Women Talking Wealth: Peche Myers

In the latest installment of our Women Talking Wealth series, Associate Branch Manager Peche Myers discusses the financial and professional impact of chronic illness.

Tell us about your background and your role at Baird.

I started in 2014 as a Client Specialist in Denver and now serve as Associate Branch Manager for Colorado and Utah. Before Baird, I had worked in the insurance industry and as an advisor in a financial services firm.

Can you talk about your chronic illnesses?

I was born with two genetic diseases: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that affects my skin and joints, and dysautonomia, which is a dysfunction of the nervous system. Without getting into too many details, I might have my shoulder dislocate without warning, for example, or suddenly experience bouts of  dizziness or fainting.

What impact have these conditions had on your career?

When you’re managing two chronic illnesses simultaneously, you’re probably going to have a different career path than most people – chances are you won’t be able to work as long a career, and you’ll require more visits to medical specialists. Plus managing these illnesses requires some degree of flexibility, and jobs that offer that kind of flexibility tend to not pay as well.

I’ve also found that people can have a hard time working with someone who has a disability, especially when that disability is unseen. I had a previous employer who firmly believed you need to be in the office a certain number of hours per week, and he couldn’t grasp that my illnesses didn’t always allow for that. I’m a highly motivated employee who adapted early on to be as productive from home as from an office – when time spent working outside the office began to impact my compensation, that became a major issue.

It’s one reason I feel privileged to work at Baird. Chronic illness often drives a person out of the workforce entirely, which often results in economic hardship and having to rely on Social Security Disability Insurance for income. I’m grateful to work for an employer that is inclusive and accommodating to my needs, but this experience is not universal – that’s why advocacy is so important to me.

What are some of the financial lessons you have learned while managing your illnesses?

There have been so many lessons. Some of them are tactical – contributing regularly to a health savings account, for example, or planning for retirement knowing I might not be able to work and generate income into my 60s. Chronic illnesses like mine teach you to always think two and three steps ahead.

Also, I learned life and long-term care insurance are also of utmost importance. If you have the opportunity to get group life insurance – particularly a portable policy – that can be a huge benefit, as it is incredibly difficult (and sometimes impossible) to qualify for quality, reasonably priced life insurance when you have a chronic illness or disability.

Has working at Baird influenced how you think about money?

As good as goals-based planning software can be, its advice tends to be based on answers to questions that don’t apply to someone like me. For example, “When do you plan to retire?” isn’t useful to someone in my circumstances, but it’s the basis of otherwise very prudent financial advice.

I work with a Baird Financial Advisor who understands chronic illness and disability, and that “planning” for me is going to look very different than for a traditional client. That has just been so critical for me. In the past, I was so focused on things like health insurance that I hadn’t given much thought to healthcare directives and estate planning. Fortunately, my advisor at Baird kept putting them in front of me and nudging me into thinking about them, and I’m so grateful for that now.

What are different resources at the firm that help you to manage your finances?

There are calculators out there that are useful, but really, the greatest benefit has been Baird’s Financial Advisors and planning team. We have so many experts who you can just call and bounce ideas off of. Plus it’s such a friendly and helpful group – if you have a question and don’t know who to go to, they can point you in the right direction. With my previous employers, you couldn't just call someone and ask an expert about some new product coming down the pike.

Who have been your financial and professional role models?

I’ve had so many good role models and mentors at Baird, including Steve Binder and Matt Curley, Baird’s Market Directors here in Colorado. But I’ve also learned so much, both personally and professionally, from Katie Costigan, who has directed the recruiting strategy for Baird’s PWM business in addition to being a Market Director. When you have a chronic illness, you sometimes feel you have to do more – that you have to prove you’re as dedicated and diligent as someone working in the office. Katie has been so helpful at modeling work/life balance – always achieving impressive results, but without sending emails at 2 in the morning.

What advice would you give other women in a position like yours about managing their finances and career?

I’d give the same advice I try to give myself all the time – not only is it OK to be your own advocate, but sometimes it's necessary! There's absolutely nothing wrong with asking for the accommodations you need to perform your job at the highest level. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not doing my team any favors trying to push through a bad situation. No one is going to bear the brunt of you overdoing it more than you are, and punishing yourself to avoid inconveniencing your teammates (which usually isn’t how your team feels anyway) isn’t helpful to anyone.

I’d also advise corporations to really lean into flexible working arrangements. We learned a lot during the COVID pandemic about how effective we can be working from home. Businesses that can offer that flexibility might find they suddenly have access to an entirely new talent pool. Along those same lines, if you get to a point in your career where you have influence over the hiring process, be as inclusive as possible and advocate for people who are open about needing accommodation (whether for invisible or visible disabilities). Disabled and chronically ill individuals have just as much to offer and are a huge talent pool, and with minor accommodations, companies can widen and diversify their talent in a really important way.

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