When it comes to helping others, Morgan Stanley’s LaShell Lentz has “always had a knack for it.” She shares her journey—from the farm to finance, to “big sister” and troop leader.
When it comes to helping others, LaShell Lentz thinks she might have “always had a knack for it.” Thinking back to her childhood days of collecting rainwater from a downspout during a storm, her mother asked, “‘What are you doing?’ I told her ‘Africa is in the middle of a drought; I’m saving water so we can give it to them.’”
Her father had a good job with the railroad and provided well for LaShell and her three siblings, but she realized early that if she wanted any extras, she’d have to earn her own money—and found no shortage of opportunities to do so. When she was six, she helped her father in the cucumber patch. He’d pay her 10 cents a pail to carry the cucumbers to the end of the row. As she got older, she helped her grandfather and uncles on the family dairy farm by milking cows and baling hay in between babysitting and lawn mowing gigs, LaShell remembers. “I had all these little business opportunities!”
By the time she got to eighth grade and learned about “the power of compound interest,” the future Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor knew she wanted to be in finance. After high school, LaShell attended a small private college, so small that when an internship request came through for a student interested in finance, they knew LaShell was the right candidate, even though she was a freshman and the firm was looking to recruit a senior. “I’m going to apply and show them how with me, they won’t have to hire someone new every single year,” the determined LaShell remembers saying.
Sure enough, they hired LaShell, who interned for three years, “cut her teeth on everything” wealth management, passed her Series 7 exam, and was fully licensed before graduating college. Striving for more, she earned her MBA at night while working as a Financial Advisor full time. After 17 years, the Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) found her way to Morgan Stanley in 2013 and has never loved her work more.
“As a Financial Advisor, everything I do is about people and helping them achieve their goals,” she explains. “I love educating others, taking someone’s complicated situation and putting it into an easy-to-understand formula. Working with clients and helping them understand money, and retirement planning brings me the most joy.”
While certainly fulfilled at work, LaShell recalls a time in life when she wasn’t. “I did some soul searching and wanted to make more of a difference,” she reflects about her 2006 decision to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Being paired with a 10-year-old girl, LaShell describes helping each other “see life through a different lens.” A phone call from that “little sister,” when she and her family had been evicted and turned away from the full local shelter, opened LaShell’s eyes to the pervasiveness of homelessness, even in Dane County, where she now lives with her husband Jason and daughters Avery and Kylie.
The next day she called the Salvation Army and United Way, questioning “how could a homeless shelter be full?” Ever since, LaShell’s been bringing awareness and funding to the cause. LaShell joined the Advisory Board of The Salvation Army of Dane County in 2015. She chaired the Community Relations and Development Committee, served as Co-Chair of the Red Kettle Reception, helped create a Lip Sync Battle to raise funds, and served on the Strategic Planning team.
LaShell says she doesn’t “ever want a woman and her children to go through the experience of being homeless” and hopes to empower girls when they are young. After serving on the Girl Scout finance committee for several years, she helped launch One Tough Cookie, a 5K mud run fundraiser and then went on to become a troop leader when her oldest daughter was in kindergarten. Whether she’s organizing a weekend getaway or creatively recruiting new members to broaden the troop, LaShell is proud to be helping girls “do amazing things through adventure, education and service.”
Hoping to pass along valuable life “tools” to her daughters, LaShell is pleased to see more women entering financial services, especially compared to the industry 20 years ago, when LaShell often was the only woman in the room and mentors were hard to find. That “gave me the drive to succeed and make my mark.” Today, she empowers colleagues, and is proud of the monthly group sessions she facilitates with half a dozen mentees. “I don’t always have all the solutions, but I can spearhead group discussions on how each of them can be more successful in their careers and help their clients in the best manner.”
Recently named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a group of trailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers, she’s proud to be recognized as “someone who doesn’t sit on the sidelines. I see something that needs to be done and get up and go do it,” says LaShell, who hopes to inspire others to “go out and make the world a better place. That’s what I really want for my children.”
LaShell reflects on her career and says she considers herself extremely fortunate to be helping clients through different life stages. “Retirement, selling a business, wealth transfer to the next generation…every day is different,” she smiles. “It’s always a new day.”
Whether with clients or in her community, LaShell wants to excel while “lifting others at the same time. It’s no fun to be the only one on top. It’s much more fun to take as many people with you as you can.”
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