Susan Olson, CFP®, CDFA®, MS, MA

Financial Advisor
Susan Olson

My Story

I stuck out at senior prom wearing my weird hippie thrift shop dress, not so much by choice but because it was all I could afford. Other girls sported pastel tulle in the latest style. Now, I’m not a follower nor do I like cookie-cutter solutions, but I really did stick out in a way that was awkward. My free government-provided lunch tickets were a different color from everyone else’s tickets and the utilities at home were often on the verge of being shut off. My family’s financial circumstances did not present an easy life for an awkward teen.

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 but did completely control 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 and 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 didn’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 find to be the funky hippie dress capital of the world.

How I’m expanding what’s possible with money

Some of the most rewarding clients I work with are divorced or widowed women, especially those who are philanthropic. My long career in the non-profit world gave me a passion for charitable giving. Helping clients feel confident in their financial lives and connecting them with charities that reflect their values brings me some serious joy.

Outside of work, my passions include

Gardening, canning, knitting, spinning, weaving, and trail running. Yes, I was probably born in the wrong century.

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