By Rick Kern
“It’s really about what is important to this other person,” explains Barbara Dodge passionately. “It’s a person and they’re trusting me.” And even though mastering the multifaceted legal and regulatory complexities of a personalized fiscal strategy is essential for any financial advisor to be successful, for Barbara concern for others is a value-driven imperative that guides professional excellence. Of course, as fiduciaries, Barbara and her colleagues are held to the highest standard of care, and accordingly, are required to act in the best interest of their clients at all times. However, as a Christian, the “Golden Rule” is worth more than gold to Barbara, and instead is something of an axis that her guiding philosophy revolves around as a financial advisor working for Edward Jones.
Interestingly, from a professional perspective, Edward Jones’ value system fits remarkably well with Dodge’s and played a key role in her choosing to work with the firm in the first place. “That’s one of the reasons why I joined Edward Jones, honestly,” she recalls. “When I was doing the vetting process, I looked at several different business models. As a financial advisor, the typical personality tends to be analytical and I grew up with that — that whole critical thinking thing.” Continuing she explains, “If I was going to join Edward Jones, what would that look like? What does that look like compared to Merrill Lynch or Wells Fargo, M&T Bank or the Federal Credit Union? Because they all have financial advisors of one flavor or one definition or another. When I was looking at the Edward Jones model, what I really liked about it was that it had that same comprehensive type of viewpoint — wanting to understand where somebody is.”
For Barbara, however, the parallels between the services that she offers as a financial advisor and the dynamics of the way the Lord relates to us bear a striking similarity. Consider the questions she puts in front of her clients: Where are you today? Where do you want to go? What kind of life events can we anticipate along that journey and how do we plan for the worst, hope for the best, and manage life in between?
“As a believer, it’s almost the same thing,” she observes. “God looks at us and says, here you are, this is where you are… This is where I’m going to take you, take you into Christ like this. There’s going to be some life events along the way and I’m going to help you manage those because my end goal is to bring you to the image of Christ.”
“When I saw that,” she continues, “I thought, this resonates with me and I think my clients can understand that. Truthfully, in a world where everything’s instant and big numbers and you’re just another number on the computer, to be able to sit across the table and have them say, ‘This is what’s important to me. Can you help me?’ I can look across the table back at them and say, yes I can. How do you want this to begin to look? Then we begin to make that happen for them. One little piece, one little strategy at a time.”
Dodge is a country girl at heart and grew up on what she characterizes as a “gentleman’s farm” in a corner of Genesee County. “My mom raised Morgan show horses and my father was an engineer in the city of Rochester, New York. From both sides of the genetic code, I have quite a strong work ethic and learned how to shovel it in and shovel it out,” she notes philosophically.
Her blue and white-collared background lent itself to the sort of broad shoulders and firm foundation that enabled Barb to connect with people from all walks of life on a deep level where bank balances are disclosed and confidences are kept. “Growing up in that environment, showing horses, you had to really understand people and animals and be flexible as to how to present yourself and understand people — people from all different backgrounds… We mingled,” explains Dodge. “I’ve rubbed elbows with very wealthy people and I’ve rubbed elbows with those in the 4-H Club, and everything and everybody in between. You had to learn how to really become adept with working with people as well as the animals.”
Barbara initially pursued a career in healthcare and began studying nursing at Roberts Wesleyan College. Like many young people, romance found her and brought with it love, marriage, and an early exit from school a couple years into her studies. And although she did not finish her nursing degree, she did continue to work in the medical field. “I did all kinds of things like cardiac telemetry and oncology, medical surgical and geriatric care,” reflects Dodge. “And once they find out you’ve been in college, they let you do just about anything except medications. I was involved in all kinds of procedures and I cross-trained in a whole bunch of things.”
She continues, “I worked at Binghamton General Hospital, Wilson Memorial Regional Center, which is there in Binghamton, and I worked in a couple of nursing homes and did some private duty work there — that sort of thing. I worked in the nursing field for just over ten-years.” Ultimately, however, the trajectory of her life changed and she returned to Roberts Wesleyan in 2012 to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business — a discipline she would find useful in her emergent tenure at Edward Jones.
Raised in an especially unique Christian home, Barbara was exposed to an uncommon sampling of the body of Christ while learning how to ask the right questions. “My mom was a lay scholar, if you will,” she recalls. “And my father being an engineer, I was always ferreting out the ‘why’ statement. I really learned a lot of critical thinking at my mom’s kitchen counter or at the kitchen table with my dad.”
The scope of her experiences inspired a number of intellectual conflicts and spiritual queries that she didn’t hesitate to probe. “We’ve all been in different family Bible studies from house churches and various denominations over the years. I had quite the training, if you will, and understanding what the Scripture has to say, God’s sovereignty, my non-sovereignty, and understanding who this God is as applied to a worldview and how do I fit into that?”
Her rebellious spirit kept her drifting, tossing and turning until it all reached a crescendo while Barbara was mowing her lawn one day when she was about 25-years old. “God knows our heart and we can’t fool Him,” she observes. “I had two little children and was kind of half talking to myself, half praying and I said, ‘God, I have these two beautiful children and a lovely home and I have this opportunity to mow the grass on this beautiful summer day.’”
“I was just feeling really good about myself and I felt like God said to me, ‘So, you don’t need Me, do you?’”
“It stopped me dead in my tracks and I knew. Somehow you just know that you didn’t come up with that thought on your own and I just knew it was God talking to me. So, I spent about six-weeks just wrestling with that and at the end of that struggle, came to the determination of that was that if I was going to claim being a Christian, then I wanted it to be the most real thing in my life. From there, I began the journey.”
Professionally, Dodge worked in nursing for some ten-years until circumstances led her into a direct sales position with the Pampered Chef. “I learned a lot about business, business administration, business management, sales, marketing, all kinds of things — and running my own business,” she reflects. “I did that for about ten-years also and ultimately had a team of people that I worked with. I was a Sales Director for the Pampered Chef and was doing pretty well part-time. In today’s dollars, I was probably making $30,000 – $35,000 a year, working less than 20-hours a week.
From there, Barbara got into real estate, and enjoyed a highly successful career for another decade. By 2017 she was making her sales goals and banking just under $2 million a year but had a lot of “skin in the game” and it was taking its toll. “I had started in real estate full-time, but the economy, life circumstances, and things like that prompted me to find a desk job,” she explains. “I was working part-time for an attorney as their bookkeeper and then, the rest of the time, I was working in real estate.”
Serious money leads to serious financial decisions which found Barbara consulting with a financial advisor for — you guessed it, financial advice! During the course of their repeated discussions he floated what became the inevitable question by her, “Have you ever thought of being a financial advisor?” Barb’s response was predictable; “Can you see that I’m working like three jobs? I’m selling golf courses, I’m working with properties and then, when I get bored with that, I go crunching numbers for an attorney! What are you talking about…?” He wisely left the ball in her park simply saying, “Well, just think about it.”
As she ran it by her husband, Barbara realized that she was not just on target for her sales goals, but right in the heart of the bullseye. She would have to either go back into real estate full-time, which meant hiring some help because she couldn’t keep doing 15-hour days, and/or take advantage of the opportunity staring her in the eye.
To make a long story short, Barbara Dodge went through Edward Jones’ extensive vetting process and is now an accomplished financial adviser. “The reason I joined Edward Jones was that the message was intrinsically the same,” Dodge explains. “We are first and foremost client driven. In a landscape of high accountability with the Department of Labor and other regulatory oversight, Edward Jones has led the way in fiduciary duty.”
Continuing she adds, “Personally and professionally, I want to know what is important to you, my client. Understanding what is important allows me then to apply an established process that enables your financial plan to reflect those values you hold. The process and the plan serve then to be our tools as we partner together to get you where you want to go.”
Planning for the worst, hoping for the best, and allowing life to happen along the way, Barbara Dodge is resolutely committed to being involved and walking in stewardship and partnership with each and every person she serves. She assesses her clients’ unique fiscal structure and partners with them to develop financial services based on their individual economic equilibrium. “Right now, in the marketplace, in the industry, there are lots of definitions for financial advisor,” says Dodge. “Those who have their ear to the ground will know that at this point the Department of Labor defines a financial advisor one way, the broker and the dealer define a financial advisor another way. If I were to give you a definition of a financial advisor, I would have to say the way I work is that it’s not just about stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and portfolios.”
Continuing, she crafts a decidedly Christian take on the topic without ever opening a Bible. “I look at that as a piece of the pie. Our wealth consists of what we believe, how we live our life, what are the values that I want to pass on as a legacy to my children, to my community? My portfolio then should only be reflective of those things, not definitive of those things.”
For more information about Edward Jones, visit their website at www.edwardjones.com or call Barbara at (585) 271-3808.