Kristi Blake Lifestyle Choices And Career Moves Add Up To Satisfaction For Accountant

Kristi Blake entered the University of Washington in the early 1970s with the goal of becoming a mathematics teacher.

But the math was too hard, so she switched … to accounting.

Now, Blake, certified in both accounting and financial planning, says the work she does with her clients answers the calling she felt two decades ago.

“A lot of my service is education,” she said. “Maybe that’s the teacher part of me coming out.”

Blake said helping clients sort out their finances and plan for the future is the most satisfying of her professional and community activities.

The list, however, is almost endless.

In June, she takes over as president of the Junior League of Spokane Inc.

She is on the board and chairs the finance committee of the YMCA, and is vice president of the board of the Community Colleges of Spokane Foundation.

She also serves on the board of United Way of Spokane, having been its vice president overseeing internal accounting functions and personnel policies. In 1994, she was a member of the group that drafted a new strategic plan for the agency.

Equally active in her profession, she is on the board of directors of the Composite Group of Funds, the mutual funds owned by Washington Mutual Savings Bank. She also is on the American Institute of Certified Public Accounting’s Committee for Financial Planning.

And last summer she was appointed to the Securities Advisory Committee of the Washington Department of Financial Institutions.

The committee helps set regulatory policy for the state’s securities administrator.

There, Blake said, she envisions a dual role as representative for accountants and financial planners.

All the while, she maintains a one-woman practice in the Marycliff Center, a kind of refuge from the big accounting firm responsibilities she shed eight years ago.

Blake said she was tired after 13 years of work in the world of a Big Six accounting firm. Promotions had taken her away from her native Seattle to San Diego and Dallas.

In Texas, the climate and attitude toward women was too inhospitable, she said, so she and husband John began to consider alternatives.

He had lived in Spokane briefly before they were married and liked it, so the decision was made to return to the Northwest.

“It was totally a lifestyle decision,” Blake recalled. “I’d had my fill of working for large institutions.”

Blake, practicing as Kristianne Gates Blake, P.S., opened her office. John became a coach at the Community Colleges.

The couple have two children.

Blake said she built her practice through referrals. A money column written for Spokane Woman magazine helped establish her credibility.

After four years, she became self-sustaining.

Blake said she enjoys working alone because she has more flexibility, both professionally and family-wise. But the press of her responsibilities has fattened a golf handicap once down to 18. She also is an enthusiastic pickleball player.

Retirement is the No. 1 concern of those she counsels, Blake said.

Most realize they must assume more responsibility for assuring a comfortable old age falls on their shoulders, she said, but many are overwhelmed by the challenges.

“‘Are we saving enough?”’ is often the first question, Blake said.

Some just want to understand the options available to them through their employers.

Conservative herself, Blake still finds she must push clients to think beyond certificates of deposit in their planning.

Basic strategies like diversifying and spreading risk can be hard sells, she said.

Working closely with her clients provided grist for a book Blake co-wrote with a Seattle friend, Kaycee Krysty.

“Stop Fighting about Money and Start Making it Work for You” was published in 1989 by Boston Books.

“It’s something I never dreamed I would do,” Blake said. “I didn’t like writing in college.

“It was a very energizing experience.”

Blake said Spokane has been a favorable community for her practice and her family.

“There’s a very good referral network among Spokane professionals,” she said. “It’s a city that’s very receptive to individual practices.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: There was no byline published with this story. Although, the story was written by Bert Caldwell.

There was no byline published with this story. Although, the story was written by Bert Caldwell.

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