Erin Adele Baehr
As a stay at home mom for more than a decade, I had plenty of years to ponder the question, “what are you going to be when they grow up?” My career aspirations had always vacillated between teaching and finance, so I suppose it’s natural then that when I did settle on a career, it was personal financial planning. I would work with numbers and teach people, what could be better? I enrolled in the American College’s Certified Financial Planner™ and Chartered Financial Consultant programs and took one class at a time, carrying those blue textbooks with me everywhere so I could take advantage of downtime to study- waiting for band concerts to start, in between innings at the baseball field, sitting in the car during my daughter’s dance class. I loved what I was learning and looked forward to putting it into practice.
When that time came, my uncle got me a job at the financial services company where he had worked as a CFP® for many years. With any career, the stuff you learn in class isn’t exactly how it works in real life, but when they handed me a booklet and told me to write down the names of everyone I knew so I could approach them about insurance, I was flabbergasted. Looking back, I was pretty naïve; that business model is not uncommon in financial services, but I had no idea. What I did know was that sales was not for me. Thankfully my uncle offered me a job working with his clients and no direct selling. The years I worked with him were a great learning experience.
Still, it nagged at me that there must be someone out there doing financial planning without the hope of a sale hanging over head. And there was- the members of the National Association for Personal Financial Advisors, better known as NAPFA. I knew right away that fee-only was where I belonged. I was excited about the opportunity to work with people on the issues that were important to them, whether it was mapping out their cash flow or sending their kids to college, even if it had nothing at all to do with buying life insurance or a mutual fund. It just made sense.
During this time, I also spent tax seasons working for a CPA, learning not just about taxes but how to run a business. Bill Brennan became my mentor and dear friend, who encouraged and inspired me to strike out on my own, and with the support of my family, I founded Baehr Family Financial, LLC in 2007.
Choosing a name for a business is like choosing a name for your child. You want it to be something that embodies your hopes and dreams for this new life. For me, including the word “family” was important, not because it’s a family-run business, but because it is a family-focused business. Money decisions touch the lives of families every day, multiple times a day. I know, because I’ve been immersed in them since before I could legally drink! And in a multitude of roles: a young wife, a stay at home mom, a single mom, a remarried stepmom, a business owner, and now a grandma. It’s not easy juggling the responsibilities of family, work, and community involvement, never mind attending to the business of life. Folks often have guilt or embarrassment about what they feel they “should” be doing and either don’t have time to deal with or have no idea where to start. In some cases financial professionals have added stress or made them feel worse. I’ve seen it happen in my own family. I don’t find that helpful or productive! What I do find helpful is to create a safe environment where questions are encouraged and judgment is not allowed; a place with someone to turn to with those questions you’ve been carrying around, someone who won’t laugh or dazzle you with financial jargon. And a place where you can expose your financial self without fear, and get an alignment check: Are you using your money for the people and things that matter to you, in ways that will get you where you want to go? Are you supporting the causes and industries you believe in, to do good while doing well?
Now that’s the financial planning I was looking for.