Designing Financial Freedom

Financial counselor brings retirement solutions


In seeing firsthand the challenges and expenses people face in their later years, ASHLEY HOPKINS discovered her life’s work. Hopkins, a retirement planning counselor and founder of Sound Retirement Solutions, says she knew when she entered college that she wanted to focus on issues of long-term care and protection of assets for the elderly.

“I was too queasy to get into health care,” she says with a laugh, “so I decided to focus on the financial side.”

She first earned her insurance license, then her Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) designation. More recently, Hopkins has become a chartered retirement planning counselor and gained her certification in long-term care. She’s currently working to become a chartered financial consultant.

In 2018 she launched her firm, which is based in Wilmington and has an office in Greenville, South Carolina. There are plans to open an additional office next fall in Myrtle Beach. Sound Retirement Solutions now employs fifteen professionals.

What all this enables her and her colleagues to do is to “help families protect the legacies they have accrued, and protect their dignity,” Hopkins says. “I witnessed my grandparents lose what they had worked all their lives to save.”

Straitened circumstances meant that Hopkins’ mother was squeezed into a sandwich: caring for her own family as well as her parents. After the relatively early death of Hopkins’ grandfather, her grandmother needed even more attention.

Hopkins recalls those stressful years and the toll it took on her mother, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now Hopkins is tasked with her own mother’s care, made more complicated because of the damage her mother sustained to her back, shoulder, hip, and legs from lifting her elderly mother in and out of the bathtub.

“She has paid the price for everything she’s done for her family,” Hopkins says.

Sound Retirement Solutions works primarily with clients over the age of fifty. About half are at some stage of planning for retirement. Others are already retired but need to reposition their assets, especially with current financial markets’ turbulence and high inflation.

Hopkins and her associates start their conversations with new clients by asking them a long list of questions that cover the range of issues involved in planning for retirement.

“Folks who save think if they have a nest egg, that will provide an income stream,” she says. “Income planning is one piece, but only about one-fifth (of the total retirement map).”

Other issues involve tax planning, directives, insurance, risk tolerance, beneficiaries, and ultimate disposal of assets. A main goal is to ensure that clients don’t outlive their assets.

Another goal is to avoid having the burden of care fall on family members. Hopkins sees this through the lens of her own offspring: three daughters and one son.

“I want them one day to manage my care but not provide my care,” she explains.

So, for her clients, she encourages them to set up a system in which professionals do the work and family members oversee it.

“That way, children can spend quality time with their parents,” she adds.

Hopkins laments the lack of women in the retirement planning field.

“I have been to Vegas twice in the past few weeks to meetings of retirement planners. In the rooms of 400 to 500 planners, I have been one of about ten women,” she says. “It’s critical to have a woman’s voice in the process, especially for women clients who lose their husbands.”

To address that need, Hopkins has collaborated with a fellow retirement planner in Washington State and one in California to develop a series of monthly workshops they call Empowering Women in Retirement. The series deals with women’s legal rights and options once they stop working.

“Nobody else in the Carolinas is doing this,” she notes. “We’re the only three in the whole country.”

At present, Hopkins holds her sessions at 5:30 p.m. one Tuesday each month, but that’s about to change.

“We’re getting such a response that we’re adding a Saturday session for ladies who work. Right now, we are holding (sessions) in my office but we’re growing so much, we’re looking at a larger space.”

To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to

Want more WILMA? Click here to sign up for our WILMA newsletters and announcements.

Categories: Women to Watch