Welcome back to Melissa Making Cents!
I’ve learned that one can be identified in many ways depending on the person. To some of you I am a financial advisor representative, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, investment advisor representative, or college funding planner. But.. I am also a mother, triathlete, runner, cyclist or most importantly a friend.
There are times in my life where some of those paths cross, and ideas are born. It’s truly amazing the thoughts that run through your head while out for a 13 mile run or a 3 hour bike ride!
Today I’m going to tell you about my experience with running the Cowtown Half Marathon this year, and how it has led me to launch my financial coaching program, Making Cents of Your Money.
Truth be told... I have been an unofficial financial coach for the last 15 years. So being a financial coach isn't new to me our to the work I've done with all our clients. Adding this new level of service will not effect the advice and service that we currently provide. It will allow me to work with individuals that need guidance in building their basic finances, and as they transition into confident money masters they will also transition into financial planning and investment clients.
What is a Financial Coach?
A financial coach is more or less a personal trainer for your money. Instead of creating a financial plan, or managing investment assets; a financial coach works with you to develop healthy financial habits. Things like budgeting, effective use of credit, and developing an emergency fund are some of the topics that a financial coach covers.
Yes, a financial advisor representative or a financial planner can also help with this, but oftentimes being a planner or advisor comes with the connotation that you must have money to manage. This is a stereotype that I’d truly like for people to overcome.
How does Financial Coaching Relate to Running a Half Marathon?
This might sound a little surprising but while I was running the 13 miles, I noticed similarities in both my training for the race as well as coaching clients in their financial journey.
It all started before the race kicked off, as the runners filed in to their assigned starting corrals. Each runner has a preference in their starting position based on their ability and the estimated time of completion. I have a preference of starting in the back of the pack, because I like being able to enjoy the experience and not get trampled by eager racers.
I enjoy talking to other runners and learning about their racing strategy or plans that others have developed to get them through the race. It is rare that two race plans are alike, because everyone will have different paces as well as preferences for fueling snacks and times. Some race plans are created with the help of a coach, some out of experience, and sometimes people just wing it.
Much like handling your own financial journey, there are unlimited possibilities to help you get to and through retirement. It is possible to create a plan yourself, but sometimes it is nice to have a little coaching.
It’s Important to Develop a Plan to Help Accomplish Your Financial Goals
While standing around in my corral, I began talking to a husband and wife from Fort Worth, Texas. She told me that this was her fifth year running the Cowtown! He smiled and said it was his first time. I asked him how long he has been running. He replied that that day was going to be the first time running in a very long time.
Being curious I asked about his plan to finish the race. To which he replied… “I’m going to start out with a sprint and just get it done”. I glanced at his wife, and we both shook our heads. I cautioned him on his plan and told him to be careful, just as our corral was moved to the starting line.
We exchanged one last glance as the starting gun fired, and he yelled back at me as he sprinted off “See you at the finish line”.
As a financial professional I see this eagerness to sprint happen often. Financial priorities may become unbalanced, and as a result people become ultra focused on a certain aspect of their finances leaving little wiggle room for unexpected events. While this might not seem like an issue, being unbalanced with your cash flow can create a massive setback if an emergency should come up.
As a financial coach, I work with individuals and their families to create budgets that allow flexibility and practicality, while managing expectations. From experience I have learned the importance of managing expectations.
As I passed the one mile marker during the Cowtown Race, I noticed the husband standing next to the curb, doubled over in pain and struggling to breathe. As much as I hoped to see him at the finish line, I knew his plan wouldn’t have a good result. Some people are able to muscle through challenges, but this poor man also suffered from unhealthy expectations.
A financial coach is able to help you plan for and face setbacks.
The first few miles of a race can be exhilarating! There is something exciting about the energy of running with a few thousand others. The cheering of the spectators helps to keep the racers moving forward. As the miles and minutes pass, it’s important to stick to the plan you have for accomplishing your goals.
There are times when life has a different set of plans, and will cause a major setback. This was something I witnessed first hand as I reached mile 6 of the race. I came across a young lady that was being tended to by paramedics. She was in tears and I heard her tell them that she was on pace to set a personal best. Judging by the way they had wrapped her ankle, it was pretty clear to me that she was not going to be able to continue. It’s heartbreaking to know that you have worked so hard to accomplish a goal, and one instance can derail your efforts. Thankfully we live to race another day.
Whether it is a financial emergency that creates a large debt or an unexpected loss of employment, a financial coach can help you get back on track. Setbacks are temporary. By going back to the drawing board and re-prioritizing finances we are able to create a new plan to help accomplish previously set financial goals.
Sometimes it is necessary to adjust your plan during your journey.
As you may imagine there is a point in a race that the runner’s high wears off, and you begin questioning your training, and perhaps even the decision to sign up for the race… especially if it is a hot humid day.
I looked up at mile 8 of the race and I saw my teammate, Deb! Sometimes a friendly face is just the thing you need to keep you going! I gave her a huge hug, and she told me that the day was going rougher than she had expected. The heat and humidity was getting to her. As we ran together we talked about her race strategy. I knew that we were approaching the infamous mile 9, which for the Cowtown race means a massive mile long uphill battle.
Deb and I decided to slow down our pace a little, and to do a combination of 4 minutes running followed by 1 minute of walking. By making these adjustments during the race we conserved a little more energy. At the top of the hill we both regained our original steam and powered on.
Adjustments like this are also common during your financial journey. We all have short term goals that come up in our lives. Weddings, vacations, or first time home purchases may require an adjustment in your monthly budget to reach the shorter term goals. A financial coach can help you make the temporary adjustments by analyzing your budget and advising you what to change.
A financial coach helps to minimize lifestyle creep.
In many sports there is one phenomenon that will put a smile on your face. In running it is referred to as a negative split. This generally means that your time gets shorter as each mile goes on. It occurs when your pace is picked up as you move forward through the race. Increasing your pace is much more ideal than starting the race too fast, and not being able to finish. No doubt at some point in your life you have heard the expression “Finish Strong”. But… increasing your pace too much at any point might mean that you run out of energy and risk not accomplishing your goal.
As I came around to the mile 12 of the race I noticed that I had sped up enough that not only was I seeing negative splits, but I was also setting myself up for a personal best. It’s a great feeling! Unfortunately as I rounded the corner to finish, I was nearly out of gas. I had been so excited about my efforts I nearly forgot about my racing plan. I had not eaten to replenish the energy my body required as I ran faster and faster. Seeing that finish line, I knew there was one thing to do… rest for a moment and keep going.
This same concept applies to your finances! It is referred to as “lifestyle creep”, and means that your expenses increase as cost of living rises. We expect a small amount of increase due to inflation. But.. lifestyle creep can also set in with the choices you make in your daily living.
As a financial coach, I see lifestyle creep happen because expenses are increased as wages increase. Expenses can get out of hand as people often think they should spend more as they earn more. More expensive cars, clothing and larger housing are just a few examples of lifestyle creep that are attributed to your financial choices.
In some cases lifestyle creep can completely sabotage a financial plan. Budgets can be stretched so thin that there is no longer room for saving for the future. This is normally the point that a major financial emergency also hits, and delivers the knockout financial blow.
How I made the decision to be a financial coach.
In the last fifteen years of working as a financial planner, I have had the joy of helping many people accomplish financial goals! It’s a true honor to witness hard work and dedication pay off.
Financial coaching is in its infancy in the financial industry. It’s exciting because it gives access to individuals that would benefit from financial help. These individuals may not yet have investments accumulated and may require basic financial literacy to help them get started on a healthy financial path.
Throughout my life I have worked with various athletic coaches, personal trainers, and most recently a business coach. What I realized is that each of my coaches has given me specific advice to help me create a plan to achieve a goal.
In certain instances having a coach just makes sense. I wouldn’t go to an orthopedic specialist to help me create a plan to complete a half marathon, even though they might be able to show me how to run. The same way you wouldn’t go to an investment manager to get help with budgeting.
Something magical happened for me after I crossed the finish line at Cowtown. I started seeing people that I met on the course. Each of them would smile and thank me for the helpful tips, and motivation that I gave them during our run. As I polished off my post race ice cream (hey.. after running for 13.1 miles I wouldn’t judge what your post race treat was!), it suddenly hit me that I could apply many of the same running concepts to help coach clients in their finances!
How working with a financial coach is different than working with a financial planner.
There are many similarities between being a financial planner, and a financial coach. Both involve helping people create plans to ultimately save for retirement. A financial planner can coach you through all aspects of your money from basic budgeting to investment selection.
A financial coach strictly focuses on helping clients build healthy financial habits. Being a financial coach requires a lot more hand holding than a typical financial planner would provide. We teach financial literacy and show different methods of developing budgets, using credit, saving for emergencies, and ultimately help you to master your money.
Financial coaches do not help with investments or insurances, outside of strictly educating clients on what they are and why you use them. Ideally a financial coaching client will grow to the point that they are ready to begin working with a financial planner.
How do you begin working with a financial coach?
If you have come to the realization that your finances are not auto-correcting, it might be time to find a coach! My new program, Making Cents of Your Money, officially launches September 1st! I’m happy to walk you through the financial coaching process. Schedule a call or send me an email to get started!
Until next time...this is Melissa Making Cents!
Melissa Anne Cox CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ is also a College Planning and Student Loan Advisor in Dallas, Texas.