Susan Olson

The reason I got into this profession:

I stuck out at senior prom wearing a weird hippie thrift shop dress, not so much by choice but because it was all I could afford. My free government-provided lunch tickets were a different color from everyone else’s and the utilities at home were sometimes under threat of being shut off.  My family’s financial circumstances did not present an easy life for an awkward teen who would have preferred to blend in a little more. Money (or rather, the lack of money) felt like a barrier preventing me from relating to those around me.

Happily, the career path that sprang from those “have not” years provided me with a wealth of opportunities to explore my angst around money. Curious about the intersection between culture, society and money, I traveled to Nigeria for my master’s thesis research. I wanted to answer the question “How on earth do women run thriving businesses when they aren’t ever allowed to leave their homes?!” It turns out these women felt sorry for me, that I had to work outside the home, and contribute to general household expenses. They, on the other hand, could not hold bank accounts in their names, yet had complete control of their income. They created informal savings groups to help support each other’s business ventures and spent the profits almost exclusively on furthering their children’s education.

Besides debunking Western notions about what financial independence needs to look like, spending time in the country with the world’s highest birthrate clearly had an additional effect—I came home and promptly started a family of my own with my husband. Family life led to the field of education where I spent a dozen fulfilling years as a school principal, working with families of a wide variety of means.

Time and perspective have, of course, shown me that my early experiences don’t even register on a global poverty scale, but I’m pretty sure they lent some useful grit and resiliency to the way I live my life. It is also pretty ironic that I settled in the town of Sebastopol, California, which many consider the funky hippie dress capital of the world.

One thing I’m doing to help the planet

I grow most of my family’s produce year-round, shopping really local (in the backyard) every day.

Outside of work, my passions include

Trail running, gardening, volunteering, travel, cooking and wine.

One goal I’m saving for

A trip to New Zealand with my husband and an outdoor wood-fired bread oven.

The primary way I’m advancing my career knowledge

I’m discovering new ways to help clients align their investments with their values. I also love drawing on my many years in education, working with clients’ young adult children to help them get off to a great start in their financial lives.

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