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No Right Prescription – Life and Career Lessons from Christine Marcks

Ok, show of hands.  Who thinks it is possible to maintain a healthy work-life balance while ascending one’s career from an International Economist with the US Treasury Department to ultimately becoming the CEO of Prudential Retirement and a 2016 Lillywhite Award recipient?   If we were in person, I would suspect very few hands would be raised.

Christine Marcks, who achieved these incredible career accomplishments, has been a trailblazer in the retirement industry, but has also captured the “holy grail” for female professionals – the elusive work-life balance.   Christine made it clear that there is no right “prescription.” She attributes her strong work ethic, savings philosophy, ability to delegate, and focus on family for her success in both her personal life and career.

Growing up as the second eldest of 5 children, Christine said her father planted seeds about hard work and the power of saving.  Not only were she and her siblings required to pitch in at home, but they also worked at their father’s pharmacy.  Working at a young age helped Marcks appreciate the rewards of hard work.

One stipulation of employment at the pharmacy, was the requirement to save three-quarters of her pay for college.  She was earning minimum wage, but was able to amass a hefty sum to supplement her undergraduate studies at Assumption College and graduate education at Georgetown University.  This instilled the mindset of living beneath her means to realize her savings goals. Throughout their lives, Christine and her husband were careful about spending and lived beneath their means, allowing ample retirement savings, with the goal of retiring together as their motivation.  Even today she follows this mantra and proudly drives her 10-year old car around knowing that doing so has made her savings aspirations a reality.

Christine fondly spoke of her husband calling him a great partner and credited his contributions at home with the realization of a true work-life balance.   “As a female, you have ideas of what you should or should not do.” Marcks said, “Understanding that you do not have to be perfect for everyone, letting go and delegating will help get you to that place.”  She and her husband realized that sometimes the house would not be clean and they would deal with it.   Using resources also helped such as hiring a landscaper, a cleaning person, and even hiring her daughter to cook for them!

Focusing on work and family was, and continues to be, important to Christine.  She found that focusing 100% of her attention on her family, when she wasn’t travelling, was a top priority.  When at home, she committed to having dinner with her family every evening.  Sometimes that meant working late at night after spending time with her children.  Allowing sharp attention on both aspects of her life, work and family, at the appropriate time.

At work, as at home, delegation was key for Marcks to balance the workload.  Building a talented team around her was critical and shared that she identified candidates with high energy levels and mental agility who take risks and take initiative.  Delegation of key projects to her talented team allowed them to grow and build knowledge while affording her time to work on other projects.  Admittedly, Christine shared that tasks were occasionally not performed the way she would have, but ultimately that built confidence for them and provided coaching opportunities for her.

As our time together ended, Christine provided final parting sentiments for her WiPN sisterhood:

  • The retirement industry is a wonderful business to be a part of and provides a social good for those who struggle to save.
  • Creativity of women around her has inspired her and she believe so many of you are the same – do not be afraid to express your creativity.

Christine’s words are both inspiring and enlightening.  Many can relate to the struggles of giving up control to balance your life, but at the same time remain encouraged to know that there is a way to achieve career successes and a fulfilling family life, including retiring early to enjoy time with your significant other.  Finding YOUR personal balance of employing a strong savings plan, delegating responsibility, and work-life focus is a good place to start – fortunately Christine provided many great ideas on how to develop that plan.

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