Women Leading the Finance Industry: Stacy J. Miller of Bright Investments, LLC
April 2, 2021 | Tyler Gallagher | Authority Magazine AND Thrive Global | May 23, 2021
As a part of our series about “Women Leading the Finance Industry,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Miller, CFP®
Stacy Miller is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, Partner and Vice President with Bright Investments, LLC. She is a fee-only fiduciary wealth advisor and member of NAPFA and FPA. She has an MBA from Auburn University. She is an expert in helping women find financial security through transitions, crises, and windfalls. Stacy has been featured in CNBC, Money Magazine, InvestmentNews, Financial Advisor Magazine, HerMoney, and more.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
I am a military spouse, so I have decades of experience supporting families through transitions and crises. Combine that with a love of finance and becoming a Certified Financial Planner™ professional (CFP®) was the perfect fit for me. Finding solutions that bring future financial security to my clients truly fills my tank and brings me joy.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
In May 2020, during the pandemic, I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. I am always anxious to visit the dentist, but I was especially anxious about how safe it was to visit the office because I obviously could not wear a mask for the procedure. I told my hygienist how anxious I was, and she said that is how she feels when she visits her financial planner. It was pretty ironic, and we both laughed (she knows my profession, so it wasn’t random). The lesson was a reminder that personal finance is very personal and can be very emotional. I talk about money every day, so it is easier for me, but I always try to remember that people can feel embarrassed, insecure, and self-conscious. It is important that I am a good listener and an empathetic part of their financial solutions team.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In 2020 I developed a webinar series to help women tackle their own financial security. Budgeting Like a Boss, Investing Like a Boss, and Retiring Like a Boss were born out of the idea that taking action is the #1 source of confidence for women who’s #1 source of stress is money. It is not a lack of competence, but often a lack of time and sometimes a lack of confidence that keeps women from managing their own financial security. This free webinar series provides financial tools, tips and tricks in a fun and engaging way.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Recently the Forbes 2021 Best in State Wealth Advisors list was published. What I noticed is that in the locations where we have offices (Auburn, AL, Tampa, FL, Nashville, TN, and coming soon, Memphis, TN) there are few, if any, independent wealth advisors. An independent wealth advisor, like Bright Investments, LLC, is able to act in the best interest of our clients in all circumstances, including with our personalized advice and our investment strategy. We have no products to sell. We do our own research. We are independently owned by our employees, so we are not beholden to anyone else. We are a fiduciary fee-only firm. We deliver valuable personal service with integrity. Time and time again we get calls from prospects who called the 1-800 number on their statement from their advisor with a “name-brand” company and were disappointed with the lack of knowledge and attention to their financial situation.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let's now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-White boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
I would not say it has changed a lot, but there is certainly a conversation about changing it a lot in the future. There are approximately 300,000 financial advisors in America. The term “financial advisor” is extremely broad in defining qualifications, education, and experience. Narrowing the field to the highly qualified, educated, and experienced Certified Financial Planner™ professionals, which comprise 25% of all financial advisors, only 23% are women. This number has not changed in some time. This means that only 6% of all financial advisors are female CFP®’s.
There is an opportunity here, which I hope will facilitate this future change. Women are 51% of the population, gaining financial influence, and often prefer a female advisor. The CFP® Board has a Women’s Initiative (WIN) to increase the number of women CFP® professionals, so that we (1) increase the number of women in the industry and (2) increase the number of fiduciaries who will do what is in the best interest of their clients.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?
It is very exciting and positive news that as of March 1, 2021, Jane Fraser is the CEO of Citi, but there is so much more to be done. The three things that I think we need to do to continue to foster opportunities for women in leadership in the finance industry are:
- Speak up; for yourself or for your female colleague.
- Build a corporate culture that embraces cognitive diversity; including people who have different ways of thinking.
- Be kind to one another.
Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
Talking about money is taboo. People are afraid to ask questions because they do not want to be judged on the value of their bank account or on the limits of their knowledge. The consequences are that they just muddle their way through important financial events, often to their disadvantage.
If I had the power to make a change (and frankly, I DO, and you do too), the three things I would recommend for improving financial literacy in America is to (1) talk to your kids about money, (2) talk to your parents about money, and (3) talk to qualified and experienced experts about money.
My “kids” are 20 and 21 years old. From the time they were little boys, we had a 50/50 rule. If they got birthday money or dog-walking money, they had to save half and could spend half. I wish I had also included a portion for giving to the less fortunate to instill that philanthropic lesson. Now, as young adults, as they earn money, they ask for advice on how to save and/or invest it.
My dad is 75 years old. Talking about money with him, is different, but equally as important. The choices he is making now, will have an effect on him and me later. Planning and transparency are important in these discussions.
Basic financial lessons are not often covered in schools, so it is vitally important to seek help, especially for important financial events. Talk to your family and friends, but for the best advice that is right for you and your circumstances, there is no one better than an expert.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each?
I have two young-adult children, and I have six ideas that I have shared with them and their peers.
- Live within your means. Albert Einstein said that compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it. Understanding this concept is the key to financial literacy.
- Have an estate plan. An estate plan may include a Will, A Durable Power of Attorney (POA), a Healthcare Proxy, and a HIPAA Release. While it is unlikely that my young-adult children will need these documents in the short-term, it is still a good idea to get them. As my boys are both away at college, the HIPAA Release was the most important document for me because it would allow me to access information should they ever be in the hospital (a real possibility during this pandemic). My “Mom” rights were legally revoked when they turned 18.
- Start building credit now. Soon my boys will want to rent an apartment, buy a car, or buy a house on their own. Having good credit makes these tasks so much easier. They applied for a student credit card before they went to college. They also heard stories about the credit card I had in college, and that I treated it like the FREE money it is not. They use the credit card for items they already have cash for (books and groceries, for example), and pay the credit card off every month.
- Know what insurance you need. This might include health, auto and renter’s insurance. Make sure the renter’s policy includes a special rider for your computer; sometimes the most expensive asset a young adult owns.
- Protect your identity. This should include regularly checking your credit score and credit report and may include freezing your credit. Annual Credit Report.com is a great free resource that allows you to check weekly, currently.
- Start investing now. Invest in a Roth IRA and watch those returns compound over 40+ years. When you are 59 ½ years old, you can pull the money out tax free!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My business partner and colleague, Sarah Jane Zink has been a profoundly important role model and mentor for me. She has been in the finance industry longer than I have and has the grit to endure the tough days and grace and kindness to share on the good days. She is one of my biggest fans and supports me with words and actions every day. In turn I am one of her biggest fans, and I am so grateful to call her friend.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Discipline is choosing between what you want NOW and what you want MOST.” Abraham Lincoln
I love this quote. Hard work is necessary for success, but sometimes the cool shiny objects along the way can distract me. This quote was the motivation that kept me actively working toward attaining the Certified Financial Planner™ certification. It took years and a lot of work, but I am smarter and better able to help my clients because of all I learned.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Acts of Service is one of The 5 Love Languages®, and in fact, it is my love language. I show my love (romantic love, familial love, friend love, professional respect, etc.) through Acts of Service. So, for me it makes perfect sense that taking action is the #1 source of confidence in women. The movement I hope to inspire is leading women to take action for their own financial security. Their future selves will thank them for it.
Thank you for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success.