Elisabeth Dawson has dedicated the last 18 years of her life to helping her clients achieve financial security. Her company, Copia Wealth Management and Insurance Services, have worked with thousands of clients to make their retirement a comfortable experience.
Dawson and her team’s dedication to their clients has made Copia a company unique amongst the financial world. Making it even more special is Copia’s mission to work with charities around the globe, and to help people in times of need. It is an example of how important helping individuals is to Dawson.
Totalprestige Magazine recently sat down with Dawson to talk about her company, career and dedication to creating a secure financial future for her clients.
Elisabeth, can you tell us about Copia Wealth Management and the services you provide?
At Copia Wealth Management and Insurance Services, we offer income planning, wealth management through private wealth strategies, tax mitigation planning, as well as estate planning. We specialize in insurance, various investment strategies, income protection, and engineering financial strategies to achieve successful results with minimized risk. We excel at turning client’s financial wish lists into a list of accomplishments using our comprehensive and coordinated approach. We focus on processes and people rather than products to aid our clients in realizing their ideal financial future.
Can you tell us how Copia Wealth Management and Insurance Services began and what some of the highlights have been?
I started in the industry in 1999 at the peak of the dot com bubble. I truly did not know what I didn’t know. But, what I did know was that I had to create success in this industry due to the fact that I had just changed career paths. I had been in retail with Nordstrom for 10 years prior as a manager and a buyer. I was very successful, but needed a career change for my family. I had just had my second child and he had some special needs when I went back to school in 1998 to get my education, and become licensed in September of 1999. It was a long road, but I was committed to make this transition a success.
Throughout the last 18 years of my career, I have been mentored by some incredible people. One of the first was Kim Butler, who is still an inspiration to me to this day, as one of the most successful female financial advisors in the industry. My most influential mentor in my career has been Sal Petruzzella. At a point in my life where I never pictured I would be, a very low point, Sal was there to pick me up and remind me of the incredible power of knowledge and talent that I had inside of me. He helped raise me up in this industry to have the strength of the advisor I am today. I owe him, as well as others, such gratitude over my career. However, Sal has been so strategic and inspiring to guide me in building my business to help change people’s lives to a level that I could only dream of reaching. With Sal’s help, I reached those levels. Now, Sal is retired and it was the biggest honor when he asked me to become his financial advisor during the biggest transition of his life. Even though he could do it himself, he asked me to look out for him and his wonderful family. I take that responsibility with the greatest honor each and every day.
What makes COPIA Wealth Management stand out from competitors?
At Copia, we focus on an individualized and comprehensive approach with an emphasis on educating and counseling our clients. We want individuals to feel confident and empowered in making important financial decisions which can impact the rest of their lives. This is dramatically different from many advisors, who often focus on specific product offerings based on commissions, or striving for the highest rates of return with little regard for the fees and expenses incurred by clients. We really aim to change the way individuals understand and approach their finances as a means to accomplishing their goals and living their ideal life. We have found that this wholistic approach is far more successful in helping our clients to reach their short and long-term goals, while making a significant impact on their overall financial picture.
Elisabeth, what have you learned about yourself while running your own business?
I am unwaveringly passionate and dedicated to my mission to help as many as possible in reaching their full potential and accomplishing their financial wish list. This means always going the extra mile and never settling for “good enough”.
I am driven by customer service and the “client experience”. I truly am humble to the people who share and bare their souls to me and my team. It is difficult and heart wrenching to unveil what people are most vulnerable about. I thank them for their transparency, for their honesty and sometimes (often times), there are tears that they shed with me. I always want to assure them that whatever they share with me is confidential and I will hold it in the highest regard. I refer to it as “life happens” and sometimes can relate with them in so many ways. Whether it is a loss of a loved one or a fear of running out of money in their lifetime, even though they may have so much. To them, they may never feel that they will ever have enough to calm that fear. My goal is to always reassure them that we will work towards the very best outcome, with their best interest as the foundation of the planning that we commit to doing together.
What moment in your career do you look back on most fondly?
I remember when I was initially being mentored and going through training prior to being licensed at the very beginning of my career. My father was being offered an early retirement package to retire from the government at age 55. My mother was an entrepreneur and ran her own business. So, I brought my parents in to meet with a senior partner at the firm to review their situation to see if they could feasibly retire, or at least my father could retire. However, you see, there was an obstacle: my mother was European from Vienna, Austria. When I was growing up, you never talked about money, dying (life insurance), or even her purse. Well, in this meeting, all of these areas were talked about. I remember this meeting was a pivotal moment for me. I was still working full-time for Nordstrom and working as much as I could in the financial services industry training to transition into this new career. I remember praying for several days, or longer, that God would show me a sign. Well, my Mother was that sign. I prayed that if this plan that the senior advisor prepared that I was able to be an observer of, that if my parents liked it (especially my mother) than that would be the sign for me to come into the financial services industry. Well, my mother loved it. It gave her peace of mind in the event that my father retired at a young age of 55 that they would be ok. That she could still work, because she wanted to. That they would purchase $300,000 worth of life insurance on my dad to maximize his pension in the event to fill the gap of what his pension would drop to per month if he died before my mother. It all folded together like a perfect envelope and my parents were well on their way to retirement. That was the sign I needed from God to show me this was where I needed to be. I began my career in September of 1999 and I never looked back to the world of retail sales ever again. It’s always been about helping change people’s lives one day at a time. My life mission is to help as many people as I possibly can in the time I have left on the Earth, to create peace of mind and calm them on their financial journey over the course of their lives. It’s a passion and a calling for me and it all started the year that my Dad was turning 55. This year, as I write this, he just turned 74 a couple of days ago and he is still very successfully retired.
How do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in striving to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. Sometimes that means finding opportunities from current events to educate people in new ways on various topics. At Copia, we pride ourselves on tackling some more traditional aspects of financial planning in new and innovative ways. This often means looking at circumstances from multiple perspectives in order to find a proactive approach well suited for any particular client or situation. For example, California has been stricken with so many tragedies, including the Santa Anas that have led into major wildfires where so many homes have burned. Plus, the recent train derailment which occurred in Washington state. People are taken off guard and, in most cases, are not prepared. I am so passionate about wanting to take care of our clients, as well as those who are not our clients yet. We create a personal financial inventory binder for our clients. Once they have gone through our process and have become a client, we make sure that all of their most important financial documents are in this amazing binder, so that all they have to think about financially is to grab this, themselves, their loved ones and go in the event of a major catastrophe. I even feel like this goes hand-in-hand with disaster preparedness. No one ever wants to think that something so tragic as the events I have mentioned above could happen to them. However, wouldn’t you rather be prepared with all of your financials in one easy place; to grab a binder and go, versus trying to grab your entire filing cabinet to leave your home?
We recommend several items to be inside your personal financial inventory binder: a personal asset identification worksheet that lists out all of your accounts and where they are located; all of your insurance statements for ease of communication and reference; mortgage statements, home insurance, title, quitclaim deed and anything pertaining to your real estate; Yyour living trust or will; all investment statements; all personalized documents that are proprietary to you. We create and personalize this book for each client that we are privileged to work with. We want them to bring this in every time they meet with us, so that we can update it. This helps ensure that their working knowledge is refreshed and ready to go. We have even had clients ask us for two versions, one for their home and one for their office. Depending on the situation, sometimes we accommodate that request. This personal financial inventory binder is truly priceless. It’s invaluable in keeping your life in order when you need it most.
I also find considerable inspiration in giving back. I have been fortunate in both my life and my career, and I believe it is incredibly important to share those gifts with others. I have been so blessed and I want to share it with my industry, as well as others who share similar passions. I will teach and educate others to practice the same passion when having the privilege and honor to work with incredible people, as I have.
More importantly, I love to give back charitably the most. I set a goal to give back 10% of my compensation each year. I give as much as I can to my church, which gave to the hurricane victims in Texas and Florida in 2017, feeding the homeless, single and pregnant mothers to be, school supplies to local schools and so much more. I support the Lyon family, through the Lyonhearted Foundation, which is in dedication to their son who lost his fight to a very rare childhood brain cancer called DIPG. Proceeds go to research and development for this 100% fatality rate cancer, supporting other families that are going through this with their children and missions. I have my team come to me with ideas and we contribute as a whole on projects as possible. We want to give back to the community and share what God has so blessed us with.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Often, one of the more difficult parts of my job is working past people’s preconceived notions regarding financial planning. This can have a lot to do with the limited information available to the general public as well as the eroded sense of trust within the industry, which is a result of recent years. That, and procrastination. So many people put off getting help with their financial life, because it seems too daunting of a task.
What do you have your sights set on next?
I am just publishing a book, Wealth By Design, which talks about our processes here at Copia. It discusses some of the methods we use to help educate clients on how to take control of their financial lives and begin to realize their ideal future. I plan to continue working hard on my mission to help individuals achieve their dreams of security and a life spent pursuing their true desires.
Were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?
Yes, most definitely. I am incredibly grateful that I have been fortunate enough to work with several great mentors over the course of my career. One of the most influential has been Sal Petruzzella. His work ethic and broken-down view on life is so incredible. When I analyze something, he takes it to another level. He gives me a completely different perspective on what that knowledge could and should be. It becomes a perfect balance when you have clarity over being in a profession for almost 50 years. Having Sal’s mentorship for the past 10-plus years has been incredible, not only professionally, but I am grateful to call him my friend as well.
What is a day in your life like?
Busy! Honestly, there is never a dull moment and my schedule can be ever-changing. I have given up control of my schedule to my staff who know exactly what and how long I need to spend with each and every appointment. They know that if someone calls and needs to speak to me, to schedule it on the calendar right away at a time I am available and that the client will be available too, so that we do not miss each other. Mondays are generally for our general manager and myself to meet, team meetings, preparation for the week with my case manager to review all the cases for the week, calls and tying up any loose ends, and a business coach meeting at the end of the day for the last two hours. Tuesday through Thursday are client meetings from the time I walk in to the time I walk out. Client meetings start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. or later. Fridays are team meeting wrap ups, case meeting wrap up for the week and starting to look at the next week, and then tying up any loose ends.
What makes you smile?
Something positive with my family. My faith, friends and our Copia client family, especially when we have truly helped them achieve what their goals, dreams and desires are. When we have shown them something they thought they could never do. When we can show them how to do it with ease. When each meeting ends in a hug and a “Thank You!” It’s an incredible feeling.
What scares you?
The thought of people struggling and feeling weighed down by money anxieties. Especially after years of hard work and dedication to their careers and their families. Our lives are so much more precious than material things, and I want to help people get to a point where they are comfortable and secure, so that they can focus on other things that really matter and improve their quality of life with activities such as enjoying their family and friends.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I’m still working on it every day. I’m not finished yet. I have more to do.
What is your secret talent?
My secret talent is always surprising to me, but I take it as the biggest compliment. It doesn’t matter what type of situation I am in, whether it is a personal or professional setting, but people will tell me everything about themselves. I mean everything, without me asking. I am humbled by this. I am kind and genuine, I am a good listener and people want to talk. I have been told that people feel very comfortable opening up to me. They will usually tell me more than they have ever bared to their family or anyone closest to them. I become somewhat of a therapist to them, kind of by accident. I have sincere empathy for them and I genuinely care about people. I want the best for all people and if I can help someone, I will.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
I loved Shirley Temple as a child. I just admired her as a child and everything she could do and all that she accomplished, even into her adulthood. There are so many other historical figures that I can mention. Bob Hope: I marveled at him as I grew up and how he would take care of himself by taking hundreds of vitamins per day to keep up on his health. What a talented actor he was, and a humanitarian. Ronald Reagan, not from an actor point of view, but from a political standpoint. Such an incredible president who overcame so much adversity and has been remembered as one of the most beloved and revered leaders of our time.
Elisabeth, do you have any hobbies?
I love lemons! I love them with every ounce of me. I have Meyer lemon trees and want to plant and grow more of them. I eat them with salt regularly. I know that this makes people cringe, but it is one of my most favorite things to do and is a regular part of my quirky life.
I am a wine connoisseur and I love to travel. I have been privileged to travel throughout the US and Europe. I have been able to collect some of the most beautiful wines in Napa, California and it is one of the most beautiful areas that I love to visit. Also, the 101 Coastline, Big Sur and Carmel. It is all so beautiful.
What are you never without?
Probably like most people, my phone and my calendar.
My cross, my aunt Charlotte’s diamond tennis bracelet. It is a bracelet my sister Brigitte gave me before she passed that has all of the archangels on it.
Can you tell us two of your favorite quotes?
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” — Vince Lombardi
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill
Instinct versus expertise. Which is more important and why?
I believe, as with most things in life, it’s important to have a healthy balance of both. However, I’d have to lean toward expertise as the heavyweight contender. As I like to say, there is a professional for everything. I have witnessed firsthand the extent to which education plays such a crucial role and how a lack of knowledge can act as a major hindrance in people’s financial lives. There is also the fact that the majority of people are severely limited by the information they have access to, so I’d emphasize the importance of working with an expert to get a comprehensive understanding of your financial situation and the options available to you.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
Get ready to work harder than you ever have in your life, but know that it is beyond worth it. If you believe in yourself and are passionate about your mission, you can truly make a difference in the world and in the lives of other people. If you want success, you can’t get there part-time.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The time to shape your future really is now and the first step always seems like the hardest. I encourage anyone with any questions at all, small or large, to reach out and give us a call. We are always here to help and would be honored to support and guide you through your own unique financial challenges and decisions.
For more information about Copia Wealth Management and Insurance Services, please visit www.copiawm.com.