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Age is Just a Number. See How Joan Payden Built A $700 Million Fortune At 92

Joan Payden, at 92, is one of America’s wealthiest self-made women. She founded Payden & Rygel, a Los Angeles-based money management firm, in 1983. Today, her firm manages over $161 billion in assets.

Joan Payden
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Joan Payden, aged 92, stands out as one of America’s wealthiest self-made women. She is the CEO of Payden & Rygel, a major money management firm she started in Los Angeles in 1983. Today, the company oversees more than $161 billion in assets and employs nearly 240 people across multiple offices.

Payden's journey to success began with her studies in math and physics at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. In the 1950s, she was one of the few female engineers at a company building oil refineries in New Jersey. Unfortunately, she lost her job after three years due to a mass layoff.

Determined to find a new path, Payden entered the financial sector. She secured a junior associate position at Merrill Lynch, though she started at a lower salary because she didn't know the difference between a bond and a stock. A few years later, she moved to Los Angeles and joined Scudder, Stevens & Clark, a top money management firm. After multiple attempts, she became the firm’s first female partner, despite missing out on promotion once because she couldn’t attend a men-only golf meeting.

Payden didn't want her gender to define her career. “I am either a good financial advisor or not. I am not ‘a good woman financial advisor,’” she once said.

By 1983, Payden felt ready for a change. She and her colleague Sandra Rygel left their jobs, and Payden used her 401(k) savings to start Payden & Rygel. She had concerns about finding clients but soon realized that wouldn't be a problem.

Today, her firm is one of the largest private money management companies in the U.S. Her previous employer, Scudder, Stevens & Clark, was bought by Zurich Insurance Group for nearly $1.7 billion in 1997.

Joan Payden's net worth is now around $700 million, earning her a spot on Forbes’ 2024 list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to take the plunge despite fears: “When you jump in the lake, you can’t think about drowning,” she said, adding that the risk of doing nothing was greater than the risk of taking action.

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