Instinctively, Paige Goepfert is definitely organized—but she’s so much more.
“One of the first things people I’ve worked with will say about me is ‘She’s so organized,’ but I actually don’t like hearing that,” she says, laughing. “It makes me cringe a little inside because the planning, goal setting, and strategy creation I do is so much more than just being organized ”
In fact, her natural planning and organizing instincts are an integral component of her success as a partner in Andersen Tax’s Chicago office, where she excels in helping ultra-high-net-worth families, family offices, and executives with tax consulting and compliance.
“I work with entrepreneurs and innovators who have spent their lives creating everything they earned, and I get to understand their stories,” says Goepfert, who earned her MAcc in 2004 from BYU Marriott. “I love the personal side of my job.”
Her clients’ companies, she continues, are not just livelihoods—their businesses are their lives. “I tell clients that when they die, they can leave their money to the government, to charities, or to their families,” she says. “They have the luxury while alive to decide which bucket the money goes into, and I help them plan for what they want to have happen.”
Goepfert’s planning has paid off, and even in the moments when things didn’t go as anticipated, those experiences have worked out well too.
A classically trained pianist, Goepfert sees a connection between her musical talents and her career. “As a middle schooler, I was memorizing twenty-page Beethoven sonatas. I think my love of piano was an indicator that I was going to be in a mathematical, precision-type job,” she says.
Goepfert, who grew up in Chicago’s suburbs, still plays as a way to relax. “I love that simple notes on a page can turn into something beautiful. It’s therapeutic,” she explains.
She is sharing her love of piano with her seven-year-old daughter by teaching her to play. Teaching comes second nature since Goepfert spent much of her teen and young adult years as a piano instructor. She says, “I loved working with kids, teenagers, and even adults and seeing the light bulb go on.”
Goepfert’s teaching gig entered into the equation as she was finishing high school in Barrington, Illinois, and deciding what to do with her life. “I was going to be paying for college by myself and wasn’t ready to leave the nest,” she says. “I realized that by enrolling in junior college I could continue to support myself through teaching while I figured out what to study.”
Although Goepfert was interested in attending BYU and had tempting scholarship and financial support offers from other schools, she decided to attend Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, a fifteen-minute drive from her home.
Piano also played a key role in connecting Goepfert with her husband, Michael, who noticed her when she performed a sacrament meeting musical number in her singles branch—an opportunity he almost missed.
“Michael was planning on visiting the branch in Illinois with his friend, about a two-hour drive from where he lived in Wisconsin,” she says. It was a snowy winter morning, and Michael was running late. He told his friend that he wasn’t going to go, to which his friend responded, “I’m on my way. Put your tie on.”
Goepfert and Michael met each other after church and exchanged phone numbers on the premise of keeping Michael in the loop of branch activities. “A couple of weeks later I was going to Rockford, Illinois, with friends, and Michael was going to help his uncle move to Rockford the same weekend,” she says. “It was interesting how that all worked out.”
The two began a distance relationship. “My parents weren’t thrilled that their nineteen-year-old was dating a twenty-six-year-old, but it was just fun,” she recalls. “One thing that attracted me to him was that he was affectionate and loyal to his family, and that meant a lot.”
The Nineteen-Year-Old CEO
As Goepfert settled into Harper College, she focused on knocking out her general ed requirements. One day a group of students gave a presentation in her introductory accounting class, recruiting for a business that had been donated to the college. The small venture, Formulator Inc., sold latex gloves and dental mesh and was run by about ten students and a faculty advisor. It offered different functions in marketing, sales, and finance—and even boasted a CEO position.
Goepfert jumped at the chance. “At my first meeting, someone asked if I wanted to be part of the finance team, and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” she says.
She ended up volunteering five to ten hours each week and soon found herself presenting financial statements to the college’s board of directors. “I was nervous, but it was exciting, and they were gracious. I loved telling them about our seemingly insignificant sales,” she recalls. “I realized this is why accounting matters: you eventually have to prove to someone that you’re doing what needs to be done.”
Though her goal was to inform the board about the business’s fiscal responsibility, Goepfert ended up discovering her career path. “I liked the financial side of things and also liked connecting with people,” she says. During her time with Formulator, she eventually filled all the roles, including CEO.
As Goepfert was finishing her associate’s degree and considering where to go next, BYU became a natural transfer choice, especially because of its notable accounting program.
Also factoring into her decision was Michael. “All of his friends—including me— were moving to Utah,” she says. “One friend got him a job as a mortgage officer in Sandy, so he made the move. Snowboarding was also a draw, but let’s just say I had an inclination he was actually following me.” The couple married in 2002, while Goepfert was working on her bachelor’s degree.
As a BYU Marriott student, Goepfert immersed herself in the accounting program. She studied for Wall Street Journal quizzes, memorized tax code, holed up in the library for late nights, and set a goal to become a firm partner someday.
“I loved the accounting program even though it was grueling,” Goepfert says. One of the most profound elements of her BYU Marriott education was the people she met, including a group of women she grew close with while earning her MAcc who still keep in touch. “We’re all going through different life experiences now, personally and professionally, but we have all found success in our own ways.”
Goepfert says there weren’t a lot of women in the accounting program at the time. “There were even people who felt like women were taking men’s spots because they didn’t think we would stay in the profession long term, and that irritated me. It probably pushed me to succeed even more,” she says.
Despite excellent plans, sometimes the unexpected takes over—a lesson even experienced planners encounter.
After graduating in 2004, Goepfert landed at Deloitte in the Chicago office. Although she had requested to work in corporate or international tax, she was placed in the state and local tax department.
“I had taken calculated steps to figure out what I wanted to do and realized that I didn’t like doing that type of tax,” she says. So Goepfert left Deloitte and moved to a small tax firm in Munster, Indiana, in 2005 and then to Baker Tilly in downtown Chicago in 2007. “Even though I wasn’t happy with what I was doing at Deloitte, I’m glad I did it. Those experiences helped me become the person I am.”
At Baker Tilly, Goepfert gained traction professionally and began working with wealthy individuals and families and specializing in estate tax. Personally, however, she was feeling inner turmoil.
“Everyone was having babies,” she says. “As a planner, I wanted to figure out when we were going to have our babies. We prayed about it, and I had a pretty intense experience at the temple in 2008 indicating it was not time to have a child. I left the temple confused and upset.”
Within the year, the recession hit, and Michael was among six thousand employees laid off by the mortgage company where he had worked for ten years. It quickly became evident to Goepfert that listening to that prompting in the temple was an important part of the plan.
“I was planning on leaving the workforce when we had our first child, and if I hadn’t followed the guidance I received at the temple, I would have quit my job and Michael would have been without a job too,” Goepfert affirms. “The financial community was so wrecked after the recession that there were no jobs worth his time. We ended up having our first child in 2010, and Michael has been a stay-at-home dad ever since.”
Breaking away from cultural norms has presented its challenges. But their children—Mason, age ten, and Ella, age seven—enjoy spending time and creating memories with their dad. Favorite activities are engaging in impromptu Nerf gun wars or listening to Michael voice different characters while reading. “I married the right person, and my kids are lucky to have him,” Goepfert says. “I’m gone a lot—tax seasons are tough—and he’s always been supportive and encourages me in everything I do.”
Shattering the Glass
One day in early 2016, menacing weather was turning the midday sky black when Goepfert, who was working as a senior tax manager with RSM US at the time, had a meeting with a client less than a mile away from the Chicago Illinois Temple. “I hadn’t planned to attend the temple that evening, but the impending bad weather along with rush hour changed my plans to head home after the meeting.” Andersen Tax had recently reached out with an offer, and prior to that evening, Goepfert had planned on accepting the offer.
“I left the temple that stormy night feeling like I should not take the offer,” she remembers. “This was yet again another experience that demonstrated to me that I wasn’t the only one taking an interest in my future.” Explaining her decision to the managing director at Andersen wasn’t easy, although she did say she wanted to continue talking. “The timing just wasn’t right.”
Later that year, RSM US offered Goepfert a partner position in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although she turned down the offer, the move upped Andersen’s motivation to recruit her, and she moved over to Andersen in September 2017.
In January 2021, when Goepfert made partner at Andersen, she bought a necklace with a piece of cracked glass that represents a shattered glass ceiling. “I’m glad I’m a woman in this profession. It’s still male dominated, and I want to show other women this is possible,” she says.
Recently one of Goepfert’s friends sent her a postcard that read, “Don’t let anyone treat you like free salsa. You are guac. . . . GUAC!” The sentiment resonates with her as the first woman partner on her team. “You have to stand up for yourself,” says Goepfert. “I have to toot my own horn a little more. It’s a competitive world, and you have to be your own best supporter and advocate.”
Goepfert also credits her involvement with the Chicago Estate Planning Council as key to her success; she joined the council in 2008 and now serves on its board. “Many people don’t realize the importance of networking and building relationships until later in their careers,” she says. “A lot of business development goals are based on relationships. I’ve learned that the people I’ve been able to build long-term relationships with are more inclined to refer clients to me.”
Goepfert’s path has been dotted with great mentors, and she is determined to return the favor. She has been a fixture in BYU Marriott’s School of Accountancy (SOA) alumni program since its inception in 2014, offering support through mentoring students, participating in event panels, and speaking at conferences.
“Paige is always willing to serve in whatever capacity the SOA has needed her help in. She has gone above and beyond,” says Jennifer Maroney, SOA alumni director. “She is a true inspiration for our women and gives wonderful counsel and insight. Many students have kept in touch with her over the years.”
Goepfert’s readiness to give back isn’t limited to BYU or to close friends. Recently a woman in a C-suite of a big Chicago law firm was considering new job opportunities, and a friend connected her to Goepfert. The two ended up talking for the better part of an hour. Toward the end of the conversation, the woman asked, “Why were you so willing to help me?”
“Women need to support other women,” Goepfert replied. “I will bend over backward to help women.”
People have to own their future, Goepfert adds: “You can’t just think, ‘Maybe someday I’ll get promoted.’ If someone tells me they want to accomplish something, I’m going to help them, both women and men, get there.”
A People Person
At 5 a.m. on weekday mornings—6 a.m. if she’s not commuting—Goepfert exercises in her basement, mainly for her health but also to carve out time for herself. Her focus then shifts from working out to working with people, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The two things I like most about my job are the people—whether working with clients, my team, or my clients’ other advisors,” she says. “I also enjoy the variety of learning. No day is the same.”
To offset the unknowns, Goepfert says having a good team is key: “In terms of planning, it takes a village. I’m a huge fan of team brainstorming so we can stay on track and execute the way we want to.”
Now that Goepfert has achieved the goal she set as a BYU student—to become a partner—she is searching for her next target. “Whenever I got promoted, my first question was ‘What do I need to do to be promoted again?’” she says. “Now there’s a feeling of ‘Wait, what’s next?’ I think now is the time to focus on building my team and the next generation of partners.”
Which sounds like another excellent plan.
Written by Emily Edmonds
Photos by Shane Cleminson
About the Author
Emily Edmonds is a former editor of Marriott Alumni Magazine, and she loves to plan. Calendars, to-do lists, phone alerts, sticky notes—they all make her tick.
Listen to Goepfert share her expertise on the Celebrity Estates podcast, episode 31, titled “Death, Taxes, and Elvis Presley.”