Chiaki Hirate is financial advisor at Edward Jones. Born and raised in Aichi Prefecture, she now lives with her husband, 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter in Bellevue. Chiaki calls herself and her husband a “team for life.” She raises her children and handles evening appointments or travel through teamwork with her husband, energetically embracing her work as she goes. North American staff sat down at her office and intervewed her about her life and career.
Interview by Ai Isono, translated by Bruce Rutledge
Tell us about your childfood in Japan.
I grew up in the Owari region of Aichi Prefecture, as the eldest daughter in a family with self-employed parents. I have an older and younger brother. My father was passionate about his business, and my mother was supporting his business while managing the house. I grew up in a culture where it was challenging if you had a different opinion, and I think I always had to conform. After graduating from college, I joined Mitsui Marine & Fire Insurance Co. (called Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group today). Female employees were able to take responsible positions in the sales department in the company. I was raised in a self-employed household, I encountered a lot of surprises and discoveries when it came to the salaryman culture in a large corporate structure. I enjoyed my work there.
What brought you to Seattle?
Before I turned 30, I wanted to experience a different environment, so I decided to study in England. I promised my parents it would only be a year, but that one year greatly changed the way I lived. I became close with other students, friends, and interns, and I began feeling that I wanted to live my life as myself without being tied down. Of course, that comes with a lot of responsibility, but I felt myself becoming free from all the ties that bound me before. I learned so much being in a country with very different values from Japan. I stopped getting frustrated by things beyond my control like a late train. I understood the importance of concentrating on controlling what I can and not wasting energy on anger. That way of thinking has greatly impacted the way I approach my life and my work today. I met my husband, a Nepal-born American, in London. He sees me for who I am. He is the happiest person when I succeed with studies, work, getting qualifications for work, etc. I lived there for seven years. After our son was born in London, we thought that we had three options to choose from. Stay in England, or go to Japan, or go to United States. We decided to come to United States because the US is a country that rewards hard-working people with opportunity, even though we had no family or friends in Seattle. I believe we blazed our own trail through our gradual efforts. We began our life in Seattle in 2009.
Why did you chose to become financial advisor?
I had a financial and insurance background and I’ve always had my eye on that industry. I strongly felt that as a foreigner in this country, I needed to understand the financial system. Thinking about how I want to live my life, I knew that I wanted to achieve independence while helping others, balancing my philanthropic activities with my personal life in a dedicated way. Edwards Jones culture aligns with these goals which is why I chose the path of a financial advisor here.
A financial advisor’s job is to help people meet their milestones. We are there for retirement, marriage, the birth of a child or a grandchild and other causes for celebration, but also for divorces or the sudden loss or death of a spouse. There are times when there’s a budget for things and also times when there isn’t. In that light, the good and bad experiences that I’ve seen in my life are relevant to this work. For example, the time I spent taking care of my grandmother gives me a strong sense of the importance of planning for retirement including long-term care, when I am thinking through possibilities with my clients. When thinking about the future, what is the most important thing in that person’s life? What do they want to protect? And how do they want to live? My office is a place where clients can talk about their dreams. Investments are just one tool to help you reach your goals. I listen humbly to my clients. Through our long relationships, I share in their joys and sympathize with their sadness. There are not many careers where you can say that, and I am thankful for my role. My clients range in age from their 20s to their 90s. Based on their lifestyle and stage of life, we build personalized strategies to help them achieve their goals. That is the effort I make day after day.
What is your connection to the Seattle’s Nikkei community?
Within American society, I think Japanese are well-thought-of because of their hard work and sincerity. I think that’s because of the efforts and contributions over a long period by the Japanese American community. I think I am reaping those benefits while I live here. I want to give back to the seniors in the Nikkei community. I volunteer my time at Nikkei Horizons Investment Club in Keiro Northwest. Spending time with those members is a special time for me because I learn a lot from them and their various experiences. I am grateful to be part of the club and the Nikkei community.
I hope readers will feel comfortable to reach out to me for a consultation.
Chiaki Hirate AAMS®, CRPC®
7293 W Lake Sammamish Pkwy,
Redmond, WA 98052