Let’s talk about five signs that it’s time to seek out a trauma-informed financial coach.

Approximate read time: 8 minutes

As a trauma-informed financial coach, my only goal is to teach my clients how to trust themselves with their money. I deeply understand how past choices can impact our present financial wellness, and have built a curriculum that seeks to help my clients heal their relationship with money while building long-term, adaptive financial systems (budgets) that fit into their lives.

Although there are more, let’s talk about just five indicators that it’s time to seek out a trauma-informed financial coach.

Five Signs You Should Work With a Financial Coach

#1: You make plenty of money but you’re living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with financial stress.

This might sound like:

“We/I make plenty of money but have NOTHING to show for it!”
“I stay up at night doing the math on my bills over and over… I’m losing sleep and it’s starting to impact my relationships.”

Financial trauma haunts us in ways we may not always have full transparency on. It can feel like we’re bathed in that stress, constantly putting out fires, never getting ahead. All the while we have some pretty unrealistic expectations of ourselves. “I just need to get my shit together” is a common refrain. Therefore, we try to restrict ourselves or just focus on needs, not wants, then end up feeling rebellious and resentful, fall off the wagon, and then have more opportunities to shame and judge ourselves.

However, this cycle of stress, restriction, rebellion, self-judgment, and then increased stress does not help, and will not magically resolve itself. Expecting yourself to achieve long-term, positive behavior change while judging yourself is one of the signs that you need a financial coach.

How your financial coach may help with financial stress:

First, you’ll work on understanding the underlying pattern of financial trauma and financial stress. Just recognizing YOUR patterns will help. You should work together to find interventions that are easy for you to integrate into your life and that do not shame, judge, or punish you.

#2: You feel like you either can’t spend on yourself or you can’t stop spending money on “unnecessary” purchases (or both).

This might sound like this:

“I don’t deserve that.”
“We’ve got too much else going on with the finances, we can’t afford that.”
I have this money right now, why not use it?
“I’ve worked really hard and deserve a treat.”

What we’re talking about here is called a scarcity mindset. Scarcity, similar to perfectionism, tells us the lie that if somehow we could make the perfect choices, we’d be safe. The perfect, “safe” way to make decisions (financial or otherwise) is to do so from a place of assuming that we will never have enough. A scarcity mindset can be one of the signs that you need a financial coach because it undermines confidence and consistency.

I find that scarcity presents in two ways, generally:

“I don’t know when I’m going to have this money again, so I need to save it, lock it down, restrict myself.”

“I’m not sure when I’m going to have this money again, so I need to use it, spend it, and make use of it now.”

While these look like polar opposites, they are just different ways that scarcity tells us that we’re never going to have enough (money, time, whatever). This constant messaging of insecurity will only increase anxiety and reactive decision-making.

If you find yourself in either or both of the two scarcity scripts above, don’t worry, you’re not alone! And there are ways out of your scarcity mindset!

How your financial coach may help with a scarcity mindset:

Your coach should work with you on practices that help you be patient with yourself. Just like recognizing patterns above, being patient with yourself gives you the opportunity to observe yourself from a distanced, almost scientific perspective and only then experiment with interventions around mindsets and ways to build financial resilience.

#3: You’re stuck using unhealthy financial patterns you’ve learned over the years.

This might sound like:

“I’ve tried everything I know how to do and NOTHING has worked!”
“I know what I need to do, I just need to be responsible and DO IT.”
We’ve been given financial tools over the generations, some of them are solid, some not so much. Sadly, the tools, rules, and tips we remember easily and regurgitate to each other are frequently not working.

Chestnuts like:

“Spend on what you need, not what you want.”
“Save for a rainy day.”
“Have 3 months’ worth of expenses saved up.”
“Just get your shit together.”
“Buy a home and you’ll be ok.”

I’m not saying no one should buy a home, save money, or feel like they have their lives together… I’m saying that simplistic financial tropes like this do not work. If just telling ourselves (and each other) to stop spending on stupid things worked, we’d all be fine by now.

Saving, paying down debt, and making wise spending purchases are not financial tools, they are the RESULT of well-built financial tools.

Just because you’ve heard a certain piece of financial wisdom a million times, through multiple generations, doesn’t mean it’s any good.

Our assumptions and narratives around what is and is not good financial decision-making tell us the lie that there is a right and wrong choice to be made, and you just have to figure it out. And if you DON’T make that magically correct choice, then there must be something wrong with you! This is just more financial trauma and will limit you more than it will help.

How your financial coach might help with unhealthy financial patterns/tools:

You and your coach will work in collaboration to build financial systems that are custom-made for you. Every financial tool you use, from your budget to deciding what to eat for dinner needs to fit into your life.

You should never be complying with a premade system or budget. Any system/budget you use must comply with YOU.

#4: You’re struggling to make financial decisions.

This might sound like:

“I know I shouldn’t get upset about this, but I get so caught up in the moment.”
“There’s no problem with me making big financial decisions, but I freeze up when thinking about the simplest purchases.”
“Sometimes I find myself making huge, dramatic financial decisions quickly, and without consulting my partner or being thoughtful at all.”

While everyone has some level of financial trauma, it can be one of the signs that you need financial coaching if your financial trauma is deeply impacting how you make decisions. This can look like inconsistency and impulsivity in our decision-making, which only increases frustration and self-judgment. Our stressed-out nervous systems tend to either want to be reactive, make lightning-fast decisions, or completely stall… freezing us in place.

How your financial coach might help with making thoughtful financial decisions:

EVERY decision we make is either directly or indirectly a financial decision, so it’s important that your coach works with you to build decision-making scaffolds that work for choices of all sizes: from what’s for dinner to when to start a family. And your financial coach should never tell you what to do, only give you the tools to make those choices on your own.

#5: You’re “too emotional” when it comes to money.

This might sound like:
“Every time I think about how much debt we have I get a knot in my stomach… it just kind of makes me crazy.”
“Sometimes I go shopping just to blow off steam.”

Emotions are tools and can be an important part of decision-making, but making emotional decisions is something entirely different.

Emotional decisions are typically very fast and solve for only one thing. Here’s a story about two people, both solving for one thing and making emotional decisions:

A couple, Sam and Mo, are shopping for a couch. The “right” couch is out there, they just have to find it, right?

Sam: Hey look, this one would fit great in the living room, and it’s in our price range.
Mo: Is it comfortable?
Sam: I don’t know, we could read reviews, or see if we can find it in a showroom.
Mo: Yeah let’s do that. It doesn’t matter how much it costs if it’s not comfortable, right?
Sam: Yeah, but if it’s not in our price range it doesn’t matter how comfortable it is because we’re not getting it, right?

Each partner is solving for one thing. Sam is solving for price, Mo is solving for comfort.

I imagine if you’re playing out the rest of this conversation in your head between these two fictional people it probably got pretty tense right away. Both of them think they are solving for the only right thing, and both can’t understand why the other can’t see reason. Whether we are making decisions with another person or all by ourselves, we tend to default to emotional decision-making, characterized by solving for just one thing and getting overly invested in the “right or wrong” of things.

How your financial coach might help with emotional decision-making:

Your coach should teach you tools to include emotions in your decision-making, not make emotional decisions. By leveraging competing emotions we tend to slow down our decision-making process, and that’s rarely a bad thing.

In Conclusion, The Five Signs You Might Need a Financial Coach Are:

1. You make plenty of money but you’re living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with financial stress.
2. You feel like you either can’t spend on yourself or you can’t stop spending money on “unnecessary” purchases. (or both)
3. You’re stuck using unhealthy financial patterns and tools.
4. You’re struggling to make financial decisions.
5. You’re “too emotional” when it comes to money.

My hope is that by understanding when it’s time to seek out a collaboration with a trauma-informed financial coach you’ll be able to get to a place where you can trust yourself with money, be financially resilient, and finally be financially healthy!

You probably already have everything you need to get from where you are right now to where you want to be financially!

Next Recommended Article: How to Find The Right Finacial Coach

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