Myra Salzer today pooh-poohs the idea that she has been a success in her profession, but her modesty is nothing new. In a cover story profile for this magazine, which was then called Dow Jones Investment Advisor, in September 1996, Salzer recalled for writer Mary Rowland the dark days that arrived soon after she started her practice:

She had saved two years worth of salary to support her business. “I had planned for zero dollars and zero cents to come in for two years,” Salzer says. “But I hadn’t figured it was possible to go below zero.” What Salzer hadn’t counted on was not even making enough to cover overhead.

But her struggles to build a practice began to gather steam thereafter. This is how Rowland describes the epiphany Salzer experienced that helped launch her success.

“Back in 1987, when Myra Salzer was still trying to get established in financial planning, she found herself across her desk from the visibly uncomfortable wife of a man worth several million dollars. “She kept fiddling with her ring, turning the stone to the inside,” Salzer recalls. “I asked her if everything was OK.” It turned out that the woman’s husband had just given her the emerald ring. She was embarrassed to wear such expensive jewelry, yet reluctant to take it off and offend her husband. “How can you show your father a $60,000 emerald when he can’t even make his mortgage payments?,” she asked Salzer.

At that moment, Salzer realized that the rich had unique problems with money. “There are challenges to inheriting or marrying into wealth that most people haven’t considered.” Salzer says.

Perhaps more than anyone, Salzer understands those challenges and can help her clients address them. Things have turned out pretty well for Salzer’s struggling practice after all.