A Butcher, a Junk Hauler & a Professor – All Women, All Millionaires

Once upon a time there was a journeyman butcher who became a millionaire. That journeyman is a woman named Theresa Krueg. Krueg, 48, now a vice president and financial adviser at WealthTrust-Arizona in Chandler, Ariz., explains that her path to financial freedom wasn’t always a smooth one.

With three kids and a husband out of work, Krueg was the “only source of income my children had” for six of the seven years of her first marriage. Krueg worked in the meat industry and launched a family daycare center, later divorcing her first husband. She eventually met the man she’s now married to, and in 1997 joined Charles Schwab as a client service representative, working with customer service requests and answering phones. She later became an investment specialist at Charles Schwab, and left in 2002 to join WealthTrust-Arizona, which was DeGreen Financial at the time.

Krueg said she’s been a millionaire for about four years.

The road to financial success was different for all the women interviewed for this story, but each abides by a strong work ethic, perseverance, and a belief that if women put their minds to it, they can achieve almost anything-including millionaire status.

Smart Investments and ‘Balance’

Krueg attributes her success to hard work, as well as smart moves with money, including real estate investments and saving.

Krueg’s average client at WealthTrust-Arizona has between $1-$3 million; her top client has over $20 million. She encourages women clients to get involved in their finances. “Women often let their husbands run the show. … I tell my clients to have their own savings, credit cards, open a retirement account, plan for the worst. Hope for the best.”

Krueg said she has sought balance between her job and the rest of her life.

“I love my job. I leave home at 6:30 a.m. [every day]; I live 2 miles away, and I make myself go home at the end of day. But if my clients need me I will work on Saturday,” she said. “I strive for balance. I integrate eating, exercise, I spend time with family. Balance has only made my job easier.”

The Millionaires’ Club

Judy Briggs will join the millionaires’ club this year. She is a franchise-owner in the metro-west area of Massachusetts through 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a junk removal service headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, which recognizes franchisees that hit the million-dollar mark.

“I never had the goal of becoming a millionaire,” Briggs said. “I wanted the business to be successful. Just having passion for the brand and business itself drove me.”

Before starting her franchise in 2003, Briggs held several different jobs in the Worcester, Mass. area. She worked as a provider relations manager at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, as an ancillary contracting manager at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and as the director of human resources at Three-C Electrical Co.

In the fall of 2002, Briggs and her then-husband read an article about GOT-JUNK and “thought it was a great idea.” They launched the business with one employee and one truck: today she has eight trucks and 22 employees.

Briggs credits part of her success to accurate financial planning.

“I knew when the time was right to put on an additional truck. It’s all about timing. You don’t want [to have] 10 truck payments and not have revenue to support them,” she said.

Briggs also emphasized the importance of education for women.

“I believe that an education is key to being financially independent. A lot of companies won’t look at women or men that don’t have a college degree. … In terms of women, if you have drive and want to get ahead in life it’s very important you get a degree. A lot of times women don’t have the self-confidence and that prohibits them from getting ahead,” she said.

Briggs has an associate’s degree in accounting, a bachelor’s degree in business, and a master’s degree in business administration.

“I feel very privileged to be part of the millionaires’ club, but being in a male-dominated field. Trash and junk has always been predominantly a male industry,” Briggs said. “By having education, drive and passion for business, any woman can succeed at anything, regardless of the industry.”

Women Millionaires: A Cultural Unlikelihood

Women’s ability to achieve financial independence has come into sharper focus in the academic arena, particularly at The American College, based in Bryn Mawr, Pa., where Professor Eileen McDonnell holds the new State Farm Chair in Women and Financial Services.

McDonnell, 44, said she’s looking for issues related to women and finance that haven’t been tapped yet by the academic community.

One area that hasn’t gained much attention, she said, is women’s access to financial planners, and how planners influence women.

McDonnell-who spent over 20 years working in financial services and was the first woman president of New England Financial-said she didn’t have financial planners calling on her, though her earnings were well known.

“My women peers spoke of the same, they were never approached,” McDonnell said. “Even if you are, the plans that get laid out for a woman [compared to men], they have less insurance, the investment profiles are less risky. I don’t believe it’s the consumer’s fault. I believe advisers are preconditioned that women don’t want risks, and are more conservative.”

The tide is turning, she said, as financial advisers begin to realize “the power of the woman’s purse in today’s marketplace,” and as more women become advisers.

McDonnell, who said she’s always had a passion for preparing women for a secure financial future, sees the idea of the “glass ceiling” as an impediment to their success.

“I don’t think there is a glass ceiling-I think people create it. When you think about the opportunities we have today, with education, the global economy; there are opportunities out there for women. What happens is they hear about the glass ceiling, read about it-then there must be one, if people are telling you about it. But then there are people like myself who are not inhibited by it, so how does that happen? It doesn’t happen by coincidence.

“The glass ceiling limits women, and we teach it to men and women. Men believe they have better opportunities to achieve than the woman next to them. Women think they’ll never get there, so why work hard or sacrifice?” she said.