Amber Andregg Helps people retire in style
Amber Andregg grew up dancing, but when an illness in high school forced her to quit, she had to find a new passion. Her objective: find a job where she "could help and serve others but also make a living." She found that in an Introduction to Personal Finance course in college. Today she's a wealth advisor who tells us, "I love my job so I really spend a lot of time doing it."
FAST FACTS ABOUT Amber
Where she’s from: Dallas, Texas
Grew up with: mom and dad
Education: Bachelor’s degree in finance
Where she lives now: Dallas, Texas
Growing up she wanted to be: a dancer
Now she’s: a wealth advisor for people nearing retirement
Tell us about yourself growing up!
Growing up, I was really into dancing. I really thought I wanted to be a dancer. Up until high school, that took up most of my time, and then I got really sick my freshman year, and couldn’t dance anymore. I kind of lost the passion at that point.
In high school, it was just a matter of finding a new passion, a new identity, since I put so much into dance up until that point. I did a few extracurriculars here and there, but I was really more in a place of trying to find myself.
I was a pretty solid B- student. Just because you don’t get A+s on everything, or a certain score on your SAT, doesn’t mean that there are not numerous opportunities out there to succeed.
Just because you don’t get a certain score on your SAT, doesn’t mean that there are not numerous opportunities out there to succeed.
When you were growing up how did you imagine your life as an adult?
I don’t think I had a clear vision. I think I really just wanted to do the best that I could and find something that I was happy doing. I didn’t have a clear vision for what that would be. Or if I did, I can’t remember it.
I think I always wanted to stay in Texas, and I think I saw myself being married with kids at some point. Those were probably some basics for how I saw the future looking.
Who were the adults who were important in your life growing up?
My mom and my dad were very important to me, and my biggest role models. My parents have had their own business for a long time and before that my mom was in corporate America, and I always looked up to both of them for their hardworking outlook on life.
I would go to summer camp, and I really formed close bonds with some of the counselors who were college age girls, but a different background and different lifestyle and from various parts of the country. It was really neat to get to know a diverse group of women that I could look up to and were different than me but also just really great leaders.
I wanted to find something Where I could help and serve others but also make a living.
What kind of expectations did you parents have for you? Did they expect you to go to college? Did they expect you to follow a certain kind of career?
An expectation as long as I can remember was to always do my best and to always fulfill a commitment. If I started something I had to finish it, whatever it was. When I was younger, I signed up for soccer. After five games if I didn’t want to go my mom said, no, you made the commitment; you need to finish.
They always valued a college education and doing my best. They encouraged me to look inward at what I was good at and what could provide a good living in order to support myself. They never dictated, well you have to study this or that. And then, to finish. My father actually didn’t finish college by the traditional route. It took him quite a number of years. He saw how difficult that was for him, so really pushed me to finish on time so that I could go from there.
In high school, I went to an all-girls Catholic school, and a really big component of our school’s mission was Serviam, which means, “I will serve.” That was integrated into my four years spent there, and it was executed through having various community service requirements. That really fostered a love of serving others. I also realized that I have to pay a mortgage and feed my family, so I wanted to find something where I could help and serve others but also make a living.
Introduction to Personal Financial Planning was all the things I think you don’t ever learn: how to balance a checkbook; what kind of insurance you need; how do you go about buying your first home. I was fascinated with it,
How did you get into finance?
My parents have had their own business for 25 years and I always admired that in them. I knew that I wanted to do something in business, so I took all of the basic courses. I thought I wanted to be an accountant, and when I was struggling in the basic courses, I knew that that was not my path. I took some introductory finance courses and most of them were pretty boring.
Then I took Introduction to Personal Financial Planning, and it was essentially everything I do now. It was all the things I think you don’t ever learn: how to balance a checkbook; what kind of insurance you need; how do you go about buying your first home; all of those basics that most people don’t ever learn. I was fascinated with it, and I had a professor that really showed me that you can help people, make a good living, and it’s an industry that you can have a lot of flexibility. My job isn’t 8-5. I can set my own hours. I was really drawn to it.
What is it that you didn’t like about accounting that you do like about being a financial planner?
The biggest difference is accounting is looking at activity that’s happened in the past and financial planning is looking at the future and looking at different ways that we can maximize the future. The accounting introductory courses I took were very data in, data out, and it just didn’t click for me. I felt it was very technical and it didn’t excite me.
I think that that was key for me: I knew that I go find something that would be really exciting. But I had several friends that that actually is what excites them. You see a field in the working world or you see a field of studying, you think just because it says finance or science that it’s all the same. Accounting wasn’t a fit, and it didn’t mean that I needed to switch over to English. I did a small pivot to finance and then another pivot within finance and eventually found what my passion is.
What kind of credentials would you want to have especially if you didn’t study this in undergrad? How do you develop those?
One of the big ones is what’s called the CFP and it stands for Certified Financial Planner, and it’s a governing board similar to a CPA if you’re an accountant. There’s a working time commitment that you have to fulfill; there’s a bunch of classes that you have to complete; and then finally an exam that you have to take and pass in order to have those letters after your name. That’s something I’m in the process of doing right now.
What do you do as a wealth advisor?
What my job entails is working with individuals that are about 10-15 years prior to retirement and making sure that we are doing all the necessary planning items in preparation for retirement. I spend my time managing the 401(k), IRA, and brokerage accounts that they have accumulated as well as doing insurance analysis and tax planning. Once they are retired, I focus on the distribution side of things. Essentially, replacing their income that they were earning at a job, but doing it through investment management, and also looking at social security and Medicare planning, and pulling everything together.
Finance is a really broad, broad industry, and I consider myself part of the personal financial planning sector of the industry. My time is spent on the one-on-one with clients and their own personal finances. You can have corporate financial planning; you can have the analysis side of the financial industry. There’s a lot of different components.
My day and week is broken up pretty diversely. That’s one of the reasons why I absolutely love my job. It allows me to have as much time in the office as I want.
How much of your time do you spend working with you clients versus doing other research and things like that?
My day and week is broken up pretty diversely. That’s one of the reasons why I absolutely love my job. It allows me to have as much time in the office as I want and really gives me that flexibility. A typical workweek for me looks like two days in the office. That’s usually working on the planning side of things: scheduling my calendar, working on some complex individual issues that arise, whether they be tax planning or estate planning. The other 3 days of the week are usually in meetings with clients. I specialize in working with folks that are part of large corporations, PepsiCo, Texas Instruments, Raytheon, Blue Cross Blue Shield. They all have benefit plans. I have found that it’s a really good use of my time to meet with all of my Raytheon clients on one day and all of my Texas Instruments clients on another day. I kind of shift my workweek like that.
It sounds like organization is an important part of what you do. Do you think of yourself as an organized person?
I’ve always been fairly organized; I’ve always been one that sees the value in a planner or a Google calendar. I found that especially when I’m dealing with people’s life savings, it’s just really imperative that I’m on time, and respectful of their time, and organized. I use technology in order to stay on top of those meetings and those commitments. As a young girl I always made lists on my daily planner of what I needed to do that day, and I think that you can really never start too young in doing those types of things.
My Job allows me to blend goal-setting but also being a shoulder to cry on when Clients need to.
When you work with clients you’re dealing with something that’s very, very important to them and it sounds like can be pretty emotional talking about their post-work life and what their finances are like. Do people have a lot of emotional responses?
I find that my job is super emotional, people always tell me “Oh, my gosh, Amber, you know more about me than anybody.” I take a lot of pride in that and I take it very seriously. I believe that, when people are making money decisions, there’s always an emotional component, whether it’s fear, happiness, or commitment. I really like that part of my job, because it allows me to blend the goal-setting aspect of them achieving their goals but also being a shoulder to cry on when they need to. [I’m] a point of accountability when they need someone to hold them accountable. It’s definitely a match between emotional and technical.
if you can add, subtract, multiply, or divide, you can do my job.
I think of finance as being a very quantitative, numbers-oriented job. Is that true in your job?
That is definitely true with certain parts of finance. A lot of corporate finance, you’re looking at a lot of graphs and charts, and doing a lot of very detailed analysis. With what I do, it’s a lot more qualitative information. Yes there are numbers, but I always say, if you can add, subtract, multiply, or divide, you can do my job. You don’t have to be a calculus genius in order to be a wealth advisor, at least the way that our firm is structured. It allows me to be an expert on the planning side of things. The analyst team at our firm, the group of people that are researching the stocks and bonds, all day, every day, they do not ever interface with clients. Depending upon what your passion is, there’s always a group that you can be drawn to.
Can you tell me about what fills your time outside of work? You said you keep a flexible schedule, which sounds like it allows you to have a life outside of your job.
Definitely. Right now, my husband and I spend a lot of time together and I really enjoy traveling. I want to do more of that. I spend a lot of time with my family. They live here in Dallas as well. Those are those are the big things that I spend a lot of time on. I enjoy reading, and exercising to a point. It sounds fairly cliché: I love my job so I really spend a lot of time doing it. I’m happy that I found something that I enjoy doing so it doesn’t it doesn’t feel terrible to be working all of the time.
Where have you traveled that you’ve really loved?
I really love Washington, D.C. I just think there’s such rich culture and history and so many things to do that I love going there.
I really love Colorado; I really love being in the mountains and unplugging from the world and not having a cell phone constantly in my purse that’s buzzing and I really like the Caribbean. I’m hoping to go to Europe later this year and take some time and explore.
What advice would you give to a girl was somebody who was kind of like you when you were growing up, maybe trying to find what they were interested in? Just anybody who you think was like you?
My advice would be the advice that I got, because I think it’s good advice: doing your best in all aspects. Following through on things to a point. Going after your passion. You spend so much of your life working by god, you better like it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make pivots as an adult, because you can. If you’re not happy with something then make a change. Following through that would probably be my biggest, biggest advice.
Do you have advice for somebody who wants to do the kind of work that you do? What are the kinds of things that can prepare somebody to do the kind of job that you have?
Go to college; studying finance certainly helps. It’s not a requirement but being an expert in the personal financial planning area is a must. I work with a few folks who didn’t do that in college but that did it after college. It’s not necessarily something you have to do in a four-year university, but it definitely helps.
People have gotten burned really banned by big firms and by bad investor investment managers. People as consumers [are] being ever more critical, as they should be, and the better credentials you have, the better background you have, is just going to set you set you um toward a better path toward success.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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