Image result for kathy longoWhen 18-year-old Kathleen Longo stepped onto Purdue’s campus in ‘88, a fierce love of numbers directed her academic ambition. She majored in economics at the outset of her collegiate career, drawn to the way it combined numbers with purpose and impact – if only at the commercial level. Between market trends, demand curves, and consumer statistics, economics offered the critical interplay between ‘numbers’ and ‘the real world’ that Kathy ultimately sought, making it the best fit for her aptitudes and interests – or so she thought.

The Path to a Career in Financial Planning

In a serendipitous moment, a classmate at Purdue recommended Kathy take a financial planning course, meant to introduce students to the larger financial planning and counseling major. She found herself besotted with the curriculum of the course, and a realization swiftly materialized. “I thought, ‘I love everything about this, I can’t believe this could be a profession…financial planning tackled larger issues, like how to plan for your children’s education, what happens when you die, the consequences when you don’t make plans for your assets.” The numerical aspect was imbued with the meaning and purpose she sought, outshining the purely commercial impact of economics. Kathy promptly switched her major to financial planning. “I could help people. I was hooked.”

Kathy made the astute decision to get acquainted with the more human aspects of the profession – enrolling in classes not only for the major, but psychology and communication courses as well. This would enable her to have a full-bodied financial planning practice someday. She could weigh not only the monetary needs of each client, but their personal needs as well. Furthermore, she could communicate their respective goals and ideas effectively. Positioning herself as a kind of guiding light in the lives of clients, she would deftly steer them “through their most exhilarating and devastating life transitions – marriage, divorce, birth, death – help [them] gain [a sense of clarity]” about their values.  

Upon graduation in 1992, Kathy met her employer and mentor, Carol Pankros, founder of one of the few female-led wealth management firms in the country at the time. By 2014, Kathy was a seasoned industry expert with a wealth of experience, set apart by a nuanced understanding of her clients’ personal needs. This gave way to the concept of starting her own firm, Flourish Wealth Management. She envisioned Flourish as “a nimble firm” that could adapt to the client’s every need, making a mindful effort to be more involved than the average financial planning firm. “I wanted to tune into the pulse of each client.”

When prompted as to why she wanted to found Flourish, Kathy explains that she had an unwavering commitment to her “true self,” part of which meant becoming a business owner, and taking on the robust leadership role she knew she was entirely capable of. Having dutifully followed both her ambitions and heart, Kathy can only rave about the decision to become her own boss. She welcomes the challenges it brings with open arms. “Just the other day my husband looked at me, smiled, and said ‘I know you’re busier than ever, but I’ve also never seen you happier.”

In the four years that Flourish has been operational, Kathy has enjoyed both the entrepreneurial and “intra-preneurial” aspects of the business. Business strategizing has proved every bit as engaging as servicing her clients’ complex needs. She has defined her company’s core values and implemented an effective marketing program. The creation of a world-class team, she acknowledges, has been one of the most challenging aspects of founding the firm. Despite the relative youth of the company, it is already piling on accolades and recognition at the local and national level. For 3 years running, Flourish has been ranked in the Top Ten Advisory Firms in the state of Minnesota.

Wealth Management for Women

A distinctive feature of Kathy’s practice: she offers wealth management uniquely for women. When asked how she arrived at the decision to provide female-tailored services, Kathy explains, “In some circles, there is a lingering feeling that women take a backseat [in the realm of] finance, letting their spouses [take the financial reins]. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Women’s wealth and [their ability to acquire it] is growing faster than it ever has. At present, women control $14 trillion of personal wealth, or 51% of the total. Over the next five years, this figure is expected to jump to $18 trillion.” Within her firm, there is a substantial emphasis on women who are in a transitory moment of their lives – be it divorce, inheritance, widowhood, or business sales, for example. When it comes to women and their experiences within the greater financial industry, Kathy is on top of her statistics.

I have felt that women are an underserved part of our industry for a number of reasons…Even though women are taking control of their finances, their experiences with the investment world are lacking. Women characterize these experiences as “unwelcoming,” “patronizing,” “male-dominated,” and “full of jargon.”

Sixty-seven percent of female investors perceive that their banker or wealth manager “misunderstands their goals or cannot empathize with their lifestyle.” Unfortunately, I see this all the time. Women tell me that their prior meetings with a financial planner made them feel like they didn’t have a voice…

While some women are comfortable relying on their husbands to make financial decisions, a man is not a plan. This environment has created an opportunity for me to build a bridge to female clients, helping them gain deeper understanding of the financial concepts that matter, while also building a personal connection between women and their wealth.

Even within her own industry, Kathy notes that “only 26% of the financial services industry is female, and even fewer firms are owned by women.” This positions her as an unwitting leader in a burgeoning movement to provide women with a louder voice in the financial sphere.

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Kathy acknowledges that she has encountered women who appear uninterested in taking control of their financial futures, deferring financial decision-making to their husbands. When consulting with couples, she strives to equally engage both husband and wife throughout the process. She will often point to the purpose of the money to drive engagement– how a mother will better be able to fund her children’s educations, how a young woman could fund her travels if she makes smart investment decisions. In doing so, she has been able to harness the attention of even the most disinterested of spouses. She recalls the case of a couple she worked with – the wife did not have a taste for numbers and did not intend to attend any meeting beyond the initial one. Kathy succeeded in engaging her when she brought up their children’s education. “Once we started talking about the purpose of the money, she became extremely engaged in the planning process. She now attends every meeting.”

As the owner of a boutique firm, Kathy is quick to note the advantages in working with a smaller firm over a large corporation. “After 20 years in financial management,” she says, “I started noticing that clients were not the primary focus for most firms. The [ones] I worked with…worked hard to develop successful long-term financial plans, but they rarely took the time to get to know their clients in a way that truly allowed them to develop the perfect, individualized solution for each client. [They] overlooked the psychological elements that drive financial decisions.” Therein lies the difference between Kathy’s boutique firm and Goliath corporations – individualized approaches and a personal touch. Nevertheless, standing out beside the corporate giants and reaching more clients amidst the noise proved difficult.

How She Grew Her Financial Planning Practice With A Published Book

Kathy had a newfound goal: to circulate the shrewd insights she’d gained over a 20-year career. This would have a two-fold effect: she could enact positive change by sharing her ideas, and she could reach new clients. “People would benefit from learning about the concepts of ‘money conversations’ and ‘money values’ … most financial problems stem from not understanding these core concepts.” She had the raw content she wanted to share, all she needed was a figurative megaphone through which she could speak her wisdom. As a book publisher, Advantage|ForbesBooks is in the business of lending a voice to business professionals, providing them with the tools needed to impart their stories, passion and knowledge on a wider audience. When Kathy crossed paths with the company, her goals and their mission struck a perfect match. “The opportunity to share this information with a broader audience was an important part of my decision to partner with Advantage|ForbesBooks.” Kathy launched her Membership with Advantage|ForbesBooks and began the collaborative process to create her book. Entitled Flourish Financially – Values, Transitions, and Big Conversations, the book was nothing if not a passion project for Kathy, “cultivated by the expert advice [she] received from Advantage|ForbesBooks.” It hit bookstore shelves June of this year.

At Advantage|ForbesBooks, we turn business owners into business authors. Taking less than 24 hours of your time, we ghostwrite, design, and distribute a business book—stamped with your name on the cover, brimming with your personal insights—the quality of which rivals the books found on the front tables of Barnes & Noble. Guaranteed. To learn more or speak with an  expert on business book publication, contact us today.

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