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Woman is serious investor by day

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Karen McKinley is busy. As a senior vice president at Merrill Lynch in Palm Beach, her job is to counsel people about investments. "I love my job, helping people achieve their goals. I'm very into planning," she said.

She and her husband, Russell Hibbard, own The Bamboo Room, a jazz- blues lounge in downtown Lake Worth. "It's a cool balance," she said. "I could be too serious, if I only had the investment job."

She's worked for Merrill Lynch for 22 years. "When I went to college, I had a scholarship to Smith College (in Northampton, Mass.). The president of the college was on the board of Merrill Lynch. She spoke to us about the importance of women getting into that business."

Later, she went to North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., to earn a master's in Technology in International Development. "It's been kind of neat," she said laughing. "I've actually used my degree in my job."

Her "wealth management" team also offers monthly lunch seminars for women at Cafe Boulud during the season. Topics vary, but the theme is "What Happens in a Woman's Life" and how life events affect finances. "Consider the World War II generation," she said. "The husband dies, and the wife is left not knowing anything about finances, or how the bills got paid."

A couple of years ago, her Merrill Lynch team decided to focus on women investors. "They are more likely to take the advice," she said. "Women have an eagerness to learn. They are less likely to make mistakes in investing. Once I explain everything, they are decisive. They are long-term investors. It is rewarding to give advice and see people benefit from it."

She and Russell live in College Park, on a finger canal just off the Intracoastal Waterway, in a house filled with eclectic collections, including cocktail shakers, alarm clocks and historic black and white photos. They have two cats, Pearl and Charlie, and a parrot, Bull's-eye, which they've had for 22 years.

"He's in our estate documents," she said. "Someone will need to take care of him."

How they came to own the hip club in 1996 is "a classic (baby) boomer story," she said. "The markets were booming. Russell was a member of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) in Lake Worth. We knew redevelopment was coming to downtown. We decided to buy a building and be a part of that. The building we chose had been the first social club in Lake Worth. We were sick of clubs that were smelly, with bad acoustics, where you couldn't get a good drink.

"We wanted to create a club we'd want to go to. I try to be responsible and not go in on weeknights," she said. "But sometimes, the music is so good, I just have to go."

So they spent nearly a million dollars renovating the place, and The Bamboo Room was born.

"Downtown Lake Worth is so great," she said. "Since then, others have fixed up buildings. There's a great quality of life. There's great restaurants now. I hope Bamboo Room is a part of that.

"It's been great to meet the musicians," she said. "Russell and I love the music. He brings in gospel, roots music . . . We mix it up a little. We call it essential music - music of our culture."

What would you do if you won the lottery?

"I'd donate a lot of it. I don't need it that much."

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

"My father has passed away. I'd like to have dinner with him so he can see how things turned out."

What's the best advice you ever got?

"My parents always used to tell me, 'Go ahead, kid, knock 'em dead.' I've been trying ever since."

(C) 2005 The Palm Beach Post. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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