I can't afford financial counseling and I can't afford not to have it
June 5, 2013 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Is there such thing as a financial coach for someone in a low-middle income level? If so, where can I find this person?

I'm in my late 30s, have no savings, no credit, and poor financial management habits. On the plus side, I have a new career that pays enough to meet basic expenses now and will pay me increasingly well in the coming years. I am trying to change my spending and saving habits and maximize the benefit of a growing income. But I need help from someone who knows what they're doing.

I know I can't afford a "financial planner" at this point, nor do I need advice about investments and so forth since I have none right now.

I'm also not sure a one-time workshop for low-income people would be that helpful to me. I think I get the basic principles, but what I want is something more tailored to me in specific.

What I'm imagining is someone I could meet with say, once a month, go over my budget, my expenses, my income, and get advice and accountability for my habits. Kind of like a personal trainer for my bank account. I think this would be really effective for me, and I think I could afford to pay maybe 100 bucks a session if it was like an hour or two once a month, which to me seems ideal.

I live in the SF Bay Area if you have something specific to suggest here, but even if there is a general kind of person I should be looking for, I'd love to hear about it and I can google for local examples.
posted by latkes to Work & Money (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Does your current work offer an Employee Assistance program? I know it might offer that ability to talk with a financial planner on the phone if your company offers that or how often you can use it.
posted by Jaelma24 at 8:20 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound to me like you need to pay for advice, to be honest. A good personal finance book or two from the library would go a long way. Dave Ramsey's plan applies to just about everyone. If you want specific budget feedback and accountability, there are lots of personal finance message boards where users will review your budget for free and offer advice. They range from super encouraging to tough love or even snarky so you'd want to choose one that fits your personality. Feel free to memail me for a few recommendations.
posted by payoto at 8:45 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I recommend the Fiscal Fitness Journals on the Get Rich Slowly site, which like any public forum has people who do and don't know what they are doing, but definitely has a solid group of people who will check in on your updates and cheer for you and help with the accountability.
posted by jacalata at 8:56 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Elizabeth Warren's book All Your Worth walks you through the process of creating a realistic budget and financial goals and also addresses current habits. Plus, it's Elizabeth Warren. I've found it really helpful.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ric Edelman's books are right up your alley.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:46 PM on June 5, 2013

You're in Oakland? Contact EARN.
posted by dhartung at 9:59 PM on June 5, 2013

You can go on Mint.com and graph your income and expenses and assets and debts over time, which can help give you specific insights that you might not get from general books.
posted by Phssthpok at 10:37 PM on June 5, 2013

I know that a range of charities offer this service. The Salvation Army, for one.
posted by wilful at 11:24 PM on June 5, 2013

J.D. Roth, founder of the afore-mentioned Get Rich Slowly here. While I no longer write for that site, I do write a bit about personal finance elsewhere. In fact, at my personal site, I recently contemplated this very idea: What would it be like to run a store that offers financial advice? This is based, in part, on a conversation I had with a certain Mr. Haughey about five years ago. He suggested I do something very similar to what you're outlining in your question.

That preamble aside, I don't know of anybody who does what you're looking for. It's something I want to do, but not something I'm doing. Yet. I have the skills and knowledge and interest, but I'm wary of the legal liability. I need to do more research before I embark on something like this.

Also, one big question is: How would folks like you pay for these services? How would you be held accountable? How would somebody like me be held accountable for the advice I offered? The sad fact is that the folks who most need financial coaching are often those least able to pay.

This is a great question, and I look forward to reading the responses.

p.s. dhartung is right: EARN might be a good choice for you.
posted by jdroth at 11:44 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far folks. It sounds like there are a lot of good books and websites and I'm getting the sense that's where I'm going to have to go.

I'm bummed that what I'm imagining doesn't seem to exist though. I know that if I hadn't been able to find a personal trainer who is really affordable, I never would have really cemented an exercise habit. Having a human being who I have to answer to, who gives me regular feedback, encouragement, suggestions, advice, and just expects me to show up ready to work is enormously motivating for me in a way a book isn't. I was hoping I could find that human motivation for my money issues.

I'll look into the resources mentioned so far, but if anyone has any human-connection powered ideas, I'd still love to hear them.
posted by latkes at 12:28 AM on June 6, 2013

Also, one big question is: How would folks like you pay for these services? How would you be held accountable? How would somebody like me be held accountable for the advice I offered? The sad fact is that the folks who most need financial coaching are often those least able to pay.

What if it were more like life coaching with a financial emphasis, and less like a financial advisor/client relationship?
posted by bunderful at 4:14 AM on June 6, 2013

If you can afford $100 a month, then you may be able to afford a financial planner for just the advice/help you're looking for. Financial Planners aren't just focused on investments. We got a financial planner through Ameriprise when we got married and had debt, little savings, etc. He charges $600 a year ($50/month) and can meet with us every month or more if we need. He's been incredibly helpful getting our money on the right track, budgeting, paying debt, saving, planning and even had good advice helping us assess new job offers and the like. The KEY with that kind of arrangement is to make sure you get an advisor with "fiduciary liability", meaning he's legally required to only act/advise in your best interest, not for any commission. The common recommendation is to find a planner who charges only by the hour, but since you mentioned a monthly session, I thought I'd share what works for us.
posted by ninjakins at 6:58 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should also check with your bank to see if this is a service they offer. I know Citibank offered it but I haven't looked at other banks.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:29 AM on June 6, 2013

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (less than $40 for the x number of week sessions just to cover the book and materials) trainings are held at churches and other places all over the country and the groups i know that met locally for the course continue to meet 1x month after it ended to be accountable to each other. Here is the page on his site to find a class in your area: http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/classfinder/#center=39.269402,-76.744698
posted by TestamentToGrace at 7:49 AM on June 6, 2013

Maybe start a book club to read personal finance books? There used to be groups of people who followed Your Money or Your Life; you could post on Craigslist to find such a group.

I find common sense on these blogs, and the forums might be a place to find support:
Get Rich Slowly
The Simple Dollar
Wise Bread
posted by theora55 at 8:17 AM on June 6, 2013

SF Bay Area? Unity Council offers, among other services, financial planning classes geared at lower income folks. Give them a call, their website doesn't reflect all they have to offer!
posted by Wavelet at 8:33 AM on June 6, 2013

I used CCCS (Credit Counseling) to get out of debt. They are a non-profit. It looks like they offer financial counseling even in cases without debt.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:57 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

This service exists, and in the Bay Area. My friends saw someone with a background in psychology and financial planning, who specialized in dealing with the emotional side of money issues. (i.e. not just "here's a budget" but "let's talk about the reasons you're having trouble sticking to the budget").

The cost was in line with that of most therapists. I don't know exact rates, but 4-6 sessions seem to have made a big difference for them. Memail me and I can track down the specific name.
posted by psycheslamp at 11:47 AM on June 6, 2013

If you can't find a specialist, you may not need one. I'm guessing life coaches are thick on the ground in the Bay Area, and you don't need a financial expert to work with you on the basics you're talking about.
posted by mattu at 6:44 PM on June 6, 2013

Personal Finance For Dummies will probably cover at least 90% of what you need.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:06 PM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: Huh, I did some looking into the life coach idea, but I have no idea how to narrow these people down. Most seem to be on the spectrum of energy healer/life coach, instead of life organizer/life coach. If anyone has any advice on how to turn a life coach into a personal financial coach...
posted by latkes at 7:52 AM on June 7, 2013

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