"How I Did It" Series with XYPN Member Chandler Fugate-Laus

6 min read
April 15, 2024

We're excited to share another member story from our "How I Did It" series.  

Deciding to take the leap to start your own financial planning firm can be very scary. And actually "leaping" can feel overwhelming. There are so many decisions and responsibilities. How am I going to make this work? What business model should I use? How do I manage compliance? How do I market myself? What's this going to cost?

While the questions are the same for advisors starting their own RIA, their decisions are as individual as the advisors making them. In this peer-to-peer guest series, we take a deep dive into those decisions as XYPN members share their stories, resources, regrets, and successes experienced while launching their financial planning practice. 

Looking for a roadmap to start your own independent RIA? Check out our  comprehensive guide to starting your firm!

In this edition of the "How I Did It" series, we’re exploring the journey of XYPN member Chandler Fugate-Laus, CFP®, owner of Moneyfluent. In a world where finding accessible financial planning can feel daunting, we’re thankful for trailblazers like Chandler Fugate-Laus. Her journey of building a more inclusive financial planning practice is not just inspiring; it's a testament to the XYPN core value of doing the right thing.

My Background

My career started as an actuarial analyst. Seeking more personal connection, I transitioned to financial planning at a boutique firm that provided concierge all-inclusive services. I had the opportunity to work closely with one of the partners, and eventually, we co-launched our own RIA, one of the few 100% multi-female-owned planning firms. We grew quickly and began to focus on a HNW client niche.

Despite the success, I began feeling disillusioned with the traditional planning model, as it primarily serves clients with existing wealth. I appreciated the analytical puzzles and strategic coordination involved in HNW planning, but I found the most fulfillment in guiding younger individuals and families along their wealth-building journey. While I enjoyed all of my client relationships and appreciated the opportunity to work with them, I realized that many skilled advisors were already dedicated to serving HNW client needs. Recognizing the abundance of financial planning options available to wealthy individuals, I felt compelled to contribute to the movement of providing accessible planning to everyone else.

The tipping point arrived in the form of burnout — an all-consuming exhaustion from years of 80-hour workweeks. It wasn't until the pandemic forced us home that I had the chance to hit pause and see the toll of working long hours. To be more available to work, I had left little room to tend to my relationships, hobbies, health, and happiness.

Another pivotal catalyst came from the Black Lives Matter movement. As it gained massive traction, I gained a deeper perspective of how systemic racism shows up in our daily lives. I learned about the concept of being anti-racist, leading me to evaluate how I could incorporate more anti-racist values into my work and personal life. I began to reflect on how the traditional planning model disproportionately caters to the wealthy, and it dawned on me that we as financial advisors have a front-row seat to the racial wealth gap. The concentration of wealth in white households results in a predominantly white client demographic, highlighting an inherent imbalance in our industry. 

These experiences paved the way for the next phase of my career and founding Moneyfluent.

The "Start Moneyfluent" To-Do list:

  1. Recover from burnout
  2. Visualize a sustainable dream practice
  3. Test the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) 

To recover from burnout, I took a three-month work hiatus which turned into six before I felt like myself again. Ready to consider “what’s next?”, I sat with questions about next steps, like: 

  • Do I still want to be a financial planner?
  • What would my ideal practice look like?
  • How many work hours per week would feel good?
  • Could the business pay for itself?

In tackling the first question, everything started to click once I had the idea of a firm that prioritized pro bono advice for people of color. I thought, if I can put equitable planning at the foundation of my work, I can see my future as a financial planner.

Of course, I also needed to make a living. In brainstorming my ideal practice, my burnout brain gravitated toward advice-only short-term engagements. Coincidentally, these elements can also make planning more affordable. I envisioned a structured planning program that blended the benefits of ongoing planning — like client relationship building, accountability, comprehensive planning, and plan implementation — into a cost-effective 3 to 6 month engagement. I knew there had to a be a client base looking for this.

I also worked with an amazing burnout coach, Liesl Drought. I admit I was skeptical and didn’t know what to expect, but her guidance has been invaluable to me. I was desperate to avoid burnout, but I struggled with the slower pace and not constantly achieving. Her question, “What if 25 hours is the perfect pace?”, profoundly resonated with me, leading me to find peace and security at this pace.

And to answer the last question — could the business pay for itself? — my sister helped take the pressure off. She introduced me to the idea of an MVP, minimum-viable product. Moneyfluent could start as an experiment, to test if this fuzzy vision could work. I didn’t need to go all-in, and embracing this uncertainty kept my momentum going.

Motivated by this MVP vision, I took the leap and started Moneyfluent — a venture aimed at providing equitable financial solutions and education to a wider range of clients while supporting a more balanced lifestyle.

How did XYPN make it possible? 

The XYPN team’s responsiveness, thoughtful comments, and attention to detail throughout the initial registration process were worth their weight in gold.

Having the bulk of the necessities for a brand-new firm all in one place was incredibly valuable. XYPN’s suite of member benefits saved me from the time and decision fatigue of scouting and researching every element in-depth. It was reassuring to know that XYPN’s resources and benefits had been vetted for me. The technology and tools available were tried and tested by advisors on similar paths.

The Moneyfluent toolkit: 

Moneyfluent’s Values-Based Service Model

Moneyfluent is a fee-only advice-only firm that offers an alternative to the traditional planning model by re-imagining planning solutions that serve a broader range of clientele. The Moneyfluent Planning Program and Free Friday Drop-Ins are designed with inclusivity in mind.

The Moneyfluent Planning Program is a series of guided meetings tailored to Millennials to jumpstart their financial journey. This program is designed for households earning <$300k with <$500k invested. We progressively build a comprehensive plan over a span of 3 to 6 months then wrap up with an implementation meeting, where clients get hands-on implementation assistance and money management instruction. A key benefit of this program is that it allows clients to coast for several years before needing to invest in further planning, barring major life events. We also offer several other planning packages at lower price points.

Free Friday Drop-Ins are one-on-one sessions reserved for those who identify as Black or Indigenous. Our approach to accessible planning goes beyond offering free advice, by lowering the barriers to engaging with a planner. There’s no preparation required, no ask for financial documents upfront, and clients set the planning pace for future sessions. We dedicate every Friday to these sessions to ensure prompt access to advice, and we strive to create a comfortable environment for discussing financial matters by openly acknowledging the stigma and anxiety often associated with money. These sessions have become a highlight of my week, and I’ve found that these conversations have contributed to my personal and professional growth as an advisor.

Working with Moneyfluent clients has been extremely rewarding so far, and I hope to continue making a positive impact in clients’ lives while learning along the way. I’m excited to see how Moneyfluent continues to evolve!

First 2 Years Expenses

Below are the expenses for what I spent on my business to start:

2022 Startup Expenses

2022 Expenses

2023 First Year Expenses

2023 Expenses

Your firm, your terms. It can be done. Show me how.

Chandler Fugate-LausAbout the Author

As a fee-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and AFCPE® Accredited Financial Counselor candidate, Chandler provides unbiased advice and serves a diverse clientele, with a special focus on mid-career professionals facing burnout.

Formerly a partner at a boutique retainer-based firm, she saw the need for more inclusive planning solutions that break from the traditional, expensive ongoing models. This inspired her to create a unique approach that focuses on short-term engagements and practical implementation for a one-time fee.

Moneyfluent advocates for greater access to financial advice through short-term engagements and Free Friday Drop-Ins services. This purpose-driven business is powered by years of experience helping clients of all ages and net worths understand and improve their financial situation.

While virtually serving clients nationwide, she calls downtown Columbus, Ohio, home. Beyond finance, Chandler's musical roots shine through with her involvement with The Harmony Project, a 500-voice choir fostering unity through the arts and community service.

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