Sometimes life’s changes come with various financial stresses, compounding an already difficult situation. Charleston native Michelle Ivy Johnson offers a helping hand to those in need of financial guidance and planning for their life’s “new normal.”

After graduating from the College of Charleston, Johnson rose through the ranks of the financial industry for more than 15 years, while navigating marriage, divorce and the parenting of two kids. In 2014, with her children applying to college, she branched out on her own and founded HarborVest Advisors.

The company is a fee-only investment advisory and financial planning firm, which specializes in working with women who are on their own, typically through divorce or loss of a spouse.

“I know firsthand how challenging these changes can be. Seeing the big picture can be difficult when you’re emotional. Many of our clients have experienced life transitions like divorce, loss of a spouse, sale of a business or a sudden inheritance, and need a financial road map for their future,” says Johnson. “We feel women’s needs are unique. They typically live longer, make less and have many financial responsibilities regarding planning for the welfare of their children. Women need someone with whom they feel comfortable confiding intimate financial details and who can help them create a long-term investment strategy.”

HarborVest’s services are offered on a fee-only structure, avoiding conflicts of interest regarding investment commissions. “Structuring my business as fee-only means we are held to a fiduciary standard. I have an ongoing, vested personal interest in my clients’ success,” says Johnson.

Johnson says she has witnessed a shift in recent years with women taking more initiative in their personal financial planning. “Women are hungry to be in control and asking lots of questions. It’s exciting.” Going forward, HarborVest plans to provide educational workshops for women and to continue to be involved in the community, supporting local women’s organizations.

Johnson’s commitment to her clients runs true and deep. “Each of us goes through cycles in our lives, sometimes easy, sometimes more challenging. We are here for both. If I can help a woman by helping her implement sound financial strategies, she will have extra confidence in other areas of her life.”

Kira Perdue is a public relations professional and freelance writer based in Mount Pleasant.