SH&J Team

Meet Claire O’Neill

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Claire O'Neill Portrait

Name: Claire O’Neil


SH&J team member since: September, 2018

How did you decide to become a financial planner?

I started out in the business working alongside financial advisors and through this experience fell in love with the idea of working more closely with clients. I decided to get a CFP® license so I could be a direct help in advising for their financial success.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is working directly with clients and meeting new people along the way. Being able to take the stress off of people’s plate for major financial decisions and helping them navigate different scenarios is the best part of my day.

You’re originally from Kansas City, Missouri, so what brought you to Colorado and SH&J?

I had lived in Missouri my whole life, but have always had a soft spot in my heart for Colorado and the outdoor lifestyle, as Breckenridge was a family vacation destination growing up. After college, I was looking for a change of pace, so I packed up my stuff and moved to Colorado.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I spend a lot of time in the mountains hiking or skiing but if I’m not in the mountains you can find me hanging with my Spanish Water Dog, Hugo, in the parks or playing volleyball. Outside of outdoor activities, I love to explore restaurants and try new foods.

Do you have a favorite place you like to ski or hike?

Winter Park is my new favorite but Breckenridge is hands down my favorite mountain town. This is where my family vacation spot was growing up and is a longtime favorite city of mine.

What’s something about you that would surprise us?

I come from a really large Irish family (60+ counting aunts, uncles and cousins) so I have an unknown passion for Irish culture and music. My family enjoys listening to Irish bands in the Kansas City area and my cousin actually runs one of the biggest Irish events in the city.

What is the most interesting place you’ve ever been to?

Nice, France. It’s a small city by the ocean and I loved spending 5 days there before visiting my sister who was living in Barcelona. The food and atmosphere were amazing. You can walk everywhere and it had a really laidback vibe.

If money was not a factor, what would you do?

I would travel around the world and learn to speak a new language. I would also consider splitting my Colorado time between Denver and the Mountains.

Meet Derek Van Calligan

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derek van calligan RICP CFP

Name: Derek Van Calligan

Title: Certified Financial Planner™

SH&J team member since: August, 2017


How did you decide to become a financial planner?

I think I just kind of lucked into it, really, when I was in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, being 19 years old and not knowing what all is out there. I took a personal finance class because I thought it would be able to help me and my own personal finances, and then I realized that you can make a pretty great career out of helping others with their finances and that’s what lead me on this path.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is the different kinds of people you get to meet. Between our current clients and new prospects coming in the door, you never really know who you’re going to meet and what their story is going to be. I would say the majority of the people I meet are very good people with very different backgrounds and unique perspectives on life. So, just being able to meet different people on a daily basis and help them with their unique challenges is one of the things I enjoy the most.

You’re originally from Wisconsin, so what brought you to Colorado and SH&J?

Like the majority of people who move out here from the Midwest, I was getting sick of the weather up there and I always enjoyed coming out here skiing. There’s a pretty big presence of people out here from Wisconsin and the Midwest, so I knew fitting in out here wasn’t going to be an issue. I knew I wanted to work at a Fee-Only RIA firm, and SH&J was at the top of the list when I performed a Google Search. I emailed them my resume, ended up getting an interview the next week and an offer that same day. It was a pretty fast process.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my spare time, like most Coloradans, I like to get up in the mountains and ski. I also just picked up fly fishing so I’ve enjoyed that as well, and pretty much just doing anything that involves being outdoors and exploring Denver. I mean, there’s always a festival or different event going on every weekend, so there’s never really a lack of things to do. It’s a tough place to be bored.

Do you have a favorite place you like to ski?

Nothing beats the Back Bowls at Vail on a powder day.

What’s something about you that would surprise us?

I recently went bungee jumping over Victoria Falls in Africa.

How did you end up doing that?

I went over there with a buddy of mine and did a mission trip, and we spent an extra week and did more touristy stuff, such as a safari, bungee jumping over the falls, whitewater rafting, and fishing. It was quite the adventure and one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.

What is the most interesting place you’ve ever been to?

Probably Africa. Livingstone, Zambia to be exact. It’s right on the Zambezi River, it’s kind of a more touristy town, but the time that I spent there was more with the locals and helping out in a 1st grade classroom teaching the kids English and Mathematics. Africa is unlike any other place in the world, and I can’t wait to get back.

If money was not a factor, what would you do?

I think that I would try to use my time to get to every country in the world and see something unique in every country.

Meet Melissa Baldwin

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Name: Melissa Baldwin

Title: Certified Financial Planner™

SH&J team member since: January, 2011


What’s your favorite part of being a financial planner?

The outcome. I personally enjoy the process of putting together the puzzle, but the more rewarding part is the outcome. Many people find doing their own financial planning to be overwhelming because there’s so much information out on the internet. So being able to distill information down for clients and give them actionable recommendations that are specific to their circumstances, is the most rewarding and enjoyable part.

You interned with Sharkey, Howes & Javer over the summers while in college. How early did you know that you wanted to work in the Financial Planning field?

The intern work helped me decide that I wanted to be a Certified Financial Planner™. I started out as an accounting major in college, but working here over the summers and seeing how all of the advisors interacted with the clients, and how appreciative all of the clients were, is what geared me more towards financial planning instead of the accounting world.

How did you first get connected with Sharkey, Howes & Javer?

My parents are clients and when they came in for one of their meetings, they asked if there were any opportunities to learn and help with projects over the summers. I have my parents to thank for getting my foot in the door and I am forever grateful.

What’s something about you that would surprise us?

I’ve always wanted to go skydiving. When Groupon first started getting big, I saw a couple Groupons for it and I thought, “I don’t know if this is something that I really wanna go through Groupon for. Sounds a little dangerous.” I have yet to skydive!

What do you like to do in your time off?

I like spending time with my parents and friends. I’m a Colorado native so I enjoy the outdoors, both in the summer and winter with skiing, hiking, and backpacking. I also really enjoy baking.

What’s your favorite thing to bake?

Hmm, that’s tough, there’s so many different varieties. There’s a cinnamon chip oatmeal cookie that I really like. So instead of chocolate chips, it’s cinnamon chips.

Are you still running and competing in races?

No, I am no longer running due to the harshness of running on your knees, but I have been doing a lot of cycling lately.

What are some of your favorite travel destination?

Some of my favorite places are Prague and Germany. Some places I would like to visit are Austria and Nepal.

What Does “Middle Class” Mean in Colorado?

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Sharkey, Howes & Javer | Middle Class BlogWe often hear the term “middle class” thrown around in a variety of conversations. Have you ever stopped to wonder exactly what that means? According to the U.S. Census, the “real median household income” in the state of Colorado in 2015 was $63,909. The lower bracket (or 66% of this figure) was $42,606 and the upper bracket (or 200% of this figure) was $127,818. The “real median household income” in the local Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area in 2015 was $70,283, with a lower bracket of $46,855 and an upper bracket of $140,566.

Although these definitions give us specific dollar figures to reference, the mentality is vastly different. According to the CNBC Millionaire Survey, only 9% of millionaires described themselves as wealthy, rich or upper class. The remaining 91% described themselves as middle or upper middle class.

Why might this be the case? CNBC shares, “Studies show that more than three-quarters of today’s millionaires made their money themselves and started out in the middle class or lower.” Another observation from George Walper, president of Spectrem Group, is that “today’s wealthy also want to avoid being labeled as wealthy because of the cultural hostility toward the rich…. it’s a very small percentage of people who want to be out front in the media.” This may help us understand why we hear the term “middle class” so often in political speeches.

Why does this matter to us? First, when you hear the term “middle class” in the nightly news, you now understand what exactly they are referencing. Second, and more importantly, you now understand that the term “class” is simply a mentality rather than a dollar figure. No matter how your finances are structured, you have the freedom to associate yourself with whichever “class” you choose.

If you would like help with future financial choices for yourself, please call 303-639-5100 or send us a message to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Behind the Scenes: Our Favorite Destinations and What You Must-See If You Visit

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Spring break and summer vacations are nearing. We asked the SH&J team to share some of their favorite destinations and what is a must-see while you are there. We would love to hear some of your favorite spots around the country and world in the comments below. Happy Travels!

swiss alps

Melissa Baldwin, CFP®

Swiss Alps

Take a train to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn


punta de mita mexico

Scott Brooks, AIF®

Punta de Mita, Mexico

The hidden beach on Isla Marietas


mexico beach view

Karlton Childress, CFP®

Cancun, Mexico

The beach — what else do you go to Cancun for?


great barrier reef

Julie Fletcher, CFP®

Fitzroy Island, Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef


new orleans

Amy Geist

New Orleans, Louisiana

The food! I love the fresh sea food and the oysters are amazing. I walk around the town working up an appetite and checking out new places.



Larry Howes, MBA, CFP® 

Barcelona, Spain

The progress of the Sagrada Familia Church


florence italy

Joel Javer, CLU, CFP®

Florence, Italy

Statue of David

Kealakekua Bay Hawaii

Kerry Poorman


Kealakekua Bay

bora bora

Brittany Samples

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The beautiful turquoise lagoon…you can’t miss it!

england lake view

Eileen Sharkey, CFP®


London for the theater, concerts and parks


hawaii beach destination

Maui, Hawaii

Warren and Annabelle Magic Show! and Mama’s Fish House


Your turn. What destinations do we need to add to our list? Comment below.

Our Thoughts on the Dow and 20K

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You’ve likely heard noise in the media recently about the potential of the Dow hitting 20,000. We recently wrote about the history of the Dow and want to remind you that the media has a tendency to add hype where it is not warranted. In our reading over the weekend we found an article that illustrates our feelings about the Dow and the recent hype around it quite well.

In the article, Why Dow 20k doesn’t matter, published in the Chicago Tribune, author Jill Schlesinger said, “I think the Dow is perhaps the least meaningful U.S. stock index available. Sure, it’s got history on its side — it was created by Charles Dow in 1896 in order to provide investors with a snapshot of how the overall stock market was doing. But it includes only 30 large companies, and considering that Amazon, Google and Facebook are not part of the Dow, it is hard to make the case that it reflects the broader market.” (source)

The full article can be read here and we think it is a worthwhile read.


Taking a Moment to Reflect on What We Are Grateful For

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As Thanksgiving approaches we like to take a moment to reflect on all of the things we have to be grateful for. When we asked the team what they are grateful for, Joel’s response encapsulated how all of us at SH&J feel, “I am grateful for clients who trust us to manage their portfolios.”

From all of us, thank you for your trust in us. We are so grateful for you!

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Behind the Scenes: What the SH&J Team Has Been Reading

By | Behind the Scenes, Eileen Sharkey, Harold Kirschner, Joel Javer, Julie Fletcher, Karlton Childress, Mimi Hackley, Planners, SH&J Blog, SH&J Team | No Comments

Did you know many members of our team are avid readers? Whether it is a good story or a book to help us improve as planners, you will often find our noses in a book during our downtime. Today we thought we would share our latest book reviews with you. We’d love to hear what you’ve been reading as well in the comments below!

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Meet Mimi Hackley

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Name: Mimi Hackley

Title: Shareholder and Certified Financial Planner™

SH&J team member since: 1998


You are admired for the way you are with clients. What advice do you have for building and maintaining strong client relationships?

Listen first. Be honest, yet compassionate. Do what comes naturally and is best for the client. Focus on practical and applicable solutions while keeping it as simple as possible.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

  • Family time with our children,
  • Unstructured as often as we can manage it,
  • Unplugged for much of it,
  • Plain-old fun playtime with cooking, laundry and administrative stuff thrown in on the sidelines.

We try to keep it simple and always manage to find things to laugh about even when we’re arguing (which happens a lot with two boys close in age – the laughter typically diffuses the spite!).

As a child, what did you dream of being when you grew up?

First, I wasn’t aware I’d grown up. As a child, I dreamed of always being a child, a la “Peter Pan”. My brothers and I had more fun as children than anyone I know – except my mom who still has more fun than the rest of the world.

Also, if I had to grow up, I wanted to be a teacher. My mom practically forbade my “Teacher” aspirations because, back then, teachers were not well paid nor well-enough respected for the great service they impart. It’s interesting that while I didn’t become a “teacher” I teach clients every day how to make wise financial decisions and thoroughly enjoyed teaching CFP students for several years.

You have been with Sharkey, Howes & Javer for over 15 years. What do you love most about your job?

The fulfillment that comes from helping people help themselves.

Finish this sentence: As a mother of two boys…

…I’m busier than I’d ever imagined was possible and am having more fun now than I did as a child… Wow! That’s really something!

Meet Melissa Baldwin

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melissa baldwin CFP

Name: Melissa Baldwin

Title: Certified Financial Planner™

SH&J team member since: January, 2011



My favorite thing about working at Sharkey, Howes & Javer is…

TEAMWORK! We all come from different backgrounds and have different views and insight on various topics and it is great to be able to use each other as a sounding board. Teamwork and collaboration opens the door for more perspective in problem solving and options for clients to reach their goals.

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