Baby Boomer Woman: Emily Gardner, CFP

by Anne Holmes on August 26, 2010

Welcome to NABBW member and Certified Financial Planner, Emily Gardner, an Independent Registered Investment Adviser and owner of EEG Financial Consulting,  Inc., in the Jacksonville, Florida area.  Emily started her financial career after getting three children off to a good start in life and these days she makes a difference for her clients by doing her own economic and market research and then writing articles  that explain her findings in simple, layman’s terms.  Her goal, she says,  is to process and synthesize very complicated – but important – information and present it in a way that average investors can understand.  Here, she tells us a bit about herself and what motivates her…

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself.

Emily GardnerI typically describe myself as a “late bloomer” – one who’s been “all grown up” now for about 15 years!  Unbelievable, I know, but it happened when I realized that I could depend on no human being but myself to supply me with what I “needed” in life.  I was 36.  I had awakened that morning with, “Oh my, this life I’m living is just not turning out the way I thought it would. . .”  And then a still, small voice from within said that I was going to have to get with “the program.”  Now, which program I wasn’t sure!  But I knew it had to be a program that was different from the one that I was on.  And it wasn’t a diet!  Rather, it was a lifestyle that would force me to quit relying on my husband and children (then 10, 9 and 6) for my every happiness. . . I “figured” I was going to have to find a satisfying career. . .

Of course, there’s a lot that could be said about how (and perhaps why) this still, small voice spoke to me that day. . . and why I decided to begin acting on the impulse to change the way I had been doing things.  But suffice it to say that this was a turning point in thinking about my life in general – and how I was going to have to take more responsibility for how it was going to be lived.

This is what prompted me to begin a career in the financial services industry with a major insurance company.    And it is also what prompted me to become a CFP® in 2002 – and to start my own firm in 2008.  Now my main focus at EEG Financial Consulting, Inc. is helping mid-tier clients make smart choices about retirement so they can feel confident that they won’t run out of money. . . and so they can live the best lives possible with the resources that they have.  A pretty awesome calling, I will say – and one which gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction!

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

I am divorced.  Married my high school sweetheart right out of college, and we were together for 23 years.  We have three wonderful children, ages 25, 24 and 21.  My ex is still about the smartest guy I know, and we are better friends now than we ever were before.   But we have been apart for about 6 years, and that separation and divorce has contributed significantly to my personal growth and development.

To his credit, he always knew that I needed to find my own way.  And he encouraged me along these lines. But I had been raised in a very traditional home where the wife stayed home and reared the family and the husband had the career.  The “conventional, moral, compliant” side of me was convinced that it was better to follow that path. Get an education, yes, but if at all possible take the “stay-at-home” route.  So, in part, I owe my ex for “pushing me out of the nest,” so to speak.

Now, I live alone most of the time. . . oldest daughter (25) who is an account manager for a major advertising agency and husband, who is a PhD. In economics and consultant for a major accounting firm, currently live in NYC and but will move to London in the fall (looking forward to visiting!). . . son (24) is a very successful entrepreneur and has owned a landscaping company since age 19 (school always “got in his way”). . .  and youngest daughter (21) is working and going to school, to pursue a possible career in communications or public relations.

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

I was about 9 or 10.  I would ride my bike (it had one of those “banana” seats) over to my friend’s house (about a mile away) after school, spare change in my pocket.   Then she and I were off to the country store (another few miles) to buy bottled Coke and some “fire balls” (my favorite), along with Bazooka bubble gum and “candy straws” (which came in an assortment of flavors, such as lime, lemon and strawberry) or a possible orange sherbet “push-up” stick from the ice cream container.

It was a great little store on a dirt road. (We had to cross a main road bridge to get to it!)  And barking dogs, two or three at a time, would chase us down the dirt road –  sometimes.  We never knew for sure when they might come around.   But that just added to the excitement. . .  And when they did appear, we were scared to death!   And we would peddle as fast as we could to get through the “danger zone” – enveloped in a cloud of dust flying up from beneath our swirling feet –  and it gave us such a rush to get to the final destination, unscathed!

I still remember the store owner’s name: Ben (I don’t think he ever realized what we went through to get there!)   And I remember the wood floors, scrubbed clean and the tight aisles with so many various and sundry things (as I recall, you could buy just about anything you might need at Ben’s store) – but especially all the deep ice cream and soda pop refrigeration containers with the cold, sliding, see-through plate glass covers.

And then there were the rows and rows of brightly packaged candies over by the register!  And I got a particular thrill over this whole escapade because I don’t think my mother ever knew just how far away my little peddle-pushing feet were taking me!  Though I think she did notice that I “somehow” got a few too many “cavities” during this period. . .

It’s funny, I’m pretty sure the only fillings I have in my head right now are ones I got from chomping down on all those “fire balls.”

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

Doing the unexpected.   Passing the mark that has been set.  Taking a chance on something when you think it’s worth the risk. . .

What inspires you?

People who achieve great things against all odds inspire me.  Many of these people are fairly ordinary folk.  But somehow they have “decided” to do something in life to make a difference, and they just do it.

Man’s greatest achievements in most anything inspire me. . . medicine, education, poetry, theatre, music, dance, art. . . and all competitive sports – even football!

The grandeur of God’s creation inspires me.

Total honesty and loyalty inspire me.

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

Doing things my way where it comes to financial planning and investment consulting for my clients.  Key to this is doing the required research concerning the current global economy and markets, along with the investment tools and strategies that are available to help clients make the smartest decisions.

As an advisor this has become even more necessary because we are in a “New Normal” economically.  (See some of my articles on this topic at .)   And, quite simply, we (advisors and investors, alike) cannot keep doing things the way we have always done it.

My mission is to educate investors along these lines.  Just about everyone has been affected by the economic crisis in terms of capital depletion.   So everyone needs an updated Comprehensive Financial Plan.  And everyone needs to understand the difference between cyclical (short-term) and secular (long-term) markets, which is necessary if he/she is to understand current market valuation.  (See my blog article “Don’t Call the Whole Thing Off.”)

Understanding of true current market valuation helps my clients and prospects make smarter choices in this particular economic environment.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

I started cultivating the West Coast Swing dance about 5 years ago.  It is fun and an art form worth pursuing.  I enjoy going to group classes and events, and  I’ve taken a good many private classes.

In addition, I work out every day at the YMCA.  I do Body Pump classes 3 times a week and I run on the treadmill.  I’m up to 6 miles, once a week.  Other days I run 3 1/2 miles.  (Working out is probably not really a “hobby” but I do enjoy it immensely.)  I ran in a 5k race a few months back.  My Rotary club sponsored it, so I felt obligated to give it a try. (Came in 2nd for my age group with an 8-minute mile.)

The winner in my division ran a 7-minute-mile and came in 4th in the entire race!   Then, the other day I went in for my annual exam.  My doctor has run marathons and told me that she ran a 7 ½ minute mile in her last one……OOOOOOH!  That got me going. . . she’s about my age.  I’m so competitive I’m going to have to at least TRY to do a ½ marathon sometime in the next year!

Do you have a favorite book or movie?
If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

I am a hopeless romantic and I also love comedy, so some of my favorite movies are “You’ve Got Mail,” “One Fine Day” and “Green Card.”  I love to laugh, and every time I see the piano scene (“Green Card”) where Gerald Depardieu (the apparent famous composer) is schmoozing the tree lady with his poetry and “music” (which is more like total cacophony!)  I absolutely roll in the floor!  I must have seen that movie 10 times.

As far as books go I listen to a lot of audio books while driving and working out.  These tend to be business/ economy related since I have to understand and keep up with what’s happening in the world.  I’ve listened to Comeback America, e Myth Revisited, The Quants, and Too Big to Fail.  And this past year I read Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose…..

Don’t feel bad if you are not compelled to run out and get these books now!  I synthesize the material and then try to  write articles that people can actually understand so they can get the gist.  “We Can’t Put Any More Lipstick On This Pig!” is a good example.  With that said, I do recommend that all citizens read Comeback America.   And if you are a business owner and haven’t read e Myth Revisited, you should!

But as a literature major, I have to say that my all-time favorite books are the historical novels by Taylor Caldwell, a prolific 20th century writer.  Her plots are intricate and amazing.  But the imagery is out of this world!  Caldwell’s Dear and Glorious Physician, the story of Luke, physician and gospel writer, is probably the best and most inspirational book I have ever read in my life, bar none.  The only hitch is that many of Caldwell’s books are out of print.  So you might have to order through a rare book dealer.  But so worth it. . .

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

Well, I can guarantee you that I will be going to London soon!  And if I have to travel there alone I will be hanging out with two of the most amazing people I know. . . my daughter and son-in-law!

Do you practice preventive medicine?
Please elaborate

Do I?   Just ask anyone in my family and they will tell you. . . I have been taking supplements on a serious basis for about 15 years.  I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I definitely believe that our immune systems need help because we do not get all that we need from food.   Personally, I feel like I am in the best shape I have ever been in right now.  This is due to diet, exercise and supplements – and stretching. . .  lots of stretching.

What do you stress about?

I want to share life with someone special.   So, I stress about being without a life “partner” – which for me means a husband.  As Scott Peck said in The Road Less Travelled, “Life is difficult.”  I don’t really care to travel it alone.  Currently, I am trusting God to bring the right person to me!

Specifically, I am looking for the “triple-braided cord” effect –   a “divine” match that includes the intertwining of the Holy Spirit!

I am reminded of what King Solomon said about it in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

“Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.  But how can one be warm alone?  A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.  Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

I have learned to “never, say never.”  But right now I am hoping to maintain my physique and looks through diet and exercise.  I am feeling youthful for my age.  I hope I will never feel compelled to go under the knife.  But I know plenty of people who have, and I don’t judge them for making that personal decision.  Maybe I will decide to do something cosmetic myself at some point.  But at this time I do not have any intention along these lines.

Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

Yes, when the general public began recognizing the seriousness of the market crisis, some of my clients were asking questions like, “Couldn’t we have seen it coming?  Isn’t there anything we could have done?”  At first, I was giving them many of the same tired, old answers like, “No, we really couldn’t have known or been prepared for anything like this.  This crisis is just one of those ‘black swans’ that come from out of nowhere.  We have to stay the course.  You are allocated across the spectrum of stocks and bonds. . . ”

But in the back of my mind I kept thinking that maybe there had been an alternative view –  or another course that could have prevented such losses.  I committed myself at that time to do the reading and research required to find out.   What I discovered was a whole other world of knowledge and information that was quite different from what I had been taught.  This knowledge is what has helped me re-invent myself and change the way I go about helping my clients.

Do you plan to retire?

My goal would be to work in my business for as long as I possibly can.  Then I would like to hand it over to my children.  The brains and talent are there.  I’m probably putting the cart before the horse. . . but you have to dream and plan and plan and dream, right?

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

I recycle.  And when I buy my next car it will be hybrid.  I am really tight where it comes to cars.  Right now I am driving a Mazda into the ground.  But it is close to being done; and when that happens, the hybrid will be the way to go.

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

Yes, there were several times in my adult life, as I have alluded –  pursuit of a career outside the home, the beginning of a new life on my own, and the start of my own company (due to a single-mindedness concerning the need for solid financial planning alongside investment strategy).

Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?

I would like to become a more generous giver.  On the hierarchy of needs, this is one of the highest – and one of my greatest desires in life.  To accomplish this, I simply need to achieve the goals I have laid out for myself in terms of growing my business.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

Officially, there are two ways I attempt to make a difference –  through my involvement at church and Rotary International.  Otherwise, I try to be unselfish in my daily living and show gratitude to people who are generous and thoughtful toward me.  One of my favorite things is a white sign (with red lettering) that I carry around in my car.  It’s shaped like a big fan (with handle).  It says in big letters on both sides, “Thank you!”  The idea is to show gratitude towards random people who are “kind” in traffic. . . You should see the faces of people light up when you flash it!!! I bought it from a motivational speaker who was a guest at one of our Rotary meetings.  His idea is that when people are encouraged in random, unexpected ways, the world becomes a better place.  If just when driving we are consciously encouraging others (vs. exhibiting road rage) we can make a difference!

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

I think I would have to say my kids.   They have given me a lot of purpose, joy, (and heartache!) over the years.  And I would not have traded the experience of being their mother for anything.  And I am sure that I would not be the same person I am today if it were not for them.   Through them, I have had to learn simple faith and trust.  I’ve had to learn how to “release” to God my anxious thoughts and burdens concerning their care.  And I’ve had to believe that my parenting (though feeble and woefully inadequate in so many ways) has been, is and always will be covered by God’s grace because “all things do work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

I love my kids so much.  I am so proud of them all.  And I can’t wait to see what they do next!

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

I have a watercolor in my office painted by a N.C. artist named Ken Helser.    It’s a beautiful butterfly perched upon a bouquet of flowers held in a vase.  An empty Mason jar is sitting beside it.  The lid is off and propped up against the jar.  The artist’s daughter wrote a poem that tells the story of the butterfly in the painting.

It’s called “Spread Your Wings” – and it goes like this:

A beautiful creature was held back by a glass wall;

It was afraid to fly, afraid it might fall.

God spilled the colors of the rainbows into its wings,

God created it for the love, for the joy it brings.

But the lid of deception holds it back inside,

And the beautiful creature is ashamed, and it hides.

You see, the lid was an illusion in the butterfly’s mind.

It wasn’t able to see the truth, became blind.

But then one day it found the faith to give it a try;

It spread out its wings, and began to fly.

– By Jodie Lynne Helser

On the back side of the painting, the artist wrote me a personal message that reads, “Please always let God set you free to be who you really are!  Unafraid!”

So if I had to pick a life’s motto or mission statement, I think this would have to be it.  When I walk in faith, trusting God, unafraid, He empowers me to live my life on a higher plane –  which unleashes inside all kinds of good things – such as a greater desire to promote, encourage, love and appreciate others.   And when others are encouraged and lifted up, the world becomes a better place.

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