Early in her career, Lori Price envisioned climbing to the top of the big corporate ladder.
That aspiration changed, however, as Price realized that making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals would be much more rewarding.
Price is the founder and president of Price Financial Group, a Wilton-based financial planning and wealth management firm with a specialty in divorce, retirement and other life transitions.
Price described her career “aha” moment after discovering a book for financial planners about divorce situations. Price realized, “These are the people who really need my help.”
“The light bulb went off and I said, wow this is an area where I could really make a difference in people’s lives. There’s a lot of intrinsic reward to that,” Price said. “I wasn’t getting that when I worked in corporate. I was working with seven zeroes or more. It didn’t give you any pleasure. I could save a company a million dollars but that didn’t do anything for me. I really love what I do [now].”
After spending a few years learning the business at a major financial planning firm, Price started Price Financial in 1990. She recounted many examples of longstanding relationships since then with clients, civic and retirement groups, attorneys and other professionals.
Those relationships clearly bring her pride, along with the culture and atmosphere she has worked to create in the company. “By design I kept Price Financial an all-women firm. Woman-owned, women managed. It’s the right sensibility, the right culture.”
A Caring Culture
Because she believes the culture is so important, Price has been very selective when it comes to hiring.
She has made two strategic hires: Emily Boothroyd, who has a law degree in addition to being a CFP (certified financial planner) and CPWA (certified private wealth advisor), and Hollis Hardiman, CDFA (certified divorce financial analyst).
Both women have personal stories that bring important perspective to their work.
Hardiman, who works primarily in divorce cases, recalls her own parents’ divorce in the 1980s. “It was extremely challenging financially. They did everything wrong,” she said, which she attributes to the lack of information and resources available at the time.
“My mother never really recovered financially. I decided I wanted to help women become more educated, because I decided at a young age I never wanted to ask anyone for money.”
In her career, Hardiman sought out Price, who she knew had hosted workshops for women contemplating divorce, something she knew would have been invaluable to her mother. Hardiman now conducts similar workshops, often in conjunction with a divorce attorney or family therapist, so that someone considering divorce can begin to plan for the financial, legal and personal/emotional impacts.
Boothroyd’s family history also had an impact on her career path. Her parents experienced bankruptcy, which she says dramatically changed their lives. After her parents divorced, her mother, like Hardiman’s, struggled to manage financially. “I learned at a young age how important it is to be financially empowered,” said Boothroyd.
At the end of her financial planning certification, it dawned on Boothroyd, “This is not that complicated. Why does everyone in the industry make it so complicated? Why is the industry so mysterious?” And while she didn’t set out with the goal of empowering women, she was frustrated by the fact that women are often left out of the financial planning process.
Not Just “A Female Thing”
Price says that while 60% of the firm’s clients are single, divorced or widowed women, the remainder are couples or men.
Boothroyd noted that the company’s personal, caring, supportive approach that has proven so effective in helping divorced or widowed women is just as effective with men, too.
“With our strategy and the way we communicate with our clients and the relationships we develop, the men like it too, they like getting to be known for who they are as well. It’s not necessarily a female thing only.” Boothroyd believes the industry, in general, tends to miss the opportunity to really understand who their clients are, whether male or female.
Boothroyd says she was attracted to Price’s interest in creating a very personal experience for clients. “We are not the shop you want to go to if you want a cookie-cutter plan. Our clients want to be known, they want us to know their families, they want us to know what’s going on in their lives, so that we can contextualize their plan and give them real advice.”
Price says she wants the client relationship to be one where “hugs, not handshakes” are commonplace. The phrase has become a motto she often uses.
Desire To Educate
At the core of Price Financial is a desire to educate.
Price said, “I want to help people to understand what they have, to educate them, and to show them how not to run out of money” among other important lessons, from how to read an investment account statement to understanding a tax return.
Price has been a speaker at countless conferences and seminars. Her latest plans include a monthly “lunch bunch” meeting, open to the public, in which she will introduce a topic and open the floor to questions. “Where do women get the chance to do that? Many women can’t get a financial question answered,” Price said.
“It bothers me they don’t teach personal finance in high school, even college level, somewhere it should be a mandatory thing, to understand the basics,” Price said. (Years ago, Price was a guest speaker in such a class at Wilton High School; she recalls legendary soccer player Kristine Lilly was a student in the class.)
Evolving Brand Identity
Like many companies, Price Financial faced the challenge of maintaining close client relationships while also continuing to grow the business.
The company is now in the process of merging with Merit Financial Group. Price says the move was desirable to achieve the benefits of a larger company, with resources available for compliance, training, marketing, HR and other services.
The Price Financial name will eventually change to Merit, but the group will continue to operate as they have been. Boothroyd and Hardiman are now partners with Price in the new firm.
Apart from the name on the letterhead, Price emphasized, the service will not change. “This will not change our [client] relationships whatsoever. As far as our clients go, this is purely a name change, a branding,” she said.
Price says the fit between Merit and Price Financial is a good one. In fact, 60% of the employees, the president and many senior people at Merit are women.
Boothroyd also talked about the common value of empowering women between the merging firms. “It’s important to live it in how you practice with your clients but also live it in how you practice with your colleagues, and it’s been really exciting to watch Price and Merit both embody that,” she said.
Committed to Wilton
Price Financial will keep its Wilton office location. The group is now located at 15 River Road.
Price was a Wilton resident for 23 years and raised her two children here. She now divides her time between Westport and Florida. Both Hardiman and Boothroyd have attempted to move to Wilton, but have yet to be successful in light of recent bidding wars and lack of inventory. The firm also employs two Wilton residents in administrative roles.
“The community is so unique and so special. The organizations and businesses that we have worked with have that sincerity. Everyone wants to support each other,” said Boothroyd.
Hardiman added that the company makes a conscious effort to support Wilton businesses, when choosing gifts for clients, hosting events or hiring various vendors. “We are doing business in the town and want to make sure we are supporting the local community as much as we can,” she said.