• Women Financial Advisor Forum

After 40 Years, Jeanie Knigin Still Loves Finance and Working with Women

Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor Jeanie Knigin serves as an educator, volunteer and mentor with a love for finance.

If you ask her, New York City Financial Advisor Jeanie Knigin will tell you her passion for finance was undoubtedly triggered by the unusual presents she used to receive growing up.

“My sister and I used to get a share of stock as a gift. My father was career Navy, so these were modest increments,” said Jeanie. “And I have to tell you, I didn't like it at all. All my friends were getting all this good stuff, and I got a piece of paper; one share of this company, and one share of that company. Who even knew what it was?

“But then one day when I was about twelve years old, mother showed me in the newspaper how to read the prices of these stocks that I owned. And as I unlocked that code and began to total up my treasure, I realized I had amassed this ‘fortune’ of perhaps two-hundred-and-some-dollars. And I remember saying to mother ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”

Jeanie went to the College of William & Mary and started out majoring in math. “I’m not too good at languages, but give me a math problem and I won’t quit till I get it,” Jeanie said. But as she found that the road for math majors led to teaching, and she had her heart set on becoming a financial advisor, she switched her major to economics.

Jeanie Knigin still loves finance and working with women

Jeanie Knigin still loves finance and working with women

Just three weeks after graduating she married her high school sweetheart and got her first job at the bank where she had worked during her summers in college. “I tried to get a job on Wall Street, but it was a down time for the markets,” said Jeanie.

Within a couple of years, however, she earned an MBA from George Washington University, going to classes at night, after landing a position in Washington, D.C. at a small firm that had been taking advantage of the new wave of qualified professional women who were seeking work.

“It was the beginning of a long, wonderful career in finance,” said Jeanie. “Over time I found myself acquiring a lot of female clients because there were so few of us in the business back then. Generally, I find it more comfortable working with women. It’s not an unusual thing; people often are more comfortable dealing with reflections of themselves.

“Even today, the focus of my client base is women who are 50-plus, divorced or widowed; or working with couples where the husband may be older and is looking for someone he can trust to help his wife with her finances going forward.”

Change in Career

At one point in her career, Jeanie moved into management, thinking it would be an interesting new challenge. The new position required that she move to New York and give up her practice. It also ended her marriage.  

“It had been 14 years and we married so young; we had simply grown apart,” said Jeanie. “But I knew that picking up and moving and changing careers was the right thing at the right time. I never gave it a second thought. I got in my car and moved to New York. I just did it.”

But 10 years later, she longed to again be involved in helping people with their financial needs. In short time she found herself back at work, this time at Smith Barney, which became Morgan Stanley, and where she is about to celebrate her 40th year in the industry. 

“For women who are considering Financial Services as a midlife change or a second career, this business is great; you can take great advantage of all the professional connections you've collected over the years,” said Jeanie. “It certainly seems to me that it's even more challenging and competitive today than it was when I began in the 1970s.” 

“When I first entered the financial services business, I really stood out – women were extremely rare. Now it’s very common.”

Mother a Role Model

“I have both my parents to thank for my success; for putting me through college and inspiring me. They were both excellent role models—my mother in particular. Mom was a real trailblazer. She grew up on a ranch in Paint Rock, Texas. She got her PhD in English and founded the American Studies program at George Mason University,” said Jeanie. “And she always encouraged my sister and I to believe we could do anything we wanted to do.” 

Her mother’s attitude toward empowerment and achievement was transferred early on. Jeanie vividly recalls one instance: “We were driving in the car, and the news at the time featured Gloria Steinem talking about equal rights for women. Mom turned to both of us in the back seat and said ‘I don't know why women would want equal rights, when we are superior.’ That was the way that she thought and it influenced me a lot. It helped make me feel very powerful.” 

Jeanie likes to influence others by sharing her knowledge, experience and caring in a variety of ways, serving as volunteer, educator and mentor. For fifteen years she has served as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, spending a week at a small liberal arts college in the U.S. 

“I teach classes and interact with the students. It brings real-world experience to the class room. I love it. I feel like I make a real difference,” Jeanie said. “I have an impact on the lives of these students. It’s my way of giving back.”

Jeanie is also a member of the Mary Washington Colonial Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Financial Women's Association of New York and the Estate Planning Council of New York. Closer to home, Jeanie supports the Toby Project, a nonprofit organization working to end the killing of adoptable dogs and cats in New York City's animal shelters through spaying and neutering. 

“I love dogs,” said Jeanie. “I've owned many dogs over my life, most recently a black lab I got from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which is another organization I support.”

But Jeanie’s main philanthropic effort has been the SeaBee Museum Port Hueneme, CA.  

“My father was a SeaBee as CO in Chu Lai, Viet Nam. He enlisted right after Pearl Harbor and had a 30 year career in the Navy. He put me through college and I am fortunate to still have him with me today, just as I always felt fortunate to be a Navy Jr.. All that relocating made it easy for me to be comfortable meeting new people.”

For Jeanie, who is a Certified Financial Planner and a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, every day is another day to meet new people and help them plan their financial future.