In the Suite Podcast Ep 3: Bonus Episode – Coronavirus, Complex Adaptive Systems, and Creating Resilience with Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP®, Founder of Life Planning Partners

Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP® - Founder of Life Planning Partners
Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP® - Founder of Life Planning Partners
Carolyn McClanahan – M.D., CFP®, Founder of Life Planning Partners

Given the state of the world right now, I thought it important to have a conversation that acknowledged the impact of Coronavirus on the financial services and wealth management industry. And there was no one better than Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP® to bring into the In the Suite Podcast guest chair to delve into the topic!

Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP® is the founder and Director of Financial Planning at Life Planning Partners. After starting her career as a physician, Carolyn pivoted into financial planning when she and her husband were not able to get their financial planning needs met through existing organizations. Most companies Carolyn came across were focused on sales and investment management – but Carolyn and her husband understood that the key to long-term stability would be a more comprehensive approach. From there, Carolyn went back to school for financial planning, fell in love with the field – and the rest is history.

I was thrilled to sit down with Carolyn to get her take on COVID-19, a virus that has quickly upset our healthcare, societal and economic systems. Unlike many of us, Carolyn wasn’t blindsided by Coronavirus, having been tweeting about the virus since 2013! Her background as a physician and her education in virology allowed her to pay attention to the virus when it started showing up then in the Middle East and France. She understood that all it would take was one gene to go bad for the virus to mutate and be transmitted via air droplets.

Coronavirus represents one flaw in the traditional approach to complex adaptive systems. Within finance, medicine, and environmental science – experts typically focus on predicting and planning for the unknown unknowns. You see it with earthquakes, weather, virus transmission, and the economy. However, Carolyn believes that the key to success is centered not on predicting – since that fails to take into account the changing variables in every system – but about creating resiliency around what is thrown at us.

Had this been done for Coronavirus, the world would’ve been much more prepared for our current reality. Carolyn does this with her clients, often taking a more conservative approach than other financial planners, harping on clients to have an emergency fund, be properly insured, and not aggressively invest in stocks. As Carolyn advises, you shouldn’t count on the market rebounding, and thus she steers clients away from taking on more risks than they can afford financially and psychologically.

Carolyn’s resiliency mindset to financial planning is complemented by her human approach to the business. Unlike most firms, Life Planning Partners ask questions like “are you happy right now?” to new clients. Carolyn and team advise clients to move into professions and situations that are simple, sustainable, happy and authentic to them. Her intake process is not through a software model but rather a “Money Personality” questionnaire.

In our conversation, Carolyn also answered some questions on the day to day management of COVID-19, including confirming that masks – even if DIY – should be worn in dense cities and to curtail an asymptomatic person unknowingly passing along the virus. And gave me the reality check on my attempts to manage my 70-something-year-old mother (spoiler alert: I can’t!). All and all, Carolyn gave a beautiful reminder that even during a pandemic, we must take care of not just ourselves but of one another.

The entire conversation was riveting and one that is super timely. Take a listen to the episode and take the below three steps to help you navigate this uncertain period.

  1. Reflect on the question: Are You Happy Now? Think about the answer holistically. Are you content with your career? With your city? Your Health? Global pandemic aside, have you liked how you’ve been living your life? No need to judge what comes up. This is about being real with yourself.
  2. Create Your Resiliency Plan. Create this plan from the perspective of where you are today – and not where you hoped you would be today. Identify three actionable steps you can take that will help you build a better life in the next 10 years. Consider creating emergency funds, investing in insurance, and tweaking the ratio of stocks to bonds in your portfolio.
  3. Think of One Way You Can Help Someone Else. Maybe you feel comfortable helping a volunteer organization (with the right PPE on). Perhaps when ordering you can consider a local restaurant that’s still running takeout. Maybe it’s about virtual walks around your neighborhood with your grandmother who can’t leave the house. If you have the energy, do what you can to brighten someone else’s day.


Show Notes

Today we welcome Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP®, Founder of Life Planning Partners to the In the Suite guest chair for this special bonus episode on Coronavirus. Carolyn was one of the few financial planning professionals to read the COVID-19 tea leaves back in 2013—calling it the next black swan.


In this episode, Carolyn provides valuable insights about the virus from her earlier work in medicine with Complex Adaptive Systems, virology, and immunology. From the financial planning perspective, she shares the keys to managing your family through a global health and economic crisis, practical keys to staying safe, and effective strategies for creating resilience over the long-term.

Carolyn combines her background in medicine, her rich expertise in financial planning, alongside her ethos of approaching business with compassion and empathy to advise and advocate on behalf of her clients and beyond. Furthermore, she integrates health and wellness into the client experience and financial planning process.

Join the conversation to hear more about:

  • How Carolyn was able to predict the impact of Coronavirus from back in 2013 (3:30)
  • Whether Coronavirus can be expected to be our “new normal” (5:19)
  • The flaws of how experts have traditionally approached finance, medicine, and science (6:36)
  • An approach to finance, medicine and science that would serve us better (8:17)
  • The key questions Carolyn to ask new clients (13:59)
  • The genesis of Life Planning Partners (16:09)
  • The number 1 factor in determining risk tolerance (18:00)
  • How to handle health and finances in the age of Coronavirus (21:38)
  • The final verdict on wearing masks (28:45)
  • How to care for loved ones during these unprecedented times (34:13)
  • What people should be thinking of after Coronavirus (40:17)
  • The origin story of Carolyn’s rather unique hobby (48:44)
  • The physical object you never saw coming that gives Carolyn superhero strength (54:38)

Resources Mentioned


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