Upon receiving an associate’s degree in accounting from Davenport University in 1983, Elizabeth Challa started her first job, working with an actuary and doing accounting work for pension plans. It’s a position she held for 15 years before transitioning to a new career in the field of adoption.
Three decades later, Challa’s career has come full-circle. She now works as an insurance agent for Legacy Financial Network, serving as a Medicare advisor in its West Michigan office.
“I started on one end of the spectrum, helping people prepare for retirement in their early years, and now I work with Medicare and write final expense life insurance, helping with the other end of retirement,” she says. “Both positions involve helping people, and that’s what I have always felt I wanted to do with my life.”
Take the 14 years in between these retirement planning roles, when she served as an administrative assistant for Adoption Associates, Inc., a job where she could interact with pregnant teens, prospective parents, and birth mothers who were facing difficult decisions in their lives.
Challa admits she took the job after first having her children, because she wanted to work in a place that was closer to home and didn’t require as much mental stress on a daily basis as working in accounting did. She never imagined she would get the personal fulfillment that the job delivered.
“I have always liked to help people, and I really got into that part at the adoption agency,” she says. “I counseled as much as the law would allow me and had really important talks with people that I feel were valuable to all involved. It was very fulfilling.”
Upon leaving Adoption Associates in 2013, Challa found herself looking for a new job for the first time in 30 years. Her sister, Carol, had found success as an insurance agent at Legacy and suggested that she follow in her footsteps.
“She knew that I enjoyed helping people so she thought that this was something I might enjoy,” Challa says. “So, I tried it and I really like it. I’ll be here two years come August.”
At Legacy, her clients are retirees or near-retirees who she advises on everything from Medicare Advantage Plans to retirement income solutions. Challa loves helping people at a time in their life when they have many questions and uncertainties about the future.
Her biggest success with the agency to date may not have been very financially rewarding, but for Challa, it was her most important.
“I helped a gentleman who thought he was only eligible for a drug plan through Medicare. He had been on disability and lived in this dingy little apartment and didn’t have much and he was struggling along to make ends meet,” she says. “He was turning 65, so I called him. He invited me over and I told him all about Advantage plans and he now has complete health insurance that covers pretty much everything he needs with a small co-pay.”
Challa was also able to help him save on his Part B premium, so he doesn’t have to pay that anymore, saving $104.90 a month. For somebody who only makes about $900 a month, that’s a pretty big deal.
“That’s been the best thing that I have done in my short time at this career,” Challa says. “Knowing that I have made his life a little easier and a little happier. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Building a career