Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
Greetings! I am Michelle Underwood Gass, CPA, CFP®, founder and principal of Paradigm Advisors. I am passionate about helping people navigate their path toward financial freedom so they can live their ideal life. At Paradigm, we take a holistic approach to financial planning. We are independent and fee-only which means that we provide honest, transparent advice. We provide clarity, insight and direction regarding our clients’ finances to help achieve their life goals.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
I started attending Ellevate events in Dallas several years ago when our chapter was just forming and love being a part of Ellevate. My favorite activity is our monthly Mugs and Mornings gatherings. I was recently asked to speak at one of our evening educational events. Despite what some might consider a dry topic, everyone was enthusiastic and exhibited a thirst for knowledge that was extremely energizing. We covered numerous topics and left few stones unturned. Stimulating questions and discussion continued well beyond the designated time. When we ended, participants left with a greater sense of ownership and control over their financial future. Ellevate provides me with the opportunity to network with working women from a wide array of professions and levels of experience. I appreciate having a group of my peers who support one another and openly share our successes and challenges – personally and professionally.
How would you define your professional mission?
The financial planning profession is changing rapidly - in a good way. Gone are the days of the aggressive salesperson trying to push product. Today, we focus on all aspects of our client’s life. My mission is to provide transparency and offer services to those who want and need independent holistic financial planning. We want to serve as many young and established professionals as possible, help them navigate their ideal life, and make the most of the resources available to them.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Technical knowledge and expertise is a given, but a genuine love of people and a strong desire to help are indispensable when successfully serving others. My diverse experiences working in different areas of finance – accounting, tax, family office environment, hedge funds and ultimately becoming an entrepreneur – make me uniquely qualified to serve my clients. I also love learning about a person’s life journey. Curiosity, compassion and being a great listener give me the ability to help people define and live their dreams.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
My business today is the culmination of experience and knowledge gained from various chapters of my career. After starting my career as a tax accountant, I transitioned into the investment world and founded Paradigm Advisors in 1992 where we built a stellar reputation within our investing specialty. One of my most memorable career accomplishments is founding one of the first female owned hedge funds and running it successfully for over two decades – an eternity in the life of a typical fund. Throughout my career, I have seen the impact – good and bad – of human behavior on the choices we make and the impact of those decisions on our lives. Today I am using my experience to reduce the stigma associated with money and simplify our clients’ lives by clearly communicating complex financial issues and helping to navigate the obstacles of life.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing the relief on someone’s face when they can say ‘I’ve got this!” is the best part of my job. Finances and money can be extremely intimidating. Part of it is by design – a bit of smoke and mirrors and a feeling of helplessness that give unscrupulous sales people an upper hand. Furthermore, money is the last taboo topic; it was never discussed in most households and financial literacy has not been taught in school. I love the peace of mind we provide when clients know we have their back and increase their comfort with money. By offering a safe environment, we enhance discovery of wants and wishes and enable people to achieve their ideal life.
What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?
My professional life has been rewarding in large part because of those who came before me and many who took me under their wing. Now is my chance to pay it forward by providing guidance and support for my clients and associates. I strive to build a firm independent of me, to increase our client’s knowledge and comfort with money, and to provide an avenue to more closely align spending with one’s values.
Who are your role models?
I have been fortunate to have wonderful role models and mentors in my life. My parents have always been extremely supportive, showed me unconditional love, encouraged me to always believe in myself, and illustrated the rewards of consistently tending to healthy relationships. Professionally, the one who has had the greatest impact on me is my Dad. He taught me early on that honor and reputation are your greatest assets and to always treat others with the utmost dignity and respect. He has always been a great counselor and advocate. Rather than give advice, he asks inquisitive questions then really listens…skills that are extremely useful in my current role. He is also the most positive person I have ever known. He can find the silver lining in every situation.
What does success look like to you?
Making the most of the gifts I have been given by working happy (i.e. finding what brings me joy and loving what I do) and having a positive impact on the lives of those I serve and those who follow me.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?
Being ‘B+’ is ok. When our kids were young, I felt a lot of (self-imposed) pressure to be the best at everything every day. We can let some things slide, accept the help of others to take things off our plate and free ourselves up to enjoy the journey. It isn’t possible to be perfect all the time, but we can be truly present in the role we are currently operating in and fully engage in experiences to create lasting memories for our loved ones. Even when performing at less than 100%, give lots of hugs and let family and friends know how much they are loved.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Paradigm Advisors, LLC
Michelle Gass, CPA, CFP®, is a Dallas, TX and Fayetteville, AR fee-only financial advisor and investment manager. Michelle is a partner at Paradigm Advisors LLC, a financial planning firm that specializes in financial planning, investment management, and retirement planning to help our clients work towards their financial goals at all stages of life. Continue Reading
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