When Dorothy Bickling began her professional career in 1962, she said she never would have guessed she would be a financial advisor, much less working alongside her two sons, Spencer Betts and Andy Betts. Yet for 17 years, she has been in practice with her family at Bickling Financial Services in Lexington, Mass.
The reality has created a full life for Dorothy, and Mother’s Day is a time when she reflects on her life past and present and the practice she has built with her sons.
Dorothy said she was empowered by strong female influences growing up, including her mother and grandmother. “I watched my mom run her own catering business. She was a strong role model with a great deal of tenacity,” she said. Dorothy was a single mom when she opened her financial services firm. By demonstrating her will as an entrepreneur and as a mother, “I hope I have been able to instill the same tenacity within my sons.”
A career as a financial advisor was not originally Dorothy’s plan. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Colorado in Boulder and began her career working as an accountant. An avid learner with a keen interest in education, Dorothy went on to gain her doctoral degree in counselor education and worked as an assistant professor and psychologist at Northeastern University in Boston.
When she didn’t gain tenure after seven years of teaching, Dorothy had a tough decision to make. “My focus was on my children. I knew I needed to do whatever I could to support them and to do so, a career change was necessary,” she said. “That is when I attended a financial planning seminar and a light bulb went off. With my background in accounting and counseling, financial advising just made sense. I would get the opportunity to work in finance while helping clients solve their problems at the same time. ”
In 1984 Dorothy opened her own practice, Bickling Financial Services Inc., and two years later, became one of the first women to earn her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, “The first 10 years of starting a business are definitely the hardest,” she said. “I started my practice with zero clients and I had to work diligently to build my book of business while raising my sons.”
An early adopter of LPL’s Strategic Asset Management advisory platform, Dorothy has long taken a holistic approach to financial planning, which has positioned her well in today’s evolving regulatory environment and market, in which advisors need to demonstrate greater value for the services they provide. Additionally, she focuses on educating clients and engaging them in any investment decisions. The benefit to that approach has been the ability to build long-term client relationships and a successful business.
As her business grew over the years, she welcomed Spencer to the firm in 2000 and Andy followed in 2007. “I had always talked to them about the possibility of joining the practice, but I never knew that it would become a reality,” said Dorothy. She wanted the job to resonate with them, and she also told them she didn’t want to be their first employer. Both of her sons worked in other fields before moving to financial services. Spencer has a physics background and Andy’s is in chemical engineering. Starting out in the firm, she worked alongside them to meet with clients, but she said it was generally an easy transition for everyone. Each of them has built their own client base over time, yet they also pair up to serve some clients.
“I’ve always been open to letting Spencer and Andy explore and find the areas they are comfortable in, even if they are not in my specialty of financial planning,” Dorothy said. For example, Spencer and Andy work with 401(k) plans, while Dorothy does not. The individual approach allows them to help and support each other while providing clients a broad array of services with the deepened expertise provided by each individual.
Dorothy has been aligned with LPL’s independent platform for more than 25 years. She operates as the Office of Supervisory Jurisdiction, while also meeting with clients day to day. The family spends a good deal of time together in the office, with one room designated as a work room where each corner has their individual workstations.
Spencer said, “In the financial advice business, successful, long term relationships are everything – not only with your clients, but with your business partners as well. It is great to be able to work with my mom and brother. We each bring our own perspective and skill set to the practice, but at the same time, we work together to partner on financial plans. It’s been a great formula for us.”
Investment Advice offered through Bickling Financial Services, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Securities offered through Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments, Member FINRA/SIPC Headquartered at 80 State Street, Albany, NY 12207. Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments and Bickling Financial Services are not affiliated companies.