Anora Gaudiano's path to becoming a financial advisor is different from that of most people in the industry. She spent nearly 20 years as a journalist before switching gears and embarking on a career in financial planning. Today, her work as an advisor is why she is one of Financial Planning's 2022 Rising Stars.
Gaudiano grew up in a working class family in Uzbekistan when it was still a part of the Soviet Union. While she was encouraged to pursue higher education, it was only to become a teacher, as her family believed it was "more important to learn to become a good housewife than to be ambitious." By the time Gaudiano was a college student, she "understood how unfair and unequal" those societal norms were, and wanted to pursue an independent life beyond being "a shadow of a husband."
Without telling her parents, Gaudiano applied for scholarships to study abroad and received one from the American Councils for International Education. She only told her parents that she would be going abroad once her passport was stamped with a U.S. visa and she had a plane ticket to the U.S. Once she arrived in New York in 1997 as a 19-year-old, Gaudiano studied journalism as an undergraduate at Pace and wrote for a variety of publications out of college before being hired by the Financial Times as an equities reporter and online editor. The position sparked what Gaudiano called a "series of fortunate events" that led her to becoming a financial journalist.
She "fell in love with the world of finance" while writing and editing for the FT, but also found herself facing "many, many days" where she said she felt "really out of my depth and thought that I needed to really get more education." She received a Knight-Bagehot fellowship at Columbia University to study business and economics, earning her master's degree in business journalism in 2012.
"I loved every moment of being a student again, learning more about finance and economics," Gaudiano said.
Gaudiano then worked as a markets reporter at MarketWatch, a Dow Jones publication, where she often spoke with financial advisors as sources for her stories. In the process, she found herself drawn to the advisor role, especially the client-facing side of the job, and decided to make a career change in 2016, enrolling in early 2017 to prepare for the switch.
"I was pretty confident that I had a lot of transferable skills," Gaudiano said. "As a journalist, I spent a third of my time reading, a third of my time writing, a third of my time talking to people. So I felt that all of those skills were really good skills to have as a financial advisor."
She was hired as an associate advisor at the New York City-based firm Wealthspire Advisors in 2018. Zachary Gering, an advisor and managing director at Wealthspire, was involved in her hiring. He said that Gaudiano was one of the firm's first career change hires, and that her passion for entering the industry came through during her interview process.
"She was passionate, she had experience in a relevant industry and she knew where she wanted to get to," Gering said. "I remember it was just impressive to hear the stuff that she's worked on, but also have the perspective to know what she wants out of the industry and what she's willing to do to get to that point."
Gaudiano's journalism background was a particular draw for the firm at that time, as Gering and the hiring team thought that Gaudiano could help Wealthspire work on creating authoritative content for its website. Now, her favorite part of being an advisor is working with clients.
"I love talking to clients," Gaudiano said. "Whether it's over the phone, whether it's a scheduled meeting or whether it's my email, the direct interaction with clients is my favorite part of the job because that's when you'll know whether you are doing it well or not, because your clients are happy or not. and they'll let you know whether they're happy."
Gering pointed to Gaudiano's compassion while working with clients as one of her strengths as an advisor.
"In our business, people are trusting us with intimate details of their lives and trying to help them get to a place that they want to, and Anora takes that responsibility very seriously," Gering said.
Gaudiano views her job as one that requires a continual dedication to learning so that she is "basically forever a student." She likened her role to being a "financial doctor" and said that she wants to leave her clients "feeling better than they were before they talked to me."
"As a financial advisor, you become very much in tune with your clients," Gaudiano said. "Their worries are your worries, or their worries become your worries. Each financial decision is a life decision and each life decision is a financial decision. So they come to us with their most personal issues, whether they're positive issues or negative issues or goals or problems. That's where we come in and help them make sense of it."
Gaudiano also cares about working with women investors, saying that while "women tend to lack confidence" when investing, often "all they need" is "a little bit of a push and a reassuring conversation."
"There's a very distinct difference between how women manage their money and how men manage their money," Gaudiano said. "And we do live in a somewhat unequal society where we still have a pay gap and a wealth gap between men and women, and that gap is increased if you go into women of color and women with disabilities, older women and women in the LGBTQ community…and I think I know how to talk to women and how to make sure that they are on the right track."
Though her family had limited her career choices to what paths were considered respectable in Uzbekistan, Gaudiano still cites her mother as the source of her personal financial education after having grown up in a family of "very modest means."
"Everything I learned about handling money was from my own mom," Gaudiano said. "She is like a role model of how to manage personal finances for me personally. Even though you could say that I kind of grew up very far from being privileged, I still feel like I was privileged to have that kind of training from early on…. I wish I could impart that to my own children as my parents imparted that to me."
Gaudiano has now been at Wealthspire for over four years, and during that time, earned her CFP in 2019 and was promoted to an advisor in October 2021. However, Gering thinks that her career as an advisor still has much more to come.
"We have some big expectations for her now that she is starting to do things more as an advisor, more on her own," Gering said. "And in the next five years, I think her star will shine even brighter."