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“It is extremely important for basic finance concepts to be taught in high schools.” with Ephie Coumanakos & Jason Hartman

For starters, it is extremely important for basic finance concepts to be taught in high schools. Nowadays kids are graduating from high school with no knowledge on stocks, credit, and other basic financial concepts. Not only is financial literacy important, but high school curriculum should also include the basics of the economy. Finance and economy […]

For starters, it is extremely important for basic finance concepts to be taught in high schools. Nowadays kids are graduating from high school with no knowledge on stocks, credit, and other basic financial concepts. Not only is financial literacy important, but high school curriculum should also include the basics of the economy. Finance and economy are connected but should be taught separate. An understanding of both would improve the financial literacy scores tremendously.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ephie Coumanakos. Ephie is the co-founder and managing partner of Concord Financial Group. She is a graduate of The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1986. In 2001, Ephie returned to The University of Pennsylvania and earned a Master of Science degree in Engineering in the Management of Technology from The Wharton School and Penn Engineering. She began her career in the financial services in 1993. As a Financial Advisor, Ephie specializes in the areas of retirement and pre-retirement planning, asset preservation, wealth management and estate planning. Working closely with clients and their legal and tax advisors, she is able to design customized financial solutions tailored to the client’s specific requirements. Specifically, she works with local attorneys and accountants to help implement tax saving strategies and design estate continuation plans. In her practice, Ephie uses extensive analysis to profile the investment objectives of her clients, evaluate various investment scenarios, identify expenses within each strategy and quantify portfolio risk to the client. Ephie frequently appears as a speaker at financial workshops that educate the public in retirement and estate planning, long term care options, preservations strategies for tax-qualified and non-tax qualified accounts.


Thank you so much for joining us, Ephie! What is the “backstory” about what brought you to the Financial field?

I was immersed in finance from such a young age because of my parent’s business.
My school bus would effectively drop me off at their business every day after school and I would spend a couple of hours there before they were closed for the day. I got to see the interaction between the vendors and my parents and got to understood basic things like credit and the flow of money at a very microcosmic level. So, like osmosis, I adapted to the business environment and brought my previous experiences to the finance world.

By the time I became a teenager, I started to get more curious about not just how business works, but how the economy works because I understood (at that point) that the economy was basically a collection of individual companies. That really led me down the path of getting my degree in economics. I wanted to get to the nitty gritty of what drives an economic system; the various forces that are affected.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I have multiple stories that come to mind, but I think the one that is the most memorable involves clients that I worked with for over a decade, who unfortunately had significant health issues. After one of the spouses passed, they left a note addressed to the couple’s sons that basically guided their sons to me for assistance and for guidance. That was a really tough one. I understood at that point how dependent your clients become on you and how much you can do for their families even after they’re gone. The depth of that relationship really hit home for me.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Rather than a project I am creating an approach on developing the next generation. Many kids come to inherit a large sum of money and rather than being clueless on spending habits, financial savings, etc. I would like to educate them on the options available for financial planning. It is an extremely intricate approach because my team wants to ensure that the next generation is prepared for financial events which requires great detail.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Concord Financial Group stands out among the others because we really follow through with our promise to deliver a holistic approach to planning. Every piece of the client’s life is analyzed in order to form a detailed plan that is centered around aspects of finance. Personally, when I meet with a client I ask questions that come off as though they are not related to finance, but they still impact the client’s life, and finances, tremendously. After creating a detailed plan we work with the client through various life events and alter the plan to accommodate any changes. Lastly, we slow down the speed to make sure the clients are always able to comprehend and add to the conversation.

Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

I think the investor is driving this change. Investors are really making the industry pay attention to the fact that they are engaging financial advisers that are female, that they are more comfortable with them, more at ease. I believe the industry is looking at the results produced from the work of female advisors and realizing that the numbers are improving, if not surpassing those of males.

Females have a way of engaging clients and providing them with knowledge of the industry which is crucial in financial advising. I have had clients walk away from a meeting and thank me for using terms that they understand which really eases them into the world of finance. The clients appreciate that females seem to take a more welcoming approach rather than speeding towards the end goal.

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?

On a company level it is necessary that a mentoring program be implemented, specifically for female advisors. There should be a dialogue between female advisors and the executives who make the company-level decisions that affect the employees. The fertile ground needs to be provided for female advisors to thrive because we bring so much to the table, but communication on all levels is necessary.

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?

For starters, it is extremely important for basic finance concepts to be taught in high schools. Nowadays kids are graduating from high school with no knowledge on stocks, credit, and other basic financial concepts. Not only is financial literacy important, but high school curriculum should also include the basics of the economy. Finance and economy are connected but should be taught separate. An understanding of both would improve the financial literacy scores tremendously.

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.

If I had to advise my adult child on 5 non intuitive things to become more financially literate, my number one tip would be to stay calm. Finance can aggravate people because it is such an unpredictable industry. Some aspects are predictable, but many unplanned events occur leading to stress. Second, I would stress the importance of engagement. Questions are key to understanding finance. Curiosity is also extremely important because this leads to questions. Fourth, I would say have an interest in how money flows in everyday life. Lastly, be willing to learn, especially when the subject is dry. Some financial topics are not very fun to learn about but are necessary when it comes to understanding the industry.

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?

From a young age my father taught me the importance of hard work and tenacity. Practicing these two qualities will make for a successful life. When I was younger, I would observe how my Father ran his business. He would work hard to push past the difficult moments and stick to his morals which, in the end, produced success.

Can you please give us your favorite ”Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I adopted a quote by Amelia Earhart that I resonate with. She said, “the most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity”. I also can relate that to the saying, “you have to jump to learn how to swim”. You cannot start anything from a position of fear so you must make the jump first!

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.

If I developed a movement to help the greatest amount of people it would be based around a curriculum. The curriculum would primarily assist high school students in understanding the basics of financial literacy, but also educate anyone in need of a basic understanding. The end goal would be for the people to understand the basics of finance upon graduation. I would achieve this goal by preaching the importance of personal finance, budgeting, and avoiding bad financial habits that eventually lead to a pitfall.

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