Encore Career: Anita O’Connor

08 Mar 2017

"So I started developing my own relationship with clients and so as I developed in the profession, I really went from an assistant to a paraplanner and then really to a full-on financial advisor in my own right."

I'm Anita O'Connor. I work with Cooper McManus in southern California. Broker dealer is Securities America.

Interviewer: So tell me a little bit about where you grew up and what your plans were for a career.

Anita: Well, I was a military brat. My father was in the Marines for 32 years, fought in three wars. My mother was a nurse. So I came from service professionals and I grew up all over the United States.

We moved every two years and then I finally settled in southern California. I went to school at UCLA and I had a great interest in psychology and special education, perhaps because my youngest sister was Down Syndrome and I had great fun teaching her all through childhood and helping her with her special needs.

So I developed an interest in special education and started volunteering at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute with special kids and enjoyed it so much that they hired me and offered me a job. And then I got a scholarship for a masters degree at USC and and then got the full time job as a master teacher there. And I did that for about eight years.

And this was back in the the late '70s early '80s when there was a lot of money available for kids with special needs but funding eventually dried up and I kinda got burned out. And as a young woman, I decided, "Gee, I really wanna develop an expertise in finances so that I can become financially independent one day on my own.

"So, I enrolled in some CFP classes and my colleague's husband was starting an RIA at the time. He had worked for EF Hutton and he wanted to start his own practice as an
independent. And so I thought, "Well, I'll just apprentice with him. " And so I volunteered in the late hours while I was working and he liked me well enough that he decided to hire me, my guess because he trusted me and also through his wife; she knew me well enough that she knew that I was trustworthy.

So I apprenticed with him and liked it so much that I left the teaching profession. It was supposed to be a temporary departure 'cause I loved teaching so much. But I started realizing the skill set transferred so nicely into financial services. And so I got my licenses. And then he got very busy starting his own broker dealer and so he gave me more and more responsibility in the financial planning firm that he started.

So I started developing my own relationship with clients and so as I developed in the profession, I really went from an assistant to a paraplanner and
then really to a full-on financial adviser in my own right. So now I tell my clients that I used to help emotionally disturbed children and now I help financially disturbed adults. And the skill set transfers very nicely. You're communicating. You're really a caregiver. It's a service profession.

And we first and foremost are caring for our clients. We're analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. We're developing a plan of treatment for how to reach their objectives. And we're helping them implement. And all along the way, we're dealing with all of the emotions and the stresses and strains of life. We're watching their kids grow up, funding their education. We're helping them with the transition into retirement.

And we're helping them care for their own parents or maybe for their own special needs children. So all of those life stresses, we're helping them with. When I first started as a paraplanner, I realized I could be a powerful entity in the firm because I could leverage the time of the entrepreneur, the one who started the practice, and when the clients call, I'm the first one that they would ask for because I was more available. 

And in that process, I got to know them better than their financial adviser did. So I ended up being the first one they'd call. When the husband died, call Anita, "What do we do? Help. "

Interviewer: Were there any skills... ? Communication obviously very important, but were there any skills from your teaching years that you were surprised?

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