started with my Series 7, 63, got my insurance licenses, and then worked for him as a licensed assistant for a couple of years.
Hails: Which is so funny. Back in the day, insurance, actuaries, defined benefit plans, all the things that you probably were not, amongst your peers, in terms of understanding what those things were, I would think, as a female.
Walker: Right, exactly. And I think one of the things that inspired me, when I first started in this career path, were the clients that my uncle specifically focused on. You think nurses and teachers, who dominates that industry? Females. At that time.
So, it was because of the relationships that he had developed, both of those different groups, that I think were the seeds that were planted within me that were like, you know what, this is something that I’m really on board with and I really see a need to provide additional assistance with.
Hails: Yes, which kind of parlays into my next question I had for you, is really when did you learn that you wanted to have a focus on helping women? Because you are all things helping women, you and your business partner. It’s an all-female team focused on women with your services that you offer. So, when did you have that first spark? Obviously, it started you’re working with a lot of nurses, a lot of teachers. You got exposure to female-dominated industries but, where did maybe that spark, or domino, if you will?
Walker: I remember one occasion where we received a phone call from the office, and I think it was actually the first death claim call that I took from a client. She had worked as part of the firm for about five years and tragically lost her husband. On that phone call she expressed to me, “I don’t know what to do because he took care of everything.” She came in and, seeing my uncle work through that process, I really felt that there was a need there.
Hails: Yes. I was with a group of women yesterday and we polled the room a little bit about, “What’s your why? Why did you show up to a women’s luncheon, what’s the purpose in being here?” And, unfortunately, the woman that spoke up said, “Crisis hit my life. My husband was in an accident, and I don’t know anything, and I realized that if I’ve got three kids at home, I’ve got to know something and not feel so helpless.”
So, it’s really those experiences and almost emotional heartstrings of, I don’t want another woman to have to go through this. I don’t want another person to have to be where they are. So, I totally get that and, of course, commend you for making it a life’s mission to make sure that that first woman wasn’t the … that everyone that called in like her wasn’t the same moving forward, if you will.
Hails: So, let’s talk about some of your career pivots, because in your ‘30s you lived the metaphor that “when it rains, it pours,” and I think that changed the trajectory of maybe your career and your focus. So, I want you to share that.
Walker: Well, I think I want to step back until 2008/2009. We all still remember how that felt as a market, as financial advisors. Well, for our firm at that time, because it was my uncle, his oldest daughter, and his son-in-law, that year his son-in-law and his youngest were getting a divorce and up until that point I was still working as a licensed admin but also working as junior advisor to the son-in-law.
When he said that he was leaving the firm, he was going to sell back his book of business, I stepped up and I was like, “Well, I think I’m ready. I can do this. I have a relationship with these clients, let’s do it.” I guess it was earlier that year when I first heard about Kingdom Advisors, and there was a local Kingdom Advisors group here in Chattanooga and I had started going to their monthly meetings.
And in those meetings, I had met a gentleman by the name of Henry Henegar, and Henry was the Executive Director over the Chattanooga Christian Community Foundation, which is now called the Generosity Trust. So, Henry and I had developed a relationship as a CKA and I was still working with family, struggling with the market, not knowing, young advisor. I’m like, “Is this really what I need to do?”
One day Henry called me, and he said, “I need to talk to you.” And I was like, okay. So, he comes in. I remember very clearly; we sit at the table in the back office, and he says to me, “You know, when I was praying this morning, God told me to tell you that you need to stay with your planning,” and I was like, okay, affirmation enough, here we go.
It was at that point that I really felt like even with having the knowledge that I did, with group retirement plans, mutual funds, we were starting to use advisory accounts within the firm, I really felt there was something missing. There was some planning missing that put all the pieces together. It wasn’t just, hey, let’s slap a portfolio together, there’s something missing. So if we fast-forward to 2010, in March of 2010, my husband’s father at 59 received a diagnosis of cancer. He passed away in May of that year. Three months. My husband has a disabled sister who was two years younger than us and his mom at the time had just turned 50.
So, I spent a lot of time learning about Social Security disability benefits and how to apply for those for adult children, and also coordinating resources from the various Home Secure Acts that were going on at that time because of the loss of income. So, I felt like, oh, yes, here’s another piece of knowledge I don’t know.
You go into 2011, and in February 2011 my mom called me, and she said, “Honey, I’ve got breast cancer.” So, in March of 2011 she and I had this first conversation on, “Well, mom, do you have all your legal documents in place? Am I your power of attorney? Do I have power of attorney for healthcare? Do you have your will fixed?” Because my parents had divorced in 2001 after 32 years of marriage and, frankly, I just didn’t have that discussion on if they made those changes afterwards.
So, in March of that year mom had a mastectomy, everything was great. The first worst phone call of my life was on Mother’s Day of that year. On Mother’s Day, I remember I had left my phone in the kitchen charging, woke up to two voicemails. One was my mom out of breath. She said she was calling an ambulance; she thinks she was having a heart attack. The second one was from the hospital that said, we have your mom here, she is in dire condition, and we need direction.
By the time that I had received those messages and rushed to the hospital, they had already completed lifesaving measures for her, but she was still in the ICU. She was still fully intubated, and because of the technology we had placed in the office, I had copies of her documents on my phone, so it was very easy for me to be there and provide everything that I needed to make those decisions.
So, needless to say, mom recovered, came back home. In October of that year our office, as a firm, had been given notice that we had 30 days to move out because the owner of the building was selling the building. And so we didn’t have a place to go. And luckily, due to the technology that was implemented at that time, we moved the office into the basement of my house and were working out of the basement of my house.
The day that we were going to move, I received a phone call from my dad. And my dad said, “Baby girl, I need to come in and I need to sit down and talk to you.” And he comes in and I remember him sitting in the chair in front of me, and he said, “I went to the VA today, had my normal blood work, getting ready to get in my RV, head to Florida, and the doctor called me back and said she saw something very strange and she’s sending the blood work up to Murfreesboro.”
It was about two weeks later, right before Thanksgiving, that he received the call that said, “You know what, you need to come to Murfreesboro, and we need to do a bone marrow biopsy.” So, I remember it was the day before Thanksgiving. Dad and I drove up to Murfreesboro. They did the biopsy. They refused to let us leave until they gave him a blood transfusion and then they sent us home on Thanksgiving Day.
December 8 of that year was when I had to travel with my father to Vanderbilt to begin treatment. So, here I am, financial advisor, working with clients, mom of children that are in middle school, wife. My mom had her health condition, still wasn’t 100%, and I’m spending 30 days in Nashville and … oh, yes, the office is still working out of my house. So, you fast-forward until mid-January, and in mid-January it was officially confirmed that the treatment was not going to be successful for my dad. So, I was thinking, here we go again, three months’ diagnosis to death, just like we had lost my husband’s father, which was the case.
So, dad and I started having a discussion about his estate and what that would look like. And he said, “Honey, it’s okay, when I had all my documents done, the attorney had me put everything to the estate and so that’ll take care of it.” And I was like, “Dad, you’ve got to be kidding me.” I was like, “Your life insurance to the estate?” And he’s like, “Yes.” And I was like, “And you have a mortgage on your house, and you owe $80,000 on your RV and you have two IRA accounts,” and I was like, “We have got to change this.”
So, it was within four days we had to unravel everything that he had been ill advised on and we were able to get that fixed. And in addition, he also had me placed on his checking account so that I would be able to facilitate bill payment while he was incapacitated.
He comes home at the end of January… January 22, I believe it was, on a Saturday. We decided to bring in hospice because it was that time, and I was going to meet with hospice the following Monday. That Monday morning, I kid you not, I was driving to dad’s, sitting in his driveway, when I got a call, second-worst call. It was mom. She said, “Honey, I’m okay, they’re transferring me to a different hospital. They think I have a brain bleed but don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
So, I remember running in, telling Dad. I’m like, “Dad, I’m going to call my husband.” I said, “I’ll have him over here. I’ll call hospice and let them know but I’ve got to go and check on Mom. So, when I went to the hospital the doctors told me that she did have a subarachnoid hemorrhage. They were concerned that she also had a stroke because she had some paralysis. But she was talking to me. She was missing words, but she was in overall good spirits. And the doctors told me, they said, “We’re going to keep her in ICU tonight because we just want to make sure.” I remember standing outside the hospital just in tears. How can I handle both of this? How can I do this all? And luckily, we had moved into the office space, and so at least that part was out of my house. And so, the next morning at 3:00, I get a call from the hospital that said she had had a massive stroke and they didn’t expect her to live.
So, there I was, both parents not expected to live, and I didn’t know what financial shape my mom was in at that point. I knew her income sources, but I didn’t know what other financial shape she was in because she kept that private. I remember speaking to the doctors, giving them all the documents, and we went on from there. So, we went to mom’s house so that I could see what bills she had, get all of that taken care of, and that’s when I found that she was two years past due on property taxes that she had not paid, and had received a letter that the property was coming up to be auctioned if those weren’t paid.
So, I ran to the property division of Hamilton County and paid those and saved it, because it was like, this is her asset; she has a paid-off house, she has a paid-off car, she had very little in her checking. Dad was still in good mind up until the last minute and I remember coming over to dad’s that afternoon and I was like, “Dad, we really need some cash here to pay for your final planning.” I said, “You’re not going to have all your income because it looks like you’re going to pass away soon.”
And so, one of the things that we did was take a distribution from his IRA in advance so that we could pay for his funeral arrangements. Little did I know that that would also be a cushion for me for the out-of-pocket expenses that I would have for mom. So, they moved mom to the crisis care unit at hospice because dad continued to decline, and he ended up passing away on February 8 of that year.
Mom, unbeknownst to anyone, began to improve, and so we went through this process of her improvement and planning for care and it took us a while to have the opportunity to liquidate her property to pay for her care. In the meantime, I had a huge estate situation with dad because the RV that he had, and in his mind, he thought, “Well, you know what, they’ll just take it back. Don’t worry about that debt, they’ll take it back.”
They took it, they auctioned it, and they put a $40,000 bill to his estate. So, on top of what he owed on his house, we also had this additional cost. And so, through that process, I learned a lot about planning and where the loopholes were and what could and could not be done. So, after dad passed, in June of that year, I remember very clearly sitting there thinking about everything that I had been through in the last six months or, I would say, even since 2011, the beginning, and I really felt like it was time.
And I remember having that conversation with my husband and my kids when they came home at the dinner table that night and I was like, “Guess what, guys, I’m going back to school.” I thought they were going to absolutely kill me, and I said, “I really need to finish my bachelor’s degree,” because I hadn’t finished it because of having my daughter in my 20s, and I said “I really want to pursue a CFP designation. At that time, I also wanted a CKA [Certified Kingdom Advisor], but it wasn’t officially recognized by FINRA.
And so, in 2012, that year, that’s when I started my journey and finished my bachelor’s degree … went straight into my CFP. I remember taking it with Kaplan so that I specifically could apply those credits for my master’s degree. Did that, did my CRPC, took my [FINRA Series] 66 because if I was going to offer hourly, I needed to have that. And then I took a year break.
By that time my mom’s health had started to decline, so she was in an assisted living community. She was diagnosed again with cancer. It was terminal kidney cancer. And so my husband and I made a decision to actually bring her home. We built an apartment on our property and had the nurses at home to take care of her and we were responsible to take care of her at night.
Same year, I told my husband, I said, “I need to finish this journey before mom leaves.” Ron Blue had just announced to the Kingdom Advisors’ community that he had partnered with Indiana Wesleyan University for an MBA program focused on financial planning coupled with a CKA. I told my husband, I said, “This is it. I’ll finish my MBA, I’ll get my CKA.” And I felt like, I’m done. And so that’s what I did. I finished my coursework in October of that year. My mom died 8 December that year and I graduated 17 December.
Walker: And it was from that point on that I felt like I was better equipped to handle the various circumstances that I went through, but also, I really focused on this aspect of care planning for individuals. I was asked to speak at local assisted living communities to both staff as well as care agencies about my story and share with them – these are the questions you ask your family. Have these difficult conversations.
Hails: So, let’s do that. Because I feel like if anyone listening just ran a marathon with you. We just put our shoes on and ran through the hills of mile aid and the coming down and coming back up. You’re in one of the most difficult times in your career trying to be the woman, step up, take a book of clients, and really show, “Hey, it’s my time to step up, let me do this.”
Then all of a sudden you find your business and your home and the two people that have raised you to be who you are in dire straits of health and unexpected highs and lows, and it’s one of those things where it was your faith that got you through that, I think, but who else were the people in your life that helped you get through that? Because I know, just from listening, I wanted to be a cheerleader for you, but also just go, “How in the world did you sleep at night? How did you maintain…?” And I do have some questions that I want you to unpack about your story that I think maybe our listeners don’t know the reality to, but just who were the people that…? What was your support network? What did that look like?
Walker: I mean, number one was my husband, and everything that we have gone through in our marriage has only made us stronger. I think my uncle was a great support too. Here he was losing his sister, and also, he was on this cusp of retirement, and he was having to walk in these difficult decisions with me because I was family.
The estate attorney that I used, both personally and refer to professionally, she was amazing because she helped provide me with education that I needed on specific details regarding probate or regarding legal capacity that … I had this much knowledge, but I needed this much knowledge. So, I would say those are my biggest support.
Hails: And tell me more… Because one thing you mentioned was, when you had hospice, I think the first time when you had hospice in, and he said, “Don’t worry, I’ve had an attorney help me and the estate was listed as the beneficiary for everything.” Explain to listeners that maybe do not know what that means. What are the pros and cons, especially when you have living family members, of having the estate listed versus having your next of kin listed? Can you unpack that a little?
Walker: I see it as a lot of cons for the most part, especially when you have life insurance, because life insurance you can specifically indicate a beneficiary on, and it passes tax-free to the beneficiary. It does not need to go into an estate that potentially could be taxed on the federal or state level. And it would be subject to paying off debt associated with the estate. I think any qualified account, having beneficiaries that bypasses the estate.
A lot of people are so … and maybe it’s just regional, but they’re under that misconception that if they owe anything when they die, then the companies are just going to take it back, they’re just going to sell it, everything’s going to be great and their family don’t have to worry about it, and that’s not the truth at all.
Hails: In fact, things can get pretty expensive when you pass away, and having things in an estate versus having a direct beneficiary not only makes you subject to taxation, but makes that money subject to creditors and doesn’t protect them basically from creditors coming after any debts and taking things that you wouldn’t, obviously, want them… That wouldn’t be the directive of the assets probably, originally. So, I just wanted you to elaborate a little bit on that, because for anyone that doesn’t know all of the things that estate planning, they may think it’s okay to have the estate listed as the beneficiary but, in fact, that’s a pretty big headache for anyone that’s working with affairs on that front.
Walker: It is.
Hails: So, what else can I unpack about this? So, your support networks were your family. Obviously, your experience has led you to a place of making sure that everything you’re doing is centered around caregiving and caretaking. So, we know the people that helped you get through it. I think, looking back, is there anything that you would tell your younger self or encourage her to do? I mean, you made it, so I don’t know what you would go back and say, like, “Crystal, really do this,” but I don’t know, I’m so proud of you and commend you for the work that you’re doing today because the experiences that you went through really could be discouraging for so many people, especially not having all of the schooling you need, not having all of the education at that point that you felt like you needed but finding the motivation.
Walker: I don’t know if there was really anything I would tell my younger self, because I look at the way I was raised and how I was raised. I had a sibling that was killed when I was 15 and so, for my dad, I became the boy in the house as well, so to speak, and so he raised me in such a way where I was taught how to take care of myself. I was taught to change oil. I was empowered to do things, if that makes sense. And I think it’s because of that, that allowed me the strength to absorb everything that I went through. And so, the one thing that I tried to encourage my children, especially my daughter, was that you can do hard things. You can. Don’t give up on that. Don’t think that you can’t reach for that education that you need in order to make those decisions. Don’t be afraid of it. And so, I think that would … If I were going to tell my younger self, I would say, “Yes, that’s who you should be.”
Hails: But then you found that time, and after going through so many different things where you had to be caregiver and you had to step up, educate yourself, be there emotionally, physically, mentally, all of the different aspects of your life, and you had the epiphany to go back to school and say, “No, this is what I’m called to do, this is where I need to educate myself.” It’s just pretty awesome to look back on all of that, all of the things that you have accomplished.
But with that, the key theme of what your story tells me is that life happens. As much as you think you might be prepared for one thing or another, you probably aren’t, and life happens. And so, in order to really be able to grab life the way that you did and step up when you need to, preparation is something that I think can really help that. It can be a driver of success, or it can be a driver of failure. So, for those listening that have heard your story, have locked on this journey with you now, what advice do you have?
And you can put on … listen, personal Crystal hat, or you can put on financial planner hat, I don’t care; maybe it’s a combination of both, but what do you have advice for those that are listening to your story and say, “Oh my gosh, yes, I’ve been there,” or “We might be there,” or “Something may happen.” What does it take to get organized and just somewhat prepared a little bit.
Walker: I think this is why I chose to be a financial planner, because I think having a financial plan, number one, in place, at whatever level that plan needs to be, whether it’s really intricate or just beginning, it gives us a basis to know where we are now and where we could be in the future. And I believe that through that planning process, it allows us to have those difficult conversations with ourselves and with our loved ones about, well, “What are your final arrangements? What are the income needs that you have? How does life transition for you? Do you want to stay in your home? Are you going to live with your son or daughter? How do you provide education for your children? What would you do if your children lost you at a young age? How are you prepared for that?”
And so, I think that’s the preparation, and I can’t tell you, it’s interesting how many clients I have that are older than me but are taking care of aged parents and they’re going through some of the same struggles that I went through. Because my mom was cognitively impaired and even when she got to her best, she still struggled with the fact that I had to make her decisions for her. Even though she thought she could drive, and she thought she could do this.
And so that’s the conversations I’m having with my clients now, about their older parents, and I’m having to remind them, remember who your parents are. I have one set of clients in particular right now, that their mom passed away last year, and I had the opportunity of working with the mom prior to her decline and it allowed me … we all came together and had those conversations. We all put everything in place, which was great. But as they were going through their hardest days, I was able to bring out the things that their mom had said and it’s like, “Remember what her intentions are. Remember who she was. Remember how important it is that she was able to pass on this to you.” So, yes, I think it’s a combination of organization and conversation.
Hails: And I think, having cognitive impairment of many kinds in my family as well, it’s so heart-breaking to watch people that you love become somebody that you don’t know them to be.
Walker: Right, exactly.
Hails: It’s almost like you can find yourself in these situations where you feel sorry for yourself, and that’s natural, because you don’t want this to be happening to them, you don’t want it to be happening to you, you don’t want to lose the person that you love before they’re physically actually gone. But those preparations and those conversations that are so difficult to have, they’re so incredibly important and can prevent so much stress when you are vulnerable, when you do get to that emotional part of grieving.
Because it’s very hard to grieve … when you have someone that has Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or something like that in your family, it’s really hard to grieve when you’re trying to figure out how to get affairs in order, and then all of a sudden… You don’t really know when it’s going to hit you.
But I promise, from experience – and I know you would agree – that making sure you’ve had those conversations and you’ve opened up those gates, to not be intimidated by the industry and actually build that community of centers of influence that can help you, from lawyers and estate planning needs and financial planners. It just makes a world of difference when life happens.
Hails: So, I want to celebrate some of the things that you have done since you went back to school. You’ve got your practice in place, you’re working with incredible clients, you’ve got a focus on women. I’m always encouraged by working with women; you know that. I gravitate towards women in the business – that’s how we met. I will fight tooth and nail to meet some of the women that I think are doing great things in our industry. And it’s typically … as you’re vulnerable and you’re willing to share your story, exhibit A, of why we’re here. So, you’re in the process of trademarking something that I love. I want you to talk a little bit about that and how you got to that and what that represents for you.
Walker: Yes, you’re right. We are in the process of trademarking “Empowering Women in Financial Confidence,” and that is a mission, I would say, as well as a statement for who we want to be as Northshore. Carrie and I recently developed that. We were like, okay, this is what we want to do; how do we do it? What does it mean? I read somewhere that to empower women is to equip them with the realization that they can be successful.
But I think it goes further. I think it goes into actually investing time by teaching goals and to take action towards those goals, whatever that could be. That could be your financial health, that could be in your educational health, it could be in your professional career, but it’s providing that support. And so the vision that Carrie and I have is not only to create a firm where we have those educational resources at play, but we also are developing those small networking groups or circles where women can come together and just be transparent with who they are and learn from each other and grow together.
Hails: I feel like every time you and I get together, our conversations end up more about the small cohorts that we have in our lives versus maybe the day-to-day business operations that we would normally be talking about if I was with another client. But I think that brings me to the quote that I read in that book about you, is because you are very different from the inside out. It’s your experiences that have driven you to be a financial advisor with no ego. In our industry, that’s something that is rare. Not that everyone is ego-driven in our business, but if we’re looking at the timeline of it, it’s a male world built for men by men. Slowly but surely, the times are evolving and we’re no longer where we were 70 years ago, thank goodness, but it’s those things, when you come across the heart and people leading with heart and their experiences speak to that, it’s something so incredibly special.
So, that quote that I said is, “When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it allows your energy to make a difference with what I have,” and I think that’s something that you instill in other people, is it doesn’t matter what you have or what you don’t have. Let’s talk about what you want and how to prepare and how to reach for those goals. I just admire that very much about you.
Walker: Thank you.
Hails: So, I wanted to bring that full circle, why I enjoy our conversations so much and the work that you’re doing for other women. One thing that I love that you and Carrie did is the fact that, instead of giving holiday client gifts this year, you funded three female-focused non-profits in the local area.
Hails: So, what was the decision-making there? Talk about that. I think it’s incredible.
Walker: So, this year Carrie and I supported the Momentum Network, Northside Neighborhood House, who Carrie had been on the Board with in the past and has supported them for a couple of years, and Project Free to Fly out of Cleveland, Tennessee. I was just introduced to Project Free to Fly at the Chattanooga Market.
So, Momentum Network I was introduced to a couple of years ago and they really have a special place in my heart because their focus is to provide the resources to help women graduate college who are single moms. And that was me at one point. So, Cara Hicks is the Executive Director over Momentum, and in our discussions together she said they really spend more time counselling the individuals with the thought that if they can get the moms on the right path, making better decisions, budgeting, saving for retirement, then that will impact the future generations, and that’s just powerful.
Northside Neighborhood House, they provide support, both financially as well as helping ladies get their GED education, and their motto is they want to provide a hand up and not a hand-out. And so that’s the way that they assist women, by educating them and empowering them to be better or to move into a better place.
And Project Free to Fly, they are a rehabilitation program that actually works between that time of life from recovery for women who have gone through recovery to sustainability. And so they teach them skills, particularly sewing, and they have some amazing products, but they also teach them budgeting as well as certain financial decisions and other life skills training. And so those three non-profits just truly resonated in all the various areas that we wanted to help support in our area.
Hails: Yes, which I love because you all are so action-oriented in that your mission statement isn’t just something you regurgitate to people, it’s something that you’re building and living on every single day and, given all that you’ve experienced in your life, for you to be a servant for others is just truly inspiring.
So, thank you for that and all of the work that you’re doing for your clients, for the community and for women that may not have the chance if they don’t receive the education or funding from someone like you and Carrie. It just goes such a long way. And for someone who travels and meets a lot of different people, it is a rare thing to come across. So, let’s celebrate that, and also get some empowerment. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you wanted to share or anything that you want to say to listeners, lessons that you’ve learned that we haven’t covered? I feel like you can probably talk about that for days.
Walker: I really don’t know. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think… I would love to see more women move into our industry and I would love to support those organizations that help provide that education so that women would move into our industry. Because I still feel like… I think we still only represent 18% of the financial services industry, and just to let girls know it’s out there and that it’s not about, “Hey, I’m going to make this much money and sell this particular thing,” [but] that I’m actually going to help people.
Hails: Yes. We had some conversations earlier this week about the barriers of entry that exist, and I tried to tell some people, well, you’ve got to take a real estate exam to get your license in order to sell homes. It’s a barrier of entry. Take a test with FINRA and then position yourself to really just let the world be your oyster and what you want to focus on and what you want to help people with. It doesn’t have to be the crazy investment analysis. It doesn’t have to be the numbers game. It can be truly sitting down with a grieving parent or whatever it may be.
On average women spend about 17 years raising children and then over 18 to 20-plus years helping with aging parents. That’s nearly 40 years of our lives that we have no education and preparation for unless we seek it out. But we’re so good at nurturing and being caregivers that I’m totally on board with you there. That I can get up and shout from the mountain top, how many women I want to get into the business too.
Walker: And I think that our industry is one of the most, for lack of a better term, universal industries, if that makes any sense. We can create who we want to be in this industry. We’re not just an insurance salesperson. We’re not just an attorney. We’re not just an accountant. We really have this broad range of services or relationships that we can have and to me that’s just amazing. I don’t see that anywhere else. That’s why I’m an advocate.
Hails: Yes, you definitely are, that’s for sure. All right, so we’ll take it from there. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I know it’s probably not an easy one to share but something that I hope our listeners will take from, and I guarantee you there’s more people that relate with your story than maybe we first thought of or intended. There’s definitely people out there that your story will resonate with.
So, with that, I always like to end with a little bit of fun of a kind of this-or-that questionnaire. So, I’m going to ask you a couple of fun questions, just so we get to know you a little bit better, and then you can throw some back at me and we’ll wrap up there. So, for me we’ll start. Soccer or football?
Hails: Nice. Reading or writing?
Walker: Writing, all the time.
Hails: Singing or dancing?
Walker: Singing. I’ve been told that I look like a drunk bear dancing.
Hails: Yes, I was not born with rhythm.
Walker: So, what about you? Singing or dancing?
Hails: I would say singing, but for those around me, neither. All right, final question I’ll ask you. M&Ms or Skittles?
Walker: Neither. I don’t eat candy.
Hails: There you go.
Walker: I have no sweet tooth.
Hails: So, you can throw some back at me, if you want to.
Walker: Beach or mountains?
Hails: That’s hard, but probably beach.
Walker: What would you say is your favorite food and why?
Hails: That’s really tough. I don’t have a favorite food. I would say my guilty pleasure is any kind of pizza. So, that’s the one thing that will always lure me back in.
Walker: That sounds good. That sounds really good.
Walker: And I think I’ve got one more for you.
Walker: What do you want to accomplish this year?
Hails: I like this one. This year I want to have a healthier balance of not letting professional dip into personal goals. So, I’m running a half-marathon, I’m taking my CFP, and hopefully running a full marathon, those are the big things I want to accomplish in addition to all of the goals that I have for my work.
Walker: That’s awesome.
Hails: It’s all about that balance, as you know all too well.
Walker: Yes, exactly.
Hails: Crystal, thank you so much for your time today on the podcast. I think we’ve all learned and share in the mission that crisis should not be the reason that you are forced to learn financial lessons the hard way. Thank you for your story and for motivating us all to really get our affairs in order.
If you like our stories and you want to continue to follow along, find us on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll see you next time on the Invested in Connecting Women podcast.