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  • Writer's pictureAnn-splaining™

Financial Empowerment for Women in STEM: Financial Advising and Resources


Ann's quote about creating a safe place for women to ask financial questions.

In a recent episode of the Stem Southwest podcast, Ann Shubert delves into the importance of financial planning and the value provided by working with an independent financial professional. She also explains why, based on her own life experiences in science and engineering, she particularly enjoys working with women in the STEM fields. Some of the insights she shared are recapped and presented below. To hear the entire discussion and gain a deeper understanding of Ann's passion for helping women with their money, you can watch the entire episode here.


Specializing in Financial Advising for Women in STEM Fields


Question: Why do you specifically work with women in STEM? Other than coming from their careers, is there some unique quality that they bring to the table that other clients might not bring?


Ann: There are a couple of different reasons I like working with technical women. First off, a lot of financial advisors that I hear talking about who they like working with will say “oh, engineers, I hate engineers.” And I'm like, “you're kidding, engineers are great.” So there are situations where a more typical financial adviser gets a little put off by the detailed questions that engineers and scientists tend to ask. But I ask those questions myself when I do financial planning for clients; I like digging into the details. And I don't trust the planning software I use unless I know what it's doing. So in the first place, I just feel very comfortable with women in STEM, they're my kind.


I started life as an astrophysicist and then moved into the defense industry where I spent multiple decades first writing software and then managing programs. It took me quite a lot of years to realize that I was having problems being female, like getting credit for the things that I did, or being considered for promotions. What’s more, in the technical fields, engineering, science, it's really important what you know, right? It's how you measure your credibility, your ability to do your job, it’s how you're judged. But then when it comes to money, a lot of people just aren't interested. Or they never got taught about it. I mean, there's no financial literacy in our schools. A lot of times clients who come to me feel ashamed somehow that they don't know things about money. They don't know what a Roth IRA is, but feel they should.


So I want to create a place where women who are used to being measured on what they know, can come and say, I don't know. That's something you don't say if you're a female in STEM. In fact, I have a little story about saying “I don’t know.” I was at Caltech as a graduate student in Physics. And every undergrad at Caltech had been the top of their class in science, right at the very top. So I’m teaching them in freshman Physics lab. And the first talk that I gave I made them all say it: “I don't know.” I literally conducted, standing in front of the class. There's three words you have to say now: “I don't know.” Because if you can't say “I don't understand” you're never going to learn anything new. My point was, if you already know everything, why are you here?


So it's the same thing when it comes to money, right? I want to create a safe place for women that may not be comfortable if they don't know things they think they should know, to come and ask questions. ‘Cause I love this stuff. I geek on this stuff, and now it's my job. And I love to explain, to teach others what I’ve learned. So I just want to be able to give people who are used to always being on guard about what they know the ability to ask their financial questions and get answers that give them the confidence they are making the right money decisions for themselves and their loved ones.


The Ann-splaining™ Blog: Financial Planning at the Intersection of STEM and Money


Question: Could you elaborate on your Blog, and its tagline about how science aids in making better financial decisions, including its origin and your future plans for it? Also, could you explain how our listeners can become Ann-splaining™ Insiders?


Ann: I started the blog because over the nine years I’ve been doing this I began to find there are things I say repeatedly to people. Core principles that I use to inform my financial planning process. For example, the numbers are only half the story, you have to understand your values when you do financial planning, what you value might be different from what someone else does. I have a way of expressing things that seems to help people understand them. I like cutting through the noise. I mean, our world is so filled with talking heads and most of what's out there is designed to whip up your emotions and get you all upset about something. What I do with clients is say ignore all of that, here are the things that are important for you to look at.


Once I came up with the name, Ann-splaining™, I thought okay, now I've got to do it. And so I got started just at the end of last year. I’m writing posts about things I think are core elements in financial planning and investing. But I'm also providing regular updates on things that people might be interested in, like changes to the tax law, or what was going on with the student loan pause. We have added a new Resources tab now, where there's a link if you want to take a questionnaire to figure out what your risk tolerance is. There are also a whole bunch of free downloadable checklists and flowcharts that can help you make decisions for yourself about financial issues. Things like where should my next dollar go? Or what should I consider if I just got a big promotion at work? Or what should I consider when I'm signing up for my employee benefits? If you like what you see on the blog, you can sign up and get notifications of new posts, as well as my emails and newsletters, as an Ann-splaining™ Insider.


The blog has a STEM tilt to it in that a lot of the elements of financial planning and investing have crossover with science and technology. I wrote an early post about how financial planning really is system engineering, just applied to your financial situation. It's the same process just with different focus and content. The topic of risk is another area where an engineering approach can be beneficial in financial planning, as I wrote about in another series of posts. Identifying both the likelihood and the impact of unknown events can help to clarify what risks need to be dealt with and which can be ignored. I am hoping that people visiting the blog will give me feedback on topics they would like to get an explanation about. And yeah, I'm really excited. It's been fun to create it all.


Choosing Independent Financial Advisors for Personalized, Client-Focused Guidance


Question: Earlier in your introduction, you mentioned that your firm is independent. Can you explain to our listeners why this is an important factor for someone in search of a financial advisor?


Ann: I entered financial planning after a career with defense contractors, where I learned about investments like mutual funds and 401(k) plans. However, the catalyst for starting my own business was the desire for autonomy. I grew weary of corporate America dictating my professional decisions. As a fiduciary and a Certified Financial Planning Professional (CFP®), I have the freedom to serve my clients without external pressures to sell certain products. My partner Susan and I co-own an independent advisory firm, and we embrace the hard work it entails because it allows us to provide personalized service that we know fulfills our fiduciary duty to clients.


When seeking financial advice, it's crucial to verify credentials. A Certified Financial Planning Professional (CFP®) has to extensive initial and ongoing study in the financial planning field, so they are likely to stay up with the most current information and to be sure and use resources like letsmakeaplan.org to find local professionals. Inquire about their compensation, employer, and services they offer. Ensure they are fiduciaries, legally bound to prioritize your interests above their own.


Yes, I'm going to answer that question. But first, I'm going to tell you why it's important to me. After many decades working in the defense industry, I got the chance to make the move and start this business. At that point I had experienced corporate America. And to be blunt, I was tired of someone else making decisions that affected my life, how I did my work. Although it was, in the end, the company’s program I was running, not mine. But when I started thinking about having a business where I am licensed and regulated as a fiduciary, I really did not want someone else telling me what I could do. I knew it would be more work if my business partner and I had our own firm, but I did not want to be in a situation where I was working for a bank, where they were going to tell me what products they wanted me to sell this month, or an insurance company who was going to tell me that insurance was the answer to everything. I want to be independent because it means I can do the best thing for my clients, and work with them in whatever way is best. I can create a business where I am serving people in a way that I think is important.


The first thing to understand when looking for a financial professional is that there is no regulation of the title financial advisor. You can be any person at all, and put up a sign and put financial advisor after your name. So if you're looking for someone to help you with your money, here are some recommendations that I would make. First off, look for somebody that has credentials of some kind. And for the most part in financial planning, that's the CFP® designation, or CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional. There's a website, www.letsmakeaplan.org. You can go there and search, look for people local to you. And then ask questions. How do people get paid? Who do they work for? What is the name of the company? Is it affiliated with a big bank like Wells Fargo or a big wire house like Merril Lynch? Ask what kind of services you're going to get and what kind of support you can expect from them. Ask if they are a fiduciary in all their interactions with you. Those are really the key issues around getting somebody who's qualified but who also can work truly for you.


My business partner Susan and I are co-owners of an independent registered investment advisor (RIA) firm in the state of New Mexico. We are licensed and regulated as fiduciaries through that relationship. Despite the work of being truly independent, I wouldn't have it any other way. And I look to work with people that think that's important.


Anytime that you're going to do something with your money, the bottom line is you should understand what it is.

Contact Ann today to ensure you're on the right path toward financial stability and growth, regardless of your current financial situation. Let an expert help you build a plan that maximizes your potential for a secure future.



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