Course Sharpens Financial Coaching Skills
According to a 2009 Gallup Poll, individuals and families reported that low wages and lack of money were their most important financial problems. Other top financial issues included too much debt, costs of renting or owning a home, and unemployment. As families continue to face these financial challenges, social service agencies, financial institutions, and others are searching for effective tools to help clients manage finances and reach their personal goals.
Financial coaching focuses on helping individuals build skills and on teaching content based on the person's unique needs and goals. It is an on-going process that allows the client to make decisions and provides support to achieve long-term outcomes.
ISU Extension launched "Sharpen Your Financial Coaching Skills" statewide in fall 2010. The course is designed for volunteers, clergy, and others working in nonprofit groups and organizations who assist their clients or members with financial management concerns. Early participants include 14 social service agency and financial institution professionals in east central Iowa as well as volunteers and social service agency personnel from Allamakee, Howard, and Winneshiek counties.
The five-week course combines two face-to-face sessions with three weeks of online learning. Participants learn how to recognize the causes, complexity, and associated stress of financial problems. They also gain tools and strategies they can use to assist their clients with various financial problems. Just as important, the course helps participants recognize client situations that are not appropriate for a non-professional to address.
Evaluations indicated that participants appreciated the variety of activities offered during the course, including group discussions, panel presentations, online chats, textbook, video segments, self tests, and posted readings and websites. Participants noted that the face-to-face learning offered an opportunity to interact with class members, hear about community resources, and participate in discussions. The online portion of the class provided flexibility to access a variety of materials and was a unique learning environment.
Comments from the new financial coaches included the following:
- "I will be incorporating it in my job — trying to help clients learn to prevent getting into financial crisis rather than always trying to find a way out of one."
- "I plan to use this course to assist others in some problems that cause stress."
- "I felt the combination of items helped me look at different sides of financial problems."
- "I am loving the information. I used the nonverbal pacing yesterday … it was amazing! I used it with a client that has not been very open, and I think I got more information from her yesterday than in the past two months! And all I did was change the way I was sitting to the way she was sitting, and threw in a couple of hand gestures and it worked!"
These new financial coaches are offering unbiased education and resources designed to help people gain control of their finances. They serve as motivators and mentors to individuals who need help with starting and maintaining a spending plan, basic money management, saving toward a goal, understanding credit, and other financial concerns. ISU Extension is promoting the financial coaching services throughout the state to improve the financial stability of Iowa families.
Pat Swanson, Family Finance State Specialist, 515-294-2731