Why the philanthropist and Charles Schwab senior VP has spent her career advocating financial literacy for all
You can tell when Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz has a big idea. A serious, determined grin lights up the energetic redhead’s whole face, and it happens when she describes light bulb moments from her storied career in finance and education. “Early on, I realized a lot of people are overextending themselves, including a lot of people underserved by financial services,” she explains.
On a sunny San Francisco afternoon, we could be talking about numerous topics, such as her role on San Francisco’s Commission on the Status of Women, to which Mayor Ed Lee appointed her in 2017. But this summer day, Schwab-Pomerantz is focused on a subject she’s been discussing for over 30 years, with the public as well as with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama: financial literacy.
The corner conference room in a SoMa tower, with sweeping views of the Bay Bridge and FiDi skyline, is a long way from her first job delivering newspapers, or the stuffy meeting room where she file-clerked for her father, Charles Schwab, founder of the eponymous bank and brokerage firm. Carrie witnessed Schwab’s growth from the ground up. “When I began working here when I was 16, it was literally a startup, with brokers sitting around an oval table, talking on black rotary phones,” she remembers.
Today, Schwab-Pomerantz still works at the Fortune 500 firm that has become synonymous with personal investing. She is a certified financial planner and serves as a senior vice president of Charles Schwab & Co. Inc. She is also president of the Charles Schwab Foundation.
She met her husband of several decades, journalist and author Gary M. Pomerantz, while they were undergraduates at the University of California, Berkeley. From there, she joined Schwab’s first-ever intern program for recent college grads and, following her father’s advice, went to work with clients in the field. Serving a cross-section of Americans during the first half of her career helped define her passion for financial literacy for every individual, as well as her focus on gender parity. “What became most obvious to me was the way women typically abdicated their finances to their partners,” she notes. Hoping to correct that pattern, part of her early career was spent creating financial education workshops specifically for women.
She enjoyed working with clients nationwide, but after being born and raised in the Bay Area, Schwab-Pomerantz was always angling to come back. Even after the family moved to Marin in 2001, she was so eager to get back across the Golden Gate Bridge once and for all that they sold their Mill Valley home a few months before their youngest daughter graduated from high school in 2015. “San Francisco is a piece of me,” she says.
She jokes that she may have over-compensated with her three kids, who had summer jobs and the responsibility of managing their own money from the age of 15. But her influence on young people doesn’t end there. As president of the Charles Schwab Foundation, she’s long supported the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the largest youth agency in the nation, serving 4 million kids. She’s the club’s current board chair-elect and especially proud of the program created by the Schwab Foundation and BGCA, Money Matters, which uses an evidence-based curriculum to teach healthy financial habits to young people.
That interest in people’s entire financial life, from recess to retirement years, prompted Schwab-Pomerantz to tailor some of her advice to older adults, as she does in her book The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty. That target audience includes baby boomers who suddenly find themselves nearing the end of their working lives without substantial savings. Understanding financial literacy topics at retirement age can seem daunting for many adults. “But they can still take charge,” she says encouragingly. “It’s never too late.”
In fact, Schwab-Pomerantz thinks it’s always the right time to start getting informed and begin making better choices. “A lack of financial literacy cuts across Americans from all walks of life, and it isn’t an age, gender or socioeconomic issue,” she observes, adding: “Financial literacy is an everybody issue.”