Financial adviser finds benefits of being female in a male-dominated field

10/24/2013 7:10 AM

10/24/2013 7:10 AM

There weren’t many female financial advisers when Karen Fleming got into the business 31 years ago.

There still aren’t.

Fleming said the latest statistic she has seen puts them at about 15 percent of the total.

“I guess I’ve always been up for a challenge,” said Fleming, the principal in Ad Astra Financial Group.

But Fleming said there are benefits as well as drawbacks to being female in a male-dominated field. For example, some female clients may be more comfortable talking to her than they would a man.

“Women are an underserved segment of the market,” she said.

Fleming recently moved her offices from the Garvey Center to 820 N. Main.

Fleming offers products and services through SagePoint Financial, a broker-dealer based in Phoenix that is a subsidiary of AIG. But as an independent adviser, she said, “It’s more like I own my own business. The firm leaves me alone, except for rules and regulations.”

She’s a certified financial planner and stockbroker and has received special training in pre-divorce settlements. She’s a frequent speaker to community and women’s groups on “anything from Investments 101 to why it’s important to have a will.”

Fleming said successful financial planning starts with a thorough analysis of a client’s income, assets and debts, then looks at goals, risk tolerance and the time line for things like retirement. While most people have figured out their retirement needs “on a napkin,” she said, using a computer program “gives reality and credence” to those numbers.

She enjoys helping people, who often come to see her after they’ve gotten a new job or promotion, received an inheritance or experienced the death of a loved one.

“It certainly interacts with critical points in life,” she said of many of her first encounters with clients.

Fleming’s first husband, Rick Wedel, with whom she worked, died in 2009. Her current husband, Jim Fleming, suggested that she buy and undertake a renovation of the firm’s new building, raising ceilings, knocking out walls and installing a “Kansas Room” for meetings.

“He said he’d change the lightbulbs,” she joked.

Her four-person firm is using about half of the 5,700-square-foot space. Three private offices, a “virtual office” for people who need space part time, and two larger meeting rooms are available.

“I’m confident in what I do,” Fleming said. “That comes with experience and tons of training that never ends. There’s nothing in the economic world I haven't seen at least once.”

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