Meet Engage Ambassador Kirsten Curry
Get to know the latest Engage Woman!
Please introduce yourself to the Engage community! Who are you?
My name is Kirsten Curry, and I am the founder / CEO of and attorney at Leading Retirement Solutions (LRS), a company that focuses on bringing sophisticated retirement solutions to companies, entrepreneurs, and their employees. My story is built on two important principles that I learned firsthand growing up in a family of commercial fishermen in Alaska 1. Hard work leads to success. 2. We have a responsibility to look out for one another and to support one another’s security. I may have since traded the high seas for the retirement plan industry, but I have held onto those important lessons as I now work hard to help my clients and their employees achieve a financially secure retirement.
What is the one change you believe would lead to the biggest improvement for women’s economic security?
Closing the retirement gap would have a significant, long-term measurable effect on women’s economic security. With our national “Retirement Gap” study, LRS is working to shed light on the retirement savings gap, which is the significant disparity in retirement savings that exist for women today. Our study focuses on the retirement savings gap of female entrepreneurs and business owners. Why study female entrepreneurs and business owners, you ask? Because they are influencers. Now, more than ever before, women in business are influencing powerful decisionmakers, friends, colleagues, and family members. They are also growing workforces under their leadership. In our most recent study, we found that women business leaders start investing in their retirement later than their male counterparts, with 18 percent still not saving for retirement until after they turn 40, compared with only 9 percent of male business leaders. Women business leaders also face additional barriers in saving for retirement that are not generally experienced by their male counterparts. For example, women who support dependents not only struggle to reinvest in their business but, also, 20 percent of them are not saving for retirement at all.
How did you get to where you are in your career? Why do you do what you do?
I knew at an early age that I would become an entrepreneur. Growing up in the commercial fishing industry, I was inspired by the entrepreneurial fishermen I worked alongside. I saw that hard work results in success. After attending Seattle University School of Law, I fell into an opportunity where I got to be a part of building and quickly growing an emerging startup. Though I was thrilled by this success and by my new-found passion for helping entrepreneurs attain funding for their business enterprises, I also found that there was much more to retirement savings, like 401k plans and how they can be used by business owners to further assist their employees in reaching important retirement savings goals.
I left that company and launched my own, Leading Retirement Solutions (LRS). I leaned hard into non-traditional approaches and creative problem-solving to deliver innovative solutions not typically offered by the retirement plan industry that specifically address the needs of business owners. In short, I work with my clients and their employees to help them create their own success stories.
What do you wish you knew when you were a 20-something starting out?
When getting started in your career, whether you’re a man or a woman, brand presence is essential. If potential clients and partners don’t know you exist, you don’t even get the opportunity to present a sale. I often share with LRS’s newest business owners that one of the most important activities they can engage in sooner rather than later is to get your name and brand in front of people. Resist the urge to make everything perfect. It’s important that you ultimately have a well-built product or service, but it is just as important that you are spending time getting your name, brand, and face in front of opportunities. Particularly in the service-based industry, potential clients and partners are largely buying you. Understanding the value you bring to the table is essential. Making sure you are sharing and communicating that value is just as important – don’t leave potential clients and partners guessing about what you do well and why they should hire you. Realize that value and focus on the relationships where that matters and where that makes sense. Another bit of advice I like to endorse is to resist the urge to cast a wide net. You have an incredibly compelling value proposition; you just need to find the people that need, want, and desire it.
What role do politics or policy have in your life? What are your legislative priorities, if any?
I actively engage in promoting and supporting the private retirement plan system, largely through my work with the American Retirement Association (ARA) and the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA). The ARA and its sister organizations, including ASPPA, are the premier national organizations for retirement plan professionals. As an ASPPA Board Member, I have the opportunity to be a part of creating policy that results in Americans getting to a financially secure retirement.
What attracts you to Engage? If you have already co-hosted an Engaged Presentation, what was it like?
Engage’s commitment to creating positive change for women in this country is very important to me, especially as a woman business owner. Engage’s mission is strongly aligned with the work we are doing here at Leading Retirement Solutions to support more women getting to a financially secure retirement. Bringing equality and economic security to women is a mission that should be important to all, regardless of political background.
Who are you most inspired by right now?
There are a number of people that inspire and motivate me, all of whom I turn to when I am working through strategic and even tough business issues. I connect with the highly-regarded professionals in my Women President’s Organization (WPO), a women business owner peer group, and Vistage. I often connect with mentors and peers from my Small Business Administration (SBA) Emerging Leaders program and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.
I’m also fortunate to have found a group of powerful, inspiring, badass women in my industry whom I call not only friends but refer to as my “business partners” when I need think tank help, my “accountability buddies” when I need inspiration, and “colleagues” when I simply need to lean on others, asking for advice and guidance. I engage in brainstorming with them, seeking creative solutions to sticky issues. The collaboration that I get to engage in with my peers and mentors is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a business owner.
What is one thing you have seen, read, or heard that you would recommend to everyone?
There is a new podcast called Shattered Glass hosted by Kirsten Bell and Monica Padman that I would recommend. They are interviewing women from around the world who have essentially “shattered” the glass ceiling in some way or another, including people like Oprah Winfrey and Malala. It’s an inspiring and interesting listen that really touches on some important topics for women in today’s day and age.
If you could have any job in the world for one month, what would it be and why?
I would love to be a commercial fisherman again. It was an incredibly challenging and rewarding career; I would love the opportunity to be reminded of that.
Who do you love to follow on social media and why?
Women Empowered in Cannabis and the F Bomb Breakfast Club are a couple of my favorite groups to follow because they are comprised of female entrepreneurs and leaders that are all about empowering others through support, tools, resources, guidance, and more.
Why do you think it’s important for women to engage with the political system?
I believe it is particularly important for female leaders and entrepreneurs to engage with the political system because we have the ability and opportunity to influence it. Many of us are leading teams of employees, and our impact reaches beyond one individual. Our influence can extend to a whole swath of people. We can influence a culture, if you will.
Kirsten is the founder and CEO of Leading Retirement Solutions.