Did you know only 12% of women feel “very confident” they can live a comfortable lifestyle after retirement? That’s according to a 2019 survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. DeLynn Zell is determined to change that number. As the CEO and co-founder of Bridgeworth Wealth Management, she wants to see more women investing, saving and planning for their financial futures. She wants to see more women working in the financial planning industry, too. The pandemic may have put a hold on her plans to host financial planning workshops for women and plans to partner with local schools to teach young people about financial planning as a career path, but DeLynn is still making moves. She’s done several virtual presentations for women, including a workshop with Momentum and an InvestmentNews Women’s Summit. At a time when many businesses are closing, DeLynn’s firm is growing and hiring more female financial advisors every step of the way. Meet our newest FACE of Birmingham!
How did you get interested in financial planning?
I was raised by a father who owned a peanut farm and had no sons. We talked business at the dinner table every night. We talked about investing. We talked about saving. He talked to us like he would if we had been sons.
When I went to Birmingham-Southern College, I was very fortunate to be introduced to one of the first female stockbrokers in Birmingham. She took me under her wing. I had great role models, so when I got into the business, I didn’t realize there weren’t really any women there. I guess I lived in a little bubble. Nobody told me that typically women didn’t do this.
Why do you think some women are uncomfortable talking about personal finances, investing and wealth management?
I think there’s a cultural aspect, especially here in the South. It’s not proper to talk about money. It’s common for men to be on the golf course and talk about their great investments, but that is still not something I think culturally, women are comfortable doing. But I think that’s changing.
Women hold 40% of global wealth. We’re in a situation now where we have 11.4 million widowed women. I share that to say how important it is for women to understand and be involved in finances. Women have to get more comfortable investing, planning their future and then merging with their spouses. Starting a financial plan early in life is something more women need to do to take control of their own finances.
Why do you think more women should pursue careers in financial planning?
Women have all the natural skills you look for in an advisor. Women are more natural listeners. They’re trustworthy and empathetic. They have high emotional intelligence. Of course, they’ve got to have the education and expertise, but when people choose an advisor, they choose somebody they trust.
I have a son who has no interest whatsoever in this business. He’s in college and more into politics. If I had a daughter, I would really encourage her to go into this business. Forty percent of the advisors today are in their 50s and will be retiring in the next 10 years. There are not enough advisors coming behind us to absorb all the clients and needs we’re going to have. I saw a study that said we need 66,000 more advisors to take care of everybody in the next 10 years. There’s not a better time to get into this business than right now.
What motivated you to start Bridgeworth Wealth Management?
When I went to college, I got a degree in accounting and figured out pretty quickly accounting was pretty boring. I thought, I don’t want to spend a career focusing on what somebody did in the past. I want to focus on the future and planning.
I went to work with one of the national accounting firms and did my stint there. In 1988, I joined a financial planning firm, but I always felt true financial planning wasn’t about selling products. It was about giving honest, objective, transparent advice, which I was very passionate about doing.
My partners and I left in 2008, and that’s when we started Bridgeworth. We started with six people. Today, we have 53 people in two offices — our headquarters in Birmingham and a small office in Huntsville that’s rapidly growing.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The most satisfying thing is when clients come to us getting ready for retirement, and we help them create a plan and watch them live out that plan. I’ve had clients I worked with 30 years ago, and to see they’ve had the kind of lifestyle and success they wanted is a very powerful thing. I love the relationships you build. They are sharing their goals and objectives and dreams with you. You become part of their family.
It’s also really exciting mentoring and seeing young people come into the business. Thirty percent of our professional advisors are women. Compare that to the industry, which is hovering around 14% or 15%, and we have double the amount of women professionals as the industry does. That’s something that empowers me every day when I come to work.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I grew up on a peanut farm, so I love being outside. We have a lake home in Eufaula, AL, that’s been in my family for 55 years. I love spending time there. I love being on the water. I love boats. I love doing anything where I can gear down and not be connected to a computer and completely get away.
I enjoy playing golf. There’s a great group of women in town that have taken up golf, and we get together and do, I guess, what the men do. We talk about our businesses while we’re on the golf course. When you play golf, you don’t have time to think about anything else. You just focus on getting that ball in that hole, so it’s a great stress reliever.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I was given was from my father, who said the only way you grow wealth is by taking risks — whether that be risks with your investments or career. I could have had a nice career and been just fine had I stayed with my old firm and not started Bridgeworth, but taking that risk has been extremely rewarding and very fulfilling. And I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about personally.
I think women need to learn to take more risks in their lives. And don’t be afraid to work for yourself and be a business owner.
Name three things you can’t live without.
Diet Dr. Pepper, XM Radio, and my iPad.
Thank you, DeLynn, and thanks to Cameron Carnes for the photos.
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