With the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death approaching, this Mother’s Day was wistful. She would have turned 100 in weeks.
Mom grew up tough in southwest Arkansas. Pre-Great Depression, before penicillin, where railroads and river shipping reigned. She married my father during World War II, moved west and never looked back.
Honoring her memory, I asked top women at my firm what advice they would give women seeking to fulfill their vision of life.
Here’s what my colleagues had to say about careers, investing and relationships.
Jill Hitchcock, a 20-year veteran, who heads our national Private Client Group, offers this advice:
Don’t settle for comfortable
“Run toward the things that scare you, especially early in your career,” Hitchcock says.
“Too often, I see associates, especially women, seeking ‘comfortable’ roles instead of what really challenges them to build new skills,” she said. “Don’t close doors opting for comfortable or known roles that play to skills you have; move toward roles that build skills you don’t have.”
Carrianne Coffey, also 20 years at my firm, who runs our comparable overseas group, echoed this: “Feeling role-comfortable creates mediocrity and stagnation. Get a comfortable bed, some good sheets — then leave the comfort zone when you wake in the morning.”
She adds, “Be direct about your aims.” Her favorite advice comes courtesy of her older brother: “If you don’t ask for it, some other jerk will.”
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Don’t expect to have all the answers
Take time to breathe and reflect, says Laurine Garrity, our global marketing head.
“Don’t expect to have all the answers early in your career,” she says. “I often see young adults seriously stressed thinking they need a long-term career roadmap. Life is unpredictable. You need to be flexible and resilient. So find out what you enjoy, what challenges you — then learn from those experiences and build on them. Over time, with work and self-reflection, you should land in a good place.”
Lane Jarvis, our human capital tsar, stressed avoiding burnout.
“Take care of your health. Don’t prioritize work over taking care of yourself. It will make you better and healthier so you can work longer.”
On finances, listen to Jarvis: “Save some money. Pay yourself first. Do what you can afford, but put some money away. Always put money into your 401(k).”
Always fund your 401(k)
Garrity agrees. “Invest in yourself. Participate as much as you can in your 401(k). Get invested in the market and stick with a basic plan — don’t get too cute with it.”
Coffey also stressed simplicity. “For longer-term savings, save all you can in any amount you can and invest in stocks. Look up in 20 or 30 years from now, and you will be glad you did.”
Then, some frank talk about the tradeoffs accompanying marriage and kids.
If you’re going to marry, Garrity says, “Marry someone who supports you — personally and professionally. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my husband. I don’t like the phrase ‘you can have it all’ — it sets false expectations. You can have a successful career and family. But it takes hard work, compromise, direct communication and the realization it will never be perfect.”
Create a support network
Realistic expectations rang Hitchcock’s bell, too. “If you’re to stay home to raise kids, understand you’re taking on major personal risk if something happens to the primary breadwinner in your family. Make sure you have enough disability and life insurance to support you and your kids if the unexpected happens. It happens.”
And make sure you have a support network, says Jarvis. “This group can help you navigate through opportunities and setbacks.”
Finally, they agreed, your path is up to you and no one else — to go your own way—maybe a bit like my mom did, just different.
Ken Fisher is founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, author of 11 books, four of which were New York Times bestsellers, and is No. 200 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Follow him on Twitter: @KennethLFisher
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
The second of Ken’s two columns on bond investing will publish next week.