A financial coach is like a personal trainer for your finances. Sure, you can go to the gym on your own, but you’re more likely to do the extra sit-up when someone’s watching over you. Research shows coaches make a positive difference in how well people manage their finances, according to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
There are several different kinds of coaches and money managers, ranging from certified professionals to trained volunteers. If you hire a professional, experts recommend hiring someone who works for a fee as opposed to commissions from investment products. Depending on the level of certification, you can check their backgrounds on FINRA.org, the website of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees financial professionals and protects investors.
If you’re still working, ask if your Employee Assistance Program offers financial coaching. You may also find free or inexpensive coaching at places like public libraries, senior centers, or community colleges. The type of coach you need or can afford will depend on your assets and resources.
Certified financial planner: Certified financial planners have education requirements and must pass an exam from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. They usually work on long-term investment and estate strategies. Some certified financial planners have minimum asset requirements in the millions; others have no minimum requirement and also coach clients on budgeting for long- or short-term goals. Fees are traditionally based on a percentage of assets. A newer model is based on subscription. Eric Roberge, a certified financial planner who owns the firm Beyond Your Hammock in Boston, charges $333 a month and suggests clients commit to at least a year. You can verify a professional’s credentials at CFP.net.
Financial coach or counselor: Personal finance coaches are focused on short-term money management habits. They range from professionals with certification from the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education to trained volunteers and mentors at community organizations and nonprofits. There is no universal licensing organization, although the AFCPE offers certification and education. The organization also has a directory and currently offers free sessions with a financial coach on its website. Fees vary based on geography and services. Kimberly Zimmerman Rand has a master’s in social work, is a certified financial fitness coach and owns Dragonfly Financial Solutions in Jamaica Plain. She charges $500 for a three-session package and estimates that’s in the mid-range.
You can find free coaching resources through The United Way Working Families Network or Boston Builds Credit, a city initiative to improve credit among Boston residents. Both have lists of financial coaching programs open to the public, as opposed to organizations like Compass Working Capital, which works primarily with residents of subsidized housing. The Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment, for example, is funded primarily through the city, United Way, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Boston, and Bank of America, and offers free coaching to low- and moderate-income residents.
Daily money manager: These professionals have traditionally helped manage bills and accounts for elderly parents or those with disabilities. But many daily money managers now offer services for the time-strapped or those who need an extra nudge. Services include bill paying, financial coaching, and negotiating with creditors. The American Association of Daily Money Managers certifies managers based on experience and education and has a nationwide directory. Most charge an hourly rate, although some might work on retainer, says Paula Canaday-Daeke, the owner of Fiscally Balanced in Atlanta, who is active in the national organization. Hourly rates can run from $75 to $300.
Financial social worker: This certification was created by Reeta Wolfsohn, a social worker frustrated by the outsized impact of money on mental health, yet how little it was discussed. She created the Center for Financial Social Work in Charlotte, North Carolina, which has certified thousands of social workers in how to talk to clients about taking control of their money and their lives. Some work for nonprofits or community organizations; others are in mental health practices, so costs are commensurate with mental-health counseling fees. Wolfsohn’s website has resources on topics like financial abuse and coping with financial stress for social workers and clients. She offers virtual coaching for $59 for one year, or she will refer clients to a financial social worker.
Susan Moeller is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.