Get to know the people behind the financial advice in our Planner Profiles series, where you’ll get the inside scoop on their best money tips.
Traditions are big in Kristin Bartlow’s family. There’s the trip to Balboa Island in Southern California that she’s taken with her family every year since she was born. There are the spring training baseball games she watches with her husband every season to cheer on her hometown team, the Oakland A’s. Saving money is a tradition, too — one of the longest running of them all.
Here, Bartlow, a Northwestern Mutual wealth management advisor in Walnut Creek, California, shares how her family and personal experiences have helped shaped her views on money and her career — and the surprising way she's come full circle with her parents and money.
What's your personal financial goal right now?
My biggest financial goal over the past few years has been to help my husband, Andrew, be in a position where he can start his own HR consulting business, which just successfully launched in April.
What's the biggest mistake you see Americans making with money?
I think we don’t set aside enough money before it hits our checking accounts. Too much money goes in and out of checking accounts, and if people could just find a disciplined way to save early and keep adding to their savings — like as your income increases, you increase your savings — we’d be in better shape. No one is hard-wired to save money.
How did you learn about saving?
My parents helped me open a savings account when I was young, where I would save any money I got for chores or babysitting. They matched my contributions dollar for dollar.
What's the first thing you do in the morning?
I’m typically at the gym for a class by 5:45 a.m., so I’m out of the house early — I sleep in my gym clothes. Then I’m home by 5 p.m. so that I have a couple hours with my girls.
In my prior job, I would be out all day seeing clients, and then I’d get home and spend a couple hours on my computer before going to bed. I made a promise to myself that when I came to Northwestern Mutual I wouldn’t work at night. If I do work at night now, it’s an exception to the norm. I really try to check out when I get home, and when I’m at work I’m very focused on just work.
Besides your family trips, how else do you like to spend your personal time?
I recently started a chapter of a volunteer organization called 100+ Women Who Care Contra Costa County. It’s an organization that exists across the country, but it didn’t exist in our county. The idea behind it is to bring 100 women together once a quarter for an hour to decide what local nonprofit we want to support.
At each meeting, you drop the name of your charity of choice into a fishbowl, and we draw three names. If yours is chosen, you stand up in front of the group and give a presentation on the organization, and we vote on which one we want to contribute our money to. Then we each write a $100 check to that organization, so the organization ends up with thousands of dollars. It’s a low time commitment and low financial commitment, so it’s easy enough for all women to do.
I also sit on the board of Lafayette Juniors. We do two big fundraisers in our community every year, and donate our time to homeless shelters, a food bank, the elderly in the community — all sorts of different things.
What would your clients be surprised to know about you?
I spent a year of college living in Florence, Italy, and then at the end of the year I completed a trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. I went with a big group, we had Sherpas and all that. But I got significant altitude sickness right before the last day. I even hallucinated when I was up on the mountain. But I was like, ‘I’ve still got to do this.’ So we just pushed through and it was a really incredible experience. I will never do it again, but it was a good one to check off the bucket list and an awesome achievement.
What's the most satisfying moment you've had as a financial advisor?
When my parents became my clients! It took a number of years. At first, they were just insurance clients, and then moved a little bit of their investment portfolio over to us. Then last year, they decided to move all their assets over. I think they wanted to make sure that I was going to stay in this business and that I could handle everything before they did it. When they said they were ready to come over, it was one of the biggest compliments I think I could have received.