Financial Coaching and Counseling Guide

What is Financial Coaching and Counseling?

Financial coaching and counseling is a process of educating and guiding individuals on how to make good decisions when it comes to their finances. It can help people better understand the basics of financial matters and how to create a budget, save for retirement, or reduce debt. It also can help people learn how to manage their money effectively and make smart investments.

In this article, we will discuss the different aspects of financial coaching and counseling and how they can benefit you:


Financial coaching and counseling is an ongoing process of solving economic problems that focuses on changing behaviors and attitudes toward money. It provides individuals with the knowledge, guidance, and tools to understand their financial situation better, plan for the future, and overcome financial obstacles.

Financial coaching helps people develop strategies to stay on a budget or track rent/bill payments. In addition, coaches support and hold clients accountable for their actions toward reaching their goals. Through working with a coach, people can also become more aware of how media-driven imagery affects their perception of money and its true value.

Counseling is designed to help people who are already in debt or having difficulty managing their finances break free from bad habits like overspending or mismanaging cash flow that has caused short-term financial stress with long-term effects. A counselor will work to help create budgets and plans for repayment that are tailored to each client’s unique situation. In addition, counselors strive to ensure that clients understand the significance of each step taken as part of a larger plan to achieve more permanent change.

These services are available both through national credit counseling organizations as well as independent certified coaches who may specialize in certain areas such as:

  • Retirement planning
  • Preparing long-term savings goals


Financial coaching and counseling can provide a wide range of benefits for individuals, families, and organizations. It is designed to help people gain financial literacy, create realistic budgets and debt reduction strategies, and improve overall economic well-being.

For individuals, financial coaching and counseling can provide education about:

  • budgeting
  • financially responsible behaviors and decision-making
  • income management tools such as the Gross to Net Calculator
  • tips on how to save
  • what options are available for borrowing money (and the pros/cons of selecting one option over another)
  • a better understanding of credit scores/history
  • repaying debt promptly (with the least amount of interest you’d need to pay)
  • what options are available in case of emergencies or unexpected life events

For families experiencing financial difficulties due to high expenses or debt levels, it can create an open forum between all parties involved where everyone’s opinions can be heard openly and strategies formed collaboratively. Financial coaching and counseling help bring transparency so that all family members understand any potential consequences of their decisions beforehand. This open communication helps build trust between partners, which improves overall relationships within family units.

For organizations, it lessens their liability regarding employees’ finances by providing them with accredited financial advice from certified coaches and lenders, thereby reducing the likelihood that any individual action taken by an employee would damage the organization’s reputation or bottom line. Additionally, this service ensures policies aren’t violated through costly mistakes due to a lack of knowledge from its employees, which keeps organizations compliant with government regulations regarding employee well-being while also maintaining good ethical standards by offering resources to help them build financially responsible behavior (i.e., repayment tracking software).

How to Choose a Financial Coach or Counselor

Selecting a financial coach or counselor can be daunting, but it is an important decision for you and your financial future. Asking the right questions can help ensure you make the best selection. Knowing what to look for in a financial coach or counselor and their credentials can help ensure your correct choice. Let’s take a closer look.

Here are some things to consider when selecting a financial coach or counselor:

  • Their credentials and qualifications.
  • Their experience and expertise.
  • Their reputation and references.
  • Their style and personality.
  • Their fees and payment terms.


When choosing a financial coach or counselor, it is essential to consider not only their experience but also the certifications they have earned. A certificate in financial coaching or counseling requires education, ongoing professional development, and adherence to high ethical standards. An ideal financial coach or counselor should possess at least one of the certifications from the following organizations:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP): Awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board), this certification generally takes three years and 150 credit hours of coursework and comprehensive examinations. CFPs must complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years and adhere to a code of ethics.
  • Certified Credit Counselor (CCC): This certification is awarded by The Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE) after a combination of education and experience has been verified. It takes approximately 18 months to achieve this certification; during this time, applicants must take courses on credit topics and pass five exams on related subjects such as debt management services or bankruptcy counseling.
  • Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC): The AFC designation is awarded by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE). It recognizes individuals who have excellent skills in both financial coaching and counseling. The program requires an accredited degree in finance, plus 600 hours of financial counseling experience before taking two level two exams covering knowledge about consumer needs assessment and basic life planning skills.
  • Certified Housing Counselor (CHC): This certification can be obtained from any one of several different programs throughout the United States that offer comprehensive training on various subjects, including housing affordability, income analysis, and government programs about home ownership and rental assistance. To achieve CHC status, potential counselors must pass a test that covers all relevant topics within housing counseling disciplines necessary for successful completion.


Experience is an essential factor to consider when choosing a financial coach or counselor. Look for individuals who have handled the type of financial decisions you need help with, such as debt management plans, bankruptcy filings, investment decisions, and budgeting.

The individual must be certified in expertise related to your specific financial challenges.

Look for an individual with credentials from respected organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), or Accredited Financial Counselors (AFC). These organizations offer programs and certification levels to evaluate and ensure quality service. Additionally, they require members to adhere to strict ethical guidelines when working with clients.

You should also determine how much experience a possible coach or counselor has by asking questions directly – how long have they been providing services? How many clients have they worked with? Are they familiar with any relevant laws in your state? These questions can help you evaluate whether a provider has enough experience to handle your situation effectively.


When you’re looking to choose a financial coach or counselor, it’s essential to know what type of services they provide and how they are uniquely qualified to handle your financial situation. Financial professionals specialize in different areas and can offer tailored advice for your needs. Knowing their specializations upfront so you can make an informed decision is critical.

Common specializations that a financial coach or counselor may have include:

  • Budgeting and savings
  • Retirement planning
  • Estate planning
  • Business strategy
  • Debt management strategies include credit counseling for individuals with low credit scores or filing for bankruptcy relief.
  • Investment Planning
  • Long-term care planning
  • College planning
  • Insurance coverage advice
  • Real estate investing tips
  • Comprehensive wealth management strategies
  • Risk management solutions

Make sure you understand from the start what services the financial professional is qualified to provide so that you know whether or not they are truly the right person for the job. Additionally, don’t forget to research their background before engaging with them and learning more about their qualifications.

Financial Coaching and Counseling Process

Financial coaching and counseling is a process that takes a comprehensive approach to help people get out of debt and reach their financial goals. This process is a great way to set up a plan of action and gain the knowledge and resources needed to make a lasting financial change.

A financial coach or counselor can help you identify areas of improvement and give you the tools necessary to navigate your financial future.

Initial Consultation

The initial consultation is the first interaction between a financial coach/counselor and a client. This initial consultation serves as an introduction to the process of financial coaching/counseling, helps to set expectations, and establishes the foundation for the successful completion of the overall financial coaching/counseling process. The goals of this stage are to:

  • Discuss why the client is seeking out assistance and their desired outcomes from the process.
  • Assess and understand the client’s current situation, including financial goals, challenges, resources, and opportunities.
  • Identify important, relevant topics for further exploration.
  • Craft an overall plan to develop an actionable, achievable program of change.
  • Create an agreement on services offered.
  • Collect basic information on the client’s income and expenses, debts/assets, and other related items, such as possible insurance plans or retirement accounts.
  • Review any relevant legal documents with clients if necessary.

This stage must include defining roles and responsibilities in creating and maintaining a productive relationship to ensure that both parties know what will be expected in engaging each other’s services. By thoroughly exploring circumstances leading up to present needs, future possibilities become more precise. With an accurate assessment of steps ahead, realistic plans can be made around client budgeting and income management.

Financial Assessment

Financial Coaching and Counseling is a collaborative process that helps individuals understand their current financial situation and create a plan for healthy financial management.

The first step in the process involves an assessment of the client’s financial status. This assessment can range from a simple review of bank balances, income, and expenses to more complex topics such as taxes, retirement planning, investments, and debt reduction. During this step, the financial coach or counselor offers support and guidance to help the individual accurately assess their entertainment budgeting, credit utilization rate, cash flow planning, and other important metrics that could impact their overall health.

The goal of the assessment phase is to establish accurate baseline data, which will serve as a foundation for developing appropriate plans.

Goal Setting

Setting tailored financial goals is an essential step in the process of financial coaching and counseling. Defining and breaking down one’s financial goals into manageable steps is essential for successful recovery. Financial coaches generally use a five-step process when setting goals with their clients:

  1. Identifying current finances: Your coach will ask you to assess your short-term and long-term financial situation and gather as much detailed information as possible, such as income, budgeting data, credit card bills, debts, etc.
  2. Establishing short-term goals: You and your coach will identify concrete short-term goals that are reasonable to achieve by focusing on paying off debt, saving money, or both. Your coach can also help you identify options to lessen the burden of debt repayment while still maintaining necessary expenses.
  3. Formulating long-term financial plans: Once the immediate tasks are identified and addressed in detail, coaches often work with clients to brainstorm creative solutions for other longer-term needs, such as retirement planning or real estate purchases.
  4. Analyzing credit reports: In some cases, understanding credit reports accurately might be important in setting realistic recovery plans for clients who have faced bankruptcy or principal delinquent payments. As part of their services, coaches make it a priority to help navigate through any charges found on these reports (besides assisting in removing these erroneous entries).
  5. Developing personal finance strategies: To successfully manage money now and in the future, each individual must develop sound personal finance strategies specific to his/her circumstances through budgeting education workshops conducted by coaches throughout sessions or providing clients resources like webinars or podcasts created by credible sources like governments or not-for-profit organizations dedicated at assisting individuals with staying financially literate over time once they complete the program offered by the coaching agency they sought out earlier.

Action Plan

Before creating an action plan for meeting your financial goals, it is crucial to understand the financial coaching and counseling process clearly. The financial coaching and counseling process typically begins with an initial consultation where the coach or counselor will assess your current money management practices, lifestyle goals, and debt management situation. A complete understanding of this information allows the coach or counselor to develop an individualized action plan based on your needs.

An individualized action plan should include realistic goals for current income and expenses, debts, investments, and emergency funds. Financial coaches can help you stay organized by providing comprehensive budgeting tools like tracking expenses, setting spending limits, developing debt repayment plans, and creating emergency funds. Counselors may also be able to point out potential mistakes in current budgeting habits, such as unnecessary spending or overbearing debt service costs.

In addition to budget advice and guidance, financial coaches may advise clients on credit scores, loan programs, or payment negotiation options. They may also assist in helping clients find investment opportunities that align with their life purpose. In addition, a financial coach will guide you throughout the process with goal-setting strategies while providing ongoing assistance until the desired results are achieved. Finally, working with a financial coach can provide accountability which helps to effectively maintain progress toward achieving a successful outcome over time.

Common Financial Coaching and Counseling Topics

Financial coaching and counseling can be beneficial in helping individuals and families understand how to manage their money and reach their financial goals effectively. There are a variety of topics related to financial coaching that can benefit both novice and experienced advisors.

From budgeting and saving to investing and retirement planning, this guide will help you identify common topics related to financial coaching and counseling:

  • Budgeting
  • Saving
  • Investing
  • Retirement Planning
  • Debt Management
  • Credit Management
  • Tax Planning
  • Risk Management
  • Estate Planning
  • Financial Goal Setting


Budgeting is an essential part of financial coaching and counseling. It is a powerful tool that can help you to take control of your finances, meet your goals, and to plan for the future. Budgeting allows you to track income and expenses to identify any areas of overspending or excessive debt. Additionally, budgeting can help you clarify your short-term and long-term financial goals.

It’s important to inventory available income sources and fixed and flexible expenses to begin budgeting. You can use budgeting software, websites, paper spreadsheets, or simple pen-and-paper methods. While everyone’s situation is unique, there are some general guidelines for making a successful budget:

  • Track all sources of income (as accurately as possible), including any bonuses, tips, part-time work, etc.
  • Accurately track fixed (e.g., rent/mortgage payments) and flexible (e.g., groceries) expenses.
  • Divide expenses into categories (such as food/groceries, entertainment, transportation, etc.) for greater accuracy.
  • Set up saving goals such as saving for emergency funds or retirement funds.
  • Identify any potential areas where spending could be cut back.
  • Create a plan for paying down debts in an orderly fashion.

After making an accurate inventory of sources of income and creating a good budget plan with a realistic balance between spending/saving, it’s important to review the budget regularly to remain on track financially. Financial coaching sessions may center on helping individuals establish realistic budgets and learning effective strategies for managing their money in the future.

Debt Management

Debt Management is a process that can help someone manage their unsecured loans, such as credit cards and non-collateralized personal loans. Understanding how to manage one’s debt responsibly can help individuals reduce their monthly payments by consolidating their loans and arranging more affordable payment terms. This process can also help someone create more budgeting discipline and better strategies for managing daily expenses.

When considering debt management as part of a financial coaching or counseling program, several topics may be addressed:

  • Debt consolidation: Evaluating existing debt, creating an appropriate consolidation strategy (such as negotiating new repayment terms with lenders, opting for a fixed-interest rate loan), and selecting the proper resource(s) to assist in consolidation initiatives.
  • Credit score restoration: Assessing any adverse impacts of current debts on one’s credit score and developing a strategy to repair or rebuild it.
  • Strategies for reducing monthly payments: Negotiating with creditors or using electronic bill pay methods to decrease the burden of charges.
  • Debt remediation: Exploring methods of reducing principal balance and interest charges through intelligent debt repayment plans (such as promotional 0% APR balance transfers), loan forbearance programs, or government programs like those offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
  • Bankruptcy education: If applicable, learn about the different types of bankruptcy options available to determine if this approach is necessary to resolve one’s financial distress.


Investing can seem like a daunting and intimidating process for those who have limited experience. However, financial coaches and counselors provide the education, guidance, and support to help people make wise decisions in their investing initiatives.

Common topics related to investing that financial coaches and counselors address include:

  1. Assessing your risk tolerance level – How much risk you’re willing to take on when investing is an important factor in determining the types of investments you make. Financial coaches will discuss ways to inform yourself about your risk profile to align your goals and objectives with your preferences.
  2. Understanding basic investment concepts – Understanding how certain types of investments can be used to achieve short-term or long-term goals depending on the investor’s risk tolerance level is essential. Coaches will help their clients develop a practical understanding of important investing concepts such as diversification, asset allocation, compound interest, etc., that can be put into actionable plans for reaching financial goals such as retirement savings or building wealth.
  3. Investigating investment products and services – A financial coach will help a client explore different financial products available on the market today to assess which could best suit their individual needs, such as stocks/bonds/mutual funds/ETFs/etc., as well as any current or upcoming tax incentives related to various types of accounts.
  4. Evaluating investment performance – In addition to setting up a portfolio of investments, ongoing assessments must be made by both the investor and coach to determine whether the portfolio is meeting its intended purposes and if additional adjustments need to be made along the way for it meets its goals efficiently over time.

Retirement Planning

Retirement planning involves creating a financial strategy to save and manage assets in preparation for life after work. However, retirement planning encompasses more than just preparing financially; it also includes making thoughtful decisions about how you want to use your time and energy when you are no longer working.

It is helpful to consider your retirement goals and lifestyle expectations. For example, are you looking to travel frequently, move to a different location, or do volunteer work? Are you planning on continuing further education or pursuing a second career? Answering these important questions will help guide the rest of your retirement planning process.

A few other important topics of consideration include:

  • Investing: How much can you afford to invest per month or year for retirement? Which types of accounts make the most sense for your income level and goals?
  • Taxes: What tax implications does saving for retirement have? Do any deductions apply, given your income level and situation?
  • Insurance: Do you need additional forms of insurance beyond what is offered through your employer’s plans (i.e., health, Long Term Care)?
  • Budgeting: Will there be additional costs associated with retirement that wasn’t present while working (i.e., housing relocation or travel expenses)? Are there aspects of your current spending habits that can be reduced or eliminated to free up funds for investing toward retirement?
  • Managing debt: Is there any existing debt that needs to be handled before retirement age is reached for savings goals to be achieved on track?

Discussing these topics now versus later allows individuals to make well-informed decisions that align with their needs, finances, and interests. Again, working with a financial coach or counselor can help provide the guidance necessary to address any questions or concerns throughout this process.

How to Find a Financial Coach or Counselor

A financial coach or counselor is important to a successful financial future. With professional advice, you can better manage your money and reach your financial goals. But, it can be hard to know where to start when finding a financial coach or counselor.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand what to look for when searching for the right professional and provide helpful tips for making the decision:


Referrals are among the best sources for finding a financial coach or counselor. Ask friends, family, and colleagues who have succeeded in their financial lives if they can recommend someone who helped them become more financially literate. You can also join local or online groups related to personal finance and inquire about the services of financial coaches and counselors in your area. Most importantly, please don’t be shy about asking what topics a particular coach specializes in, how they help clients succeed, and what services they offer. If you feel comfortable conversing with someone, that is usually a good indicator that you have found the right fit.

If you already have a financial adviser, they may be able to refer you to someone they trust who offers coaching or counseling services tailored to your specific needs. The important thing is to make sure you are comfortable with their approach and that they are knowledgeable in the areas that concern you. Whether seeking help with debt management, budgeting techniques, or creating an investment plan, a certified professional can provide personalized advice tailored to your unique situation.

Always check an individual’s credentials and any disciplinary history at or similar government resource pages for any reported violations within their jurisdiction’s regulatory boards/compliance agencies before engaging their services.

Professional Organizations

When searching for a financial coach or counselor, looking at professional associations and organizations is a good place to start. These organizations can provide valuable guidance in helping you choose the right person for you and your situation. Here are some of the organizations that may be able to help:

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a national organization that helps promote quality and ethical practices among its members, which include credit counselors, debt management agencies, debt settlement organizations, and community-based nonprofit credit counseling organizations. All members must adhere to stringent requirements to maintain their membership.
  • The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA) comprises more than 200 credit counseling and campaign groups throughout the United States. Its members must meet specific educational standards and sound business practices relating to professionalism and competency in providing consumer services.
  • The Financial Therapy Association (FTA) is an international multidisciplinary nonprofit organization devoted to advancing knowledge of financial therapy by reducing financial stress, improving economic well-being, developing economic security protocols, and increasing financial literacy across all age groups. The organization’s members share the goal of modulating behaviors around money to achieve meaningful life outcomes through its research efforts, training initiatives, policy advocacy work, and industry outreach initiatives.

Additionally, there are many national trade associations with local chapters in most major cities that specialize in helping individuals get connected with qualified financial coaches or counselors in their area: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)Financial Planning Association (FPA)Institute of Certified Financial Planners (ICFP)Chartered Financial Analyst Society (CFA)American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)American Bankers Association (ABA)Investment Company Institute (ICI) and more each have their certification program for financial professionals for consumers’ reference.

Online Platforms

Online platforms are one method to find a financial coach or counselor. Many online services offer detailed profiles of financial advisors, which you can use to research the most suitable option for your needs. You can assess the advisor’s experience level, qualifications, availability, and past cases handled from the profile. In addition, most online platforms allow you to compare rates between different professionals and book free consultations with financial advisors within a certain radius of your hometown.

Online platforms offer convenience and easy access to various financial counselors. However, when using them, it is important to do due diligence and look into the background and rating of potential professionals before booking an appointment or making payment for their services. Some research should include checking out review sites like Yelp and BBB for respective qualifications and legal standing in the area. Additionally, look into any fees associated with these services and ensure payment is secure before committing funds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are financial coaching and counseling?

A: Financial coaching and counseling are a service trained professionals to provide to help individuals and families manage their finances effectively. It involves providing guidance, advice, and resources to help clients understand their financial situation, set financial goals, and develop a plan to achieve them.

Q: Who can benefit from financial coaching and counseling?

A: Anyone who wants to improve their financial situation can benefit from financial coaching and counseling. Whether you are struggling with debt, trying to save for a house or retirement, or want to develop better spending habits, a financial coach can help.

Q: How is financial coaching different from financial planning?

A: Financial planning typically focuses on long-term financial goals and creating a comprehensive plan to achieve those goals. Financial coaching, on the other hand, focuses on the day-to-day financial decisions and behaviors that impact your overall financial health.

Q: How do I find a qualified financial coach or counselor?

A: Look for professionals certified or accredited in financial coaching and counseling, such as those approved by the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA) or the National Financial Educators Council (NFEC).

Q: What can I expect during a financial coaching and counseling session?

A: During a session, you can expect to discuss your financial situation with your coach or counselor, set financial goals, and create a plan to achieve those goals. You may also receive guidance on developing a budget, managing debt, improving credit, and making better financial decisions.

Q: Is financial coaching and counseling expensive?

A: Financial coaching and counseling costs vary depending on the provider and the services offered. However, many providers offer free or low-cost services to those in need, and many employers and organizations provide financial coaching and counseling as a benefit to their employees or members.

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