There was a time when Kirstin Ricketts was sure she’d found her true calling in life. A year after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the then-20-something- year old took on the heavily male-dominated financial planning world by co-founding her own firm, Vintage Financial Group. In so doing, she introduced a humanistic approach to clients in the financial planning space.
“The reason why we started Vintage Financial Group is because we wanted to help people talk about and plan for their dreams,” she said. “Financial planning is a unique industry where you can talk to someone about their biggest fears and the things they would anticipate or hope for most. Then you can actually do something about it. You can help them build towards that.
“It’s a great privilege to get to talk to someone about the things that maybe someone will only whisper about, where they say, ‘I’m working towards this, but what I really want is that.’ Getting to help them build towards that is just the greatest privilege.”
The founders’ instincts proved correct and Vintage Financial Group thrived, catapulting to the upper echelon of financial planning companies thanks to a client-centric approach that Ricketts continues to hone as vice president. Her success in the industry doesn’t surprise her former boss in the least.
“One thing I admire greatly about her, she approached her professional career from a very servant perspective,” said Cliff Karthauser, now an executive coach and public speaker.
“That’s pretty rare when you find someone in their 20s, which is when I first connected with her. She put the relationship of the people that she was working with and the financial decisions that she had to make on their behalf ahead of everything.
“She never even clearly understood how she was paid for a long period of time. She said, ‘Cliff, I don’t want to know. That doesn’t matter to me. I know that if I do the right things and I take care of my clients and I build advocacy, that part will take care of itself.’ It allowed her to open up a tremendous referral network because she took care of people and they fell in love with her.”
Ricketts’ professional responsibilities have changed to a more consultative role. Today she’s mainly focused on fund trends and keeping eyes on what clients need to prepare for as their needs have changed over time.
“When you first start doing financial planning, you start planning for the what-ifs. You know, the ‘What if this happens?’ or ‘When I get there…,’” she said. “After doing it for a while, you start to see those things happen. You sit down with someone and help them plan for what is going to happen if their spouse dies, then you sit across the table from a widow whose husband died and the plan works. It’s really a beautiful thing to get to be involved in.”
Today, the company has grown to a dozen employees, some of whom are homegrown through Vintage Financial Group’s internship program. Even those who move on Ricketts tracks like a proud parent to see their success in various fields.
“We have always had interns in the office from local high schools and colleges and we provide a lot of mentoring through that program,” she said. “That has really been fun. One, it keeps some freshness in the office. And two, some of the people who were originally our high school interns have high-level positions at big companies in Omaha now. It’s a joy to watch them succeed.”
That would be success enough for anyone, but as the years have played out, Ricketts discovered the firm, and financial planning in general, was only one aspect of her life’s mission. The other came bolting to the forefront in the most agonizing way possible.
“Since the time that I got 40 Under 40, we had a daughter with heart failure,”
she said. “I experienced those fears that everybody talks about.”
Seeing her infant daughter’s recovery inspired new goals, including co-creating Hold Loosely, Live Freely, a spiritual blog. She’s written about the seminal event in an entry entitled, “Our Daughter’s Miracle,” and talks often about how the incident inspired a whole new chapter in her life.
“What I’ve found with financial planning is, you help people plan for the best things and the worst things. But there is still the ache and I think there can be a spiritual component to that ache that only God is going to subside,” said Ricketts, now 40. “That is where some of my focus has been. That’s not necessarily in the practice, but I’ve seen God do really amazing things. God saved our daughter.
“The whole goal of that blog is to say, ‘Let’s hold loosely to the things that the
world is telling us are so important and let’s find the freedom and peace that we
actually want, that’s going to be found in the eyes of our God.’”