Misook Yu’s flat-fee financial planning brings stability to St. Louis small businesses

by | May 23, 2019

The College of Business Administration alumna hopes her business will help empower her everyman clients to achieve financial stability.
Misook Yu

After graduating summa cum laude from the College of Business Administration, Misook Yu opened her business, Yu Financial Advice, which specializes in retirement planning for small businesses. (Photo by August Jennewein)

To hear Misook Yu recount contrasting Chapter 7 bankruptcy tales is to understand how deeply she cares for her clients.

Voice breaking, she explains that she’d picked up the phone to find a man with a question. An immigrant and small business owner, he’d done well. Then the recession hit. He knew bankruptcy would strip him of everything but was terrified he’d lose the cash in his bank account as well.

He would.

Yu compares him with another man who protected his 401(k) savings thanks to his planner’s understanding of financial law.

Universal financial know-how is Yu’s raison d’être.

At 40, she enrolled at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and, in 2012, graduated summa cum laude from the College of Business Administration. After a year at Edward Jones, the certified financial planner opened Yu Financial Advice, which specializes in retirement planning for small business owners.

“A lot of what I do is helping people without money,” she says. “What I want to see is that people who cannot hire highly qualified financial planners help themselves so they won’t have to have a sleepless night worrying if they will ever be able to retire or if they can send their kids to college.”

Originally interested in programming, Yu immigrated from South Korea to St. Louis while in her mid 20s to study at St. Louis Community College–Florissant Valley. Despite swearing to her parents she’d return after college or “make soup with her 10 fingers,” Yu met her husband while in school. They got married and raised two sons, and Yu settled in.

While purchasing a house, she was dismayed to learn about credit in the U.S. Her score meant she’d get a subprime rate, which would limit her saving power.

Yu figured she wasn’t the only person caught unaware by credit’s pervasiveness.

“In Korea, I was working in a brokerage firm, and I thought I was smart, and I just needed to have a good job and make a lot of money,” she says. “But I realized that is not enough because the financial laws are so complex in America. Even if you save the same amount of money, depending on where you put it, you can get a tax deduction, not pay taxes on profits until retirement and be protected from creditors.”

So Yu enrolled at UMSL, where faculty members such as Gary Flotron and Thomas Eyssell answered her every question.

“I was shameless,” Yu says, laughing. “If I did not understand something, I would see the professor after class. They were very, very nice and helped me to the end.”

The Korean community in St. Louis was Yu Financial Advice’s initial base, though it has expanded since thanks to her unique model. She charges a flat fee, which allows her to serve all clients equally, regardless of their income and assets, and enables small business owners to start a retirement plan with low costs.

To that end, Yu published her book, “Achieving Financial Stability in America,” in English and Korean. One day, she hopes, financial planners won’t be needed.

“I cannot tell you how many people I see who made very good money over their lifetimes but did not achieve financial stability,” she says. “As they get older, they feel poorer and don’t even know why. I want to change that.”

This story was originally published in the spring 2019 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email magazine@umsl.edu.

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Jessica Rogen

Jessica Rogen

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