Charles Zhang, M.A.’91, Economics | WMU Alumni Skip to main content

Charles Zhang, M.A.’91, Economics

Charles Zhang, M.A.’91, Economics

Charles Zhang is founder and CEO of Zhang Financial in Portage, Mich. With more than $4.5 billion in assets under his management, Zhang Financial works with more than 1,500 high net worth clients focusing on the preservation of wealth, investment growth, and maintenance of income during retirement years.

Of his many accolades, Charles was named the #1 Financial Advisor in Michigan by Barron's nine years in a row, has been ranked #1 on Barron’s list of the nation’s Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors, has been ranked #6 in the nation on Forbes' list of America’s Top Wealth Advisors, and is the highest ranked NAPFA-Registered fee-only financial advisor and the highest ranked independent advisor on the list. He authored “Make Yourself a Millionaire,” and is regularly interviewed and quoted in numerous national media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, the New York Times, Forbes, and the Washington Post, to name only a few. Charles also holds an MBA from Northwestern University and an M.S. in Financial Services from the Institute of Business and Finance, and has completed Executive Education from Harvard Business School.

Charles shares his nationally recognized expertise generously with many academic institutions aside from WMU. He serves on the Committee on University Resources for Harvard University; as a Steering Committee member for Columbia College at Columbia University; and is on the Economics Advisory Council at Columbia University, where he is also a benefactor.

At WMU, Charles helps to guide budding financial professionals as an adjunct professor in finance and, along with his wife Lynn Chen-Zhang, has generously championed a number of causes that stretch across the University. Notably, they have supported the Haworth College of Business, Miller Auditorium’s Zhang Financial Broadway in West Michigan series, the Department of Economics, the Medallion Scholarship Program, Heritage Hall, and the Academically Talented Youth Program in the Lee Honors College. Additionally, the Charles Z. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center was made possible through their generosity.

In the community, the Zhangs are well known for their philanthropic commitment to local initiatives, such as the Kalamazoo Humane Society, Family & Children Services, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Rapids Symphony, Ministry with Community, the Portage Senior Center, and many others.


Charles’ story

“Kalamazoo is ranked as the ‘#1 coolest city to live with the lowest cost of living.’ I think this is a very accurate ranking. It is an amazing place to live and raise a family. In my opinion this ranking is not possible without WMU, which plays a vital role in our local economy and culture. WMU has helped to shape so many young people’s lives, including mine.”

“I first heard about WMU from a gentleman who is my uncle’s close friend.  My uncle has lived in Chicago since the 1940s. This gentleman was a great guy and ran a very successful business. He was a WMU alum and spoke very highly of the university. I did some research on my own and was very impressed. It is also worth mentioning that I was awarded a Graduate Assistant Scholarship which paid for part of my tuition and some living expenses. This scholarship was an amazing gift which allowed me to pursue my dreams.”

As a student, Charles was busy working as a graduate assistant in the economics department and also as a work study student on campus. Among those who inspired him on campus, Charles notes three professors, Dr. Werner Sichel, Dr. Wei-Chiao Huang and Dr. Huizhong Zhou.

“They are not only distinguished scholars, but also amazing people. I learned to use a disciplined approach to academic studies, and I have used that approach on wealth management. People have asked me what my alternative career would be if I was not a wealth manager, the answer is I would be a scholar and a professor in economics. Some of my professors became my clients at the very early stage of my career. I am forever grateful for their trust.”

Among his formative experiences at WMU, he notes two classes taught by Dr. Wei-Chiao Huang, mathematical economics and econometrics.

“I realized how much I loved economics and was determined to pursue a career relating to economics. Asset Management is very closely related to economics.  By the way, I actually ended up being the #1 in both of his classes. Dr. Huang is an outstanding professor and a tough grader.”  

Among his memories as a student, Charles notes a more personal-- and touching instance. “I proposed to my wife when she was crunching for her accounting final exam. Not very romantic, I know.”

Throughout his more than 30-year career, Charles has accomplished much to be proud of, but notes a recent encounter as a highlight.

“Recently during a review meeting, a client showed me a letter. It was the invitation letter from 25 years ago, from me to invite him to become a client. He said choosing me as his financial advisor was the best decision he has ever made.  I am mostly proud that I have been able to help so many clients to be financially secure and successful, enjoy their retirement life worry-free, and pass on their wealth and legacy to generations to come.”

Outside of his career, Charles is most proud of his children.

“Both Mitchell and Alex are independent, successful, and happy in their lives.  Lynn and I have a wonderful relationship with both of our children and could not be prouder of the amazing individuals they have become… Of course, there are always rooms for them to improve.”

His advice for current students is rather simple, “Work/life balance is overrated when you just start your career. Work hard when you are young and don’t have kids, so you can afford to slow down when you have a family.”