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Helping dollars make sense.


The financial planner Venita VanCaspellikes making money-- especially for other people. The sport of taking one dollar and turning it into two, and taking two and turning them into four, has dominated her life for 25 years. Now a veteran of the game, she enjoys coaching others in the nuances of its rules. When she's not advising clients, she's leading investment seminars; when she's not hosting PBS's "The MoneyMakers,' she's writing another best seller on personal finance; when she's not editing her national Money Dynamics Letter, she's keynoting a conference of Fortune 500 companies; when she's not minding her Houston brokerage firm, she's overseeing her Wealth Management company.

A "master' of finance,VanCaspel defies stereotypes, particularly those poking fun at women's mismanagement of money. She prefers making bucks to spending them and claims a genuine distaste for women's alleged national pastime --shopping. In a world of pin stripes and wing tips, she's high heels and Ultrasuede. Her voice is soft but her words have clout. If her feminine image attracts attention, her professional savvy keeps it. Her success didn't come early or easily--she's worked for it, and she still does. "There are times I think I'd like to sit in a big, fat chair and eat chocolate-chip cookies and read romantic novels,' she says, laughing. "But I've never gotten around to it. As a matter of fact, I think it would be nice to be bored for a change.'

Popping cookies and consumingnovels aren't VanCaspel's style, however. Chosen "Certified Financial Planner of the Year' by the Institute of Certified Financial Planners in 1982 and ranked as the No. 1 financial planner by 2,400 of her peers, she's always been goal oriented. "I think "necessity oriented' is more like it,' she corrects the interviewer. "I had a lot of jobs when I was growing up in Oklahoma. As a little girl I sold cosmetics and candy in a dime store, then I picked cotton and peanuts to make ends meet. Since we didn't have any money, I was sort of intrigued by how you get it and what you do with it once you have it. After I graduated from high school I had to go to work, but when I saved enough, I went to college and studied economics and finance.'

VanCaspel was often the only femalein her upper-level courses at Duke University and later at the University of Colorado, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She recalls her professors as being fair, although her classmates sometimes viewed her as a novelty. "They didn't treat me differently,' she says, "but if they had any clubs or professional organizations, I always had to be the secretary because I was female.'

VanCaspel's mind wasn't set on acareer, especially after she met and married a fellow student. She worked as an executive secretary while her husband settled into an advertising sales position in Houston and then in Dallas. Tragedy struck one evening when she went to the airport to meet his plane and learned that the flight, with more than 90 passengers aboard, had crashed. There were no survivors.

After the initial shock,Venita agonized over what to do with the rest of her life. "I had a degree in economics and finance, but I had not been taught what to do with money,' she explains. "When I received an insurance check --and it was not a lot--I realized I didn't know what to do with it. So I went back to school and studied investments.'

During this postgraduatestudy, VanCaspel read some alarming statistics that influenced her for life. She learned that only 2 percent of people over 65 were financially independent, 23 percent had to continue working, and 75 percent were dependent on friends, charity, or relatives. "I thought, This is a tragedy and I know the answer. That's what I'll do with my life. I'll help people become financially independent. It sounds easy today, but if you were a female in Houston, Texas, in 1961, it was not very easy. I had to become a stockbroker to do it, and I couldn't get any firm to hire me, because I was a woman. One place told me they tried a woman once and it didn't work!' she says.

Back to the books. VanCaspel readthe rules of the New York Stock Exchange and found the only requirements for becoming a broker were to work for a member firm for six months and then to pass a test. Nowhere did the rules state what kind of work you had to do for the member firm, so she accepted a job as a clerk and enrolled in a correspondence course with the New York Institute of Finance.

Six months later she passed thenecessary exam. Then the brokerage firm had a real problem: What should be done with this upstart? "The manager called me into the office and said, "I think we'll throw you into the water and see if you can swim.' What that means is, "We carry the men on a draw for a year, and we're not going to give you anything.' They pointed me toward a corner near the board that goes clickety-clack and said, "There's your desk. If you need anything, ask us.' That was my training program,' she recalls.

VanCaspel had achieved her goal.Sort of. She was a broker, yes, but she had no clients. Again, she went back to the books, this time studying a manual on how to contact prospective clients by phone. After a few hours of "cold calls' and lukewarm responses, she decided she was too sensitive for this approach. Next she thought of scheduling investment seminars and inviting people to attend. There was just one drawback: "I didn't have any speaking experience,' she admits. "So I got a list of all the women's clubs in Houston and prepared a letter for my boss to sign offering me as a speaker. I must have been terrible at first, but I practiced on the women of Houston and learned to speak by talking to them.'

VanCaspel underestimates herself.Before long, the conference room at the brokerage house couldn't contain her crowds. A local department store offered its auditorium in exchange for the traffic her workshops generated. When a scheduling conflict at the store forced her to move her seminar to a large hotel, she was amazed that the audience doubled in size. She had always assumed the store had been the draw.

VanCaspel's sex--a professionalliability up until then--suddenly became an asset. Word got around that a certain Houston brokerage firm employed a knowledgeable woman who could strip the mystique from high finance. "I remember in 1964 a group was hosting a convention in Chicago and needed a speaker. They called my boss and said, "We understand you have a woman stockbroker. Can she make a speech?' He said, "Oh sure,' even though he had never heard me. When I got to Chicago the convention room was very dark. I asked the management to light up the stage. Then I got the person who was going to introduce me to tell everyone to move to the front. I started to give my talk--I had practiced a lot--and things really clicked. People in the lobby could hear it over the speakers, and they began coming in. At the end of the session, the audience was invited to stay and ask questions. There was a standing ovation, and a crush of people moved toward me,' she says.

As large as VanCaspel's publicgrew, it was still limited by the size of the meeting rooms and all the time she had to devote to the seminars. She decided to go back to the books . . . only this time writing, not reading, them. Money Dynamics came first, followed by The New Money Dynamics, Money Dynamics for the 1980s, The Power of Money Dynamics, and Money Dynamics for the New Economy. Combined, they have sold more than a million copies in hardback, and the most recent, Money Dynamics for the New Economy, is currently the best-selling money book on the market.

Although the advice VanCaspelgives via workshops and books varies according to the state of the economy, her goal has remained constant. She believes all people can become financially independent if they have the ability to earn, the discipline to save, sufficient time, and reasonable intelligence. "Money won't bring you happiness, but neither will poverty,' she says. "Money brings options to your life that you won't otherwise have. No person is free until he is financially independent. He will be an economic slave, and slavery is not becoming to anyone. That's why it's so important to handle your money properly.'

Time must also be carefully budgeted,but Venita claims no particular talent for managing hers. She admits she requires eight hours of sleep a night but wishes she could get by on half. Her work load, which has expanded with her success, currently includes a monthly newsletter to keep readers up-to-date between books, another season as moderator of "MoneyMakers,' beginning in January, and ownership of the Diamond V Ranch, a cattle and quarter-horse operation. Even her personal-fitness regimen smacks of her high-energy lifestyle. "My favorite exercise is using an electric treadmill,' she explains. "I can set up a cassette player with a long cord on it and listen to tapes while I work out.'

Her choice of tapes? "Motivationalmessages. That way I get physically fit and motivated all in about half an hour.'

Photo: VanCaspel often wondered as a girl what she'd dowith money if she ever had any; now she's advising clients on what to do with theirs.

Photo: Practicing what she preaches about saving time, VanCaspel directs investment seminars between writing books about money and minding her own brokerage firm.
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Title Annotation:Venita VanCaspel
Author:Miller, Holly G.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Interview
Date:Mar 1, 1987
Previous Article:The mission.
Next Article:Our dog won't retire.

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