Personal Finance Coach: Tiffany Ordonez on personal finance coaching and COVID-19
Personal Finance Coach features stories, insights, and tips from TrustPlus. TrustPlus personal finance coach Tiffany Ordonez spoke with TrustPlus about what it means to be a personal finance coach and how COVID-19 is impacting her clients. The conversation has been edited for length, clarity.
What do you do as a personal finance coach?
As a financial coach, the hope is that you’re going to be able to trust this person to talk about your personal finances, and then also trust the recommendations they’re giving you and the actionable steps that you can take. Maybe it’s looking at subscriptions that you’re no longer using and canceling them or talking about an amount of money that you’d feel comfortable setting up for savings automatically.
But the first session we really talk about your goals and what you’re looking to get out of financial coaching. And you can have as many assessments, as many sessions as you’d like.
Often it is the first time people are talking about things like their salary with someone else or the responsibilities that they have, like caring for a parent or going back to school or starting a family. So every person is different and it’s just great to interact with someone and for them to be open about what they want to achieve.
What kinds of topics do you cover in a personal finance coaching session? Got any tips for us?
We will cover topics like credit, budgeting, savings, account structuring, and finding resources. If the focus is on credit, then we’re able to discuss credit reports. For some clients it’s discussing how to establish credit so we talk about what goes into calculating a credit score, how to best manage accounts and credit commitments, and for people who already have established credit, we make sure that they are reviewing their credit report and are able to recognize all of their accounts.
My main tips are to budget and review your credit report. Make sure that you’re connected to a service like TrustPlus where you can view that information for free, or have a service where you can routinely check what’s on your credit report. I know a lot of my clients don’t like hearing the word budgeting, but we do find that it’s a really important tool for money management. And it’s a way to answer the question that I get asked a lot, which is, where is my money going?! An easy way to budget is to take an inventory of all of your fixed expenses, like rent insurance, car payments, subscriptions, and then take a look at your variable expenses, which are a little harder to estimate. Then, you’re able to see how it all connects together.
What have you seen with your clients over the past few months with COVID-19?
Our focus shifted with COVID-19 from looking beyond credit commitments and budgeting to trying to find resources for our clients in their area, connecting tenants to legal aid offices, finding food pantries in the area, making sure that they know how to access public benefits for which they’re eligible or encouraging them to keep trying to access those benefits.
A big issue that’s going to come up is trying to connect people to tax sites, because we know that people have seen a big change in their income or transitioned to the gig economy. More workers in the gig economy now means they have Schedule Cs, they’re going to have a tax form if they haven’t set aside or withheld taxes from their unemployment. So we just want clients to be aware of any tax implications that come with that.
I have also seen an uptick in the demographic of single parents who have children. So they’re unable to go out in the workforce with the remote learning going on and trying to find childcare. So COVID-19 has definitely disrupted a lot of the lives of the clients that I work with on a daily basis.
So, what do you do, are you optimistic?
The landscape has really been changed. Some of the conversations that I have with clients can be pretty devastating after you hang up, if you’re unable to find the resource or if you’ve given resources and then it just wasn’t a good fit, or they had run out of funds.
As a coach, I try to stay motivated because they’re in such a difficult place, it’s difficult for them to find hope. So being a financial coach is trying to say, we’re going to keep trying and keep looking for resources.
I have found that the best compliment as a financial coach, especially if it’s in a workplace setting is when they give the referral. And I actually did have a client who scheduled a session with me because her coworker told her she felt less stressed about her finances after meeting with a financial coach. So that was a good indication. I think that people are more open to talking about their finances, more open to saying that they are struggling. And with a little bit of organization and understanding of their expenses and cashflow, they’re able to reduce their stress. I think it’s evident if people are able to talk about it, it means that they were able to overcome a barrier and that they feel good about the progress that they’re making.
What’s important for potential and existing clients to know about TrustPlus?
Take advantage of the benefits your employer provides. In this case, TrustPlus and a personal financial coach to learn more about your relationship with money. I would have loved TrustPlus at one of my first jobs out of college. I would have loved talking to a coach and even now, sometimes, I want to talk to my coworker and just talk more about my goals, because there’s not that many people that I’ll explore these things with. And it’s nice having someone who is not judgmental, who, you know, isn’t going to really say, well, you were thinking about starting that small business, and now you’re not, you know, it’s just, you can lay it all down with your financial coach, you’re able to just put it out there, dream the dream and not feel like someone in your family or your friend is going to judge you for having that dream.