charitable giving, Climate change, entrepreneurship, life insurance, new economy, protection, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Embracing the Future: An Interview with Charlotte Markward

I met Charlotte and her Husband Randy years ago at a Green Drinks in Philadelphia. It was before the days of Tesla, widespread solar power and organic food sections at the grocery store. People got together to share a beer and dream about a future that would be more sustainable. Things have changed a great deal in the past few years.

Charlotte is a graphic designer based in Philadelphia. She has agreed to share some of her experiences and insights so that we all might have an easier path to financial security.

Charlotte has been interested in supporting socially responsible investing for many years. I asked her what it means to her. Charlotte said, “For one thing it’s smart. We have a finite amount of resources and we are running out of them. To continue doing things in the old ways is to set yourself up for failure. Green investment is where the growth will be.”

“But from an emotional point of view, I would hate to see a world where there are floods and tsunamis and if it gets worse it is going to affect America. It’s going to affect our children. I would hate to say to Jack (her son) I invested in the stuff that caused this to happen. It’s a legacy for our children.” The question we all have to ask ourselves is, do our investments match our values?

When asked how climate change affects her life she said, “I get nervous because the things that happen like weather disasters are going to happen with more frequency. Even if the disasters are not in the US we will still be affected. Food prices, shortages, causing problems with the economy—I am getting away from being materialistic and hunkering down.” I was reminded of Thoreau’s mantra “Simplify, simplify”

I see a big trend with the gig economy that people want to work on their terms. To choose when and how to earn a living, and in the process being able to pay attention to their personal life. Char agreed.

Financial planning is something that many people resist doing, so I asked Charlotte why she was so motivated to tackle it. The reason she explains was because of the experiences of her Father many years ago.

“My dad loved his job. He worked at Bell (Telephone) before it became Verizon. He had a great time. He got the job at 22 and he ran home and told my mother that I’ll never have to worry about a job again. And before he died he was worried. They started doing rounds of early retirement when he was 40, by the time he was 48 he know he was going to be let go. To get to your 50’s and have a set of skills and then be forced out was the scariest thing.”

“Since he didn’t have an estate plan his money went to my mom and that became her retirement. But there wasn’t a plan.”

“The transfer of real wealth will be through life insurance” Life insurance is one of the most effective ways to leverage wealth. “To put in $5 but have your heirs get $20; that just makes financial sense”

Charlotte continues, “There really is no inheritance anymore. It used to be that if you had a family farm it was passed down from generation to generation. But our parents now can’t do that. If they have a house they have to sell it to pay for long term care. There is no estate for most people. The answer is life insurance.”

The reality and the challenge is people are living longer. To live longer means that the nest egg one has must also last much longer. How do you do that in the most efficient way? You have to do planning to make sure a surprise does not blow a hole in your hopes and dreams because it is difficult enough as it is.

Charlotte shared a story from a book she read several months ago called the Thin Green Line. “The author felt he was pretty well off. Upper middle class. He visited a private club for the super ultra wealthy, and the one thing he found was that all of the rich people said you have to hedge against risk and that’s what insurance did. They were all very well insured. I realized that I needed to do the same thing. That why I got disability insurance.” Disability Insurance protects against loss of income in the event of illness or injury.

I asked Charlotte, how the new gig economy and the experience of her father has affected her career in marketing and brand design? “Learning how to hustle. I realized that you just can’t be a worker bee. You have to be higher up to keep from being let go. There are fewer jobs out there. I have to make myself more indispensable. To add value.”

She continued, “The other thing is it helped me to always be looking for opportunity. Always pay attention. There’s a job, take it–do it. To be ruthless.”

When asked about prospects for the graphic design industry in the new economy and social media, if she sees it growing. “I do see it growing. I think that more people are getting low level cheap design, that’s actually not too bad. But what that does is create more demand for top level design.” If you want higher quality results firms like hers have a real purpose and role to fill. I was reminded of what Gary Vanyerchuk said in “6 Minutes for the next 60 years”(1), people who are 40, 50, 60 have experience and that means something.

When asked how she promotes herself, she responded “word of mouth”. She has also gotten results through connecting on Linked In.

Have you thought about partnering with other people to add services to the work she does. “I do but I try to maintain a balance between my full time gig and freelance.”

One of the challenges to staying with a freelance or solo focus is being able to execute on saving and protection, in addition to the perpetual hustle, constantly having to hustle to find the next client. It’s a different lifestyle. But that’s the way it is. People need to be able to freelance because things are tighter now, the economy is tougher; it just takes more to be able to put bread on the table. “It’s about keeping that eye for opportunity.” Charlotte says.

I asked, what do feel excited about in the work you do? Char immediately and excitedly responds “Branding. Real true good branding is strategy, its problem solving, thinking about all the different perspectives and bringing it all together, and turning it in to a system. I love that. People think branding is a logo, is font choices and color, but it’s not. It is so much more. It’s the message behind it, it’s the photography; it’s a lot of fun.” For examples you can visit Charlotte’s website.

I asked Charlotte, what would you do different since the Great Recession? “I wish I was better with money than before. Budgeting. I would think I was thrifty because I don’t go on vacation, but I was leaking money like a sieve. There were a thousand little ways I was wasting money. I am more critical now about how I am spending money and saving money. When the Great Recession hit I realize now that it was an opportunity. If I had been prepared I could have been able to get rental properties. I want to be better prepared for the next downturn. I have made the decision to get better spending habits and get better saving habits so that I will be ready for the opportunity.”

Are you optimistic about the future? “I am; I hope I am not being stupid. Once you get a peek through that window of how things really are, you are better prepared. Being able to pay attention to opportunity. I have been spending a lot of time paying attention to creativity. I am in a field where creativity is a given. I feel it’s time to push and develop creative insight. Creativity isn’t just artwork, it’s a mindset. That will help me see opportunity and add value to the work I do.”

I appreciate Charlotte taking the time to share her insights and experiences.

If you want to discuss these issues or learn more please feel free to contact me at .

Retirement Income. Tax Efficient Planning.

Life Insurance. Disability Insurance

Socially Responsible Investing

To learn more contact:

James Cox

Cell: 267 323 6936


Park Avenue Securities 150 South Warner Rd.  Suite 120 King of Prussia, PA 19406

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