Late-career intern discovers passion for financial planning


After being out of the workforce for 26 years, Karen Simons used a six-month internship to help launch her career. She shares how she channels her perspective and experiences in other industries to serve clients.

Key Points

  • When Karen Simons re-entered the workforce at age 59 through a financial planning internship, she thought she was starting at square one. Instead, Karen discovered that the skills she'd developed as a corporate consultant and single mother could serve her well in the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) field.

When Karen Simons re-entered the workforce at age 59 through a financial planning internship, she thought she was starting at square one. Instead, Karen discovered that the skills she'd developed as a corporate consultant and single mother could serve her well in the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) field.

Through the Financial Planner Reentry Initiative (FPRI), a "re-internship" pilot program designed to help professionals resume their careers, Karen learned the ins and outs of providing financial planning advice. Each week brought new lessons and more responsibilities. And it paid off. After her six-month internship at RIA firm Yeske Buie, she was offered a full-time apprentice financial planner position, and she is already pursuing her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification.

In the second act of her professional career, Karen is excited to bring her diverse life experiences to the Yeske Buie team—and her future clients.

10-second bio | Karen Simons

Title: Financial Planning Apprentice

Firm: Yeske Buie in Vienna, Virginia

Program: Financial Planner Reentry Initiative (FPRI), offered through CFP Board and iRelaunch organization and co-piloted by Schwab Advisor Services™

Professional background: Management consulting, engineering, and operations

Keys to success as a newcomer: Analytical skills, a client-centric mindset, and an ability to see the big picture

Q&A with Karen Simons

After more than 20 years away from the professional world, why did you decide to come back?

I always knew I would go back to work full-time. But I never thought I would have an opportunity to explore an entirely new career. I just wasn't sure how to re-engage or, for that matter, what area to focus on. With an engineering degree and an MBA in finance and strategic planning, I always believed I should return to familiar territory.

I went through a period of rediscovery that included assessing my strengths, professional goals, and desires. During that time, I responded to an advertisement in the iRelaunch newsletter for this return-to-work internship in financial planning. It occurred to me that I could apply my real-life experiences, seasoned professional perspective, and client relationship skills in the financial planning world.

You have an array of experiences. What prepared you best for life as a financial planner?

As a divorced single mother of three children, I learned firsthand to appreciate the value of planning for the future. I sought guidance, developed a plan, and ultimately navigated my own personal financial world successfully.

I also believed my personal experiences and my work in consulting, mentoring, engineering, and operations would be valuable at Yeske Buie. Having an analytical mind and problem-solving skills, in addition to a client-centric orientation and an ability to see the big picture, seemed like a great fit with financial planning.

What was it like to come back to work?

My entry into Yeske Buie as a re-intern felt natural. I was looking for a dynamic, team-oriented environment where I could contribute while I also learned new skills and enhanced my existing capabilities. At Yeske Buie, they love what they do and approach the profession with an energized passion that's contagious. I felt an immediate connection. My corporate consulting background was both relevant and easily transferable to working with financial clients on a more personal level.

When it comes to your new career, what are you most excited about?

I'm excited to have the opportunity to grow professionally and learn as much as I can about all aspects of financial planning—including client engagement, risk management, goal setting, and reassessment to adjust to clients' changing needs and goals. At Yeske Buie, I've been able to view the financial planning world through a new lens. And this re-entry initiative has given me a very special opportunity to start a new profession.

Discovering new value in seasoned talent

Consider Yeske Buie's mantra, "Live Big®." By that measure, the firm has found its ideal employee in Karen Simons. Yeske Buie is known for educating and training the next generation of financial advisors, as well as giving back to the community. So it was fitting when the firm volunteered to co-pilot the FPRI.

Like all firms, Yeske Buie was looking for top talent—those with a coveted mix of vision, smarts, and relationship intangibles. But it was also interested in advocating for careers in the profession—to building it up and introducing new and valuable perspectives.

The experience is a great reminder that the right talent can be found in unexpected places. "Yes, it's important to continue to bring new college graduates into your firms and to help build the next generation of advisors," says the firm's CEO, Elissa Buie. "But don't overlook the value that comes from hiring someone who is returning to the workforce. The benefit of their experience and expertise can prove to be invaluable."

Commitment to talent management

As part of our commitment to help advisors attract, develop, and retain talent within their firms, Schwab participated in the FPRI pilot in 2017–2018. The CFP Board Center for Financial Planning and career re-entry firm iRelaunch created the FPRI to connect firms in the financial planning sector with experienced professionals seeking to re-enter the workforce after a career break.

Sponsored by Schwab Advisor Services through the Charles Schwab Foundation, the re-internship opportunity was offered to two RIA firms known for their progressive cultures, passion for diversity, and commitment to developing talent at all experience levels: Yeske Buie and Luma Wealth Advisors.

While other firms in the pilot were larger, Schwab worked closely with Yeske Buie and Luma Wealth to ensure that the concerns of smaller RIA firms were factored into the pilot's learnings and best practices.

Leslie Tabor, managing director of a Schwab team focused on supporting advisors with talent management, noted, "I am proud that we were able to participate. It aligns with Schwab's focus on helping advisors address today's workforce shortage by providing our clients with another potential source of talent."

Learn more about the Financial Planner Reentry Initiative, and explore how Schwab's talent management program and resources can help you enhance your recruiting, hiring, and talent development efforts.

If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, consider a custodian that invests in your success. Contact us to learn more about the benefits of a custodial relationship with Schwab.

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