Do your own research. Look at assets or possible investments when no one else is looking at them. Buck the trend. Buy a winter spot rental real estate in the summer months. Sell when everyone is buying etc. Work backwards. Have a longer outlook then the next 6 months. Even I had to train myself to look further down the road because those years come fast and you have to have planned for client’s funds for now, years ago. Walk through a current economic condition, i.e. pandemic, natural disaster and in your mind create the steps that will have to happen after the first quarter and then the first year and then 2 years down the road. After a fire, you have to build again, buy lumber and materials to build — Buy more insurance, etc.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Page Khalajestani.
Page Khalajestani is the Founder of Pakha Investment Advisory with over 29 years of experience in the financial services industry as an Institutional Trader and Senior Investment Adviser. She is personally involved with all aspects of financial planning and wealth design for those who have accumulated assets and want to protect their financial security. She also works closely with small companies in the design and investment of their qualified corporate benefit pension plans.
She enjoys working together with families to bring them peace of mind as they transition into retirement by implementing strategies that strive to preserve their wealth while providing supplemental income to their Social Security and pension plans.
Page grew up in Southern California and started her career as a Trading Assistant at Drexel Burnham Lambert, Kidder Peabody and Merrill Lynch before moving to the East Coast. While in New York City for 7 years she enjoyed great success and gained considerable experience as an Institutional International Equities Trader and NASDAQ Market Maker. After 9/11 she moved to Miami and for the next 7 years worked closely with more than 120 of the top investment companies such as Templeton, Mutual Series, Fidelity, Trimark, TIAA Cref, Oppenheimer Funds and many more.
After spending 2008 in Rome, Italy trading oil in the Spot and Forward markets, she moved back home to California to be closer to family in Redlands, where they have been residents with close community ties for over 3 decades. She is also an accomplished painter and golfer, indulging in both for the past 4 years in her new home-town of Palm Springs, CA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
My first job was on the Beverly Hills X shape trading desk with Warren Trepp and Mike Milken. After that I never wanted to do anything else. Money makes the world go around. Sometimes we think its politics, but politics is moved by the money. Also, in those days, you could yell and scream and be a diva on a trading desk and no one got fired or sent to HR, so I thought that was perfect for me. I didn’t realize what a good instinctive institutional technical trader I would be and how fast and easy numbers and stats came into my memory. As an institutional trader I moved numbers with many more zeros then but never got to see the end client, only the traders on the buy side of equally large institutions but today but I get more satisfaction being able to talk to my end client and see the effect I have on their life and family.
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?
Well there are many lessons you learn on Wall St. that can propel you forward or drive you crazy, especially big trading desks with all men and much pressure but one of the most poignant memories are how I maneuvered through the stepping stones and broke the glass ceiling on the Sell side of institutional trading. When I first got to NYC, I had already worked for three top Sell Side firms on their trading desk, in LA, Drexel, Kidder and Merrill but NYC was a different animal. There, once I chose the International Institutional route, via top three Nordic firms, I had to move 3 times before I became a partner in the firm and could affect how the client was handled. Prior to that I just had to be a good trader and communicator but after that, I had to think of the client and how I could prevent American Buy Side firms to not get taken advantage of by local Euro traders. Their markets are not as transparent as US markets, so it became routine for them to take spreads against clients here and I had to stop that. That is what a FIDUCIARY is, and I put that responsibility on myself without it being required or the word du jour of the decade! it was a built in Ethical standard I must have inherited from my father.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, the most interesting thing I am working on now is getting small businesses and individual contractors and side hustlers to know that any time they have work they are getting paid for, they can form a company. An LLC or a Corp give much greater liability protection and tax savings opportunities. There misconception has been that entity set ups are for millionaires and large public corporations, but that is not true. The IRS code is for very individual and as long as you have a business purpose, you can have a company. Once you have an entity, IT can have employees, pension plans, etc… These can save a person making 250K plus to have a much greater tax liability and better charge order protection and each of these benefits, means more money in your pocket to spend on marketing and growing your side hustle, small business, etc. or save for retirement.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Well as a smaller firm, relative to the big Wall St. firms, we can be much more flexible and offer a variety of services that is all inclusive of a complete financial plan then a firm that has to jump through mgmt. hoops and set up systems for all. So we offer, not only our bread and butter, which is superior investment services, but also estate planning, budget planning, small business entity set up and creation of open platform pension plans and tax strategies that save clients 10’s of 100’s of thousands in hard earned dollars. One of our clients used to run a medical office with 4 heart surgeons for 40 yrs. when she came to us, she was pulling out her hair and her skin was flaking off. 7 years later, her side business of medical coding has employees who take on routine contract work from the same office she used to run. She gets paid for consulting with her old employer, but she is not bound by the office politics and rigid schedule. We reallocated her retirement assets to safe products, so she has ease of mind about that and she is basically semi — retired with her fully retired sheriff husband and enjoying life much more and her hair and skin are glowing! I love to see these changes that effectively have come about because I guided her from an unhappy place to a much better place, financially but also physically and emotionally. I essentially help improve your living standard.
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?
Well, I like to think some women like me had something to do with that, but I paid the price. I recently received a message from a Head Trader at a very large buyside firm who found me on Social Media and she reminded me that when she was just a trading assistant, I had her dog sit for me at my apt in NYC. All those trading and research assistants have now moved on to head of research and trading positions. Many of them saw the trail blazers and realized they too could do it. Of course, we are also in a much more politically correct society and I think smart money men realized, women were better at communicating with clients without being condescending. At least that is what my old bosses tell me. That is where they saw a value in me. So that combined with the fact that I was a natural when it came to numbers and finance is what allowed me to take my opportunities farther than any other woman had ever done on Wall St.
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?
I am glad to hear those numbers which are much higher than when I got there but I think women are hindered by the idea that they have to do it all. Job, family, children, etc. I like to think as women we take ownership for our progress and/ or lack thereof. One thing I never did is blame others for my lack of success, when I felt I had been cheated. I just pivoted and moved forward. It would be nice if we could push more companies to look at women in those roles, but I think as women we just have to go out there and create those opps ourselves. We have to show up harder than the rest because we ARE at a disadvantage. Like all regimes, it will take some time to change but we are on our way. Personally, children and getting married was never a priority for me and so I applaud the women who can and every DO, do it all but there is a price to pay for everything hard, so I think we can just choose our paths and stick with it.
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?
I think it all starts with Education. When I was in high school, we had Home Ec. We should have Finance 101 classes along with home economics where I learned how to boil and egg or iron. I think we should have a financial ed class starting as early as in Middle school. I also think there should be more financial technical schools. Traditional College Business courses don’t tell you everything. I have had conversations with friends from top schools with business degrees and I realize 2 min into our talk just how much knowledge of basic finance for every day is missing. I think this is where big Wall St. Institutions and Traditional Banks can start in local communities and hold educational events about basic budgeting, mortgages, investing, Real Estate, etc…
(Choose) You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
Well I don’t have children, but I feel like I have had many as in the past thirty years in the Financial markets in one capacity or another I have coached many friends and colleagues toward better investment and financial decisions. The few points I have is to 1. Look around and see what brands you and your close circle are spending money on, then invest in those company stocks for the long term. I.e. Home Depot, we all go there, Amazon, we all order from there, Cell Phones, we are all using them. Starbucks, we are all paying 4 dollars for a cup of coffee. 2. Do your own research. Look at assets or possible investments when no one else is looking at them. Buck the trend. Buy a winter spot rental real estate in the summer months. Sell when everyone is buying etc. Work backwards. 3. Have a longer outlook then the next 6 months. Even I had to train myself to look further down the road because those years come fast and you have to have planned for client’s funds for now, years ago. Walk through a current economic condition, i.e. pandemic, natural disaster and in your mind create the steps that will have to happen after the first quarter and then the first year and then 2 years down the road. After a fire, you have to build again, buy lumber and materials to build — Buy more insurance, etc… 4. Choose a good team around you. Hire a professional advisor to help you navigate. You are maybe good at what you do, i.e. being a doctor but you are not then required to be good at finance. Stick to what you know and hire the pros that know what they are doing in the areas YOU are not the expert.
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 First Nordic firm boss is still by best friend and one of my greatest champions. He is tough when I need it and gives guidance easily. I have learned to also listen when he speaks because the ones with the knowledge don’t have to repeat themselves. It’s your job to listen and extract the information from them. He hired me as a trader on an institutional desk and let me communicate with all clients. In the first year, all big major clients of the firm wanted to talk to me and not the two Senior Male traders. I was easier to talk to and didn’t blow smoke. I was fast, courteous and precise. When I left that firm and went to the 2nd largest Nordic bank, I went from being a small fish in the big pond, to being the big fish in a smaller pond. I upped my guaranteed annual salary by 5 folds and never looked back. I am forever grateful for the trust he had in me talking to some of the toughest and most sought-after clients to ALL of Wall St.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED — We create the monsters in our lives. Although it’s good to give back, you should also never give so much that it is then expected of you. When my father passed away in 1997 of a single heart attack, I was just beginning to get my big rise on Wall St. my younger brother was 16 at the time so I felt it was my duty to not only take care of my mother but also of him. After much support to put him through USC, by 2005 he expected things that were totally out of line. I had created a bit of a monster. He eventually put himself through law school and is now a working attorney, but I had to pull the rug out from under him first. He still does realize to this day that it was my tough love when I did pull that rug that made him go after things harder. He will one day but I will never spoil anyone like that ever again. Another good quote from clients who have children is “Give your kids enough to do something but not so much that they do nothing”. Inherited wealth is the biggest reason for much wasted talent. Another fav quote I use often is “every problem, has a solution”. I often get clients trying to put a scenario forward that seems impossible, because they are looking at every negative thing and I always remind them, that when those issues arrive, we would have either already accounted for them or we will find the solution at that time… because every problem has a solution!
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. 🙂
Well I have a few ideas, but I think some are too radical to see in our lifetime but first I think we need a third political party. Socially Liberal but Fiscally Conservative. I have many people I know who support may liberal social causes but don’t think big gov’t and higher taxes are the way to go about it. WE need a new party. 2nd I think we need to end some of the more recent movements. Any victimization movements inherently weaken the actual cause. To get out of a victim space, you must move out of the victim mentality. As long as you sit and think about how you were victimized, you will remain in that space and therefore be held back. I am a golfer and we have a great saying in golf, “the best golfers have the shortest memory”. You shouldn’t forget any wrongs done against you or your people, but you shouldn’t dwell in it for too long or you get addicted to that mentality and it will be much harder to abandon.