It brings me great joy to take time off from my day-to-day responsibilities to volunteer as a financial coach for the CT Money School. In this role, I work 1:1 with an economically disadvantaged person (we refer to as the “participant”) to provide him or her with meaningful support toward fulfilling their financial goals. Thanks to Points of Light and Bank of America, I participated in several hours of volunteer training in preparation for my meeting with a participant. In February 2015, I met Laura. Laura is a middle-aged divorcee and mother who works both full-time as a teacher and part-time in a low-wage service job. She is very passionate about her teaching work and has been in the field for 25 years. Laura enrolled in the CT Money School to get help with managing her household finances.
During our first meeting, which is designated as our “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely (SMART) Goal Setting” session, Laura explained that she did not have enough income to pay her bills and she needed to “build a savings”. During that session, she seemed very disoriented about her finances and under-confident in her ability to pay her bills. Through powerful questions, effective listening, and a sharp adherence to the C.O.A.CH model, some key things I learned in the first session were that:
- Laura does practice some great financial behaviors
- Laura does not have a budget
- Laura is creative, resourceful, and whole
The 3rd point is probably the most poignant. I learned Laura’s competencies as well as her perceived obstacles by her own admission. She had the answers to her “problems” and my role in this process was not to tell her what to do or how to do it, but to help her develop the confidence to do what she already knows and serve as both thought partner and motivator. At the end of our first session, Laura established a SMART goal – save $600 in 6 months by saving $100/month every month using direct deposit. To start the process, she agreed to participate in a free budgeting class. During our second meeting, Laura told me that she completed the budgeting course and put together a draft budget on her own. Our goal in the second session was to review her income and expenses. She discovered that:
- There were ways to increase her income
- There were ways to decrease her expenses
We exchanged ideas with methods and strategies that Laura could use to improve her cash flow. By the conclusion of our second session, Laura agreed to explore more informal and formal methods of increasing her income and reducing her expenses. She expressed to me that she enjoyed the idea sharing and that there were many things she “never thought of doing” to improve her financial situation.
I am indeed looking forward to our next meeting. Our conversation was great and she really seems dedicated to the process of coaching. I can honestly say that the CMS training equipped me well for this experience. Laura is the true manifestation of what it means for a person to be creative, resourceful, and whole. All she needed was some good conversation, a little light, and the confidence to get started on the pathway to her goals. I am proud of Laura and I am proud to be a volunteer for this amazing program. Check back in with us in 6 months!