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Michael Kitces' #FASuccess Podcast: How Shannon McLay Helps Clients Get 'Financially Fit'

The Financial Gym's Shannon McLay talks about how she and her firm's "trainers" help clients with traditional financial planning services around budgeting, saving, debt management and financial literacy.



Welcome back to the 244th episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast!

My guest on today's podcast is Shannon McLay. Shannon is the founder of The Financial Gym, which offers financial coaching services on a monthly subscription basis to about 3,500 Millennial and Gen-Z clients.

What's unique about Shannon, though, is that, while her coaches (or “trainers” as she calls them) offer traditional financial planning services around budgeting, saving, debt management, and financial literacy, she brands her offering as helping people get “financially fit” in the same way that a personal trainer helps someone get physically fit.

In this episode, we talk in depth about the germination of Shannon’s Financial Gym business model, including the ah-ha moment while she was a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and realized that helping her pro-bono clients change the trajectory of their financial lives gave her far more personal satisfaction than serving her high net-worth clients, how while Shannon freely points out that she didn’t know the first thing about starting or running a business the idea that she could help a massively underserved segment of population literally kept her awake at night, and how even though Shannon received pushback from initial investors who didn’t think she could scale the business because she wouldn’t be able to replicate herself, she was quick to point out that the wirehouses have been replicating “traditional” financial advisors regardless of background for decades.

We also talk about the Financial Gym’s coaching process when delivering advice to clients, including how Shannon’s trainers really focus in on their clients’ spending habits, pointing out that while investing $1,000 might provide $50 of growth, her trainers can double or triple that value by helping clients find ways to reduce their spending, how after helping clients define what financial independence looks like for them, Shannon and her trainers focus beyond what they need to save to get there to also focus on what they need to earn as well, and why Shannon feels that an added benefit of the monthly subscription model is that it places accountability on her trainers, who have to prove their value to clients who see the Financial Gym’s charges on their bank statements every month.

And be certain to listen to the end, where Shannon shares why she ditched an off-the-shelf software package to develop their own proprietary budgeting and reporting tool for clients (as well as the important lessons she learned along the way in building her own software for clients), how Shannon has been able to build such a diverse and inclusive team of trainers and support staff for a diverse client base who often want to work with people with whom they can relate, and how even though Shannon has experienced some difficult moments in her journey as an entrepreneur (including just barely making payroll on a few occasions), she wouldn’t go back and do anything differently because of the valuable lessons she learned along the way.

So whether you’re interested in learning about the planning services Shannon and her team at The Financial Gym offer their clients, how she’s been able to build such a diverse team, or about her experience with raising money through venture capital firms, then we hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast with Shannon McLay.

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