An expert in helping American families managing their wealth, Rebecca Walser (Trium EMBA.22) is also a popular figure on television crusading against a flawed retirement system in a volatile economy.

An electric blue dress bringing out her blond voluminous locks, Rebecca Walser spiels numbers and facts clearly and concisely at the pace of an auctioneer. The excitement in her voice and the sparkle in her blue eyes gives away her genuine interest for global economy and current affairs. “I love economics. It is, to me, the marriage of business and math !” This tax advisor and wealth management strategist is a natural for the columnist job. On screen, she vocally exposes the dangerous dynamics of the financial markets and her concern for America’s future retirees. Her trademark.

Well established in Tampa Bay, Florida, her practice Walser Wealth Management occupies an imposing building overlooking a plaza with palm trees on Harbour Island. Motivational posters with mantras like “achievement”, “discipline” and “perseverance” are hanging on the walls. The motto here? “Challenging the wisdom of convention”. Welcome to the realm of a “contrarian”.

Rebecca Walser could embody the ideal of an all-American successful woman, but her personal story hides an international background. “I am a military brat”, she says with a smile. Born in the naval base of Sasebo, Japan, she grew up with three siblings. Her father was an enlisted officer in the Navy earning a “petty salary”. Rebecca’s first memory involving money dates back to when she was four years old. The family had just moved to Virginia Beach and the bathroom lights in her new house refused to come on. “I can remember turning the switch on and off. My mom took me by the hand and led me to my dad. I thought I was going to be in trouble for breaking the lights. That is when they sat me down and told me about bills.” Despite coming from well-off families, “they were financial disasters.” She remembers thinking: “I’m going to figure out this thing called money.”

In Florida, where her family settled in the late 1980s, Rebecca set out to be a hard-working student. She graduated summa cum laude in finance from University of South Florida. Taking the corporate route, she started her career at PriceWaterhouse, reporting to the managing partner for financial services consulting in London, traveling extensively. «I have a massive affinity for London, she says. The first five years of my career, I was pretty much working with Europeans only.»

After earning a Doctor of Law degree magna cum laude from University of Florida and an advanced master’s in taxation law from New York University, she practiced as an attorney in a tax firm back in Tampa. “I was doing a lot of trust revisions for wealthy families whose adult children were addicted to some kind of vice: drugs, gambling… A common theme in successful people is that their adult children are really screwed up, she says. You have to figure out a way to be successful without giving your kids a sense of entitlement.»

A particular occurrence triggered an itch to open her own business. During a meeting, she had to sit in a client’s boardroom, listening to a financial advisor giving what she thought was misleading advice. “This gentleman started talking about this cash balance plan where you can put over 2 million away a year pre-tax. Entrepreneurs are building millions of dollars in these accounts thinking they are avoiding the highest tax bracket, currently 37% in the United States, and that they will be in a lower tax bracket when they retire.” These investments and their associated financial gains will however be taxed as regular income upon withdrawal. And in a context where 99% of American baby boomers will be retired in 2028, chances are that tax rates could rise through the roof to pay the promised Social Security checks, “up to 63% for middle class according to a federal government analysis.

“That was a terrible advice. I remember grinding my heels into the carpet. But I was only the tax attorney.” She opened her practice in January 2015 following this episode to “address both the tax issues and the wealth management issues together.”


401( k), the Fed and Wall Street

“We have gotten most people addicted to ‘pay me now’ and ‘don’t let me pay the government now”, says the tax advisor. The United States retirement system is partly based on popular contribution plans named 401( k) to which employees contributes with their gross salary and get a matching bid from their employer. For instance, if you put one dollar away you can get fifty cents from your corporation. “Free money”, as they say across the pond. Invested in the market, this money is locked until the person is 59 and taxed when withdrawn. “I’m trying to get people to understand where we are headed. We have legacy bills starting to come like in Europe.”

Tax traps are her pet subject, but Rebecca Walser has many more she’s now pushing on TV as a columnist. Lately, she has been pointing out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ lack of rigor, Wall Street’s influence on the monetary policy, or her fellow citizens having blind faith in the sovereignty of the US dollar. Fearing an upcoming crash in an over- spending, debt-riddled country, this Adam Smith and Milton Friedman aficionada tracks down the data, gets technical and keeps telling the world economic indicators are alarming. And people love her for this.

A rising voice in the US media

Outspoken, Rebecca, also a mother of four, encounters huge popularity among the public. Regularly interviewed on local TV, she turned her tax philosophy into a book, “Wealth Unbroken”, in 2018. An instant hit reaching #1 on Kindle in a day, running out on Amazon after a week. Atlantic, her publishing house, put her on a national 15-city book tour across the country, where she promoted her book for the first time on a business news live streaming channel called Cheddar from the New York Stock Exchange. As her appearance was being broadcasted, a publicist waiting for her flight at a New York airport noticed Rebecca on the screen and called her office. “Have Rebecca done local TV before?, she asked. I can definitely get her on national television.”

Starting out on Yahoo Finance, she has done more shows in six years than she can remember. The tax advisor is currently commenting on the US primary elections on Fox Business, an American conservative business news channel to which she regularly contributes. Because of her media career, she now makes weekly trips between Tampa and New York. With a multichannel approach, Rebecca also hosts a successful podcast called Crashes and Taxes, boasts more than 747, 000 followers on Instagram. Her team even started posting tax related content on TikTok. Why does she think she appeals so much to the public? “People are looking for a person who can talk true facts in black and white terms”, she analyzes.

Going global with a Trium EMBA

Make up always on point when the camera is rolling, Rebecca Walser takes particular care of her appearance. However, she noticed that a face with enhanced eyelashes talking about finance is something that still raises eyebrows. “I often see magazine covers with a man wearing a suit, sitting at his desk looking salt and pepper, seasoned and very sophisticated. As a female, I take a picture at my desk looking nice and I get comments like: ‘why does she have to look attractive?’ But this is just who I am! Women voices are important. We have different perspectives than men and we need those perspectives heard. » In the past, this wealth expert has also been giving some of her time assisting victims of domestic abuse on a pro-bono basis. A topic “that’s dear to my heart. I had a personal experience of an abusive relationship, she says. I was able to extricate myself from that situation, but I can see women that are disenfranchised economically and wouldn’t have the resources to leave.” Today, she offers ongoing financial support to women.

In 2020, concerned about « the global macroeconomic developments », Rebecca decided to top it all off with a Trium EMBA degree, a prestigious joint program at HEC Paris, NYU and LSE. “I was already plugged into the NYU alumni community, I love London, and when I researched HEC and realized its dominance in business worldwide, to me it was a no brainer.” Meeting one of her best friends, business owner Courtney Spaeth, in the experience, she particularly enjoyed classes on geopolitics and emerging technology. “The AI sessions alone were probably worth the degree.”, she says.

This lifelong learner could let herself be tempted by a PhD in economics. “It does call to me. But today I am learning the trading side of things so that we can get some swing profits for our investors”. Now ranked among the Top 10 financial advisors in the US by Investopedia, Rebecca Walser still acknowledges teaching her kids the value of money is “a very difficult challenge.”

Is America ready for ESG?

The state of Florida took out 2 billion out of BlackRock management in 2022 and its governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a legislation prohibiting ESG bond sales in 2023. A Floridian herself and a libertarian, Rebecca Walser is skeptical of ESG as it currently stands on the market. « I certainly want to protect the environment and a healthy planet for the ages to come. But if you are looking at BlackRock ESG portfolio results in America, they are subpar to other ETF funds. It makes it very difficult for people like me who are trying to maximize returns. If I pick the ESG vehicle, the client is upset with me because his friend down the street got more money. » As an attorney, she points out the issue with ESG is partly legal. “Boards of directors in America have a fiduciary legal obligation to maximize shareholder value. Until we can make the Earth a shareholder of every corporation, it’s going to be legally hard,” she explains.

Article by Estel Plagué

Photos : ©Rebecca Walser / Walser Wealth Management

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