About Laura Scharr-Bykowsky, CFP®
My life is centered on my Christian faith, my family, and my love for personal finance. After a successful career in brand management, I found my passion in managing my family’s finances and decided to reinvent my career as a financial planner. Today, I serve as principal of Ascend Financial Planning and find fulfillment in working with couples and individuals to achieve their financial goals and dreams.
As a chemical engineering major in college, I’m still a bit of a nerd: I’m an avid reader of everything from financial white papers to books on quantum physics, and enjoy attending conferences on personal finance, investing, and macroeconomic trends. When I’m not focused on learning, I love walking and pilates, spending time on Lake Murray, and traveling to visit my son who works as a consultant in McKinsey’s Atlanta office.
I grew up in a household where money was very tight. It created a lot of anxiety and pain in the family. I vowed at a young age that I would be financially secure.
As I became older and had to navigate investing, obtain loans, and procure insurance on my own, I realized how vast and overwhelming these financial matters could be. I was both fascinated and intimidated by the financial world, and wanted to better understand it.
Determined to grow wealth quickly, I read the Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley. It was a particularly compelling read for me as my husband was just starting his medical career. The book contrasts Doctor South versus Doctor North. I wanted us to be like “Doctor North” and his wife. I did not want to keep up with the Joneses, but rather live frugally so that we could maximize our savings.
Over the years my husband and I saved at least 30-40% of our income and invested it in a low cost way. By my early 40s, I had reached what I believed to be financial independence. Retirement was on track, we had enough saved for our son to attend a 4 year private college, and our dream home on the lake was paid off. We had no debt and sufficient assets for retirement. I suddenly realized that if we could do this, anybody could. My husband was the son of a window cleaner and my dad was in the construction business. We had very little in terms of assets when we started out, but were able to build wealth with a disciplined and coordinated approach.
Eager to help others achieve their own version of financial independence, I completed my CFP® education requirements and passed the board the first time in the fall of 2007. I wanted to work in the industry, but did not want to sell products or work on commission, so I researched various models in the industry. I chose to become a fee-only planner who provides objective, affordable advice.
I continue to enjoy my job and my diverse set of clients who make me want to wake up in the morning every day to do what I do.
- BS in Chemical Engineering from Lehigh University
- MBA from Rutgers University Graduate School of Management
- CFP® certification program in Personal Financial Planning, USC Moore School of Business; Most Outstanding Student Award