How Rachel uses financial coaching to help women at Vermont Works for Women

Rachel, the Job Developer at Vermont Works for Women, was recently certified as a K.E.E.P. Financial Coach. As part of the economic stability work that she does, Rachel helps women improve their resumes, as well as set and plan for career goals, but recently she was asked to present to a group of women at a domestic violence shelter here in Northern Vermont about money management basics. The women in the group all live together at the shelter and are comfortable and familiar with one another so discussing finances was something they felt able to do together. Rachel decided to use her Financial Coaching skills to help them build skills and learn new tools during her time with them.

For many women domestic abuse and financial abuse often go together. Some of the women in attendance had left difficult circumstances with little or no money because their former partner had emptied their shared bank accounts. Circumstances like these make financial conversations even more difficult because of the strong emotions associated with money.

For the workshop, Rachel set her own goal of sharing some of the basic money-management skills she had learned in becoming a K.E.E.P. Financial Coach:

  • Using a cash-flow spending plan and scheduling bills/expenses to line up with income so you can make it through the month
  • Tracking expenses in order to know where your money is going
  • Saving money for emergencies with a goal of $500
  • Plugging spending leaks, exercising mindfulness around spending, and looking to reduce, not necessarily eliminate, certain spending
  • Making SMART financial goals

Many of the participants had never heard of SMART goal setting. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound and is used in financial coaching to break down a big goal (I want to buy a house) into smaller goals that work toward that end (I want to raise my credit score 50 points by next May).

One participant was hoping to get her own apartment and the group workshopped her goal to help her break it down into smaller SMART goals with deadlines. They determined how much she would need to save each week, how she was going to logistically make sure that the money was saved – would she put cash aside in an envelope? Open a separate savings account? Could she have a portion of her paycheck automatically deposited? Did she have to visit the bank each week? In the end, the woman left with a step-by-step plan that was tailored to her specific needs, habits, and life, and she knew exactly how she was going to save up for an apartment.

Rachel was glad to see the women each considering how the different skills and tools she brought could make a difference in their specific circumstances.

As a coach, Rachel plans to continue to use these tools with the women she sees one-on-one and other small groups that Vermont Works for Women assists.

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