What is a financial coach?

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A financial coach works with clients to help them manage their money. These clients typically have challenges that have kept them from effectively managing their finances in the past, so the coach will usually work with them to help them create a financial plan that fits their needs and goals, and also help them to develop healthy, long-lasting, finance-related habits.

(In contrast, there are also financial advisors. They, instead, typically recommend investments for their clients and help them to manage their investment portfolios.)

The coaching process typically includes taking a deep dive into a client’s income, debts, and savings, and then creating a budget that will work for this person’s specific situation.

Accountability is typically built into the process—so, rather than the coach managing the person’s finances, the client himself or herself is being taught how to make responsible financial decisions.

So, if someone has money-related challenges that are preventing him or her from effectively moving towards financial goals, then that person may decide to work with a financial coach, perhaps to pay off debt, create an emergency savings fund, stabilize their finances and to create and follow a budget and overall financial plan.

Related: Are you bad with money? How to know & what to do

Pros and cons of hiring a financial coach

If you’ve struggled to create a financial plan that works well for you, then using an experienced coach who helps clients to get measurable results could be a real plus for you. If you sit down with a coach, one-on-one, this means you have the opportunity to create a plan that’s customized to your specific situation, including your challenges and opportunities.

When a coach focuses on accountability, it could give you the opportunity to consistently move towards your goals within a structure that’s tailored for you. When you have an experienced pro at your side, you can benefit from that experience, and work towards making lasting, positive changes in your financial strategies and overall situation.

When any new challenges arise, you can problem-solve together, confident in knowing that you have a knowledgeable professional brainstorming with you. Your coach may very well be able to take what seems like a complex problem and simplify it, keeping you on track for your goals.

And, perhaps best of all, working with a financial coach can provide you with the education, tools, and resources you need to make smart financial decisions now and in the future, empowering you in your ability to move ahead, financially.

One con is that you’ll need to pay for the services of a professional finance coach, which may seem counterintuitive if you’re already struggling in one or more aspects of your finances. If you don’t feel ready yet to commit to the process, then it may not make sense to start with a financial coach just yet.

It’s also important to find the right financial coach. Your coach’s personality, methods and coaching style should resonate with you for best success.

Finding the right coach

If you decide that hiring a financial coach is the right move for you, be clear about what you need from a financial mentor. Be honest about your own financial strengths and weaknesses, and chart out your goals.

Are you, for example, struggling to save enough money for a down payment on a house? Or do your credit card balances keep going up? No two situations are the same, so, before you go about choosing a financial coach, be clear about what help you need.

Before you begin considering candidates, also keep in mind that your coach should help you work towards your goals, not have a different agenda in mind.

Then, you can begin to create a list of potential candidates. When going outside your personal circle, it can help to ask friends and family for referrals, because personal references are often more reliable than simply picking someone out of a directory or through a Google search.

Once you have a list of names, it can help to reach out to each candidate of interest to see which ones seem like a good fit.

Some questions to consider asking potential mentors include:

•   How long have you been a coach?
•   What’s your business specialty?
•   What’s your greatest financial success/failure?
•   Have you ever been in my situation? What did you do about it?
•   What is your availability?
•   What’s your plan to help me reach my goals?

Use these answers to make the right choice for your needs. It can also help to check to see what online reviews say about the candidates you’re seriously considering.

If you see a negative comment, see how it resonates with you. If, for example, someone says the coach doesn’t have a good sense of humor, that may or may not matter to you.

Once you begin working together, listen carefully, ask questions if you don’t understand something, take good notes, and then follow the suggestions. If, after you’ve started with a coach, they don’t seem like the best match for you, then you have the option to back off.

Levering technology to track finances

Here’s another option. If you discover that you really don’t have the budget to hire a professional coach and you don’t have access to a mentor in your personal network, then you could consider using technology to track your finances.

Whenever possible, you could set up auto payments, which means that you don’t have to worry about making late payments. This can allow you to put paying your monthly expenses on autopilot.

You can also set up auto payments to a savings account, perhaps intended for a down payment on your house or for your child’s education, or to put money towards your retirement savings.

Another thing to consider in your effort to simplify your finances — when you can go paperless. When you do this with bills, bank statements, investment accounts, your taxes and so forth, this information is just a couple of clicks away.

This can help to eliminate the stress of misplacing important paperwork. Apps that help with transaction receipts include ExpensifySmart Receipts and Zoho Expense. To file paperless statements, consider this.

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