68. Blazing the Fee-Only Financial Planning Trail for Women with Dr. Karen C. Altfest, Ph.D., CFP®, Principal Advisor & Executive Vice President, Altfest

We are so honored and excited to have the iconic Dr. Karen C. Altfest, Ph.D., CFP®,In the Suite! Karen is a Principal Adviser and executive vice president at Altfest Personal Wealth Management, a fee-only financial planning and investment management boutique firm in New York. Altfest Personal Wealth Management is a company she runs with her husband Lew and their son Andrew Altfest, CFP®. And together, her team manages over a billion dollars in client assets.

In addition to serving clients at her family-run firm that manages $1.4 billion in client assets, with over 30 years of experience in the industry, Karen has made a profound impact on financial services by dedicating herself to women’s empowerment. 

Having witnessed and experienced few women peers, she’s been instrumental in developing proprietary programs to improve women’s financial knowledge. She has used her problem-solving and reflective skills from her Ph.D. in history and CFP designation to build her signature Financially Savvy Woman programs, including the Women’s Financial Spa and Women’s Financial Salon, which have received applause and recognition worldwide. Many speakers, including Maggie Haberman of CNN, have participated in her programs to support Karen’s dream.

Throughout the years, Karen has been the recipient of multiple awards. In 2021, Crain’s New York Business acknowledged Karen as a notable woman on Wall Street for the fifth time, and most recently, she was recognized as the Top Woman Wealth Advisor by Forbes for the third consecutive year! The list of awards is never-ending! 

In her educational programs, seminars, and events, Karen has provided a safe and comfortable environment for women to express their concerns, share experiences, and ask questions. She’s passionate about helping her clients by offering objective advice to help them achieve their goals and dreams. Throughout her experience, Karen learned that everyone, including children, is very much interested in learning about finance. However, due to the lack of opportunity and access to school, the USA finds itself behind in financial literacy.

To bridge the gap in financial knowledge, Karen frequently speaks and writes on the subjects of women and money and planning for retirement. She was also the Co-Director of the Financial Planning and Investments Program at The New School in New York City and the Coordinator of the Financial Planning program, a professional program for financial planners, which she originated at Pace University.

“Everybody has different talents, and our son Andrew has brought all sorts of new things that maybe we didn’t have the time to think about when building a business. Maybe they didn’t exist, like artificial intelligence, things that he knows much more about than we do. And he’s taking us in all new directions…and he’s definitely been the right guy for this job.”

In today’s podcasts, Karen also busts the negative connotations of working with family. She reveals that although she works alongside her husband Lew and their son Andrew, they bring different talents and values to the company. Above all, she believes it’s essential to maintain your personality and identity and do the things you love.

Growing up in a family that believed in social service, Karen is a very active member of various non-profit organizations. While she’s very proud of how far her foundations have come, she’s also saddened that we still have the need. Despite her busy schedule, she sets a beautiful example of giving back to society to pursue a better world. She is the founding chairman of the New York Common Pantry, NYC’s largest community-based food pantry. This pantry is designed to meet the needs of our families by providing nutritionally-balanced food. She finds it gratifying to know that she’s helped hundreds of people she now considers part of her family. 

Today’s podcast is enlightening. Bringing in a depth of wealth and academic experience, you’ll get a unique perspective on money from Karen and the different ways women can step into their power and take charge of their wealth to create financial security. 

From our conversation with Karen, below are our top takeaways:

  1. Lean in With Sharp Elbows – While board members typically want people who speak up, Karen encourages our listeners not to allow others to talk over them. Raise your hand; let your voice be heard. Remember, no one can listen to you if you’re not speaking up. Rise to the top so people will notice you. 
  2. Ladies, Make Introductions to Each Other – It’s time to stop assuming that everyone knows everyone in the room. Introducing female entrepreneurs through your networks is a great way to build meaningful relationships, gain mentors, and hear about new opportunities. By introducing colleagues, you can help women build their networks to continue succeeding in their field.
  3. There’s No ‘Silly’ Question – One of the most important things to remember when you’re learning is that asking questions is an integral part. And by saying ‘this is a silly question,’ you are belittling yourself. Karen encourages everyone to seek wisdom and knowledge by asking questions, no matter how ‘silly’ the question may feel. Everyone in the room has varying levels of familiarity with the subject matter, so what may seem essential to you might be very confusing for someone else. So ask your questions unapologetically. Your confidence will prevent people from talking over you.

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