An undergraduate degree in elementary school teaching might seem like an odd start for the head of a financial planning company. But Beth Blecker says the experience was invaluable. “A lot of what I do is educating clients; and those clients say it helps that I can explain things in clear, simple terms,” says Blecker, who grew up in the Valley and raised her family in Suffern.
After teaching, she herself returned to the classroom as a student in the 1970s. She studied accounting at Rockland Community College while the country was weathering a financial crisis. “I couldn’t get a job when I graduated and didn’t really have a career strategy,” she remembers. Eventually, she snagged a position as a corporate accountant for several years, then she and her husband started Eastern Planning in 1995. After their divorce, Blecker maintained the company on her own. “That was very difficult and stressful,” she recalls. “But I was very determined and fortunate because my son came into business with me. We were able to build Eastern Planning into the organization it is today.” Blecker built her customer base by fostering relationships with people who had been laid off or given early retirement packages from corporations. The boutique business now works with 325 clients.
Helping retirees and those approaching retirement is the company’s area of expertise. Blecker enjoys advising these people because, in general, they are focused on their finances and what they want and need to do in terms of retirement. “It’s more important to know where you are and where you’re going than it is to just worry about your investments,” is the advice she gives them. “Unless you have a clear understanding of where you’re going, you might not get there.”
Blecker is a fervent believer in educating women about financial literacy. “Women need to take control of their finances, whether they’re married or single,” she declares. She also encourages women not to be scared off by the math (she herself admits to not being a math wizard in school), and to consider financial planning as a career. “A lot of financial planning is listening and understanding, which is something that women handle well,” she says. “Plus, since there are hardly any women in the field, lines for the women’s bathroom at conferences aren’t that long!”
In addition to offering one-on-one financial services, Blecker and her son and business partner, Matt Blecker, offer workshops, seminars, and webinars on topics ranging from women’s finances to Social Security. Besides maintaining its original office in Pearl River, mother and son opened a second site in Rye Brook in 2010.
“I often remind clients that planning for your financial future is continuous,” Blecker says. “You can’t just put the papers away and say ‘I planned.’ It’s a process. Life keeps changing, and so does a person’s financial situation and needs.”