Meet Catherine Weatherford.
Catherine Weatherford is the President and CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), a not-for-profit organization educating Americans on the importance of retirement planning, as well as author of Women and Wealth: Inspiring Stories from Real Women on the Path to Financial Success. Catherine also served for 12 years as CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and she was the first woman elected as Oklahoma's Insurance Commissioner.
Catherine has also been recognized by NBC's "The Today Show" and was invited to speak during a keynote speech at the White House to recognize World Elder Abuse Day. She is truly an amazing person and an inspiration to women in all fields of business.
I got the opportunity to chat with Catherine to hear her best financial tips, greatest professional achievements, and her thoughts on the reported shortage of women in the financial services industry.
Why did you decide to work in the financial industry?
Right out of college I got married and had to go to work full time. My father was a lawyer and legislator and he counselled me to go into state government, mostly as guiding advice because it offered an excellent defined benefits plan, but it was also a trade off for lower salary.
I put in my application at a number of state agencies. I was hired by the state insurance commissioner and ended up in the insurance regulation. I worked for the Insurance Department for 13 years, then as a Senior Advisor to the Governor, then as the Insurance Commissioner from '91-'95. After leaving office, I became CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
About 9 years ago I was hired at the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) to work on retirement income and planning, and here I am today!
How long have you worked in the financial industry?
I’ve worked in the insurance and financial services industry for 41 years now.
What has been your greatest professional achievement?
I love the idea of mentoring people. In the past 26 years of having been a CEO, I have mentored several people, mostly women.
So my proudest accomplishment has been mentoring six people to become the CEO of financial services on insurance trade associations.
Going off of that, could be the same, but what achievement are you most proud of?
When I was CEO at NAIC, my proudest professional accomplishment would be working on the International Holocaust Era Insurance Claims Commission.
The US insurance regulators organized and established the International Commission of Holocaust Insurance Claims to bring the negotiation of settlements on unpaid insurance claims of holocaust survivors and their heirs.
It was a major undertaking, it took about 9 years, but we ended up achieving a $306 million restitution to holocaust survivors and heirs. Establishing, then participating and being a part of that work is something I’m incredibly proud of.
How do you define success?
Now that I’m older, I have a different view than 20 or 30 years ago. Today, I think of success as hard work, done well. Whether it’s a simple task, a project, or your entire career, do good work and do it well.
What leader inspires you?
That question is pretty easy for me. I remember being 5 years old and sitting on my dad’s shoulders at a JFK campaign rally for president. What he accomplished in his short presidency is amazing! I have used JFK many times as a role model and his quotes continue to inspire me.
For example, a couple of my favourites include: “Forgive your enemies, don’t forget their names,” and “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
He did such great work in his career; within 3 short years of his presidency he achieved tremendous accomplishments.
It’s been reported that there’s a shortage of women in the financial services industry. What do you think is the best solution to help encourage women to enter this industry?
I absolutely agree that there’s a shortage of women in the industry. I just published a book, Women and Wealth: Inspiring Stories from Real Women on the Path to Financial Success for women, or anyone that works with or hires women in financial services.
My book calls out the need to greater equalize the number of women that are hired or work in our industry. We need more women on Boards of Directors and in the C suite.
I’m the mother of three daughters and I will also say that one of the best solutions is showing them that this is good work. Women are very mission-oriented in their professional careers and I believe women can help bring humanity and heart to financial planning. This career is about doing good things for people and helping them achieve their goals, grow their savings, and to have the ability to enjoy life in their later years.
There is this fear that it’s all about the numbers, but it’s so much more than that. This is a people-oriented business, not a numbers business, and that’s the key.
What are the most common financial mistakes you see being made?
It drives me crazy when people take money from their 401K. It’s a tremendous hardship and setback to do this; you should leave that money alone and let it grow!
On top of that, I see people rationalizing that they don’t have enough money to contribute to retirement accounts, which is a huge mistake.
What is your number one financial tip?
My number one financial tip is to “get it right the first time.”
Start early in your career and put money away for retirement savings and continue to do that throughout your career. There is no way to go back and have do-overs.
You need to set goals and calculate how much money you currently have and what you will need. Your objectives should be to save enough and for your employer to make plans to match the savings.
What’s a fun fact most people don’t know about you?
I’m a speed-reader. About 25 years ago I taught myself to read for meaning very quickly using a visual method. Now I can read complicated documents very rapidly!
It surprises people when they give me something to read and converse on and I’m finished reading in a short matter of time.
You can teach yourself to do it too! Just choose a method and practice.