Why should YOU work with a money coach?

Guest article from Liz Smith:

Financially clueless to savvy saver – my money coaching journey.

It’s now a year since I first started working with Julie the Money Coach, so this seems like a good time to tell my money story – and hopefully allow others to see first-hand what working with a money coach can do, even for someone who was quite willfully clueless about money.

I say willfully, because for so many years I did not want to have a clue about money.

That changed for me when in 2014 I became too unwell to carry on with my well-paid job in corporate project management. I had to leave, because my employer wasn’t willing to negotiate a part time contract so I could get better and I knew I couldn’t carry on pushing myself, or my health would only get worse. I got a part time admin job at a charity, which was paid a fraction of what I’d earned before, but at least I was doing something.

I began to recover and I decided I didn’t want to return to corporate life. I knew how companies treated you when you were no longer useful to them. I’d always been a good writer, I have an English degree and had always been the go-to person during school and university for proofreading, so I decided to start doing that from home. That expanded to writing and editing jobs as well, alongside my part time job, and I started my own writing and editing business.

It all sounds quite exciting when I put it like that – trailblazing, even. But the flipside was what it was doing to my bank account. I wasn’t earning enough to live, so I was burning through the little savings I had pretty quickly (I wasn’t the save for a rainy day type, because that was the stuff dull people do, or so I thought at the time) and beginning to use my credit card to plug the gaps.

By the end of 2015, I had accumulated around £3k of debt on my overdraft and credit card. Now I know that in comparison to a lot of the stories you hear about people being in tens of thousands of debt and then some, it doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that my freelance income at that time was low and erratic, I had started to get worried about not making the payments. Direct debits were starting to bounce. I was getting bank charges for unpaid items and exceeding my overdraft limit, further compounding the problem.

I met Julie on a natural skincare workshop, of all things, run by a mutual friend of ours. When I talked to Julie about her business, something about her approach sounded different. I’d tried various “money diets” before, but never stuck to them. Her ideas about dealing with your money without the need for radical deprivation struck a chord with me, because I’d always rebelled against strict budgets. Julie’s approach seemed to be much more about getting educated about money than depriving yourself of it or punishing yourself for being in debt.

I started working with Julie in April 2016, because I knew I had to do something about my situation and another tight budget wasn’t going to be the answer. Neither was packing in my business and going back to corporate life. Even though that could have provided the answer to my problems and paid off my debts in a matter of months, I knew what that might do to my mental and physical health and it wasn’t worth it.

Through working with Julie, I learned to prioritise. I learned to see money as simply a tool, rather than something inherently good or bad in itself. For the first time, I started to see the systems and beliefs we build around money for what they were. We are encouraged by financial institutions to live our lives on credit whilst simultaneously berating those who overstretch themselves – how much of a contradiction is that?

I finally began to move beyond seeing my debt as proof that I was somehow bad and irresponsible and incapable of managing my money. Working with Julie took away that toxic shame – she helped me to see the positive side of reorienting my relationship with money and how my future could be very different if I understood how to make it work for me.

And boy, has it worked!

A year on, my debt has halved. I have more in savings now than I have in debt – more even than I had in debt at its worst. I have a part time job as a mental health crisis counsellor, a job that I love and find very fulfilling – so much, in fact, that I am now training to be a qualified therapist. My freelancing fits around my work and study, so I am incredibly lucky in that respect to have the flexibility to still earn a reasonable income whilst I retrain and continue paying down my debts and increasing my savings pots. I have just opened my first Stocks and Shares ISA this month after finding out through Julie that I could do that even without a large lump sum, which was originally my perception of investing – only for the super-rich, I thought.

As for deprivation, there’s been none of that. I have gradually started to make different choices based on the priorities Julie and I set a year ago, for example I have chosen to pass on certain expensive activities, holidays, nights out with friends, etc, because they don’t fit into the financial priorities I have chosen. But that’s the key – they are the priorities I have chosen. Not society’s priorities, not my friends or family’s priorities, but mine, and that makes all the difference when making financial decisions. Without goals and ambitions, I didn’t really see any reason to pass on those things – I spent without thinking. And until I explored my beliefs about money with Julie, I didn’t really know which goals to set for myself.

I now have full confidence that when I establish myself in my new career with a steady income I will know what to do with it and it will be put to good use. I won’t fear “bag lady syndrome” in retirement, I will save for a rainy day, because that’s what independent, savvy women who want to live life on their own terms do. I have the confidence that I can learn about investing by starting simple with a tracker fund and learning new bits as I go. I want to save now – it’s not that I don’t buy anything or do anything any more, I’m no queen of frugality, but I do make much more conscious choices about where my money goes and if I don’t really love it, I don’t buy it.

I’m no longer clueless about money thanks to Julie, but more importantly, I no longer want to be clueless now I’ve experienced what it’s like to be in the driving seat of my own financial destiny.

Liz Smith