Financial Coaching is a“Thing”

I almost couldn’t contain my glee (yes, I have glee) when I read the recent article “Why A Comprehensive Financial Plan Should Include A Life Coach.” I let out a loud…“WHOOSH! It is ABOUT time!”

As a new planner back in 2004, I was fortunate to learn from some of the very best financial therapists in the country. When I joined the profession, I met Drs. Ted and Brad Klontz, George Kinder and a host of experienced financial planners who were using behavioral finance in their work. Attending the Financial Planning Association Residency program really solidified this for me as I practiced building a financial plan (from scratch with NO software package) for a “client.”

Life Goals with Financial Implications

At the week-long residency our “clients” were two of the top planners in the country, Dr. Dave Yeske and Elissa Buie, and their job was to teach the newbies how to address a client’s real life in the context of financial planning. They brilliantly role-played as a couple in the midst of very complex financial decisions, but more importantly, they trained us to understand that clients have complex lives and different perspectives. Imagine that! People are complex, and providing comprehensive financial planning requires integrating their money with their lives.

What IS Financial Coaching?

In the article, Christopher Young correctly identifies what coaching is all about:

“Life coaching sessions are action-oriented and focus on both the present and the future. A life coach will help to:
  • Discover, clarify, and refine retirement goals and objectives
  • Encourage self-discovery of your values and priorities
  • Elicit strategies and solutions
  • Hold you accountable
The focus of conversation is often set by you. Your life coach will listen, relay observations, and ask probing questions. This process helps to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you would like to be in the future. In my experience, clients have typically been able to meet their goals in just a few short months by engaging in these types of exercises.”

Christopher has seen what life coaching can do for his clients and many more financial professionals are seeing it too. In my class, Coaching Skills for Financial Professionals, at Golden Gate University (GGU), experienced financial planners learn the techniques life coaches use to help clients bridge the gap between what they know and what they do when it comes to their money. The class at GGU meets the core requirements for the Financial Fitness Coach Certification in collaboration with the AFCPE.

One Goal, Many Approaches

There are many ways to integrate coaching into your work with clients. Many of the members of the Financial Therapy Association collaborate to provide this comprehensive service. Therapists or coaches work closely with financial planners to help clients identify their goals and create a roadmap to reach their desired outcome. Sometimes this is through referral or having joint meetings with the client and collaborating on the plan from the very beginning.

Other financial professionals are becoming coaches. Mosaic Financial Partners was a trailblazer in this area. As a financial planner at Mosaic, Holly Gillian Kindel, a CFP® and life coach has been integrating coaching and planning for more than ten years. Their description of services explains the importance of incorporating ongoing coaching for their clients:

“A financial plan does not do you any good if there is no follow-through. To ensure that your plan can work for you, we act as your financial coach to help you keep on track as your situation changes or as external changes require it.”

Financial Behavior Specialist

After many years learning about and teaching these skills, Drs. Ted and Brad Klontz developed a new certification offered through Creighton University. I just completed this program and it is delightfully rigorous starting with an introduction to financial psychology which sets a solid foundation for integrating money behaviors into our work with clients.

What’s The Bottom Line?

In its truest form, coaching is a collaborative approach that recognizes the client as “expert” in their own lives and the coach as “partner” to co-create a relationship that supports the client’s goal fulfillment. The premise of a life or executive coaching model is that the client is creative, resourceful, and able to accomplish their goals. As Financial Coaches we certainly believe in our clients’ capacity to accomplish their financial goals. We also realize that there may be barriers to their achievement that the client does not see or know how to address. Coaching is about change — how do we, as financial professionals, help clients do the things they must do in order to create the life, financial and the rest of it, they want?

Demonstration of a financial coaching session during a Financial Fitness Coach training.

Financial professionals often find that clients are very motivated during the planning process yet do not follow through on implementing the plan once it is developed. Adopting the coaching model to address financial concerns is beneficial for many reasons; one striking advantage is the client recognizing their own ability to take charge of their financial lives and, as a result, take more proactive steps toward implementation of financial plans.

Financial coaching is a real thing. Using the term “coach” is not the same as BEing a coach. Fortunately, there are many ways to integrate effective coaching into your work with clients.

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