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Live a Balanced Life

Interested in their total well-being, Dr. Carolyn McClanahan strives to give clients more than financial advice.

Kate Stalter, 08/15/2012

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of MorningstarAdvisor magazine. To subscribe, please call 1-800-384-4000. 

Medicine is one of the “helping professions.” Physician-turned-advisor Carolyn McClanahan also puts financial planning in that category.

When McClanahan formed her Jacksonville, Fla.-based fee-only firm, Life Planning Partners, in 2004, her goal was to provide the kind of services she and her husband sought when they approached planners as professionals.

“We did our own investing in the 1990s, and like everybody else, we thought we were brilliant,” she jokes. The couple did well enough that McClanahan’s husband considered quitting his engineering job to pursue lower-paying interests, such as photography. But when they discussed their desire to reduce their income with advisors, they got little help. Instead, advisors seemed more intent on selling them products and collecting commissions.

“When we interviewed these people, it was all about taking over our investments or selling us high-fee mutual funds,” she says. “It never really was about the planning. It was all about taking over our portfolio and never really answering the question of whether we would be OK if my husband didn’t go back to being an engineer.”

Catching the Bug
After that experience, McClanahan wanted to learn more about financial planning. Without having a career change in mind, she began taking classes in the Certified Financial Planner program at the University of North Florida. “I just fell in love with it. I saw a huge need and realized that people need advice. So, I changed careers,” she says.

Her ambitions were modest. She expected to do planning and manage money for a few of her doctor friends and have about $20 million to $30 million in assets under management. But she soon joined the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and referrals began coming in. The practice took off. The majority of her clients are still physicians, but that’s not the only group she markets to.

McClanahan emphasizes the planning aspects of her practice. Her professional background gives her special expertise in areas such as end-of-life needs, long-term care, and chronic illness issues. She took it upon herself to read the entire Health Care Reform Act to better inform clients, as well as other advisors, about its contents.

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