The Women of Treehouse Wealth Advisors Are Breaking the Bias

The Women of Treehouse Wealth Advisors Are Breaking the Bias

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This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. At Treehouse Wealth Advisors, this theme really resonates with us; Not only do we champion all of our fearless clients who are breaking down barriers, but we also are exceptionally proud of the fierce, driven women who lead our team. Today, we’re taking an opportunity to turn inward and review how Treehouse Wealth Advisors’ very own women are breaking the bias in the financial services industry.

We checked in with Founder and CEO Julie Meissner, Private Wealth Advisor Stacey Chin, CFP, and Private Wealth Advisor & Analyst Frances Bird to learn what drew them to this industry and dig into why they are so passionate about working with women.

Q. What led you to work in financial services and why do you think it’s important for you as a woman to be represented in this industry?

Julie Meissner: I was drawn to finance because after my first year in college, on a full-ride volleyball scholarship (yep, everything paid for) I made the decision to leave it, which at the time I thought it was a very well thought out decision. I was 19 so I can’t really defend that decision, but it did change my relationship with money almost immediately. I now needed and wanted to understand how I could make it, how I could save it and, most importantly, how I could pay for college. This real-life learning exercise formed the foundation for my love of finance, but it also taught me that each decision adds up and the moves that you make early in your life and career can have a lasting impact on your financial future.

Early in my career in finance, I noticed that I was often one of the only women in the room. I remember thinking, this is really great information that needs to be out there for everyone, especially women. Where are they? Women were meant for this industry because of their presence, their fierceness, and their ability to roll up their sleeves and learn, but also their capacity to stay open, truly listen, and connect with clients. Money is about values, purpose, and creating something both now and in the future that you are proud of. Women are the stewards of families and family finances, and this industry would benefit from their involvement in countless ways. Every woman added to the financial services community will help shape what this industry looks like for our daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughters. We can’t let another 20 years pass without meaningfully changing the percentage of women participating in finance. It’s our duty to move the needle.

Stacey Chin: Growing up, both my mother and grandmother enforced that I should always know where my money was, what it was doing, and why it was there. My grandparents were immigrants and so for my grandmother, understanding how the money was made and where it was going was a way to maintain control over her life in a new country, far away from friends and family. In college, before I had any idea what I wanted my career to look like, I was first offered an opportunity in the financial service industry, and my mother told me to go for it. Her reasoning was that I would always need to be able to read my bank statements, and if I could pick up a couple things about investing, that could only be helpful. Once I realized how engaging investing could be, and how relevant everything I was learning could be to my own life, I was hooked!

As a woman, I think that we need more representation in financial services. This is obviously not the always the case, but I’ve found that sometimes female clients feel uncomfortable or intimidated by a male advisor and find it easier to open up to another woman. There have also been numerous studies that demonstrate that women are better investors than men, yet an astounding number of women are not confident in their ability to invest and assume that men will outperform them. I think it’s important for us, as women in the industry, to change that narrative and give the next generation(s) the confidence that they can tackle their finances no matter their gender.

Frances Bird: I wouldn’t limit this to just financial services because I think it’s important for women to be represented in every industry and at every level. However, for some reason the representation of women as financial advisors continues to remain extremely low, with women financial advisors making up only 15 to 20% of all advisors in the United States. I love working with people, listening, learning about their personal circumstances, and helping them solve real life problems. I tend to lean heavily towards the analytical side of investing through portfolio creation and management, so, for me, the combination of skills used daily is rewarding, and it’s a win-win if I can make a small dent in growing that 15-20% figure.

Q. Why do you think it’s important to specifically help women with their financial planning needs?

Julie: Whether we are buying a house, planning a family trip, or determining how to pay for childcare, money impacts everyone’s decisions, both big and small. I think there is unnecessary mystery surrounding the field of finance that makes it seem less approachable to women but given the progress that women continue to make in the world, it is imperative for them to embrace the learning curve of their financial situation and future.

Stacey: Women typically live longer than men, meaning their retirement savings have to last longer. However, because they typically earn less and often have fewer working hours—women are more likely to leave the workforce or reduce their working hours to accommodate caregiving responsibilities—their retirement savings, pension benefits, and social security payments are usually lower than men’s. Furthermore, women are less likely to invest in the stock market, meaning that their savings grow more slowly than their male counterparts. Insurance needs can also be different for women and men. For instance, with the likelihood of women living longer than men, long term care insurance becomes even more important. If they’ve stepped away from the work force, ensuring there is a life insurance plan on the primary breadwinner becomes even more important. Lastly, while women might control the day-to-day household budget, we’ve seen that many women feel less empowered when it comes to the big picture finances. With a little bit of education and encouragement, many women feel emboldened to actively engage with the family’s financial plan, resulting in a more solid financial footing for the family overall.

Frances: I love helping women find the confidence to feel that they are in control of their finances and their financial future. And really that comes with educating and supporting them. Statistics show that women are less confident in their financial literacy than men by a large margin and that lack of confidence keeps them on the sidelines. However, over a 10-year period, Fidelity’s female customers earned on average 0.4% more annually than their male counterparts. To me that says that women have what it takes to be great investors and what holds them back from investing in the market is confidence in their ability and financial acumen. Without the confidence to invest, women miss out on an incredible opportunity to grow their wealth over a long period and set themselves up for retirement.

Q. What are some of your hopes for women for the future?

Julie: It is my true hope that women embrace that they already are “superwoman” and they don’t need to apologize when they have ambition to take on multiple roles at the same time; a mother, a leader, a mentor, or whatever they want to be. I want women to own their dreams and know that other women will support them on their chosen journey with open arms. I want to see more women ascend to leadership roles across every industry and every country because change does need to be made at the top to be impactful and long-lasting. Finally, it’s my hope that once a woman has become truly successful, she will pause and enjoy her accomplishments without judgement and then turn around to help the women coming up behind her on the same journey.

Stacey: I think women have made great strides over the last century and I hope that we continue to see progress. I hope that women and men get to a point where equal pay is the norm and where women don’t feel that they must curb their ambition. I hope we see a female president. I hope that this country’s maternity leave policies evolve and catch up with the rest of the world. I hope that a woman isn’t judged for wanting to be a mom, or not wanting to be a mom; for wanting to prioritize taking care of her children or her house or for being a boss at the office. Likewise, I hope that if a man wants to be a “stay at home dad” that we remove the stigma from that. I hope that “feminine qualities” of supportiveness, warmth, empathy, humility, etc. are recognized as strengths rather than something that makes us “soft” and easy to dismiss. I hope that as both men and women, we can celebrate our differences, recognize our strengths for what they are, admit that both men and women have equal worth and place in society, and understand that we’re all better off working as teammates rather than the “he vs. she” framing that female empowerment is often portrayed as.

Frances: Sky is the limit! I grew up in a household with all sisters and two very supportive parents who never entertained the idea that we had any barriers whatsoever. Growing up with that support system and seeing my three older sisters accomplish so much, I never felt that anything could possibly stand in my way except for my own self-doubt. Not all women are that lucky, so I would hope for the future that all young girls grow up with the belief that there is no limit to what they can accomplish in their life, whether professionally, financially, or personally.

As Cesar Chavez said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” At Treehouse Wealth Advisors, we believe in progress for all. We seek to help women with their financial planning needs in an effort to better our communities as a whole. Whether you’re a female breadwinner working overtime to support your family, or a stay-at-home mom working overtime to support your family in a different way, we’re rooting for you. Are you interested in personalized financial advice to support your life’s plan? Reach out to our team!

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