Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

Highlights

Open

2015 LIFE@50+ MIAMI

Miami skyline viewed through palm trees.

Enjoy fun in the sun during Life@50+, May 14-16, 2015

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

AARP TV

Watch episodes of AARP Live and other AARP broadcasts.

Most Popular

Viewed

Finding Your Way

Second Act: Putting Street Smarts to Work

Luanne Zurlo, from Wall Street to philanthropy.

Excerpt from the new AARP book, Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life.

For more than 10 years, I worked as a securities analyst on Wall Street.  I spent time at Smith Barney, CSFB, and Goldman Sachs, managing Latin American equity research.  For much of that time, I loved the job. It was a perfect fit for my skill set and personality, it paid very well, and the benefits and perks were extraordinary.  The work was intense—especially in the 1990’s as emerging markets were opening up and taking off.

Then came the dot-com meltdown and 9/11. It was obvious to me that the party was over.  I also realized that I had drifted away from my original passion, which was to make a difference in the lives of people in developing nations.  My father worked for a pharmaceutical company, so I had group up in different places around the world.  I received an international orientation at a young age.  Later I earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth, then a master’s degree in international affairs from Johns Hopkins. I spent a year teaching in Spain on a volunteer basis and began to feel a desire to do something that revolved around development.  My earlier travels in Latin America, for example, had shown me the abysmally low quality of education there: Huge numbers of people were functionally illiterate, leaving them unable to participate in today’s global economy.

But then I decided to attend Columbia Business School instead. There I earned an M.B.A. in finance and accounting. Afterward, somewhat serendipitously, I wound up on Wall Street.  One day at Goldman Sachs, I looked at my bonus check and realized that my total income for the year was somewhere around $1 million.

According to the rest of the world’s perception, I should have felt on top of the world.  But I didn’t feel that way—I felt kind of depressed. Is money all there is to life?, I recall wondering. Somewhat belatedly, I realized that I desperately needed to reprioritize my objectives.

I left Goldman Sachs on July 2, 2002. By December I had incorporated a new not-for-profit organization, Worldfund, which supports education and worked out of my apartment in New York City, and it just grew from there.

Today our annual operating budget is approximately $5 million, and we have a staff of seven people. And this may sound formulaic, but had I known back then how tough it would be to make this organization work, I might never have tried to do so. I lived off my savings and did without a salary for the first couple of years. I pulled together every scrap of knowledge and experience I had gathered in the business world. There were a couple of points where our cash flow was so low we almost didn’t make it.  But we managed to grow, and now I feel as though we’re making a significant impact.  It’s possible to see the tangible results of our efforts: We are directly affecting the lives of children.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

AARP Bookstore

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Cirque Du Soleil

Members save up to 20% on live Cirque du Soleil shows with their AARP membership card.

Member Benefit AARP Regal 2

Members pay $8 for Regal ePremiere tickets purchased online. Conditions apply.

Movies Unlimited

Members save 10% on purchases of DVDs & Blu-ray discs from Movies Unlimited.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.