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“Women need to own their own development; We can’t wait for a boss to define our path to success” With Jason Hartman & Peggy Ruhlin

Women need to own their own development. We’re all hugely disappointed if we wait for a boss to define our path to success. I encourage women to identify the next level in their career and the gaps they feel are preventing them from getting there. Do you need coursework to become current in an analytical […]

Women need to own their own development. We’re all hugely disappointed if we wait for a boss to define our path to success. I encourage women to identify the next level in their career and the gaps they feel are preventing them from getting there. Do you need coursework to become current in an analytical trend or program? Do you need access to certain meetings or client interactions to understand how to develop relational skills? Is there an industry association that offers continuing education on a specific subject with which you’re less familiar? Actively fill the gaps in your experience.


Ihad the pleasure to interview Peggy Ruhlin. Peggy is the Chair of the Board of Directors at Budros, Ruhlin & Roe, Inc. She has been recognized as one of America’s most distinguished women in wealth management: recipient of the 2017 Alexandra Armstrong Award for lifetime achievement, named one of the “20 Most Influential Women to Watch in 2016” by InvestmentNews, one of the Top 25 Women RIAs in 2016 by WealthManagement.com, and as one of the Financial Times Top 100 Women Advisers in 2014. Smart Business News selected her as one of the inaugural Columbus Smart 50 CEOs in 2014. She is a Certified Public Accountant with a Personal Financial Specialist accreditation, and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certificant. Under Peggy’s leadership, Budros, Ruhlin & Roe won the 2011 Schwab IMPACT Awards® Best in Business award. She was elected to a four-year term on the Board of Directors of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. in 2015, and finished a three-year term on the Schwab Advisor Services Advisory Board in 2016. Previously, she served as vice-chair, trustee (2001–2014), and chair of the Investment Committee of Otterbein University, and for eight years as a trustee of the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Financial Planning. Peggy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Otterbein, and, in 2009, received its Alumni Association’s Special Achievement Award. In 2006, she was initiated into the Carroll High School (Dayton, OH) Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame, and, that same year, was inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges’ Hall of Excellence, in recognition of her career and lifetime achievements. Peggy was consistently named one of the “Best Financial Advisers” in the U.S. by Worth magazine and appeared on the cover of Barron’s featuring America’s top financial planners. She was Financial Planning magazine readers’ choice as one of the “Movers & Shakers” who have contributed the most to the profession and are effectively shaping its future.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Peggy! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

When I started my accounting career, there weren’t many female leaders in the industry to emulate, but my passion was helping clients grow their small businesses so they could pay off their business loans, buy a house, and start a retirement plan. When I discovered the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, I remember thinking, “Where has this been all my life?” I felt that accounting was all about the past, reporting what had already happened on financial statements and tax returns, while financial planning is centered on planning and preparing for the future. I was energized about taking my career from a reactionary to proactive approach in helping people. I sold my accounting firm and became a full-time wealth manager in 1987.

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?

Many wouldn’t remember that there were two, separate professional groups representing financial planners back in the 1980s and 90s. The Institute of Certified Financial Planners (ICFP) and the International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP) were functioning with duplicative missions and objectives, and competing for the same dollars from members, as well as conference attendees and exhibitors. There had been an effort in the early 90s to merge the two organizations, but that fell apart at the eleventh hour. When I became President of the IAFP in 1997, I made it my goal to bring the two associations together into one powerful organization.

I wrote an article for Financial Planning magazine titled, “If I Ruled the World,” and shared that, for the public to view financial planning as a legitimate profession, there needed to be a single voice speaking for all financial planners. This spark ignited discussions between the two organizations. Judy Lau, who was President of the ICFP and a good friend, and I led our organizations to adopt a joint resolution to “go out of business” to make way for the birth of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) in 2000. This was a massive undertaking on top of building my firm, and in looking back, it’s definitely a time in my career of which I’m most proud. It took vision, diplomacy, collaboration and an ability to laugh through it all to get this done. And it was two strong, optimistic, confident women who got it done!

The lesson for me was that there are some incredible leaders in this industry who are receptive to change. If we take the time to identify issues, share solutions and work together to improve, we can make a difference.

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

I am in the process of authoring my first book! After being urged for years by colleagues and friends to publish a book, I finally agreed. Financial services companies are desperate to hire and retain women and there’s never been a better time for females to be in this industry. My book will be a mix of a memoir and tips on how-to-succeed in this industry, because it’s my heart to inspire women to do great work and lead with confidence. Stay tuned for more on the release!

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

While many firms in the industry have models of individual wealth managers overseeing client portfolios and investment decisions, our firm truly takes a collaborative, team approach instead. Our clients do not “belong” to one of our owners or principals; they belong to our firm. Whoever in the firm is most capable or best suited to advise a client on a particular issue will be the one to do that. The wealth management team members, the investment committee and executive leadership review decisions and processes for all clients’ best interest. This brings incredible relationship depth and great trust. Because of this approach and our involving both spouses in planning and review as common practice, we are celebrating our first third-generation client this month. I believe that our teams of associates helping families through every life stage for over 40 years is what has made Budros, Ruhlin & Roe the leading wealth management firm in Columbus.

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?

When I started in my career, there had only been one female president in the history of the IAFP. Fourteen years later, I became the second. I had to prove that I was smarter and had to work harder than most because there were so few in the industry. However, I have been incredibly fortunate to work alongside encouraging men in this profession, like my partner Jim Budros, who believed in me and in female professionals overall. Close to half of our company is made up of female associates and wealth managers thanks to a long-standing commitment to diversity.

I think much of the transition of women in financial positions can be traced back to the classroom. Kids were often ‘steered’ to very stereotypical roles and college majors based on their gender. The youth of today are now encouraged to pursue whatever path excites them. We are seeing more women in historically male fields like law and medicine, although I’m not certain that finance is keeping pace in luring women and diverse populations to the industry.

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?

Society isn’t at a loss for qualified women in business today. Women earn a majority of college degrees and more are in the workforce than ever before. I’d like to see fundamental changes in mentorship and career path planning among individuals and companies alike.

Women need to own their own development. We’re all hugely disappointed if we wait for a boss to define our path to success. I encourage women to identify the next level in their career and the gaps they feel are preventing them from getting there. Do you need coursework to become current in an analytical trend or program? Do you need access to certain meetings or client interactions to understand how to develop relational skills? Is there an industry association that offers continuing education on a specific subject with which you’re less familiar? Actively fill the gaps in your experience.

Employers need to identify mentors and the career paths available. Small companies can pay for membership in financial associations (like the FPA!) to provide access to mentors outside the organization and ask the associate to report back on mentor meetings and counsel to ensure personal growth. Companies of all sizes can provide positions on committees to develop leaders and encourage input on organizational issues. There are ways to involve more associates for hands-on learning as leaders than simply elevating the title. If you can’t identify career paths for diverse groups, then you’ll likely have an employee retention problem.

And society can continue to demand that those who serve clients look like those clients! When you go to the website of a financial services firm and all of the advisors are middle-aged white males and all of the “assistants” are young women, close the page and look elsewhere.

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?

Many of us grew up in homes where mom and dad barely talked to each other about family finances, so it’s idyllic to think that parents have also had these conversations with the kids. It’s no wonder why talking about finances in general is so uncomfortable for most people and so few are financially literate.

I’d like to flip this thinking to make discussing finances so common among families that everyone has great confidence about how they’re handling their money and they look to advisors to take them to the next level.

First, I’d like to see mandatory high school curriculum for graduation relating to personal finance. This is the perfect time to introduce checking, savings, credit and living within your means. Some schools offer this as a semester elective now, but it needs to be a requirement for all graduating seniors.

Second, I’d like to see a personal finance curriculum requirement for college students that educates on the concepts of budgeting, taxes, employer benefits like HSA and 401k, credit scores and savings. If college grads can learn the discipline of not spending everything they earn and grasp the importance of saving for emergencies and their future, they’ll be well-positioned to live the life they dream of upon graduation.

Third, I’d like to see employer education increase for new hires around retirement planning and not leaving money on the table by not contributing to a 401k or 403b. The statistics show that typically only half of American workers participate in a retirement plan at work and not all take advantage of the employer match offered. Plan providers should strive for 100% employee participation and a full understanding of the time value of money.

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.

  1. Get a good job and make money. The job’s salary isn’t everything — know the value of employee benefits, like health insurance and retirement plan contributions.
  2. Don’t leave free money on the table. If your employer offers a 401k, or company-sponsored retirement plan, engage in this benefit and make sure you are contributing the maximum amount for an employer match. It’s like getting free money for your retirement.
  3. Don’t spend all the money you make. Make a spending plan (aka: a budget) for “Needs” (housing, transportation, food), “Wants” (vacations and entertainment), and “Savings” (for long and short-term goals). It’s OK to spend 80% to 85% of what you make on “Needs” and “Wants” but you need to save to have an emergency fund, and for that car or condo down payment. And you absolutely cannot put off saving for retirement (aka: financial independence).
  4. Invest the money you don’t spend wisely. Achieving financial success is simple (see above). But it’s not easy — if it were, everyone would be financially secure. We’re living in the Google-age of information and instruction at our fingertips in seconds. Some may be tempted to DIY your investing like you’d do home projects or repairs. However, this approach cannot compare to the impact that a financial advisor can have in helping you navigate all of life’s challenges and financial implications along the way. Know your spending and situation and then seek wise counsel on investment strategies as you prepare for living a full, long life with purpose and confidence.
  5. Try not to do anything stupid. Believe me, this is easier said than done. You don’t need to spend $250 on a pet ferret. You shouldn’t “invest” your retirement plan funds in a money market account. And the stupidest thing you can probably do is pile up a bunch of credit card debt.

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?

I wouldn’t be where I am today without Jim Budros. I think it took a great deal of courage (as well as wisdom!) for him to choose me to be his partner in building this business. So many partnerships don’t make it. It’s very unusual to see male-female equal partnerships in the wealth management industry, but ours has thrived for 32 years.

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

One of my personal favorite quotes is: An objection is not a rejection; it is simply a request for more information. — Bo Bennett

I’m wired to refuse to be told no. I’m proud of this wiring because it’s driven me to see endless opportunities and basically no boundaries. If something is the right thing, I’ll fight to the end for it. I just figure if someone doesn’t agree, they don’t have enough information to understand fully. I hope that people are relentless in their pursuit of doing what they believe to be right.

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. 🙂

The “If I Ruled the World” article I wrote in 1997 articulated my dream — that when every U.S. taxpayer filed their tax return each year, they would also have to file their financial plan: to prove that they had a plan for how to spend their money, how to save money, how to get out of debt, and how to achieve financial independence and pay their own way for the rest of their lives. Financial literacy rates would skyrocket, the American economy would flourish, and people would be so much happier. Don’t tell me it can’t happen (someday).

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