Cherie Gon

My day job is being a financial advisor for Edward Jones.

I took a winding road to this position. My undergraduate degree is in microbiology and I came to Madison to do vaccine research. I loved my job, but it turned out I was allergic to some of the materials I was working with.

I decided to try something new and narrowed it down to two options: patent law or a PhD in pharmacology. I opted for patent law but quickly discovered it wasn’t for me—it’s hard to articulate why, but mostly because it felt tedious. I eventually ended up focusing on workers’ comp defense, which was a good fit with my medically oriented background, and stayed in that field for nearly a decade.

When I realized I needed to step back from that role, I found my new profession by accident. I’d gone to a friend who is an Edward Jones advisor to roll over my 401(k) and he encouraged me to consider a similar position.

I’ve always been the person people come to when they want to solve a problem: I think I do a good job of listening, coming up with solutions and walking people through their options. And I always stress the importance of communication. It’s been so rewarding to help people meet their financial goals, manage wealth transfers and just generally get their ducks in a row.

My clients include 70 year-olds who are consolidating their assets to make things easier for their families, 50 year-olds who are navigating their last earning years and 21 year-olds who are in their first job. Nobody teaches young people how to deal with their finances and it’s rewarding to help them get set up.

One thing I’m especially excited about at Edward Jones is their partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association. This is a disease that’s affected members of my family and I’m the coordinator for Madison’s 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on October 7.

My most memorable caffeine was the coffee I drink in Italy when my husband and I go to visit his family. Coffee in Italy is so different from coffee in the U.S. There you have a quick cup of espresso in the morning at the neighborhood bar—my husband can’t get over how long it takes to make an espresso here—and later in the day you head to the same spot and have a drink. It’s a very neighborhood- and family-oriented experience.

My current caffeine of choice is just a straightforward drip coffee. In the summer I’m a fan of iced coffee, which I make at home with my Toddy coffeemaker.

My favorite places for caffeine are any of the Barriques—the one on Cayuga in Middleton is right across from my work—the Moka on University Avenue for iced coffee and the Colectivo on Monroe for atmosphere.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga and my grandmother, Esther.

Obama has handled herself with such grace and adapted to so many situations. She’s an amazing female leader.

Lady Gaga is always her own person and has weathered a variety of challenging situations and health issues.

Last, I’d love to sit down with my Grandma Esther. She had dementia at the end of her life and I wish that I could have had a conversation with her when I was an adult when she wasn’t suffering from this disease. My grandmother had nine children and lived a life that was so different from mine. I would be interested to hear her perspective.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  helping people be more willing to compromise. Our constant use of technology makes it easy to ignore others’ perspectives. Too often we’re only seeing what the algorithms show we’ll like and agree with. We seldom expose ourselves to the other side of the story and it becomes easy to lose a sense of empathy and to stop seeking other viewpoints.

There’s a word I like that captures an awareness I wish we could all have: sonder. Apparently it’s more of an urban dictionary type of word, but here’s what it means: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Imagine the difference if we each lived that.