Tell us about your role at Baird.
As Baird's Education Planning Consultant, it’s my job to keep our Financial Advisors apprised on the latest education savings legislation and strategies as well as to sit down with clients and discuss their options for saving for college. I’m constantly learning about new trends and regulations around 529 education savings plans, UTMAs, Coverdells, financial aid and even estate planning. Then I break down what I learned to help families achieve their education goals.
Can you talk about your background before joining Baird?
So even though our family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, I always knew I wanted to go to college. I ultimately decided on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, which was the right size for me, a good value and close to home, and it had a good business program. I graduated with a marketing degree and landed a job at Strong Capital Management. I was starting at the bottom – working at Strong’s call center – but I worked hard and learned everything I could about wealth management. They shut down in 2004, which is when I joined Baird as a marketing assistant for Baird Equity Asset Management.
How did you go from asset management to education planning?
Not long after I started at Baird, I saw an opportunity to use my marketing background for a small firm in Appleton. I soon realized it wasn’t the right fit for me, though, and five months later, a position opened up in Baird’s 529 department. I’ve been helping families save for college ever since!
When I look back at the choices I made when I was just starting out – attending UW-Whitewater, starting at Strong, joining and rejoining Baird – I’m struck by how crucial it is to know yourself and what’s important to you. I could have applied to a more prestigious school or tried to work for bigger firms, but I knew size and culture were important to me. When I forgot that and moved to Appleton, I almost instantly regretted it.
How does your knowledge of education planning affect how you manage your finances?
I’m a planner by nature, and my experiences helping families save for college have only reinforced that mindset. I have two boys, ages 10 and 7, and knowing the cost of their attending college helps keep me laser-focused on my family’s spending and savings.
That’s what’s so great about working with a Financial Advisor: You can have those candid, important conversations, and they can help keep you on the straight and narrow when it comes to your financial goals. And it’s not just saving for college, which to me is a fun topic – they can help you work through insurance, retirement, planning for future generations, all of it. They help you protect your family.
Has working at Baird helped you learn more about managing your money?
I’m the first to admit that I didn’t know a lot about financial planning when I first joined Baird. But as a firm, Baird is all about providing tools people need to make smart decisions, and I was able to take advantage of that from working here. They encouraged me to take the Series 7 and 63 exams, which taught me a lot about investing and personal finance. Plus I sit alongside some of the most knowledgeable and helpful experts in the field, and I learned how to use different tools and calculators to inform my decision-making. Baird helped me become smarter about my own finances, and I try to pass that along to the clients I work with.
How would you describe your approach to managing your finances?
Growing up, my family was always very budget-conscious, always focused on value and weighing the pros and cons of every decision. “Do we buy a new car, or instead buy a used car and save the difference for a down payment for a house?” We were always about planning, and that’s stuck with me.
Today, I would say both my husband and I are prudent with our finances. We’re a family of savers, and I make sure our children see that and learn those values. We’ve taught them that money they earn through their allowance, they can spend as they want, but money they receive for birthday or Christmas goes into a savings account. We also go shopping together, so they can learn how to make smart decisions.
What are different resources that help you to manage your finances?
I’ll just say that Microsoft Excel is my friend. While my husband, who also is in the financial industry, handles the day-to-day finances, I am fully involved. We review our family savings twice a year and have different accounts for different expenses – a house fund, a college fund, a vacation fund, emergency funds, and so on. We also use a lot of planning calculators for bigger expenses like retirement and college savings.
What advice would you give to other women in a similar position to you about managing their finances?
I’ve met and personally know a lot of women who are intimidated by finances, and so they just let their spouses handle all of it or ignore it completely. I’ve been there – when I started at Baird, I only had a marketing degree. I knew nothing about finance! But I did research, I asked questions and I learned. Don’t say “Well, my husband handles all the money.” At my house, my husband always mows the lawn, but if I needed to, I could figure out how to run the lawnmower! It’s the same with finances.
This is especially important for women. Whether it’s due to divorce or simply greater longevity, there’s a good chance you’ll be responsible for your own finances. Ask questions and start learning now – you’ll make smarter decisions as a family, and you’ll be prepared if you ever have to manage your money on your own.
Want to talk to Jeannette about your own college savings plans? Your Baird Financial Advisor can set up some time where the three of you can sit and talk. And be sure to visit womenatbaird.com to learn more about how our female associates continue to inspire and lead our firm.
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