What is Financial Coaching?

Update: A PowerPoint presentation, “Moving to Financial Capability Through Financial Coaching June 2013” is now available here.

Financial coaching means providing regular one-on-one sessions with clients in order to ‘coach’ performance improvements to meet goals mutually set by the coach and client. Coaching is differentiated from counseling in that coaches are not “experts,” but instead they provide encouragement and monitoring over advice, and do so in a process largely driven by the client.

Coaching is not designed to be a therapeutic relationship or to manage a crisis. Coaching is well suited to asset building programs because clients often need encouragement and support to adhere to positive financial behaviors.  A coach can provide a much-needed boost to self-control along with the flexibility to change strategies as the client’s financial situation changes. Coaching is different from counseling or mentoring and focuses more on ongoing behavior change, executive attention and goal setting, and goal monitoring.


See this recent reader-friendly article by Karen Murrell and J. Michael Collins for an introduction to Financial Coaching and an overview of national programs and current research.  Using a Financial Coaching Approach

The video below features J. Michael Collins on “What is Coaching”

Based on a review of more than two dozen programs nationally, financial coaching:
  1. Focuses on improving long-term financial behavior;
  2. Facilitates clients to set and achieve financial goals largely on their own;
  3. Helps clients practice new behaviors and monitors those behaviors over time; and
  4. Targets clients with a minimum level of financial skills and experience.

Goals of Coaching:

  • Achieve client-defined goals
  • Address immediate issues
  • Support specific actions to meet goals
  • Improve financial situations
  • Change financial behaviors
  • Facilitate decision-making
  • Provide tools, resources and referrals

Typical Coaching Activities:

  • Alliance with client
  • Set goals
  • Develop action plan
  • Identify resources, tools and services
  • Monitor client progress
  • Make referrals as needed

Coaches tend to use phrases like:

“How would you like to reach your goal?”

“What will you do next?”

“Have you thought about ____?”

Resources and Articles

  • 2010 practitioner brief on Financial Coaching produced for the Annie E Casey Foundation: Using a Financial Coaching Approach (also linked above).
  • Financial Advice Models: Financial coaching is a subset of  a broader discussion of advice models for building consumer financial capability. See Advice Models working paper for more details about coaching fits in with financial planning and counseling. There is also a one page Poster with  key points and takeaways.

  • This 2009 practitioner brief for the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides a snapshot of the the development of financial coaching field among community-based nonprofits: Coaching_Summary

Recommended books on coaching include:

Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Towards Success in Work and Life , by Laura Whitworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phillip Sandahl.  (Press Release; PDF). While not about FINANCIAL coaching, this is a very useful and user friendly text to learn how to use coaching strategies.