If the financial crisis of 2008–2009 had a silver lining, it was the launch of an important new profession: the financial therapist. At the time, many families realized financial worth wasn’t their only concern. They also wanted to build healthier, happier relationships with their wealth.
The Financial Therapy Association was founded accordingly in 2009, to “help people reach their financial goals by thoughtfully addressing financial challenges, while at the same time, attending to the emotional, psychological, behavioral, and relational hurdles.”
What Is Financial Therapy?
As you might expect, financial therapy shares common ground with other kinds of counseling. For example, we all sometimes feel a little blue. But we’re unlikely to rush to see a therapist unless a minor setback grows into a chronic disorder requiring professional treatment.
Similarly, we probably all sometimes wish we were on firmer financial footing. The wish may even turn into worry during stressful or transitional times. The more debilitating a financial anxiety becomes, the more value a financial therapist might add.
Is It Time for Financial Therapy?
There is no single prescription for when financial therapy is in order, but here are five common “symptoms”:
- Your finances leave you anxious or depressed.
For example: You lie awake at night worrying about money; you feel stuck, unable to do anything to resolve the pain.
- You and your partner have difficulty talking about money.
For example: One or both of you change the subject whenever money matters arise, or you lie about it when asked.
- You’re constantly giving money to an adult child, feeling you “have no choice.”
For example: You’re tapping into existing or potential retirement savings to support your adult child’s daily living expenses.
- You’re regularly spending more than you earn, and/or not saving any money.
For example: You have more credit cards than you can track. When bills arrive, you leave them unopened. You feel like you’re in a hole you can’t get out of.
- You pinch every penny and agonize over every expenditure.
For example: Even though you have little debt and a solid income, you skip basic medical care, home maintenance costs, and/or small indulgences you could readily afford.
How Can Financial Therapy Help?
Financial therapy can be appropriate whenever you may be struggling with deeply rooted financial anxieties.
- In general
For example: “You can never underestimate the amount of shame that goes into having money.”
— Financial Therapist Marilyn Wechter
- During extraordinary times
For example: “Coronavirus doesn’t care what your net worth is. Many people are feeling vulnerable for the first time.” — Financial Therapist William Martin
- During personal transitions
For example: Personal transitions (career changes, retirement, death, divorce, financial windfalls or losses) can aggravate long-simmering challenges, and trigger a need for additional assistance.
Financial Therapy vs. Financial Advice
If you have a financial advisor, we recommend starting with them. Most professional advisors can coach you through a number of emotional challenges related to ongoing money management. For example, here at Plancorp, there are many ways we assist our clients with their personal life decisions.
- We speak with you about your personal financial goals.
- We discuss your values and concerns when it comes to saving, spending, and investing money.
- We ask questions about your desired lifestyle. What does your ideal retirement look like? Do you want to fund your children’s or grandchildren’s college expenses? Do you love to travel, or would you rather own your own beach house?
- We get to know your personal life obstacles, such as special need family members, debt loads, emotional triggers, and more.
- We help you prepare for and respond to life’s many anticipated and unexpected transitions.
- We engage you and your spouse or partner, to identify and work on areas where you may not fully agree. We’ll meet with family members as well, when it seems appropriate.
- We help you include your estate plans and philanthropic goals into your wealth management.
Your financial advisor should often be able to help you and your family work through these and similar challenges related to the emotions of money management. However, if you or your advisor feel you need someone with a deeper, more targeted understanding, a financial therapist might be a valuable addition to your team.
Don’t Go It Alone
Whether you might benefit from financial advice, financial therapy, or a combination of both, know that you don’t need to struggle alone. There are people and resources available to help you or a loved one work through ongoing and targeted financial stress points. You can visit the Financial Therapy Association’s website at https://www.financialtherapyassociation.org/, or reach out to us for additional information. There’s nothing we love more than having the opportunity to help families clear the way toward a more enjoyable financial future!
Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. All investing involves risk. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors.