Sandi Bragar

sandi bragar interview

On Episode 2: Personal Finance and Your Career, Sandi Bragar shared some of the knowledge and expertise she’s gained in the 20+ years that she’s been a financial planner. While she knew in college that she wanted to pursue a career in financial planning, her career path took some twists and turns before leading her to her current position as Partner and Managing Director in Planning Strategy & Research at Aspiriant.

When ignited your passion for finance?

I learned about the financial planning profession when I was in college, and I immediately knew it was what I wanted to pursue as my career. While it wasn’t obvious to me at the time, reflecting on my life, this career choice now makes perfect sense. From about ages seven to fourteen money was tight in my family as my dad worked hard to build his own business, and my mom was home with my siblings and me. Because my parents were financially stretched, there were many disagreements about how to spend the money that was available during those formative years. Observing those arguments left me wondering a lot about how money works and how one could make decisions in life that could avoid money stress. Today, I get an immense amount of satisfaction from helping our clients make meaningful money decisions.

How did you get started in your career?

I had the opportunity to turn a part-time job I had with a financial planning firm in Santa Barbara during my last two years of college into a full time position when I graduated. However, I decided to temporarily pivot. Ernst & Young offered me a role in their San Francisco audit practice, and I took it. While not my preferred career path, the idea of obtaining my CPA license (street cred for a 20-something newbie to the career world!) while gaining experience at a notable worldwide company in a city that I loved was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Three years into that role, I began networking in the financial planning world. The E&Y alumni network led me to a former E&Yer who had recently become a partner of a well-regarded boutique wealth management firm in San Francisco, and my career path forever changed.  

What was a first major risk you took?

I was elated to get a job offer from Kochis Fitz (now Aspiriant) while I was at E&Y. My career dreams were about to come true. This was my opportunity to gain the financial planning experience I was craving, working with smart people, amazing clients, in a small firm environment. Then my bubble burst. The pay package was 30% lower than what I was earning at E&Y. Was this truly a career opportunity or going to lead to the end of my career?!

After many hours of careful deliberation of all the pros and cons I could think of, I decided to follow my heart. I had always wanted to be a financial planner, and this was my chance. The pay was enough to cover my expenses, and I had no other financial responsibilities, so if I was going to make a bold move this was the time. Three years later, I became a partner of the firm, and in early May of this year I celebrated my 21st anniversary at the same firm. I’m grateful that taking the risk to follow my passion and purpose has provided the best overall return of my lifetime.

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