Financial coaching may not be a household name, but it is an up-and-coming service.
Not just for wealthy clients, financial coaching can be an essential part of helping low-income clients achieve financial literacy and economic success.
It holds a unique place in the financial services realm because coaches do not need financial expertise to be effective. Instead, these professionals need fundamental coaching skills.
Financial coaching is an exciting field for those with a coaching or psychology background. This post will explain what financial coaches do and point out some useful tools for those looking to get started.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
- What Is Financial Coaching?
- Financial Coaching vs. Financial Counseling
- How to Find Clients for Your Business 101
- A Look at a Financial Coaching Session
- 3 Worksheets and Questionnaires
- 4 Questions to Ask Your Clients (+ Intake Form)
- 2 Tools and Resources for Practitioners
- 3 Valuable Books and Manuals
- Software and Apps for Upgrading Your Practice
- PositivePsychology.com’s Relevant Tools
- A Take-Home Message
What Is Financial Coaching?
Simply put, financial coaching is coaching. Coaches play the same role in this area as in other areas of coaching. Coaches help their clients set realistic goals, hold them accountable for making progress, and help them practice and perfect new skills (Collins, 2010).
Like most coaching, financial coaching takes place in a series of one-on-one sessions. The content of these sessions surrounds the client’s economic challenges and aspirations. The coach helps the client talk about their financial life, deepening their understanding of their spending habits and other money behaviors.
Unlike advisors, accountants, or other financial professionals, coaches help clients go beyond setting goals by coaching them through the change process. They prioritize the client’s autonomy and do not impose their plans or judgments on the client.
That being said, financial coaching is not a substitute for expert financial advice. Coaches can have expertise in financial planning areas, but the emphasis is more on coaching skills. Instead, financial coaching complements these expert services, and coaches can also play an essential role in providing referrals to these services when clients need expert help (Collins, 2010).
Clients can use financial coaching in several ways. They may receive the service through a financial institution. This type of coaching can be a long-term wraparound service to increase client satisfaction.
Coaching can also be helpful during a transition, such as losing a job or winning the lottery. Coaching can be short term, surrounding a significant change in the client’s financial life. Lastly, coaching can be task specific, focusing on improving credit or creating a budget, for example. This tends to be the shortest form of coaching (Collins, 2010).
Financial Coaching vs. Financial Counseling
Financial coaching and financial counseling are far from interchangeable; financial coaches and counselors play unique roles.
Let’s start with a major distinction: financial counselors usually work with clients in crisis, while financial coaches work with stable clients (Delgadillo, 2014). In this case, stable does not mean wealthy. It means the client has their head far enough above water to set goals for financial wellbeing and take the steps they need to accomplish them.
In contrast, counseling puts out fires. A financial counselor is a crisis manager. For example, a client struggling to get out of debt who needs a professionally generated plan would see a counselor. Coaching, on the other hand, is more client directed.
Counselors and coaches need distinct skill sets. Financial counselors need expertise in technical matters to help their clients navigate a crisis. Coaches need supportive skills to help encourage clients as they go through their own process (Delgadillo, 2014).
These services can be complementary. If a client goes through counseling and resolves a crisis, they may still want professional help to keep them on track. Remember, one of the key roles of the coach is to provide accountability. Coaches help clients build skills to maintain the financial wellness achieved through counseling.
Of course, there are financial counselors who work with stable clients, and coaches who take on clients in crisis; however, this basic difference illustrates these two fields. In short, coaching is based on strengths and client driven, while counseling is reactionary/remedial and expert driven.
How to Find Clients for Your Business 101
The first step in finding clients for your financial coaching business should be establishing your credibility. This means building the skills that will allow you to help your clients and attaining a credential that attests to this. Here is a list of the best coaching training institutes to get accreditation, as well as coaching courses with online options.
The next step in this process is networking. It’s tough to establish a business from scratch, and you will benefit from connections. Try to identify a coach who you admire and see if they would be willing to talk to you about their approach.
Another excellent way to network is to attend a conference or other professional event. At a conference, you will come into contact with many other coaches who will want to talk shop and could provide referrals down the road.
Advertising is essential. Build a website and explain what you do. Make use of social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, linking back to your website. You may want to contribute writing to some online blogs or periodicals to get your name out there.
It may be easier to build your own business after having a job with an established firm. Many financial service institutions are building out their coaching offerings. Working “in-house” for a couple of years can give you something impressive to put on your résumé and establish your name in the field. You may also be able to take clients with you when you leave.
Once you get started, the process is all about word of mouth. Treat your clients well, do effective work, and the clients will come.
A Look at a Financial Coaching Session
The primary goal of a financial coach is to facilitate the client to set goals and develop plans of action (Collins & O’ Rourke, 2012).
The coaching process is a systematic effort of promoting client growth, which the coach encourages through active listening and critical questioning. Each coaching session looks different because the sessions are customized to fit the individual needs of the client, but it is possible to spotlight some common tools that financial coaches use.
Since coaching is client directed, an engagement begins with the client articulating their goal. The coach helps identify the steps to accomplish this goal. Helping clients turn goals into specific behavioral actions is a major function of each coaching session.
In subsequent sessions, the coach helps the client stick closely to the action plan. These sessions allow the coach to monitor the progress that the client is making. Monitoring includes two activities: celebrating successes and holding clients accountable (Collins & O’ Rourke, 2012).
People often fail to accomplish their financial goals because of one of two reasons: either a lack of self-control (procrastination) or a lack of attention (forgetting). The coach serves as a preventative measure for both of these potential pitfalls by focusing on the long term and helping clients overcome barriers to self-control. They partner with the client, providing information and encouragement to facilitate their self-driven progress.
Here is a video representation of a financial coaching session, provided by the University of Wisconsin’s training program.
3 Worksheets and Questionnaires
If you are wondering where to get started with your in-session coaching work, consider using one or more of the following worksheets.
ABC Functional Analysis Worksheet
If you are having trouble understanding your client’s behavior or getting your client to understand the root cause of their own behavior, consider using functional analysis.
Functional analysis is a classic Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy technique that can help open up a conversation about unproductive behavior that can be so tricky to change.
Use our ABC Functional Analysis Worksheet to understand your client better.
Listening Accurately Worksheet
G Stands for Goal
This goal-setting worksheet is a nifty questionnaire for clients to articulate their goals clearly.
4 Questions to Ask Your Clients (+ Intake Form)
Of course, the first thing you should ask your client is some version of “What brings you to coaching?”
Beyond that, it’s fair game. Here are four common coaching questions that financial coaches use to help their clients grow.
How would you like to reach your goal?
This open-ended question allows the client to think about the steps of their goal. This question also opens up the floor for the client to talk about their values and discuss how they want to approach the work.
What will you do next?
This is a simple but brilliant question. Coaching is all about helping clients set manageable goals and breaking them down into small steps that can get them there.
Asking this question as a follow-up to the previous ones breaks the process down into things they can accomplish immediately.
What advice would you give someone in your situation?
The purpose of this question is twofold: to help the client gain perspective and connect to their inner wisdom. In coaching, the client is the expert on themselves. Eliciting advice meant for another may encourage the client to follow it themselves.
If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
This question helps unlock the client’s desires. Although failure is a part of life, letting go of fear helps you learn about your client’s genuine wishes for the coaching engagement.
Our article on coaching conversations provides excellent examples of how to engage the client and plan a conversation that would include the required open-ended questions.
For financial coaches just starting out, here is a basic version of an intake form from which to build your own. It asks for simple demographic information and two important questions: ‘What is your financial goal?’ and What is your greatest financial accomplishment?’
2 Tools and Resources for Practitioners
Coaches can use a variety of tools and techniques to help their clients. Here are two coaching tools that financial coaches draw upon to make their engagements impactful and successful.
These tools are portals to other realms of expertise for the interested coach. They are resources to help you build your coaching repertoire.
Motivational interviewing is a practical theory of change that can be put into practice to help create behavior change.
Motivational interviewing helps clients create their own goals and increase motivation to follow through on their action plans. It can be especially beneficial for clients who have difficulty defining what they want.
Mindfulness is a popular construct involving a set of practices to help your clients build their moment-to-moment awareness.
Although unrelated to finances, mindfulness can be an effective intervention for clients who are stressed or anxious about their finances.
3 Valuable Books and Manuals
1. The Financial Coaching Playbook – Kelsa Dickey
This book is the most directly related to this article, as it is all about helping new financial coaches start their businesses.
It includes information about the nuts and bolts of running a business and coaching techniques for helping clients in a session.
Find the book on Amazon.
2. Co-Active Coaching, Fourth Edition: The Proven Framework for Transformative Conversations at Work and in Life – Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth
This book is written for coaches in general and lays out an effective and user-friendly framework for developing coaching skills.
For those without a background in coaching who want to learn more about the role, this book is a must-read.
Find the book on Amazon.
3. Stop Asking for Referrals: A Revolutionary New Strategy for Building a Financial Service Business That Sells Itself – Stephen Wershing
One of the most difficult parts of building a coaching business is generating referrals.
This book, which is geared toward financial service professionals, teaches an alternative method of drumming up business.
If you’ve got your skills down and are looking to build something, this book could be a big help.
Find the book on Amazon.
Software and Apps for Upgrading Your Practice
Lots of coaching takes place online these days. If you are looking to build an online coaching practice, these online apps could be exactly what you are looking for.
Quenza is a simple-to-use coaching tool that can easily be adapted for use by financial coaches.
A key feature unique to Quenza is its user-friendly Activity Builder, which enables you to craft custom tools or workflows for your clients.
For example, you could design custom intake forms, such as an agreement between the coach and client outlining responsibilities regarding the client’s management of finances.
Following this, you might then design a range of activities, such as a financial goal-setting exercise or budgeting reflection exercises that the client completes at the end of each day.
You can then send automatic reminders to complete these reflections to your client’s tablet or smartphone using push notifications.
This is just a few examples of how you might use Quenza to help your clients achieve their financial goals.
Nudge Coach helps you to build a custom app for your coaching practice.
It allows you to use their software while adding your own branding for a personal flair. It has a reputation for being user friendly on both the coach and client sides.
PositivePsychology.com’s Relevant Tools
The Positive Psychology Toolkit© is full of useful activities and exercises for your future clients. From between-session exercises to in-session assessments, the toolkit can provide a boost to your practice for beginning and senior coaches alike.
Here are three useful tools from the Toolkit that can be useful for a financial coach:
In your coaching practice, you may find that the habits and automatic behaviors of your client are working against them.
Since habits can be difficult to change, it is sometimes justified to take a methodical approach. This habit tracker will help your clients understand their automatic behaviors and keep track of their progress.
A self-contract can be a vital part of any behavior change engagement, keeping the client accountable to themselves.
This self-contract can be useful at the beginning of an engagement or as a motivation booster for a client struggling to make progress.
Increasing Self-Control Through Repeated Practice
Much of coaching centers around improving client self-control in areas such as budgeting and spending.
A methodical, practice-based approach to increasing self-control can help clients build these skills and increase confidence in their abilities to work effectively toward the coaching goals.
17 Positive Psychology Exercises
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, this signature collection contains 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners. Use them to help others flourish and thrive.
A Take-Home Message
Financial coaching is an exciting field that can help clients build skills and solve their own problems.
Financial coaches provide vital services, increasing the financial literacy and economic success of clients all over the income spectrum. They are not money experts, but experts in helping people choose manageable goals and empowering them toward success.
If you are looking for an impactful niche for your coaching practice, consider financial coaching.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
- Collins, J. M. (2010). Using a financial coaching approach to help low-income families achieve economic success: Challenges and opportunities for the field. Unpublished manuscript. University of Wisconsin-Madison & PolicyLab Consulting Group.
- Collins, J. M., & O’Rourke, C. M. (2012). The application of coaching techniques to financial issues. Journal of Financial Therapy, 3(2).
- Delgadillo, L. M. (2014). Financial clarity: Education, literacy, capability, counseling, planning, and coaching. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 43(1), 18–28.
- Dickey, K. (2020). The financial coaching playbook. Fiscal Fitness Phoenix.
- Kimsey-House, K., Kimsey-House, H., Sandahl, P., & Whitworth, L. (2018). Co-active coaching, fourth edition: The proven framework for transformative conversations at work and in life. Nicholas Brealey.
- Wershing, S. (2012). Stop asking for referrals: A revolutionary new strategy for building a financial service business that sells itself. McGraw-Hill Education.