Career Began: 1981
Home Base: Coral Gables, Fla.
Civic Affiliations: John T. McDonald Foundation and Teach for America.
In the 1970s, Margaret Chow Starner did something almost unthinkable for a woman at the time when she created a class called "Everything You Wanted to Know about Money but Were Afraid to Ask."
Through the League of Women Voters, Starner had met highly educated women who were savvy about community and political affairs — but had no grasp of their own finances.
Starner, who was to become widely recognized as a trailblazer in the financial planning industry, was about to change that.
"It was a whole different world. Most people back then didn't even understand how to buy Treasuries," says Starner, whose bio by then included long-range strategic planning for entities such as the Stanford Research Institute, the Ford Foundation and United Airlines. "These were women married to corporate executives who wanted to be part of the decision-making of the family. They really wanted to make a difference in their financial affairs."
Ever the maverick, Starner taught the three-part class at community centers, tennis clubs and non-profits in Miami — and in doing so recruited women who would one day become her first clients.
Starner first heard about the then new CFP designation in the late 1970s. "I really thought it would be the wave of the future," says Starner, one of Raymond James & Associates' topmost producers — and its top woman producer. "Conceptually, it was exactly what I wanted to do."
Starner, 70, carved out a career path at a time when there were very few mile markers. "I formed relationship groups with a handful of other planners around the country. We taught each other," says Starner, whose wealth management group manages $330 million in assets. "It was a very pioneering time."
When she joined Raymond James & Associates in 1981, she even cut a deal where she wouldn't be responsible for selling anything her first year. Rather, she wanted to spend her energy learning the business.