Kaitlyn Zawada, CRPC

Associate Financial Planner


Kaitlyn Zawada, a Chartered Retirement Plan Consultant (CRPC), began her career as part of Lincoln Financial Advisors’ internship program where she worked alongside Athena Wealth Strategies’ CFP® professionals, gaining a hands-on introduction to the comprehensive planning process. She graduated magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago earning a Finance degree in three years while also a cheerleader for Loyola’s basketball teams (including the 2018 Final Four run). After college, Kaitlyn decided to embark on a new chapter by moving from her hometown of Chicago to Northern California. Now that she is a fully licensed associate planner, she is working towards the CFP® designation to deepen her commitment to the clients she serves as part of the Athena planning team.

Q. Why did you decide to start in this industry?

Planning has played an important role in my life. As a child, I wasn’t responsible for making financial decisions, but from an early age I learned the importance of setting goals and working towards them. Growing up as a gymnast, much of my goal setting was focused on improving my skillset to advance to the next level. Practicing fifteen hours a week during my formative years and traveling for competitions really instilled a sense of discipline and commitment to the sport and my goals. Over time, as my interests changed, I applied this to other areas of my life, and it has become an integral part of my approach.

Of course, not everything always goes as planned and some plans call for revisions. I think we have all been reminded of this during the pandemic. While we can’t pretend that planning is a substitute for prediction, it’s just as worthwhile during periods of uncertainty, as we build ourselves a foundation to start from and begin looking at how our plan can react to shocks known and unknown. Knowing you have a plan - and can adjust that plan over time - can be a great comfort.

Given how much focusing on goals - and knowing when to change them in the face of uncertainty - has been such a large part of my personal philosophy, when learning about this career path, I knew it was a great fit. I find great meaning in helping others organize their financial lives and seeing the positive impact it has as they move towards their future goals.



Q. How has your experience influenced your approach to financial planning?

At this stage in my life, I am actively applying many of the financial planning concepts we work on with clients in my own life. The fundamentals of having an emergency fund, setting up your retirement accounts, and developing a savings plan towards future goals are some of the foundational topics we address with clients - and the steps that I’m taking as I move forward in my own post-college life. Following the process and applying these concepts is not only helpful from a personal standpoint - it also gives me a more intimate understanding of the steps clients need to take to implement the recommendations we provide and the barriers, both financial and psychological, that can arise.

Since joining the industry, I have been able to work with clients in many different stages - from starting their families and buying their first homes to entering retirement and figuring out how to distribute their assets. These experiences have reinforced my belief that employing the basic financial concepts and establishing habits around them are key to anyone’s financial wellbeing, regardless of what stage of life they are in.


Q. What unique qualities do you bring to clients and the Athena team?

I joined Athena at the beginning of the pandemic and began working remotely from my hometown of Chicago. Joining the team in this way was not something I had anticipated but it presented a unique opportunity to help modernize the practice and develop ways to stay connected to clients in the virtual environment.  

Coming from a generation that grew up with the Internet and advent of social media, finding new ways to improve the client experience and systematize processes with technology is an area that I have focused on adding value. Ways we have done so include increasing our social media posts and putting together quarterly newsletters, both of which are designed to keep clients up to date on relevant financial topics and new developments within the team.

From a planning perspective, our planning software has become a tool we heavily utilize in virtual meetings through Zoom and WebEx. Inputting client data and building out different scenarios relevant to the client’s situation is where a client’s financial picture really comes to life and a part of the process I particularly enjoy. It allows us to interactively show clients their financial projections and how these different scenarios and stressors may impact their situation. From there, we can explain to clients how we arrive at certain recommendations by demonstrating the ways they can improve both current and long-term projections.

Q. What is something others may find curious about you?

I have a deep interest in travel and learning about different cultures. Growing up in Chicago, I had the opportunity to visit museums and explore many culturally diverse neighborhoods with different customs and cuisines. These experiences left a major impression on me and a desire to connect and discover the ways other people live.

One of my bucket list items is to visit every country that comprises my heritage as a way to get better in touch with my roots. I have been fortunate to visit two of the five countries already, Italy and China. The remaining countries on my list are Ireland, Poland, and Germany. Just for adventure, I’ve traveled to Greece, France, England, and Scotland and look forward to many more!

Aside from travel, I enjoy watching documentaries to learn more about the history of different places and how it has shaped the way we see them today. Music is also a main interest of mine across all different genres. I’ve “learned” to play cello and piano but prefer listening to other more accomplished musicians.



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Julie VanTilburg, CA Insurance License #0C21028; Maritza Rogers, CA Insurance License #0E50369; Robin Starr, CA Insurance License #0G64012; Jeffrey Better, CA Insurance License #0182274; Kaitlyn Zawada, CA Insurance License #4084200

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