A good work-life balance is no easy feat, but planner Lisa Duggan has found a formula that works for her.

She spends one week in the office of her Epona Financial Guidance headquarters in Melbourne’s outer east, and the next week working from her farm in the Victorian tablelands region of Strathbogie.

When she isn’t poring over financial documents and meeting with clients, she’s sinking her hands into her veggie patch or working with her partner on their 80-head sheep farm.

“I couldn’t live in the CBD now, Melbourne is so crazy,” she says. “People just jump on their horns in the city. Where I live, you need to stop and let the sheep pass.”

Running a small farm and a financial planning business may sound exhausting, but each speaks to a different side of Duggan.

“They’re complementary in a lot of ways,” she says. “After a long day in front of the computer, it’s therapeutic to go and work on the farm or in the garden vegie patch.”

Duggan grew up in the Yarra Valley. Even though her father ran a financial planning business, she never thought she would follow in his footsteps.

“I studied accounting at university, but I didn’t like it and I liked chatting to people so I became a croupier at the casino for a while,” Duggan recalls. “Then a job came up at the old Colonial Mutual. They were putting together a team of advisers, so I joined their ranks.”

Duggan took a while to find her feet, though. She was still young and wanted to get more life experience before she began advising clients about their financial affairs.

“I didn’t feel qualified to be dealing with people’s finances and I worried that I would make a mistake,” she notes.

So Duggan got her diploma of financial planning and advanced diploma of financial planning, and became a Certified Financial Planner. She worked as a paraplanner and eventually the confidence and life experience followed.

“It was a very male-dominated industry at the time,” she notes. “Things are starting to change now, although I do think we have more room to grow.”

Her dad sold her his business, Epona Financial Guidance, 10 years ago and Duggan hasn’t looked back since.

Her team is all female – more through chance than design – and many of her clients are women aged 45-55.

“We also have a lot of younger single women who come in, which is great,” she says.

Cashflow management is a common problem among her clients.

“I don’t think technology helps much either,” Duggan notes. “It’s so easy to tap and go and people forget how much money they’re actually spending. I also think we’re more materialistic now. People are feeling the peer pressure and now everyone wants to send their kids to private school. [Only a minority] went in the past.”

By far the most satisfying aspect of planning, Duggan says, is giving clients good news.

“I had a client who was a forklift operator and he had worked hard his whole life,” she says. “He was approaching retirement and it was so great to be able to tell him that he could afford that car he had always wanted and he would have a comfortable retirement. When I told him that, he burst into tears, and then his wife did and then I did. We were all crying.

“I remember him saying, ‘I don’t want to struggle in retirement because we have struggled our whole life.’ ”

Lisa Duggan

Name of firm: Epona Financial Guidance
Name of licensee: Financial Wisdom Limited
Time in the industry and previous jobs: 21 years, stock feed proprietor, casino croupier
Academic qualifications: bachelor of business (accounting), diploma of financial planning, advanced diploma of financial planning
Accreditations: Certified Financial Planner
Professional association memberships: Financial Planning Association


Johanna Roberts is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist with more than 15 years' experience in news, features, lifestyle, property, finance, books and arts journalism, across both digital and print platforms. She has worked at both Fairfax and News Corp publications in Australia, as well as in digital roles in London with The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.
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