LENOX - For Maura Griffin, a nationally recognized financial planner, bringing her Manhattan-based Blue Spark Capital Advisors firm to the Berkshires fulfills a dream she's nurtured for many years. Named a "Top Financial Leader" by Forbes magazine and honored with the Women's Choice Award for Financial Advisors for the past three years, Griffin opened her downtown Lenox office this week, while maintaining her original Madison Avenue presence where Blue Spark began to catch fire five years ago. As contractors put the finishing touches on the 93 Church St. building she bought recently for $265,000, Griffin explained that the firm's name signifies "a catalyst for change but also an enduring blue flame." "While the business started in New York, this is my home now," she said in her new office with Scooter, a Pomerian Maltese mix, nestled on her lap. She has 80 clients, 10 percent of them in the Berkshires, and manages $75 million in assets. Most are women in transition, though 25 percent are couples and two are men. Griffin understands through her own experiences that "there are a lot of emotions about money. Particularly for women, it's about what you want to do with that money; it's about fears and aspirations and being able to talk about them. I let them know they're not alone, and here are ways to handle these things." Her guidance includes planning for college costs and how to handle inheritances through death or a divorce - "it's often angry money or sad money." Her goal is to "help address those emotions, take them apart and turn them into a tool, because money is a tool to help you do what you need or want to do." Her "holistic" style extends beyond investment management to tax and estate planning, even car buying versus leasing, with an emphasis on long-term goals and "safe assets" versus growth potential. "It's basically every part of someone's financial life," she said. Griffin is designated as a certified financial planner based on completing six courses followed by a 10-hour exam. As a "fiduciary," her legal obligation is to put the client's needs first, so she collects no transaction commissions. Clients pay a sliding-scale annual fee based on the amount they invested and for Berkshire clients, Blue Spark requires no minimum investment amount. Griffin counsels against financial decisions based on emotional factors. "It's my job to have them think about their goals, and the safest way we can get there, without leaving anything on the table or taking too many risks," she said. "I had always yearned to come back here," Griffin said. Her mother, Theresa Kelly Griffin, as well as her maternal grandmother, had been residents of Great Barrington, living on Main Street and then Prospect Street. Maura Griffin, a New York City native, had moved to the Albany, N.Y., area as a child and then to Springfield, graduating from Wilbraham & Monson prep school and earning a bachelor's degree in literature from Georgetown University in 1986. Her early jobs included a summer internship at The Berkshire Eagle's Great Barrington bureau in 1985 and a stint at Georgetown's alumni magazine. After her parents moved to Stowe, Vt., she landed a temporary reporting job at the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus followed by a four-year assignment at the Associated Press in Montpelier. Pondering her next step, Griffin went overseas to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia), opened and ran a bookstore-cafe called The Globe and stayed for five years, writing and editing for a research institute founded by business magnate George Soros and for Radio Free Europe. She also married her first husband, a Russian musician, and they had a son, Calvin, who now attends Georgetown University. Returning to Manhattan and soon a single mom after the marriage foundered, she found her way to a reporting gig at Fortune magazine, which led to editing and writing market research for J.P. Morgan, UBS and Capital Group. "I found it fascinating and came to love it," Griffin said while figuring out her own route to sound personal financial management. "A lot of my friends were going through divorces or becoming widows," she recalled. "I knew I had done a good job watching every penny and I really wanted to do that for other people, though women happened to be drawn to me." After earning a master's in business administration from Columbia University in 2010, she interviewed at major financial firms. But Griffin found it was "dirty business, the way they push you to promote certain products. That's not the right thing for the clients." She decided to go solo, "to do it with a clear conscience, and do the right thing for the clients without other incentives getting in the way." By 2011, she opened Blue Spark on Madison Avenue. Looking ahead, Griffin and her staff of five aim to grow the business "the smart way, being able to give clients what I want to give them in a thoughtful way." Reach correspondent Clarence Fanto at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.