Advisor spotlight: Kaitlyn Carlson, Theory Planning Partners

December 7, 2023

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes


Our new series, Advisor Spotlight, showcases advisors from firms who work with Flourish to hear about their journey to wealth management, their work with clients, and their vision for the future of financial planning. Our first advisor in the series is Kaitlyn Carlson, founder of Massachusetts-based firm Theory Planning Partners. We’re excited to share Kaitlyn's story and the approach she brings to working with her clients. 

Flourish: To start, please tell us about your career path and what led you to wealth management.
Kaitlyn Carlson: I was a psychology major in college, but my father and grandpa were both in finance and I knew that eventually I would go into finance as a career. I started out in asset management working for Putnam Investments, a mutual fund company that was exclusively advisor sold. When I learned what financial advisors did, I thought it was a great marriage between my interests in psychology and finance because I was able to work with families, individuals, and business owners around money.

At Putnam, I met my now husband, who was a wholesaler at the time. We moved to New Orleans and I switched over to wealth management as a wealth planning analyst for UBS. I covered the entire Southeast: Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. I was responsible for introducing financial planning to advisors and their clients. Then I became an advisor myself and eventually went into the private wealth division of UBS.


I received great training at UBS. They paid for me to get my CFP certification and I worked with over 80 teams and completed over 250 financial plans by the time I finished that program. In that role, I learned how much I loved working with business owners, and I realized how underserved they were by the traditional assets under management model. Business owners can be neglected for decades until there is a liquidity event and then they suddenly become attractive. But by that point they have missed decades of wealth-building opportunities. 

The mission of Theory Planning Partners is to take a proactive approach and walk alongside the business owner. We work specifically with female entrepreneurs and teach them how to utilize their business to create personal wealth. If we can do that when they're in their 30s and 40s, it makes for a much lighter lift and a sustainable way to create wealth.

Flourish: Theory Planning typically works with women who have businesses that are already very well established. Did the firm start out that way or did you initially work with women starting out and build them up along the way?
Kaitlyn: Due to my private wealth background, I wanted to work with women who were somewhat accomplished right out of the gate and started with seven-figure female entrepreneurs. I quickly realized that it's not necessarily about the revenue, it's about the profitability of the business. It was a lot of trial and error in those first three years to figure out who would be an ideal fit for Theory. Being a psychology major was really helpful; we incorporate the Enneagram into our onboarding process, so we know we attract a lot of Enneagram 3s, 8s, and 7s. These are future-oriented, goal-oriented people who do well with the dynamic of having a goal that they’re expected to hit. While I first started working with women whose businesses were earning seven figures, I've realized that the owner of a highly profitable, six-figure business could be a great fit as well. 

Flourish: Women make up the majority of people that are starting new businesses now. How did you come to focus on this demographic specifically and how do you aim to serve them?
Kaitlyn: I was the most passionate about this demographic. When I worked in private wealth, I had no role models. I thought of the quote: "be the change you seek in the world." That was the approach that I took with Theory. I never saw any female millionaires, so I thought, “I'll just help create them.” That’s the mission we're on right now and that's why Flourish is so great. Many of our clients have hang-ups around money and investing, and they find it intimidating. Flourish Cash is a great entry point for getting a return on your money.

Our clients are comfortable with cash and they understand the concept of earning interest on cash. Flourish is a stepping stone to the investing world for them. I think that's why we've seen such a positive response. Flourish is a very digestible way to start dipping your toes into making money without having to trade time for dollars. 


Flourish: We often talk about the psychology of money at Flourish and focused part of our series The Cash Opportunity on how cash specifically can be so emotional.
Kaitlyn: Yes, there is so much psychology around our clientele in particular. They have money trauma from childhood or from marriage. They don't give themselves enough credit and think they’re not good with money or finances even though they’re running a successful business.

Flourish: Money stories are such a big part of how people approach finances and we don't necessarily recognize how they influence our lives. There is research showing that, while women tend to be more risk averse when it comes to finances, their investments tend to perform better over the long run. How do you work with that hesitation in your approach, but then also show clients how to maximize the potential of their finances?
Kaitlyn: We build a tremendous amount of trust with our clients in the beginning. Our eight-step onboarding process helps us build a strong relationship. After onboarding, we have a three-month implementation period to hold us and them accountable to execute the recommendations. Theory is a boutique firm. I'm very passionate about keeping it that way because I want the time and space to give these women the attention they need and deserve to thrive. 

We run Theory very much like a private wealth practice. We don't have hundreds of clients. We have a few dozen clients, and that's very intentional. We want to see results come to fruition and be available the whole way through. My theory was, what if we treat capable, successful women like private wealth clients right off the bat? What could that mean in terms of changing their life? It has been amazing to watch that play out in real time. We just had someone cross over the seven-figure net worth threshold, which was so cool. That would not have happened if she wasn't getting private wealth level attention, execution, service, and strategy.

Flourish:  Are you managing both the personal wealth and the business wealth for your clients?
Kaitlyn: We always recommend that our clients hire an outsourced CFO for their business, and we work very closely with that person to make sure that the business is healthy from a financial perspective. Once we finish a financial plan and I tell her that she needs to save $10,000 a month, it’s a conversation between us and the CFO to determine if the business can sustain taking $10,000 a month to put towards investments. The answer might be yes, or the answer might be, "No, but we can start with $5,500." 

It elevates the business owner to focusing on running the business and doing what she needs to do to get to the $10,000 a month distributions. But I'm not relying on her to make that judgment call because that's not her area of expertise. At the end of the day, the business owner gets one message, which is, "What goals do I need to hit for the business in order to reverse engineer my personal goals?"

Flourish: Tell us more about the onboarding process and specifically your approach to cash with clients.
Kaitlyn: Most of our clients either have no cash on hand or have too much cash on hand, which is interesting. We use the rule of thumb to have three to six month’s worth of living expenses in cash, as anything beyond that could be running into an opportunity cost. We address the level of safety and security that they need, but then get them to loosen the grip so we can start investing for the long term.

On the business side, we're able to see how much cash is sitting in the business that might be idle. A lot of people come to us with the issue of having cash collecting in the business and they don't know what to do with it. That's a great client for us because we know exactly what to do with it. Clients who have been successful yet don't know where to go next, or who turn to us because they’ve never been here before. We have one client who came in with half a million dollars in cash in her business and she just didn’t know what to do with it. It has been great to have visibility through Flourish into both the personal side and the business side.

When it comes to onboarding, we start with a call where we give clients an overview of the process: the onboarding, implementation, and ongoing service. We send them an invitation to Flourish after this call. Most of our clients use Flourish for their emergency savings fund on the personal side and, on the business side, for cash runway or a tax savings bucket. 

The next phases of onboarding include conversations about cash flow, wealth protection, and data gathering. Then we have our goal meeting where we have clients take an Enneagram test, talk to them about their goals and long-term plan, their values, what money was like for them growing up, how they currently feel about their finances, how they would want to feel about their finances, and how we can be the best partner to them. 

Then we have a data verification call and an investment overview call. Finally, we have the plan presentation call where we walk through the strategy and recommendations. During that presentation, we discuss how much they should be holding in their Flourish account. 

After we ensure that the client’s team, CFO, and CPA are on the same page, we go into implementation, where we set things up and confirm things have been done, such as opening a Flourish account. 

Flourish: That’s fantastic. We've noticed that advisors who take a streamlined, methodical approach to integrating Flourish into the onboarding process often have the most success with it.
Kaitlyn: Our client specialist always sends the Flourish invite and the follow-up email to the onboarding call. It’s a quick win right off the bat where the client can be earning up a competitive rate. We have them set it up and put their cash in it. Clients have loved their monthly statements that show how much interest they’ve made that month. It reaffirms positive habits and why it's important to get your money working for you. 


Flourish: How did you first hear about Flourish?
Kaitlyn: It was in February 2023, I was nursing my son and reading a Michael Kitces article where he mentioned Flourish as a cash management solution. I thought it was such a great idea. And I was really blown away by Flourish's UX and UI, especially since I work with millennials, that's essential for them.

Honestly, we love it. During the onboarding call, we mention that we have two additional perks outside of financial planning. The first one is Flourish, and the second one is a monthly mindset call. Since we're working with entrepreneurs, we discuss how to stay even keeled through the roller coaster. We always position Flourish as a perk of Theory. It’s so easy and such a nice win. Also, we always mention how exceptional Flourish's client service is. We let them know that if they have questions after we send the invitation that the Flourish client service is phenomenal and they always pick up on the first or second ring.

When it comes to liquidity, I think a lot of people think of CDs and are used to working with traditional banks. We talk about how seamless the process is with Flourish and that money transfers the next day or even same day. For our cohort especially where they're so new to the idea of their money making money, it's a quick win. That doesn't even do it justice – Flourish positions us really well with our clients. And the user interface and the ease of dealing with Flourish has been great. Also, we have a couple clients who have very successful podcasts and communities, and they love being able to talk about things like this. We have turned on the referral feature for them, and that's been met with a lot of positive response.

It has been so gratifying to work with people like me, other female entrepreneurs, and I’ve seen how rewarding it is to focus on a niche that is fulfilling because you can relate to them versus just doing something for money. That brings a whole other dimension of purpose to the work we do. 


Theory Planning Partners and Flourish are separate and unaffiliated firms. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. This material is provided for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Firm. The inclusion of any external party in this interview does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the Firm. The information provided is not intended as financial, investment, or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. This feedback may not be representative of the experience of other customers, and is not a guarantee of future performance or success. 


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