Ashley McNeely recognized at an early age she’d one day help people financially.

McNeely’s grandparents raised her and provided a stable childhood. But when Ashley was 11, her grandfather died. Financial hardship followed.

“My grandmother didn’t know what to do; she didn’t have resources and didn’t know who to turn to,” McNeely said. “When I was growing up, they didn’t really teach finance in school, so I learned.”

She attended Western State Colorado University, earning a degree in English and business administration.

“About seven years ago, I had an opportunity to start working for Ameriprise [Financial],” McNeely said, “and it’s gone from there.”

She now works for Thrivent Financial, helping clients figure out what to do “when life happens.”

Along with her work for Thrivent Financial, McNeely teaches a finance workshop series at Colorado Technical University, teaches financial educational workshops and leads a women’s roundtable each month.

She’s always looking for ways to help the community, and is dedicated to causes including the African American Youth Leadership Conference, Inside Out’s Ally Up! breakfast fundraiser and Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church.   

“I try to connect with community leaders so they know my name and know my face,” McNeely said. “If something happens and they’re not prepared or they want to get prepared, they at least have somebody to go to. Even if I’m not a person they end up doing business with, I’m at least a resource.”

McNeely “has had some hardships making it to where she is now,” said Firma IT Solutions CEO Rodney Gullatte Jr., “but she is no victim of circumstance. She fights to overcome and be the best she can be. Sharing her knowledge with the community so people can make better financial decisions is a passion.”

Sally Romero, director of multicultural affairs at Western State Colorado University, said McNeely is currently the only black, female financial advisor in Colorado Springs to hold a Series 66 — the license that qualifies investment advisor representatives and securities agents.

“One of her goals is to change the face of finance,” said Romero, who nominated McNeely as a Rising Star. “As she herself says, ‘Not a lot of advisors look like me, and I want that to change.’

“Ashley is a change agent. She strives to change the mindset of people. [She’ll say,] ‘People assume you have to be millionaires to speak with an advisor and that’s just not true. An advisor can be a great resource and even if they can’t help you — which is rare — they can often point you in the right direction.’”

Romero said McNeely “will continue to be a power player in life, and all her endeavors, and will share the stage with many others that she helps along the way.”

For McNeely, helping young people is her greatest fulfillment.

“One of my favorite things to do is helping people realize that their goals are obtainable,” she said. “I have so many clients who are just starting out and have many dreams. They want to start a business, they want to buy a home, they want to get out of debt — and they think it’s impossible.

“My biggest accomplishment is when I sit down with them and I run the numbers and say, ‘No, this is doable with a plan.’ That always puts a smile on my face when I tell someone they can do it.”