There’s something about the monkey mug Karen Vogelsang has her morning coffee in that doesn’t quite fit with her smartly-appointed business suite.
It seems too informal, too fun—at first. But then the visitor realizes the mug identifies Vogelsang as more than a financial advisor. She’s a real person, too. And that’s key to her calling, which she sees as more than simply managing clients’ money. Hers is a relationship business, Vogelsang says.
“I like people—a lot,” says Vogelsang, senior financial advisor and registered principal at Vogelsang Asset Management in Valparaiso. “I know a lot about my clients—sometimes more than their doctors know.” That intimate connection with clients even led one—an 85-year-old lady—to ask Vogelsang to be maid of honor at her wedding.
Raised in Kankakee, Illinois, Vogelsang earned a business degree at Valparaiso University in 1980. She went into insurance sales and estate planning, with some part-time helping out in her husband’s pizza restaurant. When children came along, she took a “sabbatical” for several years to raise them, but also owned and ran a dress shop during that period.
In 1996 she returned to work as a financial advisor, working with several firms until 2007 when she ventured out on her own to establish Vogelsang Asset Management. About a quarter of her work is with corporate retirement plans; the rest is with individual clients.
She’s never had a salaried job, preferring to remain independent and rely on her own drive.
Part of what drives her is stubbornness—wanting things to be done just right, she says. “My clients—I’m very protective of them. I get very ticked off if someone tries to take advantage of them.”
Taking fear and worry about their financial future out of her client’s lives gives her great satisfaction, Vogelsang says. An important element of that is improving her clients’ “sleep factor.”
“If your investments and money keep you awake at night, you’re not doing something comfortable,” she says. “That’s just not the way to live.” Getting through the economic disaster of ‘08 as a fledgling business is a feat Vogelsang is quite proud of. The downturn, in fact, may have helped her business, she says, as many investors who previously thought they could manage on their own sought out help.
“People realized there was more to it than just throwing money at the stock market,” she says. Vogelsang’s people-centered approach includes involving all of her employees in decision making and the firm’s growth. “I want everyone on my team rewarded for what we do,” she says. “It has to be fulfilling for them, too.”
That ethic extends to Vogelsang’s involvement in the community, where she has worked to help many organizations achieve their goals. She was capital campaign chair for the new Valparaiso Family YMCA, where she now serves on the board and executive committee, as well as on the YMCA Foundation Board.
In addition, she serves on the Valparaiso Economic Development Corporation and the board of the Entech Innovation Center business incubator. She is also a past president of the Valparaiso Rotary Club. Part of a definition of success, she says, is giving back to the community. “You find time (for) things you think are important,” she says. “Those are important to me.”
But all work and no play makes Karen a dull girl, which Vogelsang gives no indication of being. Outside of work, she plays a bit of golf and occasionally helps out at AJ’s Pizza, her husband Richard’s restaurant, still going strong after almost 30 years. And with the return of nice weather, she’ll get back on her bike. Every August she and a small group of friends undertake what they call RALF — Ride Around the Lake Front — a 134-mile bike trek from Kenosha, Wisconsin to New Buffalo, Michigan.
Vogelsang’s sense of drive and involvement goes at least as far back as her senior year at high school in Kankakee. There she landed the plum assignment with the student newspaper of interviewing presidential candidate Ronald Reagan. “He was really neat, very impressive,” Vogelsang says. “When he spoke to (you), you were the only person in the room.” Vogelsang herself seems to be on the road to attaining a similar degree of connection with her clients as his inspiration achieved with voters.