Few ACP members better represent the organization’s diversity in background, experience and client engagement than Sophie Kaluziak, a 20+ year experienced financial planner who built her own special compassionate business model for middle-class earners in middle America.
Her humble beginnings and professional background fit well with the ACP model of member collaboration, support and volunteerism. It has helped her to build a thriving business while also enabling her to contribute as a supportive and trustworthy member.
Sophie’s parents were forced farm labor in Germany during WWII, making her a first generation American who called Oak Park, Il home. After earning her B.S. in Accounting and the CPA certification, she worked as a sales tax auditor for the Florida and Massachusetts Departments of Revenue, eventually training new auditors and then moving into management for the final 12 years of her time there.
“It was a great run, but after 21 years in state tax auditing, I was ready for a career change,” she says. Working with a career counselor, she narrowed her career interests and chose financial planning.
Her first industry conference was a NAPFA event in Reno where she met former ACP member Joanne Paynter. “My conversations with her, and all that I subsequently learned about ACP (FKA Alliance of Cambridge Advisors), convinced me that this was the system that I wanted to use for my financial planning practice,” Sophie says.
She joined ACP in 2003 and has been an active member ever since.
“What initially attracted me to ACP was its comprehensive and holistic approach to financial planning,” she says. “Having a common approach and language with which to discuss our practice enables us to both serve our clients’ needs better as well as communicate with each other. And the flexibility of the ACP systems and tools means that we are able to use the components that are most helpful for our work and not be forced into a rigid system.” She began Vista Financial Planning in 2003 and received her CFP in 2006. “ACP gave me the framework to be able to do it on my own,” she says.
Starting out wasn’t easy, but she wasn’t deterred. “ACP truly helps people like me to learn the bare bones aspects of running a business,” she says. Eager to move forward on her own, she began by observing other experienced ACP advisors including founding members and early adopters including Karen Folk in Champaign, Illinois, Christina Isham and David Lentz in Detroit, and Linda Leitz and Jane Young in Colorado Springs. “Once I did that, I felt a lot better,” she says. She borrowed forms, templates and resources from others, because it made things easier. “This made me feel like, ‘I can do this.’ Because if you are on your own, as I was, it’s hard to really ‘practice’ financial planning. It’s better to see others practicing it in action. And that kind of sharing and support from other members is what makes ACP so great.”
Sophie’s niche was clear from the beginning—she wanted to serve middle-income earners who needed help to save enough money to retire. “That type of clients speaks to me,” she says.
Sophie is not really much of a marketer or self-promoter, and instead initially relied on word-of-mouth referrals from others who knew she had entered this career. Her strong performance helped her to build her reputation. Today, Sophie’s client list is full and she’s no longer accepting new clients but is happy to refer those who ask to other ACP members.
Sophie has served on ACP’s Technology Committee for 18 years and will begin a three-year term on the ACP board of directors on January 1. She joined the Technology Committee not because she’s an expert at technology, but because she’s not. Sophie says that “regular people” who aren’t tech-savvy need to be on the committee to offer perspective about how to improve technology for those who might be struggling. “I give back to ACP because I got so much out of it—that’s what ACP is all about.”