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Meet Kayla Tolunay

14th May 2024

Tags: Education

Meet Kayla Tolunay

What is your role at Stavis Wealth Transfer Solutions and what does it entail?

My role is to help families create estate tax strategies that will secure their legacy.  Our clients want to pass along not only valuables, but values. My specialty is to bring at least two generations of the family together to create a sustainable plan and long-term relationship with myself and our firm. 

As a Co-Founder and the Chief Planning Officer of our company, I bring over 15 years of expertise in private wealth management and holistic financial planning. Holding the designation of Certified Financial Planner(™), I specialize in crafting customized financial and estate plans for multi-generational families. 

Financial and Estate planning is a highly curated and customized process. Even with identical estates, no two families will share the same estate plan. Especially with the sunset approaching at the end of 2025, I am passionate about making sure that families take advantage of the current tax law. 

In essence, my role involves simplifying the complexities of holistic estate planning for families, helping assure that their financial strategies align seamlessly with their long-term objectives. 


Tell us a little bit about your path here, specifically your education and professional experience.

Born and raised as a Jersey Girl, I made the leap down to Florida to attend Eckerd College. That’s where the stars aligned, and I met my husband. After graduation, we faced a tough decision on where to settle. Choosing Houston turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

I started working with Deborah Stavis shortly after arriving in Houston in 2009, and she hasn't managed to get rid of me since! I began as her Executive Assistant—which, let me tell you, is not for the faint of heart(!)—but Deborah, ever the mentor, took me under her wing. With her guidance, I climbed the ranks from Executive Assistant to a Certified Financial Planner™, Partner, and Lead Advisor at Stavis & Cohen Financial.

As soon as I caught wind that Deborah was launching a new company, I was all in. There was absolutely no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to continue working alongside her.  Now - here we are! 


How have you balanced advancing your career and managing home life with raising three young children?

I really appreciate this question, as it taps into something I think about often. There isn't a one-size-fits-all formula to balancing career and family life, though I do wish sometimes there was an easier way! For me, the key has been focusing on several core strategies:

First, I prioritize spending my time intentionally. Whether I'm at work or with my family, I strive to be fully present and focused on the task or moment at hand. This helps me manage my responsibilities effectively and ensures I’m giving my best where it's most needed.

Second, a strong support system is indispensable. I've been fortunate to have fantastic support both at home and at work. This network has been essential in helping me navigate the complexities of managing a career and a family simultaneously.

Most importantly, and this is where I find the greatest challenge, is self-care. There's a quote that resonates deeply with me: 'Self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what's left of you.' This idea underscores the importance of looking after oneself. If I neglect my own well-being, I'm less effective both at Stavis Wealth and at home with my family. When I’m not at my best, I’m not fully serving either area of my life well.

Recognizing the need for self-care has taught me that sustainability in both work and family life starts with how I treat myself. It’s a continuous learning process, and some days are definitely more challenging than others. Yet, when I manage to prioritize my health and well-being, everything else tends to fall into place more naturally.

Thanks Kayla, that was really interesting.  Changing gears a bit, outside of what we talked about above, what do you think it is that makes Stavis Wealth unique?

In addition to the specialized focus Kyle McCully mentioned in his interview, what truly sets Stavis Wealth apart is our commitment to our core values. It's not just that we have these values; it's how they actively shape every decision we make. This approach doesn't just apply to our business strategy but is woven deeply into our company culture.

Each time we face a decision, our team comes together to thoroughly discuss and analyze the situation. This collaborative process helps make sure that any action we take is fully supported by the entire team, enhancing our coherence and unity. Once a decision is made, we hold one another accountable, ensuring that we don’t just commit to our decisions in theory but follow through on them with precision.

This method of operating provides Stavis Wealth with a consistency and reliability that is palpable both within our team and in our interactions with clients. To give a metaphor, it’s as if we are all in the same boat, rowing in unison toward the same destination. This synergy not only strengthens our internal operations but also solidifies the trust our clients place in us, underpinning our ability to offer truly unparalleled service.


Enough about work - tell us a little about your life outside of the office?

Life outside of work is a delightful whirlwind of chaos, and I truly wouldn't have it any other way! My husband and I are the proud parents of three wonderfully energetic children: twin eight-year-olds and a seven-year-old—(two boys and a girl) who never cease to amaze us. My daughter has recently taken a significant leap in competitive cheerleading, earning a spot on an All Star Team, which has plunged us into a thrilling new world of excitement and challenges. Meanwhile, my sons are showing great passion for soccer, much like their father, and it's incredibly rewarding to watch them develop their skills.

As for me, I draw a lot of energy from my own athletic pursuits. My passion for fitness is something I channel into personal milestones, like preparing for my third fitness photo shoot, this time against the stunning backdrop of Dubrovnik’s beaches. Setting and achieving personal goals is my way of nurturing my own spirit—it’s how I honor my commitment to myself.

Between managing family life, maintaining my fitness, and meeting professional demands, there’s a lot to juggle. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It's the fullness of this life that keeps everything so exhilarating.