I worked with Adam and Lana over two months in early 2019. They very kindly agreed to share their experience in an interview.
What attracted you to the idea of financial coaching?
Money has always played a difficult role in our relationship – partly because we have quite different habits and hang-ups around money, and partly because we’ve always had significantly different levels of income.
It ended up causing fights or hostility pretty regularly. Lana, who has less money, would often become anxious and secretive in relation to money, and when she had financial problems she would withdraw rather than talk about them. That made any discussions relating to money, no matter how trivial, potentially difficult, and led to Adam feeling that he was having to sideline all of his life goals because they involved making big money decisions that would create anxiety for Lana.
What expectations did you both have? Or, what were you hoping to achieve?
We both hoped to understand more about how the other thinks about money, which could help us to communicate better and without creating conflict. We hoped that this could lead to us being able to combine our finances sooner rather than later.
Lana hoped it would improve her psychological relationship with money, and enable her to take a greater role in us making better financial decisions. She also wanted to be more honest with money. She wanted to be able to take better control of her personal finances, and not feel resentful about spending money she couldn’t afford.
Adam hoped he could get some advice on things like pensions, wills, inheritance and life insurance to enable him to start putting plans in place for all of those things.
What aspects were most useful?
For Lana, understanding how she feels about money and why she behaves the way she does was incredibly useful – that’s helping to create an underlying change. For Adam, it was helpful to be able to talk about his fears of what might happen if we didn’t start making positive money choices, for example, if we put off getting a mortgage for too long. He also found it helpful to be able to understand and listen to Lana talk about her relationship with money, and to help her feel more confident and supported. He can also trust her to make good financial decisions now, whereas before he felt like she might make bad choices. We both came away feeling much stronger as a couple and like we were on the same team.
Were there any surprises or unexpected outcomes?
The big surprise for us was that it led to us wanting to get married! We realised that if we could manage to join our finances, then we could manage to join our whole lives.
Did you find any aspect of the process challenging?
Adam didn’t find it challenging at all, because Catherine made the atmosphere so welcoming and relaxed. Lana still found it a bit emotionally challenging at times – it brought up some tough feelings and memories, and it meant having some difficult negotiations about where her lines were. But it was still so much easier to do this in a guided and productive environment than to try and do it alone.
What are you doing differently as a result of financial coaching?
We’re going to stop paying for everything 50/50 and start sharing most of our money. We’ll contribute towards our rent and bills in proportion to the size of our individual incomes, and both have our own personal spending money as well. Lana has also set up a Monzo account which is helping with budgeting, and a high-interest short-term savings account. Longer term, we’re making plans to get a mortgage together.
Do you have any tips for other couples on managing finances?
Communication is the important thing, because there’s no one right or wrong way to do money. The thing is, it can be really hard to communicate effectively – that’s why a financial coach is so helpful. They create a very friendly, non-judgemental environment, know which questions to ask and make sure that both of you are listened to. We both felt like we understood each other and ourselves better, and we worked out our problems so much more quickly and harmoniously than we could have done on our own – if we could have at all!