By: Marie Bartlett
She could be a Renaissance woman with her many talents and rich, multi-faceted career. But Linda Saylor says at heart, she is simply a teacher. Born in Texas, she grew up in Raleigh, NC and was educated at five different colleges, majoring in music and German before leaning toward primary education.
“I taught three-year-olds how to play the violin and viola,” she said. “But I also had two children of my own and a husband who sold insurance to teachers. Over time, I began to wonder how we were going to pay for our children’s college tuition.”
So like any intelligent, resourceful female Linda set out to reinvent herself. Though her love of music would remain (she went on to play in the Asheville Symphony Orchestra and is still a strong supporter of the arts) she decided it was time for something new.
“One day I attended a convention with my husband where someone stood up and said they were looking for the right candidate to sell insurance. I called a contact in human resources and told them, ‘I know the perfect person – me!’ At first he laughed and then realized I was serious.”
Linda got the job.
“But I had to prove myself from the get-go. It was hard and I really didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. I wanted to become certified in financial planning and insurance underwriting. There was a ton of complex material, with up to ten exams for each certification. I studied everywhere I went, on weekends, at the beach and at the dining room table, because I knew I was competing against attorneys and CPAs.”
That was nearly a decade ago. Today, Linda is a certified financial planner (CFP) and a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), working with A.G. Edwards, now Wells Fargo Advisors. Among her specialties: helping women learn how to make better financial decisions.
“I’m still a teacher,” she said. “Only this time I have something different to offer.”
In 2007, Linda was featured in a WNC story on “Top Ten Money Mistakes Women Make,” in which she said females of all ages are often woefully uneducated about their personal finances, including their financial futures. That was true in 2007, when about 30 million women were head of households and 95 percent of married and unmarried women were responsible for a family’s financial decisions. And it’s still true today, she says.
“The deadliest combination for women,” she said, “is lack of financial understanding and a tendency to provide too much help to adult children. Women continue to do that because we are socialized to help others. But here are the best two financial gifts you can give your children: (1) the knowledge they will never have to support you and (2) learning the ability to live within their own means. In other words, don’t impoverish yourself by helping support grown children.”
One of her most memorable cases in financial planning involved a woman in her fifties who received an inheritance but had no clue about how to handle her finances. Her husband had always managed their bills, accounts and major purchases.
“She had never done anything for herself financially,” said Linda. “I helped her through settling the estate and figuring out how she would conduct her business affairs. It was satisfying watching her grow through each stage, as though we were untying the knots in a string of beads.”
Her words of advice for women who come to her unsure of their own financial footing:
Take control of your financial future and remember that “a man is not a financial plan.” Don’t count on someone else to pick up the slack. Instead, take time to educate yourself. Read, take classes, or consult a professional. It may be tempting to let your spouse or significant other control your money. But it’s up to you to take the time to understand what’s best for your own future.
Avoid debt, or if you’re already in it, make a plan to get out and stick to it. If you need help, ask for it from consumer financial advisors or free consumer counseling services within your community.
Make a plan. The best time to fix your roof is when it isn’t raining. The best time to protect your savings from a downturn in the market is before something happens. Work with an investment professional to develop strategies to manage any risk in your portfolio. Once a plan is in place don’t allow emotions to rule your investment decisions.
Finally, think long term. When are you going to retire? How do you plan to get there? Consider the “what ifs.” What if you or your spouse dies or gets sick? What if you become disabled? Are you adequately insured?
An estimated 76 million Americans will retire in the next decade including a large number of the nearly 48 percent of women who make up the workforce. Yet, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, less than half of pre-retirees have even tried to calculate what they’ll need to save for a comfortable standard of living during retirement.
Linda has an answer for them too.
Beginning Tuesday, February 21, 2012, she is offering a series of free seminars aimed at older women, boomers, and anyone in the pre-retirement stage. The February 21 seminar, titled “Changing Course: Retirement Savings to Retirement Income,” will be held at Wells Fargo Advisors in south Asheville from 6-7 p.m. (See her ad page 56 for contact information.) Other free workshops run through May, 2012 and include help with understanding Medicare and Social Security, Estate Planning and best ways to utilize time in retirement.
In her own spare time, Linda, who lives in Fairview with her retired husband, volunteers with Land of the Sky Regional Council, Toastmasters and other civic organizations.
When asked what she enjoys most about her second-stage career, she says, “I love my clients, love helping them transition into the different stages of their lives. My main focus now is to look for decent returns on their investments, but also provide them with downside protection.”
“It’s gratifying to see their financial confidence grow, especially during dark times in the economy,” she continued. “My clients have worked hard and look forward to enjoying a secure, comfortable retirement. While they may not have the time, inclination or knowledge to manage the details of preserving and nurturing their funds, they understand that I treat their hard-earned money as carefully as my own.”
Today, Linda says she feels blessed, not only for the career path she once took, but for all the life experiences she brings to enrich her own clients.
“I keep a little sailboat in my office,” she said, “and it reminds me that no matter what the economy is doing, where I’ve been or where I’m going, I can help steer others and teach them to adjust the sails. In that respect, people need me to help them reach their hopes and dreams. That’s a good feeling.”
A member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA), Marie Bartlett, who lives in Hendersonville, has more than 25 years experience as a freelance writer. Her published work includes four nonfiction books and hundreds of articles in magazines and trade journals. Visit her online at www.onceawriter.com