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Redtail Technology > Redtail Advisor Hero: Stephanie McCullough
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Acknowledging that money is emotional and it touches all the important parts of our life – we have to talk about that stuff”

Stephanie McCullough

Group with Stephanie
Sofia Financial logo
Stephanie McCullough

One Woman Helping Other Women Change their Finances

Many advisors discover their passion for financial services early on.

For our hero, Stephanie McCullough, the road to a successful career in financial services happened by chance—when her husband was offered a job in Philadelphia, Stephanie quickly scrambled to find work.

She joined her father’s investment advisory firm where, at first, she felt discouraged about her ability to succeed in her new role. “I thought to myself: ‘I’m not a natural-born salesperson, I don’t have an MBA from Wharton.’ My father was my only role model, but I’m not like him, so I can’t be an advisor.” To give herself the best shot at success in a new industry, Stephanie hired an executive coach. With some exploration and self-discovery, she realized there were many aspects about her new career that she loved – especially collaborating with clients to help them align their money, values, and the impact they want to have.

Early in her career, Stephanie realized she enjoyed her ability to personally counsel advisors working with retirement plan participants. But out of the blue, Stephanie’s biggest client decided to fire her. While it was a confusing blow, she didn’t let it knock her down. In fact, she took this opportunity to consider her underlying passion—changing the conversation around money for women.

Throughout her career, she met many women who felt intimidated by investing and finances. As she saw some advisors continue to mistreat women in the financial services industry, she felt obligated to offer an alternative where women would be empowered in their economic decisions. She thus launched Sofia Financial with the guiding principle that “The more women are financially stable, the more they can have an impact in the world – they can change the world and make it a better place.” To accomplish this, she set out to help overcome existing barriers and teach women that making money mistakes is not evidence of a character flaw but rather a result of being human.

Stephanie McCullough
Founder and CEO, Sofia Financial
CEO, AFMG

  • $74m AUM Sofia Financial/AFMG
  • 4 employees
  • 80 clients
Stephanie and friends

I think that kind of “aha” moment to break down the shame and the blame that we all, especially women, wrap ourselves up in is really instrumental. And then letting us not only realize we’re not alone, but it’s about finding those tricks and hacks that can set us up for success.

One of Stephanie’s most notable success stories comes from working with a widow who had struggled for years to find the right financial advisor who could help her and her adult daughter with special needs. Her four previous advisors had created an environment where she felt obligated to ask their permission to access her own money. A couple even recommended cutting off support to her daughter because helping her was “too expensive”. Stephanie says, “I was like, ‘Wait, what? It’s your money. I’ll explain to you the pros and cons of what you want to do, but you do what you want with your money.’ The client responded, ‘No one’s ever said that to me before.’”

Taking an approach unlike her predecessors, Stephanie set out to learn about her client’s needs, her specific situation, and her daughter. By asking the right questions and acknowledging the emotional impact money has on someone’s life, Stephanie was able to advise her client on strategies that supported all her financial needs, while empowering her to make decisions that were right for her and her daughter.

Stephanie’s dedication to helping women achieve financial success is not limited to her clients. Outside of the office, she volunteers with a local charity in Philadelphia called Women’s Way. Women’s Way features an initiative, the Women’s Economic Security Initiative, which helps improve local women’s and girls’ economic security in the surrounding area. As a member of the steering committee for the past three years, Stephanie is involved in the training for their financial coaching pilot program. She harnesses her knowledge and experience to help the program’s coaches understand that women approach money differently than men and cater their approaches.

Stephanie’s desire to empower women through financial literacy has not only made her a successful advisor but has helped many women accomplish their personal and financial aspirations. Her unique approach to behavioral finance and tying emotions to money has demonstrated that being an advisor is not just the numbers and investments; it’s about being their partner and guiding them to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. A quote that Stephanie lives by comes from her hero, Brené Brown: “My story, my ending.” She is dedicated to helping every woman get clear on their money story and write their own ending.

Be sure to check out Stephanie’s podcast and YouTube Channel as well.

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