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My superpower as a financial counselor: Sitting with you in your discomfort around money

My work as a financial counselor has provided me the most exciting growth spurt in my career, as it requires entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to envision how my clients can achieve their dreams.

What I have learned most about providing my services is that many adults are afraid to speak about money aloud. Which makes sense, since many of us might carry varying degrees of financial trauma passed down by our parents, our family, our partners, our community, our culture, etc.; we might carry shame for our runs of overspending or deep credit card debt; or we might feel an utter lack of education around all kinds of money topics.

I’ve worked with many kinds of people: high-income, low-income; blue collar, white collar; BIPOC, white; women, men, nonbinary. What I have found so far is that one common thing comes through: discomfort around money.

Working with Clients Like Shawna

When I first started working with a particular client – for privacy reasons and to protect the identify of my client, I’ll call them Shawna as a pseudonym — their goal was to work through the challenging task of caring for and fiscally supporting their aging parent. On the surface, they were interested in better controlling their spending and building a budget that accommodates for his parent’s needs. What actually came out in our work together was that Shawna was plain uncomfortable talking about money.

During our first virtual session together, I could feel Shawna’s discomfort through the screen: I noticed constant fidgeting and stuttering over words. They felt afraid to face their spending, which they already knew was way over what income they brought in. (Again, to reiterate, Shawna was not only supporting themself but also caring and fiscally supporting their aging parent. This is no inexpensive feat.)

After our second session and thanks to Shawn’s coining the phrase, I realized what my superpower was: sitting with them in their discomfort about money. Just opening up a nonjudgmental, brave space to talk about money was my superpower for this person. There were sessions where I would just provide emotional support as they opened up their online bank accounts to update their spending tracker, meaning that I would sometimes just sit there on the other end of the screen as they worked on their own screen. In fact, I have done that for many clients, not just Shawna. For many of my clients like Shawna, I became a kind of security blanket as they learned to sit in their discomfort by themselves.



Eventually, after working with Shawna for many months, they learned not to need me anymore. We no longer have sessions together, though I missed working with them a lot. I still check in with them from time to time to see how they’re doing, but they’ve mostly been flying on their own, now more able to sit through the uncomfortable parts about their money journey. I’m so proud of Shawna and the work we did together!

Now, with prospective clients, that’s part of my pitch: my ability to sit in their discomfort around money. Providing that nonjudgmental, brave space to talk about money has been so essential to my work as a financial counselor. It has eased the minds of my clients right away to know that their hangups about money — big, small, gigantic, incremental — are just part of their journey, that they can say the scary things out loud without fear of reprimand or criticism.

Find Someone to Sit in Your Discomfort with You, too!

If you find yourself also unable to sit in your discomfort around money on your own but would like to improve your money situation, I highly, highly recommend seeking an accredited financial counselor through the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE). Let us sit in your discomfort with you! I promise you – it will empower you and equip you with the tools to get through the hard parts.