Message from the CEO – Never Wanted to Sell Products

Hello FinGym Family,

Over ten years ago now, I left a successful investment banking career to become a Financial Advisory at Merrill Lynch because I saw a tremendous need for diversity in the financial advisory space. I enjoyed the entrepreneurial spirit of Merrill and the education they provided me on anything from ETF’s, to life insurance to trusts and estates. I carried so much of that spirit and content with me when I left to build The Financial Gym.  

Unfortunately, there was a great deal about the job and company in particular that I was not a fan of; and the worst of these was the fact that I was incentivized to sell particular financial products to clients. Financial advisors at Merrill Lynch make a small salary, but derive the bulk of their income from bonuses; and these bonuses were based on internal calculations of sales on the various products like ETF’s, mutual funds, life insurance, mortgages, etc. 

More often than not, the products where advisors would make the most money were the products that made the least sense for the clients. Similar to a car dealership trying to get cars off the lot, if there was extra inventory of certain investment products, Merrill Lynch would offer extra sales credits to sell those products; unfortunately, there was usually extra inventory because most sophisticated investors knew that the product was garbage, so advisors would pushed it to less sophisticated clients without consideration for suitability. 

So, when I left Merrill Lynch, to start a service company and not a product selling company, I was so excited about the opportunity to be product and financial institution agnostic; and I know that over the last 8 years, our clients have always appreciated the unbiased advice that has come with our independence.

What I’ve realized over the last 8 years of giving financial guidance to clients, though, is that they NEED financial products. If you are saving money, and it’s in a bank checking account, you NEED a high yield savings account. If you are paying over 5% on your mortgage, you NEED to refinance your mortgage. If you have high interest credit card debt, you NEED to consider a 0% balance transfer card or a personal loan. 

So over the last 8 years, as a team, we have collectively shared and curated the best products in all of these categories; and while we didn’t get incentivized to sell the products, we knew the best products for our clients and helped them with the process of opening and managing them. For years, we have known that we’ve sent clients to sites or products where someone is making money, but it wasn’t us. 

Early this year, we were discussing areas for growth for the business, and the idea of making affiliate money from financial products came up. At first, I had the reaction I’ve had for years and that was one of disdain. The disdain was from the harsh memories of my days at Merrill Lynch. However, when I further thought about it, I realized that we’re not changing anything internally. We advise on financial products every single day based on our client’s needs/situations, we’ve just been helping other companies make money by selling the products. 

So, today, I’m excited to announce that we’re launching the “B.F.F. Approved” page on The Financial Gym’s website. These are the products and providers we have discussed with over 10,000+ clients and own and utilize ourselves. Some of the products we will make a commission for selling; however, not all of them. Our advice and guidance is still the same and won’t change, we’re just actually putting our opinions out there publicly rather than sharing it just between trainer and client. 

I want to encourage you to check out and bookmark this page. If you’re in the market for a new credit card, personal loan or investment account, I hope you’ll check out this page to learn more about the product before you make the decision to open it, see what we have to say about the particular products/providers,  see how we’ve utilized it to help clients; and support the Gym and our mission. 

We will be adding new products to this page, so I encourage you to continue to check it out. Our goal is to create the financial product hub that you can trust and learn from as you would expect from your best financial friend. 


Shannon McLay

Founder & CEO

Message from the CEO – Never Wanted to Sell Products is written by Shannon McLay, Founder and CEO for

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