A half hour of focused yoga, breakfast with the husband, then it’s out the door and on the move for Meg Bartelt, the financial planner running Flow Financial Planning. Meg walks her 7-year-old daughter to school before beginning her day’s work at home in Bellingham, Washington.
Before founding Flow Financial Planning, Meg worked for 10 years in the software-security sector as a technical writer, often times finding herself as the only woman in her group. She understands through her experience what it’s like working in the tech industry as a women and strives to help other women. Being precise and accurate, like one would expect from a trained technical writer, is just one of the reasons she is one of the best for women in tech.
In recognition of her excellence and influence in helping dreams happen for her clients, Meg was recently named Member of the Month by XY Planning Network, the leading organization of fee-only planners dedicated to serving Generation X and Y. The award comes through peers at XYPN, which recognizes Meg not only as a skillful planner, but also a leader among the XY Planning Network.
Meg recently set aside time to answer a few questions from XYPN.
XYPN: What are your personal and professional aspirations?
MB: Professionally, I want to be the leading voice for financial strength for women who work in the tech industry. I want to be an advocate for women in tech, helping them succeed professionally, get their due, and deal effectively with their challenges in a notoriously hostile industry.
Personally, I want to be a good role model for my two young daughters. Where “good” means strong, willing to take care of my own needs, self-aware, dedicated to making life better for other people, and perhaps most of all, persistent. I used to think that “smart” was the best thing to be. But smarts don’t get you where you need to go; persistence does.
XYPN: How did you get into financial planning for Gen X and Gen Y?
MB: I changed careers—away from the tech industry—in my early 30s. My first two jobs were with fee-only RIAs, who had a very traditional business model: serving primarily retirement-age people and charging 1% AUM. While they provide real value to their clients, the service was investment-centric and there was little ability to work with younger clients. I’m far from the first to have this lament.
I didn’t see any way to change this, so I plodded along for several years, leaving employment and becoming a contract financial planner (coinciding with having a second child and moving from Virginia to Washington state…whee!). In late 2015, I decided to start my own RIA simply so that I could help the people in my circles who, upon finding out I was a financial planner, asked “Oh, can you work with me?” So, I planned to start a bare-bones firm, and in my research discovered XYPN. Which pretty much instantly opened my eyes to the potential of making this a Real Career, a Real Business, and in The Way I Wanted to Do It: serving younger clients and focusing on planning, with investing only one piece of the puzzle.
XYPN: Did your background give you any special skills to help others reach their financial goals?
MB: Absolutely. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of my background is that I was a woman in tech, and can more viscerally appreciate the world they live in, with all its challenges and opportunities, culturally, professionally, and financially.
Also, my career as a technical writer helps me communicate effectively with clients and my broader audience. When you’re a technical writer, you’re writing things that no one wants to read but sometimes have to in order to accomplish their task. So, the goal is to write things completely but concisely. No wasted words, no indulging my inner author. Similarly, no one wants to read tomes about their personal finances. So, concise, clear writing clients (and my broader audience)) understand their finances faster and better, which begets confidence, motivation, and progress.
XYPN: What should we know about finances that we didn’t learn in school?
MB: Did we learn anything about finances in school? The #1 key to good personal finances is spend less than you earn. This translates into reducing risks, achieving goals faster, and keeping your financial life simpler. If I have to choose a more technical topic that we don’t learn in school, it’s investing basics. Investing is so simple, yet most people fear it because they think it’s complex. And then they get taken advantage of by people in the financial industry who traffic in that fear.
XYPN: What is the one piece of advice you find yourself giving over and over?
MB: Create a networking plan.
Career success is essential to financial success, and networking is essential to career success. Networking helps everyone, but women can be at a disadvantage, especially in a historically male industry like high tech. Therefore, women need to be more intentional about cultivating a professional community. This community should consist of the “obvious” people (peers, your boss, etc.) but also the less-obvious people (patent lawyers, career coaches, public speaking coaches, recruiters, accountants, financial planners, etc.).
Networking can be an overwhelming idea, so I encourage people to actually create a schedule. It could be as simple as “I will attend one networking event each month, and I will take one person of interest to lunch each month.
XYPN: What or who inspires you to do great work?
MB: First off, my clients. I don’t ever want to think I gave someone “meh” service or value. Also, I feel very strongly about people being in control of their finances, especially women, because I am so sick of the self-serving crap that passes for financial advice out there. Who else? Other successful financial planners who have done it “right.” My colleagues in XYPN, all working so hard to build meaningful, successful businesses. My daughters, because I want them to be proud of me.
Meg Bartelt of Flow Financial Planning