financially healthy professional sorting coins with trees representing health and growth

The Financially Healthy Professional

In a recent podcast with Gayle Colman, we talked about her belief, which I often quote, that financial coaches, therapists, and planners can only take their clients as far as they have gone themselves. I see this as a universal truth. The challenge for a client, then, is how to find out whether a financially healthy professional is taking the kind of journey toward wellbeing that you want to take yourself. 

When it comes to working with interior finance—the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs around money—it is crucial that someone you rely on as a guide has done their own interior work. To me it is almost negligent to think someone would do otherwise. Before you engage a financial planner or financial therapist, how can you find out more about the personal growth work they have done?

First, I suggest keeping in mind that financial advisors and therapists, just like anyone else, have money scripts and issues around money. The issue is not necessarily around making or managing money. It may involve anxiety, fear of not having enough, keeping financial secrets, or many other potential concerns. Also like anyone else, financial planners and therapists often have some resistance around working with other professionals to do their own interior work. One common reason is that they feel they can do it themselves.

Second, look at the person’s professional training. Merely claiming to be a financial life planner is no guarantee that the person has interior skills and experience. Certifications or training from any of the following would be good indicators that someone has done personal work: the Kinder Institute, Money Quotient, the Financial Transition Institute, Kansas State University’s certificate program in financial therapy, Golden Gate University’s financial life planning certificate program, or the Financial Psychology Institute’s trainings through Creighton University.

Third, ask directly. “Have you been a client of a financial therapist?” Or “What can you tell me about your own interior money journey?” These are important things to explore with any financial therapist or financial life planner that you might consider engaging. 

Fourth, observe the professional’s behavior and the way they interact with you. Do they listen? Do they seem comfortable with your asking about interior work? Is there authenticity and empathy in the way they talk about the emotional aspects of money?

If you as a client want to explore and resolve your own money issues, it’s important to work with financial professionals who have done and are doing their own money work. Helping clients move toward financial health requires both technical skills and interior skills. And the interior skills are all about having done one’s own personal work. I know in my own practice, many times something comes up in a client session that I can relate back to similar issues or dynamics that came up in my personal work, and my experience helps me help the client more effectively.

We know that money can’t provide meaning, and yet it is inescapably involved in every aspect of life that does provide meaning. Money isn’t everything, but it touches everything. Having a healthy relationship with money is way more than just successfully managing wealth. A professional cannot help you build financial and emotional wellbeing if they are not doing the same for themselves.

Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.

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