Marie Swift Interviews Sheila Padden, Founder, Padden Financial Planning and President Alliance of Comprehensive Planners

Sheila P. Padden is the founder of Padden Financial Planning LLC in Chicago, Illinois. She has been a licensed Certified Public Accountant in Florida and Illinois for over 25 years. Sheila was drawn to personal financial planning through her work with small business owners and through strategic planning work. Also, in her personal life, Sheila managed the family finances and became frustrated that their advisors did not have the big picture.

After completing Northwestern University’s Certified Financial Planning Program and passing the rigorous 10 hour CFP Exam, Sheila knew that she would re-focus her career on Personal Financial Planning. At a NAPFA conference in Chicago, Sheila learned about fiduciary practice models, met amazing fee-only advisors, and felt relieved that she could continue working as a trusted advisor and not sell commission-laded products.

Sheila founded Padden Financial Planning LLC to provide comprehensive, fee-only financial planning for individuals and families. Focused on the big picture, Sheila puts the pieces of the puzzle together to define goals, optimize investments, minimize taxes, and create a roadmap for reaching goals and financial independence.

As a fee-only fiduciary, Sheila accepts no commissions or referral fees – ever. As a CPA for over 25 years, Sheila brings a long history of integrity, quality and value.  Sheila is a Certified Financial Planner™ Certificant, a Registered Life Planner, a Certified ACP Advisor and a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor.  Sheila is the current president of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners (ACP) and has served on the ACP Board for four years.

Sheila graduated with Honors from the University of Notre Dame and holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Accountancy. As a licensed CPA in Illinois, Sheila completes at least 120 hours every three years of continuing education. Sheila is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and its Personal Financial Planning Section. As a CFP, Sheila is required to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years.

Sheila is actively involved in Notre Dame Women Connect where she is national chair, and in the Center for Economic Progress where she is a tax preparer for low-income families.

Sheila has been quoted in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Sheila has been a guest advisor on Wharton Business Radio.

Favorite activities include: tennis, golf, reading and spending time with family and friends. Sheila lives and works in Chicago, and is married to Mike Padden. They have four children, including twins; and six grandchildren, including twins.

Email Sheila at

Connect with Sheila on LinkedIn

Marie Swift is Founder and CEO of Impact Communications, a full-service PR and marketing communications firm that works solely within the financial services industry. A prolific writer, Marie’s articles have been published by Barron’s, MarketWatch, Forbes,, NAPFA Advisor, RIA Intel, Financial Planning, Financial Advisor,, Morningstar Advisor, Executive Roundtable Journal, and more. She has been quoted in respected publications such as The Wall Street Journal,, and Investment Advisor magazine.

She is the host of NAPFA Nation, a monthly podcast centered on inspiring conversations and key insights from leaders in the fee-only financial planning profession, and the mastermind behind NAPFA’s Playbook, a virtual training and empowerment series that brings marketing and practice management know-how to life. Her Swift Chat podcast/video series is at

A former caterer and gourmet cook, Marie studied the culinary arts while living in Colorado. She enjoys fine dining and rustic meals, family outings, traveling to new places, and long walks with her husband and kids in beautiful Leawood, Kansas. Becoming a first-time grandma was a 2020 pandemic blessing.

More information about Impact Communications is available at

Connect with Marie on LinkedIn

Interview questions:

Q1: Sheila, you have an interesting back story. You have been a licensed CPA for over 25 years. You worked for a Big 4 accounting firm before stepping away to raise your family and later establish your own financial planning firm, Padden Financial Planning in Chicago. You completed Northwestern University’s Certified Financial Planning Program and passing the rigorous 10-hour CFP exam and decided to focus on providing personal financial planning services, eventually joining the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners (ACP). And there’s a lot more … please fill in some of the gaps for us and tell us why you made the decisions you did at various junctures.

Q2: Tell me more about what your role at President for the ACP means? How long is the term? Is this a volunteer role that requires time over and above what you put into your business, and so forth?

Q3: What advice do you have for other career changers or would-be personal financial planners out there?

Q4: You mentioned the upcoming ACP Annual Conference in Spokane. What are some of the highpoints likely to be? What are you looking forward to most?

Q5: We’ve talked about how you established yourself as a personal financial planner – now let’s switch personal financial planning topics. First of all: what to look for in a financial planner. What are the top three things to keep in mind for someone watching this episode and thinking that they might be interested in working with a personal financial planner?

Q6: In a recent news article written by Liz Weston and syndicated widely via digital media outlets such as ABC News, you talked about ways to simplify and reduce money clutter. What is money clutter – and how and why should we reduce it?

Q7: Any other tips when it comes to simplifying money matters while also saving enough to weather the ups and downs of life and later having enough to retire on comfortably – or to just make work optional?

Q8: I see that you are also listed on the “Find a Life Planner” directory of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. In fact, you received your Registered Life Planning designation in 2018. Tell us about “life planning” – what is it and how is it different than financial planning? Are there overlaps?

Q9: Let’s talk about this thing called the “fiduciary standard.” What does that mean and why is that important?

The Alliance of Comprehensive Planners (ACP) is a community of tax-focused financial advisors who provide comprehensive planning strategies for their clients on a commission-free retainer basis. As fee-only fiduciaries, ACP members are required to maintain the CFP® or CPA/PFS (or equivalent) designation and complete ACP’s rigorous training program.

The Practical Wisdom podcast, presented by the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners and hosted by ACP member Ken Robinson, CFP®, JD, offers an interesting array of ACP advisors sharing stories of how they became successful, fee-only, comprehensive financial advisors. Through these conversations, Practical Wisdom reveals the strategies, tips, and tools these advisors employed to get where they are today. To access these informational podcast episodes, please visit the Practical Wisdom podcast page.

To learn more about this fiduciary network or to find a certified ACP member, visit

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