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Tanya Nichols

Founder and President, Align Financial

Tanya Nichols helped to write the most recent CFP exams that financial professionals earn to distinguish their career. The former chair of the CFP Board of Examinations, Nichols operates her own planning and fiduciary advisory firm near Duluth, Minnesota, capping a career that began in the back office of Piper Jaffray after high school in Minneapolis. Coming from a blue-collar family, Nichols found a creative, yet demanding, way to pay for the college degree she soon realized she needed — transferring to a branch office and working full-time as a registered assistant while attending the University of Minnesota in Duluth. Stints as a rep at U.S. Bank, where she earned her CFP, and Wells Fargo followed. Today, she counts as clients many female retirees and near-retirees who, like her, worked in corporate settings “and learned how to hide their true selves” in order to get things done in a male world.

Nichols, 39, a divorced mother of two, said she’s finished hiding and concentrates on what’s important to her: helping clients the way she wants, doing pro bono financial planning, and serving on the board of a local foundation that helps detect and treat mental illness and substance abuse in children.

Evan Cooper