This article is about how and why I’ve turned to financial coaching for my clients. Financial coaching is a relatively new and interesting kind of service in the financial services industry. I became interested in financial coaching for millennials (like me) in 2018 as I was building my own company, uVest Advisory Group, LLC, an investment advisory firm. My goal at the time was to identify an ideal client; a type of client I particularly enjoyed serving, and develop services they wanted.
As it turned out, I am my own ideal client; a goal-oriented and civic-minded sub-40-year-old professional/business owner. Rapport is important, and what could be an easier way of building rapport than to do so with a relatable client? Next, I turned my attention to the services, other than investment management, my client wanted. So I asked them.
As a CFP®, I know the areas of financial planning outside of investment management. Beautifully boring (but valuable) areas like insurance planning, estate planning, taxes, retirement, etc. But that did not resonate with my ideal clients. They wanted to talk about building their credit score, shrinking their debt, saving up money in an emergency fund, and building wealth through passive or multiple streams of income.
When conducting standard financial planning with this crowd of young professionals, I would often be frustrated with the sense that I was trying to force a round peg into a square hole. Conversations aimed at life or disability insurance or retirement planning veered off course into budgeting, real estate investing, or saving up for a vacation. I had the right audience but I needed a better message.
“Don’t just tell me what to do, show me how to do it” might be an apt mantra for my ideal client. I have drafted many financial plans for people, created budgets, and talked with clients about strategies for paying off debt more quickly. But my ideal client craves a different approach; a far more hands-on approach. They desire accountability. Not accountability via an annoying notification from the budgeting app on your phone, but the accountability that only a real human can provide. Financial coaching for a millennial audience seemed a natural fit.
My ideal client doesn’t just want to create budgets and plans for achieving goals; they want me to check in the week after our meeting to make sure they are doing what we agreed to do. And the week after that as well.
They want to meet with me to figure out a detour around the roadblocks that are always popping up in their lives; brainstorming sessions, and encouragement; warnings and constructive feedback about their habits. They want real and lasting behavioral change. Not a financial plan that they can’t implement until they figure out how to keep from being derailed every other month from an unforeseen expense.
Financial coaching is an interesting service because it addresses the problems that schools have long neglected to address: financial literacy and competency. Financial coaching as a service is akin to swimming or musical lessons; or perhaps a personal trainer; except the targeted outcome isn’t a better breaststroke, perfect musical pitch, or toned abs, but an awareness and understanding of your financial issues at hand.
When I share this with most people who fit my ideal client, I get the sense that I’m on the right track. This suggests to me that there is an opportunity for firms, like my own, to provide financial coaching as a service. Here’s the mapped out process for financial coaching with uVest Advisory:
The uVest Advisory Financial Coaching Program for Millennials
My financial coaching program is a 6 month, 5 stage process for getting you where you want to go. Right now the program is primarily focused on people who want to gain a handle on their cash flow situation.
Stage one is the ground clearing operation. We will lay the foundation for successful money management. Unlike most budgeting programs, however, this one is structured so that the client won’t even consider using the aid of software until month 3 of the program.
The reason for this is that no budgeting app in existence will be able to help you if your primary problem is a lack of awareness when spending money. If you can spend money without even a fleeting thought about your goals, then we need to address that before we can try to create a budget. This first stage consists of 4 meetings over 1 month.
Stage 2 and 3
The next 2 stages teach my clients about the importance of having a vision and values by which to live your life. This gets overlooked because let’s be honest, no one is paying us to meditate on our life’s vision or our core values. There are bills to pay, chores to do, errands to run, and a job to work. But trust me, having a vision and core values are important tools in the well-rounded person’s toolbox.
It makes no sense to set goals for yourself if you haven’t done the foundational work of figuring out what the goals ought to be. To lay that foundation, I guide my clients through two writing exercises that are designed to provoke their imaginations to do what they are supposed to do — imagine. The role and power of writing here works to give a voice to those deep, unspoken thoughts. That’s where we will find our core values and the vision for our future. These two stages are knocked out in month 2 over the course of 2 meetings (one for each stage).
Stage 4 and 5
Stages 4 and 5 are all about getting the air under your wings in your financial life. We will have identified goals, and put systems in place to track them and work towards them. At this point, you’ve graduated from the awareness-building stage, learned how to set a vision for yourself, and learned what values you can use to draft your goals. Now it’s time to put all of that self-learning and growth into practice. Stages 4 and 5 last 3 months and consist of 8 meetings.
By the time you’ve graduated from my program, you will be more self-aware and better suited to thrive in the financial world we find ourselves. This is my passion and it’s why I have developed and offer the services that I offer.
Erik Goodge is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and the President of uVest Advisory Group. He holds a B.S. in Economics and Cognitive Science from the University of Evansville. Erik is a Marine Corps veteran of the Afghanistan campaign and Purple Heart recipient. He is from Evansville, Indiana, and currently lives in near-by Newburgh with his wife and daughter.