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Hannah Szarszewski

Founder, Founder Blue Mountain Financial Planning

Planning for retirement is important. But Hannah Szarszewski, 34, believes a successful retirement is not the only worthy goal in life. “Figuring out life before retirement” is also important, she says.

To help those in their 30s and 40s, many of whom want help with questions involving student loans or mortgages, for example, Szarszewski created her own Dallas-based fee-only planning firm last year.

She integrates education and financial counseling to help clients figure out the “whys” of their life, identifying what motivates and satisfies them. Sometimes that can mean changing jobs or careers, or simply making time for activities that are personally rewarding. Once those motivations are articulated, she focuses on goals — the “whats” — and then on how to get there.

A graduate of Texas Tech University, where she started as vocal performance major, Szarszewski worked full-time at a bookstore for several years after high school to earn the money to pay for college, turning to books on personal finance to help navigate the tricky money challenges she faced.

“I found myself fascinated by the subject, and when I discovered that Texas Tech offered personal finance courses — and realizing that as much as I loved music, that’s not what I would do for a living — I switched majors,” she said.

Evan Cooper