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Women in Business | ‘An advocate’s heart’: Financial adviser makes it her mission to help people | News

4 min read

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment in a series about women leading businesses.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – On the morning of Kayla Puchko Stephenson’s interview with The Tribune-Democrat, her youngest daughter, Madison, 7, said she looked nice.

“’She said, ‘What are you going to talk about?’ I said, ‘Well, about what I do,’ ” said Puchko Stephenson, a financial adviser at Puchko Financial Associates, 515 Main St., downtown Johnstown.

“What are you going to say?” Madison said.

Women in Business

Women in Business

“What do you think I’ll say?” Puchko Stephenson said.

“I think you are going to tell him you help people with money,” Madison said.

Puchko Stephenson was proud of her 7-year-old’s perspective.

“She gets that what I do every day is just help people with money, and that is great that she knows I’m helping,” she said.

Puchko Stephenson, a 2003 Bishop McCort Catholic High School graduate and University of Pittsburgh alumna, has always had a goal to help people in some way.

She once thought she’d be in the medical profession. She dedicated years to chiropractic study, taking pre-medical courses throughout her time at the University of Pittsburgh. But when she visited a chiropractic school in Florida, she decided it wasn’t quite the way she wanted to help people.

After some time living on the West Coast after college, she took her father’s invitation to see what he does for a living. Her father, Doug Puchko, is the founder of Puchko Financial Associates.

“I was away from Johnstown long enough to appreciate how special this small town is,” she said.

She moved back to Johnstown in 2009.

“I said, ‘OK, Dad, what do you do?’ So I sat in on a first meeting with a client, which is very open, no obligation, no cost,” she said. “We ask you some questions to know what you are doing. We show you how we help clients be more efficient with how they are doing what they are doing. So instead of realigning spines, we are realigning finances.”

In that meeting, she saw her father help clients answer some questions, and they left.

“He said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Dad, you help people,’ ” she said.

“He said, ‘What did you think I do?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but this is amazing,’ ” she said. “The fact that I could work with family and find a way of helping people in my hometown, all stars aligned, and it has been 15 years of hard work, getting licenses in place and constantly seeking continuing education.

“We are just constantly bettering ourselves so we can serve our clients.”

Puchko Stephenson is a certified master mentor with the Circle of Wealth system, which helps clients increase their accumulated money without taking additional risk, she said.

Her licenses include life, accident, health, annuities, securities, property and casualty. She is Financial Industry Regulatory Authority-registered through Park Avenue Securities and has earned the Retirement Income Certified Professional designation.

She currently leads the company with her father.

“The nice thing is I see a wide variety of clients,” she said. “I see clients who just got a job and say, ‘I know I should be saving, but don’t know where I should be saving.’ So I help form a plan to help them pay off school loans, how to save for a house, save for retirement, and how much to save for the short term.

“But we also have people who are more well-established, who may have left an employer and ask, ‘Where should I be putting money now?’

“And we have clients farther down the line, approaching retirement, who have saved, but need guidance on, ‘How do I come down the mountain and spend the assets in the correct way so that I’m not running out of money?’ ”

Being a woman in the financial industry and being a young woman in the industry are both not the norm, she said.

“The average age in this business is a 62-year-old man,” she said, “but in the last 15 years, that has changed. More women have come into the industry, and it’s important to have more women in this industry because women often manage household finances, and if we are caretakers for our families, too, we may have assets from our parents – so there is a lot of money to make responsible financial decisions with, now or later in life, that women need to better understand.”

Doug Puchko said the agency he started would not be where it is today without his daughter and business partner.

“She has an advocate’s heart,” he said, “and she’s had a great impact the whole way around. One of the biggest impacts is technology. She is at the forefront of that. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her help. A lot of my clients, because of the demographics I work with, like to sit across the table, but the clients she works with are comfortable doing Zoom. Eespecially with younger families, that’s convenient for them.”

Puchko’s peers in the financial industry with children have asked him how he got his daughter to join him in the business.

“I say, ‘Just ask,’ ” he said.

“And they say, ‘That’s it?’ ”

Then he gives the punchline – “ ‘and wait three years,’ ” he said with a laugh.

Puchko Stephenson lives in Johnstown with her husband, Andrew Stephenson, and their two daughters. A photograph of her daughters is displayed on the background of her computer in her office.

“Whether they work with me down the line, that would be great, but I hope they just find something that makes them happy,” she said. “We tell them, ‘Whatever makes you happy, whether you are good at reading at school or performing on stage.’ Them being them is so fun to watch.”


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