“I realized this was a passion that I could turn into a business. I also realized I could start now; it didn't have to be later!” – Cady North, CEO/Certified Financial Planner, North Financial Advisors
When Cady North was about 13, her father made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: help with bookkeeping for the family business and earn some extra money. An enterprising kid, she was already thinking of her first car and college tuition. She accepted the challenge.
The business was a quaint motel on a little bay in touristy Rockport, TX. Busy entrepreneurs with young children, her parents needed the help. Undoubtedly, her father also had an interest in teaching his daughter responsibility and life skills. Every dollar had to be put to work in the business. North learned the cost of basic utilities, such as phone, electric, and gas. At a young age, she learned to work with care and focus. Data needed to be entered precisely; a small mistake would derail the bookkeeping system. After proving herself, she added check-writing to her duties. It was real-life stuff.
North’s dad likely never imagined the chores would ignite a lifelong career in financial services for his daughter.
“I'm not sure that I ever found it interesting,” North reflects, “but the skills turned out to be invaluable.”
To say she eventually found the financial sector interesting is an understatement. North exudes passion and enthusiasm for her work with an exuberance that is impossible to overlook. “What really inspires me is seeing clients get excited to make tough decisions, dream big, and achieve more financial freedom in their lives,” says North.
North is now CEO and Certified Financial Planner of her own Washington, DC firm, North Financial Advisors. She previously served in the financial services industry in different capacities as a writer, analyst, advocate/lobbyist, and on-air commentator. With an undergraduate education from UT Austin in government and political science, the majority of her career centered on research and writing about the impact of federal and state policies on business, industry, and consumers, including the financial planning world. She went on to get an MBA at Georgetown.
“I realized this was a passion that I could turn into a business. I also realized I could start now,” says North, “it didn't have to be later!”
Though she grew up in an entrepreneurial family, that realization and the decision to pull the trigger on opening her own firm didn’t come easy. “It was a hard decision because I had to weigh my passions and my peace of mind over short-term financial gain and certainty of benefits,” she says. “From that experience, I’ve learned it’s not always about the annual salary. I believe money is a tool to serve my larger life goals. All I needed to do was figure out if I had enough to meet my needs.”
The experience made North even more suited to advise clients. “There are a lot of people out there who want to start a side business or become entrepreneurs but need financial coaching to get there,” she says. “Now, part of my job is helping my clients figure out ways to move up their goals to the present through smart financial planning.”
It takes guts to face fears, reach out for help, and learn how to achieve financial goals, says North. “Many of the people who reach out to me have steady income and have made some smart decisions about their finances in the past but they need help taking it to the next level. So many people get caught in a reactive cycle with their finances and my work is about teaching them how to be proactive. A lot of folks don’t even know what’s possible.”
Though she considers her own business to still be in the building phase, she says she’s building something bigger to help her live out her passions, such as travel. “It’s not without struggle, but I’m grateful for a support network that helps me on my journey.”
North is an active member of XY Planning Network, describing the organization as “invaluable” during the launch of her firm. “More than anything, I love being part of a community where we all share a common goal of bringing financial planning to people in Gen X and Y who are often turned away from more traditional advisors,” she says.
She aims to offer that same level of support for her clients. “I really want to make a dent in the financial literacy gap in America,” North says. “For so many, finances are seen as boring, scary, and anxiety-producing. I can do a lot to help my clients, one-by-one, face some of those fears and give them skills to be proactive instead of reactive with their finances.”
North practices what she preaches. “I want to work toward being my best self personally and professionally, just as I help coach my clients to be their best selves.” Heeding her own advice enabled her to travel a half dozen times in the past year, twice internationally.
Fittingly, it was her parents who first taught her that hard work pays off. When their junior bookkeeper turned 16, they surprised her with a used car to reward her for her dedicated service. With a mindset like the certified financial planner she would become, the real satisfaction came from having plenty of gas money in the bank. “This gave me a great feeling of independence,” she says.