BY LAYNE RANDOLPH | Photo above by Lowell Downey, Art & Clarity

Pina Carino exemplifies the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management team in Northern California. Two paragons of this superstar team include the group’s diversity—representing all members of society—and their involvement in and generosity to local communities and causes dear to them. After 28 years as a Wealth Management Advisor, Pina is the First Vice President and Senior Financial Advisor for Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in a field that is made up of only 10 percent women.

Her list of credentials is long. She is a Certified Financial Planner® and a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor®. In addition, Pina holds life and long-term care insurance registrations and series 7 and 63 FINRA registrations. Her community involvement includes Cope Family Center, LGBTQ Connection Napa, Sons of Italy, Napa School of Music, Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, Humane Society, Alzheimer’s Association, and Women for Winesense Napa.

Pina’s life’s purpose was inspired in Naples, Italy, where she was born and named after her Zia (aunt) Pina. Her close tie and commitment to family continued to be a defining thread throughout her life. Her family emigrated to Arizona when she was a child, and her strong Italian family ties never waned. When her mother, Nina, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005, Pina went into super-daughter mode, making sure her mother got the best care possible. She had already ensured her mother was financially ready.

“When my mom got Alzheimer’s, I had already purchased a long-term care policy for her. I am a big proponent of this for women because we comprise 80 percent of the population in long-term care. We will all need help, and we don’t want our kids to fight or lose their inheritance trying to manage our senior care.” Because of the long-term care policy, Pina could provide 24/7 live-in care for her mother, a true luxury for Alzheimer’s patients.

Pina and her mother, Nina

Helping her mother through the next ten years gave Pina a passion for helping others suffering from the disease. She joined the Northern California branch of the Alzheimer’s Association and now sits on their Board of Directors. In addition, she is on the Alzheimer Association’s speaker circuit, sharing her personal experience with the disease and advising women on what they can do now to protect themselves in the future.

Part of her educational presentation involves explaining what is happening in Alzheimer’s research and offering proactive measures people can take to prevent it. “Many new drugs are in development stages. The most important things to be on top of are cardiovascular activity, good sleep, a Mediterranean diet, continuing to learn new things, and remaining social,” Pina explained.

But she believes that women protecting themselves financially is just as important as following a healthy lifestyle. “I want to make sure women know what they have. Only 10 percent of financial advisors are women, and women typically live longer and want to be more educated regarding their finances.”

Women face a retirement paradox: They live longer and thus have a much longer retirement period, in general, than men. While this is a fortunate aspect of female aging, it is also true that women are usually less financially prepared and have less savings than their male counterparts. Another financial challenge women need to plan for is that women’s healthcare costs are generally 39 percent higher than they are for men. The combination of retiring earlier, living longer, and having less financial preparation make it especially important that women are well-informed. They are likely to spend years alone and must rely on proper long-term care in their later years.

Pina’s top piece of financial advice for women is to have a long-term care policy. “We have hybrid policies that are not use-it-or-lose-it. That’s a concern for many people. With these types of policies, either you use the funds for your long-term care, get your money back, or the policy becomes a death benefit to your heirs. These plans allow for in-home care, nursing facilities, assisted living, and respite care.

Pina’s mother, Nina, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 69, and Pina and her sister kept her in her home for the next ten years. They did not want to place her in a memory care unit with a one-to-six caregiver-to-patient ratio and mixed with some people with Alzheimer’s or dementia and others without. Pina saw firsthand how women needed information before they arrived at this point in their lives.

When Nina passed away, Pina continued to honor her by helping other women in her mother’s situation. She offered her mother’s home as a place for Alzheimer’s patients to live. “Nina’s Memory Care Home” accepted up to five people with Alzheimer’s or dementia and provided the same quality of care her mother received in her home with a round-the-clock two-person caregiver staff.

Photo by Julia Wilmers courtesy of Alzheimers Association Northern California

In line with the abundance of energy she contributes to the Alzheimer’s Association, Pina has been on the Northern California Walk to End Alzheimer’s Walk Committee since 2017. She encourages others to participate in the walk to raise funds for vital Alzheimer’s research. (Join Pina’s team at www.alz.org/walk).

Her advice for those dealing with Alzheimer’s is to “reach out to your local Alzheimer’s Association for resources and information. Many people do not realize they have a 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900).”

Pina’s warrior-like commitment to helping women is understandable for a person who originally planned to go into criminal justice. Wanting to help victims and provide justice, she interned under the then-Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano but eventually realized criminal justice was not the field for her. “I could not imagine guilty people being let go if I could not show that evidence was tampered with or thrown out,” she explained.

After working as a financial advisor for Paine Weber and then Prudential, Pina joined Merrill Lynch in 2002. She was living in San Diego, where she met her life partner, and she eventually moved to Napa Valley, where she now lives and works closely with the LGBT community. “I call myself the connector. Many people come to Northern California to retire, and people are living longer than ever before. As we get older, people tend to stay to themselves. I want us all to get to know one another.”

She explained how working with the community differs from working with non-LGBT clients. “Now that same-sex marriage is legal, financial and retirement planning is the same, but because we usually don’t have children, we need to plan more than most people.”

Bank of America-Merrill Lynch has been an active advocate for LGBT rights. Bank of America was the first financial institution to offer comprehensive domestic partner benefits. In 2015, Bank of America filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of marriage equality and again in 2019 in support of federal workplace protections for LGBTQ+ people. In 2019, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) recognized Bank of America as its Corporation of the Year.

While financial planning may be very much the same for LGBT and non-LGBT people, some issues can be causes of concern for LGBT Alzheimer’s patients. In some cases, it can be challenging to find welcoming facilities and healthcare providers for members of the LGBT community. Pina has worked with the Alzheimer’s Association to use its platform to tackle some of these concerns. She is proud that the Association took the initiative to address discrimination in the LGBT community in its educational materials.

In 2021, Pina was awarded the North Bay Business Journal’s inaugural Pride Business Leadership Award. Beyond her focus on women and the LGBT community, Pina focuses on developing and maintaining prudent investment strategies and has offered a wide range of wealth planning and portfolio strategies to retirees, individuals, affluent families, corporate executives, and businesses.

The LGBT community and women have another thing in common. “I find that both LGBT folks and women are extremely interested in environmental social governance (ESG). They want to know what their money is being invested in – they want to support causes they care about. You have to listen and invest with their values in mind,” Pina explained.

“My motto to my clients is “SWAN: Sleep Well at Night,” Pina explained. Her love of family and community and her natural inclination to want to take care of people have all served her well. Her advice for those looking for a financial planner is that “it helps to choose an advisor who cares and wants to help people.” Pina Carino is one of those advisors.

Pina is a rockstar financial advisor, but she is also a—literal—rockstar. In her free time, Pina pursues her love of music, singing in1980s cover bands in gigs around Napa Valley.