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Joan Payden, now 92, made a bold move in her 40s when she quit her job, cashed in her 401(k), and founded her own money management firm, Payden & Rygel, with her colleague Sandra Rygel. Despite initial skepticism from colleagues and friends, the firm has grown into one of the country’s largest private money managers with $162 billion in assets under management. Payden, who still serves as president, CEO, and majority owner, has kept a low profile throughout her 60-year career, declining interviews and shunning the spotlight. Yet, her success has earned her a spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s most successful self-made women entrepreneurs, with an estimated net worth of $700 million.

Born in Connecticut in 1931, Payden spent most of her teenage years in Indonesia before returning to the U.S. to attend Trinity College, where she graduated with a dual degree in math and physics in 1953. After starting her career as an engineer, Payden transitioned to finance and eventually co-founded Payden & Rygel with a focus on fixed income and global markets. The firm has since expanded to include offices in Los Angeles, Boston, London, and Milan, offering a variety of investment options for high net worth individuals, pension funds, and foundations. Payden’s dedication to her work and commitment to her clients have helped establish the firm as a reputable player in the industry.

Despite competing in a market dominated by industry giants like Fidelity and Blackstone, Payden & Rygel distinguishes itself by offering a personal touch and tailored investment strategies to clients. With a wide range of fixed income and equity funds, the firm has achieved consistent returns and appeals to investors seeking low-risk options to diversify their portfolios. Payden’s hands-on approach and relentless pursuit of growth have propelled the firm’s success over the years, reflecting her passion and commitment to the business.

Beyond her professional achievements, Payden has also made significant contributions to philanthropy, supporting causes like animal sanctuaries, Catholic charities, and her alma mater, Trinity College. As Trinity’s top donor, Payden has played a pivotal role in the university’s transformation, helping to improve its STEM programs and provide scholarships to low-income women of color. Her impact extends beyond Trinity, as she sits on the boards of several universities and actively supports educational initiatives for underprivileged teens in Los Angeles. Payden’s dedication to education and philanthropy underscores her belief in giving back to the community and leaving a lasting legacy.

While Payden’s wealth continues to grow, she plans to leave a substantial portion of her fortune to charity, following the example set by her brother William, who left a gift to Trinity through his estate. Payden’s commitment to philanthropy and her simple guiding principle of passion and commitment have guided her success in both her professional and personal life. As one of America’s richest self-made women, Payden’s story serves as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs and philanthropists alike, demonstrating the power of perseverance, dedication, and a strong sense of purpose in achieving success.

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