From Client Meetings to Capitol Hill: How One Fearless Fiduciary Built Her Fee-Only Firm From the Ground Up While Fighting For What’s Right

With degrees in English and Creative Writing, and a successful career as a corporate trainer, Peggy never expected to one day enter the world of finance. All that changed when her mother, then recently retired, had her finances derailed working with a cavalier broker.  “After my mother retired, her broker put all of her retirement savings in high-tech during the first dot-com bubble,” Peggy explains “At the time, the broker believed it to be a good move, considering high growth in that sector. However, it wasn’t long before my mom started losing money–a lot of money. My mom’s finances were getting decimated, and all I could do was watch. Her broker wouldn’t even return my calls.”
With a career in teaching, Peggy had little quantitative experience but knew she had to do something. “My mom had lost between 40-50% of her retirement savings and I just got mad, really mad. I started seeking out as much knowledge as I could. I read book after book on investment, and soon realized that it didn’t have to be this way for my mother.”
Although Peggy hadn’t previously had a passion for finance, seeing her mother’s struggle with a careless, hands-off broker had ignited a fire in her. “I wanted to do something about this. I had never considered going into finance until my mom told me, ‘I want you to manage my accounts.’ I did a short internship at another firm and ultimately decided to make the plunge and start my own firm immediately.”
With her mother as her only client, Peggy opened DM Wealth in 2003 as a fee-only registered investment advisor and dropped an ad in the local newspaper. Two years later she received her CFP® designation. “I started my firm the most difficult way possible, fee-only and building my client base from the ground up. It was painful, but I had the drive to do it. My mother had trusted her broker to act in her best interest, and he hadn’t. I believed in my heart scenarios like that should never happen. I knew from then on that I would be a true fiduciary.”
“A lot of advisors don’t want to work hard, they just want to put clients on a basic plan. But I wanted my firm to be different. I wanted to work with clients who were very interested in understanding their money, and who felt a traditional brokerage didn’t provide that transparency.” Over the next 18 years, Peggy steadily grew DM Wealth, and often found that potential clients reached out to her in search of a true fiduciary.
Peggy emphasizes that awareness of and demand for fee-only and fiduciary financial services continues to increase. “Potential clients will now call and ask ‘Are you a fiduciary?’ Many years ago, consumers didn’t ask those types of questions.” This change is no accident: Peggy dedicates a large portion of her time to advocating for the fiduciary standard. Peggy is a die-hard supporter of financial protection and believes all consumers have the right to understand what’s happening with their finances. She advocates for financial protection for consumers by regularly going to Capitol Hill to lobby for it. Beyond this, Peggy taught Master’s and certification programs for aspiring advisors for over 15 years, always emphasizing the importance of upholding a fiduciary standard for tomorrow’s generation of advisors. More recently, Peggy set out to publish her second personal finance book, this one focused on helping women become more fearless financial leaders: 52 Weeks to Well-Being–What a Woman Needs To Know To Become Queen of Her Finances
Beyond total transparency, Peggy believes what makes her client experience unique is her ability to connect with clients beyond the numbers, helping them stick to their financial plan. “With my clients, I make the process make enough sense so they know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. This helps them stick with it in the long-run.” Peggy has also simplified her reporting processes to be in-line with what clients want, value, and can easily digest. “Clients do not want a 75-page financial plan. They’re really only interested in a handful of things. Clients aren’t looking to be dazzled, they just want to know what the answer is, how to get on track, and how to stay on track.”
Peggy has found excellent synergy working with Bridge, leveraging Atlas’ reporting platform. Peggy emphasized, “I don’t look for a reporting software that focuses only on returns. What I like about Bridge is that I can double check that my assumptions and plans are right. It’s not about proving to clients ‘I beat the market this quarter,’ but rather helping guide them along their plan and keeping me accountable to the plan as much as them .” She added “If you live by returns, you’re going to die by returns. Instead, if you’re using technology as a planning tool to make sure overall allocation is where it needs to be, and tying performance back to plan-driven needs, you’ll have more successful client conversations and better client outcomes.”
Peggy says “There are two types of people in finance. Those that are only in it for money, and the others that make money doing it, but they’re more like social workers. I believe all advisors should be held to a fiduciary standard and do right by their clients, 100% of the time.”