After decades working as a CPA, CFO, and CEO, Deborah Bailey chucked her career to become a life coach. She’s having the time of her life—and earning more than a $100,000 a year. She has twenty-three individual clients and also runs “money boot camps” which allow her to combine her skills as a life coach with her financial background. At the boot camps, she helps people sort out their financial lives, including looking at emotional issues that lead to money problems.
Bailey talked recently with DivineCaroline Career & Money editor Caroline Wilbert about the career change.
CW: You made a career change after many years as a CPA. Can you talk about that?
Bailey: I was a CPA for over twenty-five years, starting my career with Ernst &Young. Over the last ten years, I had worked as a CFO or CEO at a variety of companies and really just always hated it, but I had one daughter and I was saving for college and doing all the things I could for her and I forgot about myself. Then she went away to college, and my mom had been living with me for five years, and I just decided, okay, it is my time now. I moved my mother into a high-rise place, a seniors’ place, which she loves. And my daughter went away to college. And I sold my house in the suburbs and bought a loft in midtown Atlanta.
I spent the first year writing. I am a published poet and writer and I have some writing projects coming up. I had been journaling for years and trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I really couldn’t tolerate the CPA/CEO thing. At my last company, I was CEO of a publicly traded company raising money on Wall Street. The company had been de-listed from the stock exchange and they brought me in to see if it was worth turning around or if we should just put it out of its misery. Within two months, I said, let’s put it out of its misery. I stayed on a year, taking the company through its bankruptcy and doing some other things. I had high blood pressure. I gained weight. I was unhealthy. I was depressed. I just said I can’t do this anymore.
I started working with a couple of different life coaches and just really started trying to get clarity about what excites me. And I decided I love this life coaching stuff. I had been on a personal development quest for years. I started doing personal development classes in 1993 and reading different spiritual books and really trying to find the meaning of life and why I have had these different experiences and what do I know that I should share with people, how can I give back, all that kind of stuff. It really just led to life coaching. Now, I enjoy a life and I get to make my own hours and I get to work with incredible people and see transformations in their lives and it is just so gratifying.
CW: Did you go back to school? Is there some sort of certification program for life coaches?
Bailey: Yes, there is a school called Coaches Training Institute. What I like about this program is they are not just teaching you to coach—although obviously that is a big part of the curriculum—but they are also encouraging you to look inside yourself and see what drives you and what motivates you and why you want to do this coaching and get clear about what your boundaries are with clients so you are not projecting yourself onto them. I will finish my certification this year. It hasn’t been a big priority for me only because my business has just been so successful.
CW: Who is your typical client?
Bailey: The majority of my clients are female and they are normally late thirties to seventies and it seems like the common theme is: is this all there is? It is that middle-aged wakeup. Children are starting to go away. You may have gone through many types of life transitions, such as getting divorced. We are the first generation right now that is taking care of both our children and our parents and that puts stresses on us, and society is just changing so quickly. People wake up and they say: is this year already over? Am I forty-two years old? I thought it would be different than this. Those are the people who are drawn to what I do.