Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profile series.
Born and raised in a small town north of Boston, Isobelle Ives grew up in a tight-knit family. She’s the middle of three sisters who grew up playing on each other’s sports teams. A scholarship to play field hockey drew her to Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. She focused on an international business major and then tacked on a Spanish major while studying abroad in Spain when none of her classes were in the expected English.
“But then I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “While I wanted to do work that mattered, I hadn’t yet figured out what that meant to me.”
Hearing about job opportunities at a Boston Northwestern Mutual office from her father (whose gym was located in the same building) led Ives to an interview—and a surprise career path.
“I had no experience in this industry,” Ives says. “But working hard has always been really important to me. And, as improbable as it sounds for a 21-year-old, I wanted to have a job where I could stay my whole career and enjoy the camaraderie of co-workers.”
Nearly five years later, Ives is an established financial advisor in Woburn, Massachusetts, where, as a proud member of LGBTQ+ community, she continually strives to make financial planning feel accessible to everyone. Below, she shares some of her earliest memories about money, the biggest concerns she’s hearing from LGBTQ+ clients and why she believes relatability is critical to building trust with clients.
How did you first learn about money?
My sisters and I had a chore chart with tasks like clearing the table after dinner, organizing our mud room, wiping the counters down, vacuuming—and then we’d get a small wage for our trouble on a weekly basis. I think we mostly spent that money on candy, but my dad opened bank accounts for us. So whenever we would get a check, he would take us to the bank and teach us how to fill out the bank slip and give it to the teller.
What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?
For me, it was more like osmosis. I always think about this moment my mother and I shared over this quote while I was studying in Spain in college: “Contentment is wanting what you have.” And I realized that I had never heard my parents yearn for more or reach for something that didn’t match their values. We didn’t wear name-brand clothes or drive flashy cars, but we did go on vacations and out to shows like Cirque du Soleil. I learned very early from them that it was important for me not to want more stuff just because I could—though I understand that not everyone has that privilege. I am also lucky to have that mentality because it was very conducive to the fact that I’m a saver.
What do you say to someone who is on the fence about financial planning?
Finding a financial advisor is very much like dating. You might have to meet with a couple different people before you find the right chemistry—someone you can build trust with. I’m not the right advisor for a lot of people, but there are a lot of people in the world. By necessity, financial advisors ask a lot of difficult and personal questions. So you need to find someone who meets you where are you are in a way that feels good for you.
You work with many members of the LGBTQ+ community. What are some of the biggest concerns they have right now?
There are specific emotional issues that we face and also some larger financial burdens. But the biggest concern for most of my clients is about starting a family—even more so than buying a house. That’s mainly because benefits most people receive through work are not created equal. And state-to-state, the benefits are not the same. I have clients whose benefits will pay for artificial insemination, but it doesn’t cover the cost of transporting the actual vials. That alone can run into thousands of dollars. The barrier to entry of starting a family—regardless of the method—is incredible.
I also have a lot of clients who are emotionally struggling with the state of our world right now, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community but also people of color. My job is to listen and offer a safe space to voice all of their concerns out loud without being judged. A lot of them will compare it to going to therapy and that’s OK. It’s important for me to meet them emotionally so that we can move on to the planning.
What do love the most about your job?
You get to show up and be there for other people at some of the best and the worst moments of their lives and make sure that they are seen, heard and supported. I’ve attended clients’ extended family funerals, fielded phone calls about life insurance terms from a hospital and checked in with people who have just been laid off. But I also get to be there when my clients say, “We’re expecting!” or “I just got the promotion!” or “Our home offer was accepted!” Happy or sad, it’s so rewarding.
What is the most satisfying moment you’ve had as a financial advisor?
I’m in a unique space working with the LGBTQ+ community where I get a lot of direct feedback: “We never thought we could do this because there’s nobody that looks like us in this field. I never thought I would find someone who looks like me or who could hear the struggles that I’ve had and relate to them from a financial standpoint.” I get a lot of colorful commentary—in all the best ways—all the time.
It's helped me understand how important visibility is. So by building my practice intentionally with diverse communities I hope that other advisors and clients—and maybe even prospective advisors—can see me and say that’s possible because someone else is doing it.
Just by showing up, I’m making people more aware that the financial services landscape is changing. I hope that over time, even if I’m just a small part of it, I can be a good example for focusing on inclusion. Making sure my clients are clear on who I am is something I take very seriously in all of my interactions.
What is your biggest financial goal right now?
I would like to set up a savings plan to send my baby goddaughter to college—if that’s what she decides she wants to do. Her parents are my cousins and it would be great for them to know that she can have that option and not have to worry about taking out loans.
How do you like to give back?
I’ve coached the same high school field hockey team for five years and I’m going to start refereeing this fall. It’s a redeeming sport that can teach you a lot about life. You can go from hero to zero and back to hero just by working hard and getting back on defense. I feel it’s very similar to financial planning. Through the sport, I can teach young women what confidence and hard work can do for your character. I really believe it’s gotten me to where I am today.
To learn more about Isobelle, visit her website: https://www.northwesternmutual.com/financial/advisor/isobelle-ives/.
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