Published December 16, 2014
Volume 22, Number 12

Hanson Gives Back in a Multitude of Ways

By Zoe Francis

Mary Hanson gets a kick out of helping others.
The Bay Area native enjoys everything from mission work south of the border to merely organizing fun dinners and events for family and friends. Hanson even chose a career in financial planning so that she can help people plan for their futures.
Mary Hanson“I have a gift for or an interest in hospitality in terms of making people feel welcome, whether that’s in my home or an outside venue,” Hanson said. “Not hospitality like in extravagant menus, but just ‘Hey, come hang out and meet some new friends.’ It’s a little hard to quantify, but it’s something that I enjoy. It’s making somebody’s life better for the afternoon and putting a smile on their face.”
Hanson’s gift for helping other extends beyond her home with the mission work she has done through New Life Church in Alamo. She has twice traveled to a small town near Ensenada, Mexico, to help the people in that small community.
“We’ve done everything from helping with building (structures) or tearing things out to playing with the kids and doing programs for the women or families,” she recalled. “We did one great big outreach one year that was like a big fiesta day, complete with great food and water balloons and games. Things that are very ordinary to us, but to people who don’t have much, they really enjoyed it.”
On one trip, she and fellow church members hosted a fashion show for women using clothing donated to the church.
“We had everything displayed nicely,” she said. “They came in and picked outfits, handbags and accessories. These gals might have only one or two outfits. It makes you appreciate how blessed we are here in the U.S.”
Her latest mission work with her church did not require any travel. Instead, she used her professional skills as a financial planner to help develop learning materials for people eager to start a business in the small Mexican town.
“I worked from this end on the curriculum about how to build a business,” she said. “I did the financial part, like what are the money issues you need to think about if you’re running a business.”
“I enjoy the chance to serve, the chance to give back,” she continued. “I enjoy the chance to do what I do professionally to help somebody’s life be better because they’re more knowledgeable, more confident or they feel loved.”
Hanson, the oldest of four siblings, was born in San Jose and grew up in Silicon Valley. After graduating from Saratoga High School in 1974, she immediately signed up for courses at West Valley College in her hometown of Saratoga. A later transfer to California State University, Sacramento, earned her a bachelor’s degree in business.
After her 1979 college graduation, Hanson landed in the East Bay as a project manager with Pacific Bell. She juggled career and college for a bit, attending Golden Gate University to earn her master’s of business administration. The PacBell job lasted eight years before she made the jump into real estate.
“I had worked at a real estate office when I was in college and kind of caught the bug there,” she explained of her career change. “I was just doing flunky stuff like filing papers, but I thought this could be interesting. It’s a little bit about investing, but it’s also about buying a home.”
Hanson put in grueling hours with scant few days off as a residential realtor in the Tri-Valley for a full 17 years.
“What I enjoyed was working with the clients and helping them achieve their goals,” she recalled fondly of those years. “Maybe they didn’t buy their dream house the first time, but they were working toward that goal.”
What she did not enjoy was the relentless schedule of working in real estate. Weekends and evenings were spent at work instead of with family and friends.
“It was probably around 2000 that I started looking at my own retirement,” she noted. “I was working with a friend who said, ’You’d be pretty good at doing this.’ It was time for a change. Moving into the financial services allowed me to do the same sort of advisory work with clients, but without the super crazy hours. I still work a lot of hours, but at least I have my weekends.”
Hanson initially started with a major insurance company in 2004, doing mostly insurance work. While she enjoyed the six years she spent there, she did not like the restriction of offering only that company’s products and services to her clients. She continued to work and take courses to become a certified financial planner.
Hanson worked briefly as a junior partner with an independent firm to test her new financial skills. In 2013, she confidently struck out on her own to start Horizon Wealth Solutions with offices in both Hacienda and Pleasant Hill.
“I specifically wanted to be independent,” she said of her latest career change. “I had to start over. That was the hard part. The good part is that I can truly serve the client. At the end of the day, I can feel good about the product or service that I’ve helped them with. It’s right for them, and it’s not because it’s something someone told me we need to sell this month.”
Hanson relishes the opportunity to work with clients as they plan for their hopes and dreams.
“I help people match their money with their life,” she explained. “What are your goals? What are your dreams? What’s your current situation? What are you happy with and what do you want to change? I look at the big picture.”
Hanson is taking advantage of her newly free weekends to enjoy local travel and hiking, two of her passions.
“I do a lot of weekend trips to the coast or to Tahoe or other places that are interesting,” she said enthusiastically. “This past year, I had a chance to go to Chicago and New York. I had never been to Chicago, and it had been a long time since I’d been to New York.”
The successful single career woman also enjoys hikes with her yellow Labrador retriever, Shasta.
“What I enjoy about it is the beauty of nature and the exercise,” she said. “It feels good. It’s pretty outside. It’s stress release. It’s the same stuff you get at the gym, except a whole lot more interesting. The gym is obligatory, but hiking is much more fun.”
Hanson is involved with local community groups, such as the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and the Soroptimist service club for women. She also hones her speaking and personal interaction skills with her Toastmasters friends.
“I am both professionally and personally a Jane of all trades and probably a master of none,” she said with a laugh. “I mean that in a good way. I’m that way with the people I hang around with. I don’t hang with any one particular group. I have friends from church and work and Toastmasters.”
Hanson is pleased that she has found her niche as a financial planner.
“I plan to be doing this professionally for another 15 years or so,” she said. “I’m working on growing my business. That’s my focus. Frankly, I’d like to have some people I can delegate to and take a little bit of time off. I’d like to be the person who’s working on the business, but not necessarily in the trenches every day.”
When she is able to finagle a little more free time, she plans to expand her travels, continue with her community service and simply spend time with family and friends.
“It gives me a sense of satisfaction, a sense of purpose,” she said of helping others. “Otherwise, you’re the guy who collects the most toys in life. If’ I’m serving along with having fun, then there’s a legacy. There’s a purpose. If I can serve God and leave the world a better place, that’s a good thing. There’s a sense of satisfaction in that.”
Learn more about Horizon Wealth Services at hwsfinancial.com.

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