Never too late to make a change

A Career Pivot is Possible at Any Life Stage 

Based on my true story of rags to riches and back to rags on the way to riches again

Author: Christine Peters, Cornerstone Financial Coaching

Growing up in Rochester, NY my family didn’t have a lot of extra money, but we had the essentials.

Several years after my parents divorced, I lived with my grandparents so I could attend my chosen high school. Here began my relationship with money. 

Since I lived with extended family, my portion of child support was sent to my Grandmother—and she gave it to me. But, I had to manage it to buy my personal toiletries, makeup, clothes, and any fun stuff I wanted, too. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the BEST financial education I could have received. And, getting it at such a young age set me up for being able to handle money well in the future. 

The money journey from childhood to adulthood

Fast forward. As a junior in college (paid for with student loans and grants), I left my “away school” and came home to find a job and finish school part-time. 

I had no money and needed to work full-time, so I found a job at a credit union as a teller making $214/week (yes, a week!), and I took the bus to get downtown to my job.  It was truly a chance occurrence that an employment agency sent me to this credit union, but it changed my life. 

I also enrolled in school at Rochester Institute of Technology immediately, but could only take one evening class at a time, because that’s all I could afford.

Just 12 years later, I found myself being hired at a different credit union as the Controller! During the 12 years, I had finished school, became a CPA, changed jobs twice, and learned more about life than I can explain.

I stayed at that credit union 18 years, became the CFO, and then the President/CEO. What?! I never aspired to that level of leadership, but it was a great ride. 

So I had achieved the rags to riches story….but it didn’t end there.

The money bumps along the way

I would go on to face money challenges twice…once NOT of my own choosing, and the other very much my own choice. 

The first challenge began when I ignored my gut instinct and allowed my then-husband to convince me to purchase a retail business that he would run. 

And run it he did….he ran it into the ground, resulting in 6-figure debt. Did you cringe a little when you read that? That debt became my problem because my name was on the “owner” line.

Clearly, bankruptcy was out of the question, since I was, after all, a CEO of a credit union. 

So I figured it out. I put my knowledge and skills to the test and found my way out of that debt and back to steady financial footing. 

Not long after conquering that money challenge, that marriage ended and I was back in the mud financially as I had been the primary earner in our household. As such, I suffered the financial consequences of divorce.

As you may guess, I got myself out of that financial hole as well! These years were not easy but I was grateful that I had the career and means to handle all of it.

A career pivot to be made for balance to be had

With all that behind me, I woke up in 2014 realizing that I looked forward to Mondays the way most people feel on Fridays. My career was amazing, but I needed balance.

So, I gave my volunteer Board of Directors 14 months’ notice that I would not be renewing my contract that expired on 1/1/2016. 

They looked at me like I had two heads! What?! 

Did I realize I was positioned to ride this thing all the way to retirement and have no money worries for life???

Yes, I realized that, but I was leaving and moving to sunny Florida to be closer to family and balance my life.

And so I did it- I moved and pursued a new start.

Not only that, but I was going to become an entrepreneur.

For those not familiar, this meant I would no longer get “paid to breathe” (as I referred to it)!  So I planned ahead and gave myself a cushion to ensure I didn’t need to find a job to sustain me. 

Instead, I embraced networking and meeting people in my new community like it was my job. 

I sampled short stints in other industries, like commercial real estate, non-profit consulting, and a couple of others. This brought in some money although nowhere near what I was used to. 

But a funny thing happened. 

Not making as much money didn’t bother me. I was realizing that making the right choice for my life was more important than the size of a paycheck.

After I sampled some options, I realized that I didn’t want to jump to a new industry.

Instead, I wanted to embrace all of my knowledge and experience in the retail “banking” world (I also put any form of the word “bank” in quotes because I’m a credit union lover through and through) and translate that into my own business- helping people manage their money more effectively.  I realized that most people didn’t have the background and training I had, so that made managing their money much more difficult, and STRESSFUL. 

Now I LOVE what I do again, but I do it at my own pace and in a way that works for my life. And I see the amazing results and changed lives with my own eyes, rather than hearing stories from my employees. My credit union team were rockstars, and made a difference in more lives than I can count….but I only experienced those wins from afar. 

It’s much more rewarding to see the results of my work firsthand! 

The moral of this very long story is that I would have never thought I would be able to leave a wildly successful career as a single woman almost 50 years old, move across the country, and start my own business. This means it’s possible to pivot at almost any age. 

Don’t push everything off you want to do until later. Your time is here and now. 

It’s scary to do big things, but it’s worth it!

About Christine Peters-Staggs, Tampa-based Financial Coach & owner of Cornerstone Financial Coaching. Christine founded Cornerstone Financial Coaching to empower and equip women to use their financial resources to live the life they want.

She specializes in helping professional women and small business owners gain control and confidence to manage their money in a way that reflects their own priorities and values.

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A Career Pivot is Possible at Any Life Stage 

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