"At our firm, giving back is part of who we are as individuals and I feel that's a big part of what has made our business a success," said Kitchens, a Certified Financial Planner and principal of Hokanson Associates in Solana Beach. "And we truly care about our clients. It's amazing what passion and dedication that can create. We are energized by the ongoing quest to exceed expectations. Being thankful for the opportunities in life to serve others certainly has enriched my own life."
Hokanson shares her philosophy. Since its inception in 1987, the firm has always donated a portion of its revenues to charity, and each employee gets to designate a portion of that revenue to a favorite non profit organization as well.
On her own, Kitchens contributes time and energy to several organizations dedicated to improving the lives of others. She is treasurer of Encinitas Coastal Rotary Club and will be its president in 2015. "We support our local community and do many hands-on projects, but the reach of Rotary allows us, for international projects, to parlay our dollars into much bigger dollars," she said. "One example: We adopted a village in Uganda. Our club contributed $5,000 and we parlayed that into about $38,000. Talk about making an impact! It's wonderful!"
Kitchens also is a founding member of Hand to Hand, a charitable trust fund of the Coastal Community Foundation, whose motto is "Live here, give here." Hand to Hand's vision statement is "To promote economic self-sufficiency and positive change in the lives of women and girls."
"This was a grass-roots start," Kitchen said. "We'd noticed in other charitable efforts there were not a lot of programs targeted to serve women and girls," she said."We thought, how can we be most effective?
"We started out with 19 members and decided each of us would contribute $500 a year. We would meet just three times a year so it would be a commitment we could keep amid busy lives. We agreed to target groups who focus on mentorship for girls and women re-entering the work force. It's been such a rewarding experience! In four grant years, we have given away $107,000 and now have 47 members.
While she has more than 28 years of investment experience including banking, real estate, securities and insurance, Kitchens originally didn't plan on a financial career. But she got into the field at an opportune time.
"I was a liberal arts major at UCSD and thought I was headed to law school," she said. "I had friends ahead of me on the law track, and decided that wasn't the direction I wanted to go. My banking background attracted me to a local financial planning firm and it was there that I met my co-founder. (Neil Hokanson).
"The financial advice environment then was very much dominated by commission-based brokerage firms. We pretty quickly had a vision of a wealth-management firm with a business structure that shed the Wall Street conflicts of interest and to get it, we had to go out on our own.
"We had a handful of clients and the conviction that if you put others' interests first, good things will always happen. We were lucky that emerging technologies allowed us to compete by offering the highest level of advice and access to resources that we needed. Part vision, part luck, lots of hard work — that business model we helped pioneer back then has become the standard and the growth of the industry."
Kitchens credits her parents for instilling strong work and personal values in her life: "A nod goes to my mom and dad because two cornerstones of the way I live my life are thanks to them," she said." The first is work ethic — if you're going to do something, do it, put your all into it. The other is balance in life. So important with the crazy busy lives we lead. Balance re-energizes us and makes us better at the things we love to do.
"I am also inspired by my two children. You think you raise them, but they raise you also. They have taught me flexibility and the true meaning of joy. I have hopefully taught them to be good citizens of our world. They are both off at college, thinking about their own career trajectories, and when they ask for advice, it's always the same: Find something valuable in your life, something you're passionate about, and deliver it in a way that's meaningful to people. Make sure you care."
201 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite 360 | Solana Beach, CA 92075 | Phone: (858) 755-8899 | Fax: (858) 755-4449 | www.hokansonassociates.com
~ By Glenn Grant, The Daily Transcript