interview by Kimberly Davis Guerra
photo by Quy Tran Photography
This month, HFM caught up with mom and financial planner Jennifer Steil to talk about her career in the financial industry, the importance of financial security, and how she balances work and family life.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a native Houstonian, born and raised in Deer Park. I grew up with one sister, but most of my extended family on both sides lived in the Houston area, so I grew up close to my cousins, grandparents, and even my great-grandmother, who was a strong female influence in my life. I graduated from Deer Park High School and then went on to earn my bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University. Since returning to the Houston area after college, I have lived in many different areas of the city, finally landing on the north side of town where I currently live with my husband, Keith, and 3-year-old son, Knox.
Why did you choose financial advisor as a career path?
Money is intertwined in everything we do, so it was something that I was always interested in. I am a very logical thinker and gravitated towards the consistency and reliability of numbers, but I am also entrepreneurial and energized by people. After dabbling in real estate for a few years after college, I searched for a career path that allowed for a good combination of those strengths. I have been told that I have a natural ability to educate others, and while I don’t feel called into a traditional role in the educational system, this career allows me to tap into a very authentic part of myself that I hope provides my clients with a deeper connection to me as a person, as well as a more clear and comprehensive plan for their finances. At the end of the day, although it may sound like a cliché, I find purpose in helping others protect their families and plan proactively for the future, so they can enjoy life and be more present for the people and things they care about most.
Finance is not always a career that you associate with women. Why do you think that is?
That’s a great question. In my opinion, finance is a fantastic career choice for women, especially careers related to financial services. In general, I believe women are innately good at listening, connecting, educating, leading, and empathizing, all of which are the cornerstone characteristics of an impactful advisor. I think one of the biggest obstacles women struggle with is feeling the need to be overqualified for a job or career opportunity before taking it, rather than trusting their innate abilities to grow to that level over time. While knowledge is extremely important, I believe there is an opportunity for the finance industry to attract more incredible women into the career by seeking out candidates with qualities that will allow them to grow into their roles over time rather than solely looking for candidates that possess a specific knowledge base already.
Financial security is extremely important—in this day and age, especially. What do you think we can do to encourage more people to look to advisors to help them get on the right path?
I believe there are two very important reasons to partner with an advisor. First, the path to financial security today is significantly more dynamic, complicated, and personalized than it was even a decade ago. The combination of improvements in health care, an emphasis on healthier living and increased longevity, and the all-but-extinct traditional, employer-paid retirement (a.k.a. pensions) has led to a vastly different financial planning environment than in the past. Couple that with the ability to instantaneously get information—often from conflicting sources—and you’ve got a very confusing set of waters to navigate. There has never been a more important time to partner with an advisor who can help guide you through it, provide education and a clear path forward towards your individual goals. There’s a saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Most of my clients are very educated, sharp individuals who understand that while they could spend the time to educate themselves and manage this extremely important area of their lives, they can also choose to partner with an expert who will share in the responsibility and provide the valuable advice that gives them the freedom to spend their time on people and things that matter most.
Second, money is often deeply rooted in emotions. It is not uncommon to be in a discussion around money and experience passion, fear, greed, and/or embarrassment. Making decisions based on or rooted heavily in emotions, whether positive or negative, often leads to unintended outcomes. Partnering with an advisor can help manage those emotions in a way that helps you stay on track towards your vision and not deviate towards something that doesn’t align with your goals.
As a mom, wife, and career woman, what do you find is the hardest part of your day-to-day life?
Maintaining my sanity! No, on a deeper level, it’s finding the balance that is right for me and my family at any given time. I attended a women’s symposium a couple of years ago that was hosted by our firm nationwide, and Randy Zuckerberg was one of the headline speakers. In my opinion, she gave one of THE best pieces of advice that I have ever heard: you CAN have it all, just not all at the same time. Wow, what a life-changing mindset that has been for me. As a new mom at the time, I was struggling to find that balance, and leaning into this concept gave me tremendous relief. There are seasons where I choose to prioritize my career growth, other seasons where I prioritize time with my husband and son, and others where I prioritize self-care and personal growth. I know that as the seasons and needs change, one or more areas may have to be less of a priority, and it’s my choice to put my focus in the areas that need it most. There is great freedom and clarity in knowing that I can shift those priorities when needed to fit what is right for me and my family, knowing that nothing is permanent.
Is there advice that you would offer to women just starting out in their careers who want to have a family life?
First, prepare to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. Second, don’t ever apologize for the choices you make for your family. I am impressed with every parent I meet, whether they make the choice to maintain a career outside of raising their children or to stay home, or even put their career on a long pause. The struggles are different, but equally real. If you choose to build a career and be a mom, I encourage you to be confident in that choice for your family, and remember to give yourself grace.
What do you think the advantages of living in Houston are, both as a mom and as a businessperson?
Houston has so much to offer. Financially, you cannot beat the cost of living for access to a rich, diverse, and vibrant city that offers opportunities in any career you could desire. Houston embraces and supports small businesses and different cultures. And I believe Houston is home to some of the friendliest people around.
Is there anything that you would like to see from the community evolve over time to help women succeed?
Continue to make space and evolve thinking to incorporate new versions of success. As we continue to expand the limits of what is possible and open space for new ways to achieve success, I believe we will see more and more women embracing their strengths and accomplishing great things!
Thanks to Jen for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us. We loved getting to meet Knox and learn a little bit more about her and her family. If you’d like to talk to Jen about wealth management or anything else, please reach out to her!
CFP®, RICP®, CLU®, ChFC®
Wealth Management Advisor
2445 Technology Forest Boulevard, Suite 550 | The Woodlands, TX 77381