Drop and give me 36 (months of consecutive on-time payments)
August 12, 2009 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a financial coach, someone who can help me develop better financial habits. Does such a thing exist?

I'm irresponsible with money. I forget to pay my bills, and end up paying them late so that I have late fees and the late payments go on my credit report. Or I just ignore them for a few months, until they get big enough that they're difficult to pay off. I set up budgets and then ignore them. I am cheap as hell with big stuff, and then blow my budget on stupid small things like eating lunch out every day. It's stupid and sort of embarrassing and I want to mend my ways.

I realized that what I need is someone who will look at all my regular bills, as well as my income, and help me set up payment plans and a budget, and then help me stick to it. Kind of like a personal trainer, but for money instead of fitness.

I'm not necessarily looking for a blog or a book that will help me do this. I've already read a bunch of books and blogs (Suze Orman is great) and I always come away with all sorts of good intentions, and then do nothing. I need someone who will help me develop a plan, and then hold me accountable to that plan for a few months while I get it going.

Ideally I would like to see someone locally (I'm in Seattle), in person, because it seems like that would be more effective and secure. I'd really rather not give all my financial info to a stranger on the internet.

I know about the credit counseling services, but it sounds like many of those are scams and even if they aren't, seeing one can adversely affect your credit rating (ah, irony). Internet searches result in a lot of these types of outfits. And it seems like financial planners are more for managing your investments.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
These things exist.

Here's the Google search.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:21 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a non-scam, nonprofit organization that helps people regain control of their finances. I don't know if they can help you when you're not actually in crisis, as part of their approach is to work with creditors to forgive debt and/or lower interest rates that make real repayment impossible. But the main part of their business is teaching struggling people how to manage their money better. Good luck.
posted by headnsouth at 7:23 PM on August 12, 2009

I think I can appreciate where you're at, but I'm not sure I can help.

Both my wife and I came from families where finances were always tight and our parents never really explained any of it either. So early in our marriage we made many mistakes. The cures may or may not apply to you.

We do on-line bill payment so we control the transactions (we do not give companies permission to draft our account directly). We pay our bills based on when we get paid NOT when the bills are due, which means we must pre-plan (and also save for the quarterly or yearly bills). We have repeating appointments in a computer calendar that reminds us a couple days before EACH bill due date and we logon to the Bank and just make sure our payment has posted (i.e., that they got the money and there was no computer foul-up).

We use the snowball method for paying past debt. Use *charge* cards as opposed to *credit* cards (like Green American Express if you can qualify) so you are forced to pay your balance each month.

Keeping up with bills and putting some money away is not super complicated (your job might be more complicated). And you don't have to feel embarrassed. You might not have the weight problem I do, or you might do more for charities. Each person has their strengths and weaknesses.

This *is* a good time to be alive, lots of PC tools (like Quicken, your Bank's on-line Bill Payment, Web sites like Get Rich Slowly, etc.)
posted by forthright at 7:23 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, hiring someone might cost more than paying late fees actually. For bills at least, your best option is to use an automated payment system through your bank.
posted by caelumluna at 7:38 PM on August 12, 2009

Use Mint.com to track your spending. Stop using cash, stop using credit cards, start using a debit card. Run the course of the first month like you would normally, gawk in amazement when you realize how much you spend eating out every day, then set a budget that you can live with.

Then live with it.
posted by Precision at 8:01 PM on August 12, 2009

IMO, the best thing you can do is automate your finances. You can harness a burst of motivation to drastically cut down the amount of time you spend in the future. A financial coach can do this for you. But really, it's quite easy. You can set up bill pay for 10 bills in around an hour.

I'd also recommend figuring out why you haven't been motivated yet.

Take-home lesson: personal finance is empowering and easy to learn. I'd much rather see you handle it yourself. Psychologically, that will put handling your money within your zone of control, where it belongs.
posted by dualityofmind at 8:10 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every recurring bill you have, put on auto-pay. Even the credit cards; just do fifty bucks (if you've got a low or no balance) and you can always pay more. Utilities, rent, insurance, car payment, all of it.

Give yourself an allowance. Anything that isn't normal budget - groceries, gas, utils etc - has to come out of that allowance. If spend it all, you go hungry until the next allowance payment. It seems really juvenile, but it works...
posted by notsnot at 8:52 PM on August 12, 2009

There are a number of forums where people try and give each other this kind of support - Get Rich Slowly, No Credit Needed, and all their cohort of blogs. I would recommend you try the Fiscal Fitness Journals section of Get Rich Slowly - it is just strangers on the internet, but I assume you aren't going to give out your bank account number, and they'll be happy to go over all your spending and come up with plans, and prod you about payments!
posted by jacalata at 9:02 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This is what I do:

1) Figure out every recurring expense you have. To make up some numbers, say every six months I pay $600 for auto insurance, every three months I pay about $150 for water, every month I pay $50 for electricity, $100 for internet, $900 for rent, etc, etc.

2) Determine how much each item costs monthly. So that's $100 for auto insurance, $50 for water, and the rest is the same.

3) Are you paid weekly or bi-weekly? If paid weekly, split each of those monthly expenses into four. If paid bi-weekly, split them into two. Automatically set up your checking account to transfer that amount of money into another account, probably a day or two after your paycheck clears just to be safe. I have a "Rent/Utilities" account and a "Food/Gas" account, for example. The idea here is that each paycheck you spin off an equal portion of each expense into a little savings account so you can't touch it, and at the end of the month the total amount of the expense will be there.

For instance, if you get paid bi-weekly, then each paycheck you automatically transfer away $50 for auto insurance, $25 for water, $50 for internet, etc.

4) Set up automatic bill pay. So automatically, at the end of the month, your bank will pull money from the pertinent account you set up in #3 and pay the bill.

5) Figure out how much you have left each paycheck. Of this amount, decide how much you want to put into savings, how much you want for fun, all of your other expenses. I have a "Fun" account, an "Emergency Funds" account, and a "Clothing" account (I'm saving up for an office wardrobe). You may have 401K and all of that.

This method works splendidly. It is great comfort to know all that bill money is taken care of, and no matter how low your main checking account gets that won't change. Two tips, though. One, give yourself a one or two week head start so you always have a little bit of extra money in those billing accounts. Two, you absolutely must allot some money for fun, especially if you aren't a frugal person. If you decide you're going to take all your non-bill money and throw it into savings, it is an unrealistic way to look at life. Instead, develop a comfortable savings rate for yourself and leave the remainder to use however the hell you like.
posted by Anonymous at 9:57 PM on August 12, 2009

I highly recommend Jessica Reagan Salzman at Behind the Scenes. Her current business is geared toward small business owners, but I believe she is moving toward individual coaching. Above all else, I have seen that she is committed to compassionate interaction with beliefs around money. I have heard her speak in classes and been both comforted and impressed.
posted by eileen at 11:07 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of CPAs do exactly what you are looking for, in addition to taking on doing your taxes annually, as well as, supposing you have any disposable income, evaluating investment alternatives. You can find a personal CPA/CFP (Certified Public Accountant/Certified Financial Planner) through a number of referral services, including this one. You can also ask your local bank branch manager for recommendations of accountants in the area, along with local business and professional people. A good accountant never lacks for word of mouth recommendations.

You'll generally pay hourly professional fees, like with a lawyer or a doctor, but many CPA firms work with young clients and new businesses on a sliding fee scale, recognizing that long term relationships are worth some low initial fees, until they've shown you their worth. Usually, the first hour or so meeting, to define your needs, will not be charged. You may initially get an associate, or even a bookkeeper, as your regular contact, rather than a partner CPA, but if your needs are simple, you won't know the difference, and your associate will be supervised by a full accounting partner, at most local firms. You will generally be fine with a local firm, as opposed for one of the big national or international firms, for personal accounting needs.

Normally, you'll meet with your accountant (or firm contact) quarterly, to hand over any records you keep of your previous quarter financial activity, and to review your budgets and expected income projections. You'll get answers to whatever questions you raise, and you'll need to provide explanations for new activities, revenue sources and expenses, that you've undertaken since your last meeting. You may need to meet again a few days later, to sign quarterly tax payment forms, or your annual tax return, or other documents. Between scheduled quarterly meetings, you can call and ask questions about particular issues that come up, and you'll be billed for phone consultation and related work, as you incur it. The discipline you get by having a trusted 3rd party, familiar with your circumstances, regularly review your finances, and give you some coaching, is invaluable in making good financial decisions. When your accountant is happy for you, you can afford to be happy, too.

Along with a lawyer and a primary care doctor, a CPA is one professional relationship every person that can afford it should have. But you needn't be wealthy to find a CPA, and the sooner you do, the greater the likelihood that you'll eventually be wealthy.
posted by paulsc at 11:27 PM on August 12, 2009

Ring ADD Coaches and see if they do financial coaching. You're not needing massive financial advising, it's more an aspect of personal organising you haven't got the hang of.
They'd be slightly more to come round in person, and understand that you really just need someone to sit down with you, come up with plans and strategies to get it sorted, and keep you on track until you've got it under control.
posted by Elysum at 6:21 PM on September 9, 2009

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