Grassroots Champion: Service in the Marines Shaped Wendy Woodward’s Character and Career – Now She’s Giving Back

December 1, 2021

As we mark Veterans Day each year, it’s important to honor those who have served. You don’t have to serve for a lifetime, though, for it to have a profound impact on you and your community. For an example, look to financial advisor member Wendy Woodward.

When Wendy was growing up, she admits she didn’t dream of a career in the military like some kids do. She was just looking for a way to help her family pay for college.

“I didn’t know anything about the military,” she says.

That changed when she attended a going-away party for a high school friend. She met a recruiter there and struck up a conversation. They reminded her that the GI Bill had helped millions pay for their education.

Intrigued, she took the leap and headed off to basic training in Parris Island, SC, before eventually settling in at the now-shuttered El Toro Marine Base near Irvine, CA. She was just 17.

A Beloved Career Cut Short But Some Divine Intervention

Her military career, however, was cut short after she suffered a severe knee injury. Unable to train, she was honorably discharged before her six-year commitment was up.

“I loved it, and I probably would have been a lifer,” she says. “It just didn’t work out the way I wanted.”

From there, her life took another dramatic turn after a critical mistake during a routine medical procedure left her in intensive care for several weeks. Yet, the mishap turned out to be a bit of divine intervention.

During her recovery, she had the good fortune to lean on members of Soroptimist International of the Americas. This global volunteer network provides support to women and girls experiencing hardships. Wendy became close with one member who referred to herself, in a testament to the times, as a “stockbroker” and encouraged her to interview for a job with her company once she got better.

Wendy did, and it launched her career in the industry. After landing that job, Wendy worked with a couple of other firms before ultimately starting her own in 2013, GPS Financial. At the Newport, Michigan-based practice, she focuses on providing clients with holistic planning and a comprehensive set of services, including everything from estate planning to investments to Social Security and Medicare advice.

A Lasting Influence

Though her stint was shorter than she preferred, Wendy says her military background has proved crucial in helping build her business. The lessons she learned in the service provided her with added confidence, while her résumé gives her more credibility with clients, especially fellow veterans.

Her ongoing involvement with the Women Marines Association has also provided a boost. She sits on the organization’s financial advisory committee, which guides the group’s investments that fund its activities through the year.

The association brings together women from across generations to offer camaraderie, mentoring and support to female Marine veterans. She says observing how different age groups communicate and relate to each other has improved her client interactions.

“Being a part of a group that has members in their 90s, 80s, 70s … all the way down to girls in their 20s who have just finished up their commitments has helped me understand how people from different generations view the world and communicate,” she says. “As a result, I can now have deeper, more meaningful conversations with clients, and it’s benefited my business.”

The Power of FSI

With a business to run and clients to serve, Wendy says she leans on FSI to make sense of the latest regulatory issues that have the potential to impact her practice. She’s happy we are an ally in Washington, D.C., and statehouses around the country.

“Even today, many people in the industry do not appreciate how great a partner we have in FSI,” she says.

FSI is only as strong as our membership – and having engaged members committed to serving their communities, such as Wendy, helps us serve as the voice for independent financial advisors and firms in Washington, D.C. and the states.

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