Introduction: There is nothing more inspirational or powerful than watching a woman transform her life to create new opportunities and possibilities for herself. As we approach July 4 and the celebration of our nation’s Independence, join with us in celebrating some of these women as they share their stories – in their own words – of how they transformed their lives and put themselves on the path to greater financial freedom and independence.
Meet Valerie Mawdsley, Founder of Smart Money Management-VA, in Falls Church, Virginia. The firm provides daily money management services to individuals, primarily seniors, to help them manage their personal finances and achieve greater financial peace of mind.
You’ve gone through several career transitions. Tell us about them. I started out as an administrative assistant and financial management specialist in the U.S. Foreign Service with the Department of State, spending 27 years in total in Washington D.C. and overseas posts in Italy, Mauritius, Uganda, Tanzania, Mexico, Kenya and Cyprus. Along the way, I got married and had two boys, who are now in their early thirties. My husband and I actually met in Tanzania, where we were both involved in a local sailing club.
What made you leave the Foreign Service? I loved the Foreign Service and would have stayed forever. My dream was to travel and experience different cultures, and for many years I was able to do that. Unfortunately, for my last two assignments I had to go overseas alone and leave my husband and children in the States. My sons were in high school at the time and it just wasn’t the right time to disrupt them again to start over at another new school in another new country. So while I loved the foreign travel, and was awarded increasingly responsible assignments, I chose to be with my family and retired from the Foreign Service in my early fifties.
What then? How did you transition to Career #2 as a corporate exec? While at the State Department, I developed expertise in the credit card programs used by the federal government, and when I left the Foreign Service, I was able to transfer that experience to the private-sector, managing similar programs for major banks and financial institutions. I returned to live in the Washington D.C. area with my family, although I occasionally traveled within the U.S. to meet with federal government clients. I felt I understood their needs pretty well, as I had been a federal employee myself for almost thirty years. I enjoyed having the opportunity to work in the private sector. It was nice to have the flexibility to work at home some days, and I was able to transfer my existing skill set to the new job without much additional training.
So what prompted the shift to Career #3 as a Daily Money Manager? After 35 years in the full-time workforce, and putting in long hours in an intense corporate position, I was starting to burn out without enough time for family or my personal life. One of my three sisters just happened to suggest that with my financial and organizational skills, I had the profile of a good Daily Money Manager. I researched what they did, and called a few people currently in the profession to learn more. Then I joined the American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM), learned about the business basics, and found a local practitioner to mentor me. He took me along on some of his client visits, introduced me to other colleagues, and encouraged me to start my own business and take over some of his client relationships. His encouragement and support were a big factor in getting me up and running. I also became a Certified Senior Advisor, since most of my work involves helping seniors manage their financial affairs.
What makes this a good career fit for you? I’m very organized, and spent years managing my own finances as well as those of Ambassadors and entire Embassies. I really enjoy being my own boss for a change, making my own schedule, and choosing my senior clientele. It is very gratifying to work with people who need help and appreciate what you do for them. Most of them do not have family nearby to help, and they really need someone they can trust and count on.
Read more profiles in our series of inspirational women who transformed their lives in search of financial independence:
How I Launched A Totally New Career & Became An Entrepreneur In My 60s
How I Went To Law School In My 40s And Changed My Life
What’s a typical week like? I schedule client visits Tuesday through Thursday, and help people with a range of services, like bill paying, account reconciliation, insurance claims, notary services, organizing tax information, shopping and home repairs, and liaison with other professionals like CPAs, attorneys and investment advisors. It has been harder lately to see my clients due to the coronavirus pandemic, so I’ve had to be more creative to handle their needs.
Did your new career turn out like you expected? In all honesty, the business grew much faster than I ever expected. I’m trying not to work more than 25 hours per week so I have time for family and other pursuits, like tennis. The business startup phase was easy. It did not require a big investment, other than a commitment of time. All you need to do is develop your skills and build a professional referral network.
What’s next for you? Is there a Career #4? I would like to keep doing this for a few more years until my husband retires in 2023. We’re already planning for our retirement “career” by buying a 42-foot catamaran and chartering it out starting next summer in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is our way of getting back to our roots and combining our love of sailing with what we hope will be a successful retirement business.
What’s your advice to other women? Do your research first, and start on a part-time basis if possible to try it out. Or, work for someone else at first to learn the business, especially if you’re supporting yourself on one income and can’t afford to quit and start full-time right way. But don’t be afraid to change your career if you are doing something you don’t like, or it’s not giving you the work/life balance you need. My oldest son commented one day that he was really proud of me because I had reinvented myself so many times. That makes it all worthwhile!
Thank you, Valerie, for sharing your story with us!