Navigating Financial Wellness: Insights from Coach Debra Jacobs

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In this interview with financial coach Debra Jacobs, we delve into the intricacies of personal finance management and the significant impact of financial coaching. Debra, with her extensive experience, discusses the importance of creating tailored financial systems, the emotional and practical effects of financial coaching, and the misconceptions surrounding the industry. She emphasizes the role of financial coaches in building foundational skills and the ongoing support they offer beyond traditional financial planning. Debra also addresses the common barriers people face in seeking financial guidance, including the societal stigma and overwhelm associated with money management. Furthermore, she offers practical strategies for effective budgeting and simplifying finances, demonstrating her commitment to empowering individuals to achieve financial stability and peace of mind. The interview is a rich exploration of the benefits of financial coaching and the transformative power it holds in individuals’ lives.


Can you describe your role in assisting various age groups with their financial needs?

Absolutely! As a financial coach, I cater to a diverse age range, from 22-year-olds to those aged 81, though most clients are over 55. They’re typically nearing or in retirement, with some assets and income, but haven’t focused much on financial planning. Many haven’t saved adequately or budgeted before, and now they’re concerned about maintaining their desired lifestyle during retirement. My role is to help them creatively craft a spending plan that aligns with their values and life goals, often for the first time. This involves setting up systems to adhere to their budget and addressing other financial issues like consumer debt, improving credit scores, and making significant decisions like housing. For my younger clients, the focus often shifts to managing their earnings wisely, as they tend to spend as much as they earn or even more, and are keen on gaining control over their finances.

How do you initiate the financial coaching process with your clients?

It starts with a complimentary consultation. This is where I listen to their personal financial stories and determine if my coaching services align with their needs. It’s important to clarify that as a financial coach, my focus is different from that of financial planners or advisors. While they handle investments and long-term financial strategies, my role is more about building foundational personal finance skills.

In this initial meeting, I delve into what challenges they’re facing, their reasons for seeking help, and what they aim to achieve. If we’re a good fit, I send worksheets to collect essential data like expenses, income, assets, and liabilities. The primary focus early on is to identify their life goals and values. This guides our approach to managing their spending, ensuring it aligns with their aspirations. I emphasize creating a spending plan rather than a traditional budget, which can often feel restrictive. The goal is to make financial management a tool for achieving their dreams, not just a set of limitations.

What strategies do you use to help clients adhere to their financial plans?

After establishing their goals and values, we craft a spending plan tailored to their direction. To keep them on track, I often recommend Tiller Money, a flexible, spreadsheet-based system. It’s not one-size-fits-all, though; some clients prefer using paper and pencil, or other budgeting apps like Monarch Money. Tiller Money stands out due to its adaptability and ease of categorizing expenses. It pulls in all their accounts and allows for automatic categorization. For instance, purchases from Trader Joe’s can be instantly categorized under groceries.

This setup minimizes their effort in tracking expenses. Take groceries as an example: if the monthly budget is $1,000, clients can easily monitor their spending as the month progresses, checking if they’re over or under their limit. This real-time visibility allows for timely adjustments. Overall, Tiller Money proves to be an efficient tool for clients to stay informed about their spending habits.

What makes having a financial system so important?

The essence of a financial system lies in its ability to manage money effectively, catering to different approaches. For some, a simple strategy like saving a fixed percentage of income, such as 10%, works well. This ‘pay yourself first’ method involves setting aside savings and investments before other expenses. If one can stick to their budget and live within their means this way, that’s ideal. However, the challenge arises when people exceed their remaining funds, often resorting to credit cards or dipping into savings, leading to financial strain.

A meticulous review of every penny isn’t always necessary. Broad categories can suffice, but it’s important, especially in the early stages, to track where money is going. Creating and adhering to a budget or spending plan requires visibility into your financial flow. A good system provides this insight, along with the necessary data, to foster accountability. Implementing a system is key to maintaining financial discipline and awareness.

How do you perceive the impact of your financial coaching on people’s lives?

The impact of my work is two-fold: emotional and practical. Financial concerns can be a significant source of stress, affecting work, relationships, and overall well-being. By providing clarity on finances, establishing spending plans, and setting clear goals, I help clients find peace of mind and security. This emotional relief is profound, as it allows people to sleep better and feel less stressed about money.

On a practical level, the impact is transformative. For instance, I worked with a couple – a cop and a nurse with kids, who were overwhelmed with debt. Through our work together, they not only managed to clear much of their debt and save money but also enjoyed a trip to Disney without relying on credit cards. This was possible by creating a dedicated savings strategy for their travel goals.

Another example involves an older couple with significant credit card debt. They lacked a system to manage their variable income and expenses. By setting up a structured account and spending plan, they could handle their expenses, save for travel, and importantly, eliminate the stress and burden of debt.

The essence of my work is helping people align their finances with their true priorities. It’s about understanding what genuinely matters to them and optimizing their spending accordingly, while also identifying and reducing expenditures in less important areas. This approach not only improves their financial health but also enhances their overall quality of life.

Can you elaborate on your long-term coaching and consulting services?

Certainly! My program spans ten sessions, and upon completion, clients have the option to continue with either quarterly or monthly meetings, depending on their needs. It’s not uncommon for clients to initially feel confident managing on their own, only to reach out again months later for a ‘financial check-up’. This often happens in response to significant life changes or upcoming major expenses. So, whether it’s a routine follow-up or a need-based consultation, I offer various formats of ongoing coaching to ensure they remain on track with their financial goals.


What are some common misconceptions about financial coaching?

There are a few misconceptions. First, many aren’t aware that financial coaches exist, as it’s a relatively new field compared to traditional financial planning. People often turn to financial planners for assistance, which is beneficial for investment strategies, insurance, and other similar areas. However, financial planners generally don’t provide the weekly, hands-on guidance required to build foundational financial skills like budgeting, system setup, and accountability.

Another myth surrounds the regulation of the financial coaching industry. Unlike certified financial planners, who undergo specific certification and testing, financial coaching doesn’t have a universal regulatory body. However, many financial coaches, including myself, seek certifications like the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) designation. This accreditation requires 1000 hours of experience, passing a rigorous test, and meeting other criteria, establishing a standard of proficiency in financial coaching. While an AFC is a good indicator of a coach’s training and expertise, it’s also true that there are competent coaches without this certification. The key is finding a coach whose expertise and approach align with your financial needs and goals.


Why do you think more people hesitate to seek financial coaching?

The hesitation largely stems from feelings of shame and overwhelm regarding money management. There’s a prevalent belief that financial competence should be innate, as if one is expected to inherently understand finances without formal education. This is a misconception because personal finance is rarely taught in schools, and not everyone studies business or accounting in college. Moreover, parents often don’t discuss financial matters with their children, leaving many adults unprepared to manage their finances effectively.

The shame associated with financial struggles can be paralyzing. People often feel that they should know better and are embarrassed to admit they need help. This is compounded by the constant societal pressure to spend and use credit, which can lead to financial difficulties for those who lack sufficient education or self-discipline in this area.

Another barrier is simply a lack of awareness about financial coaching as a resource. People might believe they should be able to manage their finances alone or might not know that coaches like me are available to assist them. My approach is never about telling clients what to do with their money. Instead, I highlight the consequences of their current spending habits and encourage them to think about changes they might want to make. The focus is always on spending towards what they want rather than merely cutting expenses. By prioritizing their goals, reducing spending on less important items naturally follows. This personalized guidance and accountability can make a significant difference, much like how some individuals benefit from working with a personal trainer.

What are some practical money management tips you recommend?

Certainly! A common pitfall in budgeting is overlooking irregular expenses, like car repairs or annual veterinary visits. People often budget for their regular monthly expenses but get caught off guard by these infrequent costs. To counter this, I recommend setting up dedicated accounts for different types of foreseeable expenses. For example, create a travel account, a pet care account, and so on. Estimate the annual cost for each category, divide it by 12, and save that amount monthly. This approach is particularly useful for holiday expenses – start saving early in the year, and by the time the holiday season arrives, you’ll have the funds ready without resorting to credit.

Another strategy is to simplify your finances by using multiple accounts. While it might seem counterintuitive, having separate accounts for fixed and variable expenses can make money management much easier. Set up one account for fixed expenses like mortgage, car payments, and insurance, preferably with auto-pay to avoid overdraft worries. Then have another account for variable expenses like groceries and entertainment. By allocating a monthly limit to this account, you can easily track your spending. Simply check the account balance on your phone to know how much you have left to spend. This method offers a clear and straightforward way to monitor your finances without the hassle of sifting through detailed statements.

How can someone learn more about your services and connect with you?

If you’re interested in learning more about my services, the best starting point is my website: Here, you can find detailed information about what I offer and my approach to financial coaching. For direct communication, you can email me at I’m always open to setting up a conversation to discuss how I can assist you.

Additionally, I’m active on social media, particularly LinkedIn at My website and LinkedIn are the most convenient channels to reach out and learn more about my financial coaching services.

Jeremy Baker

Jeremy Baker has a passion for helping his clients get recognition as experts in their fields. His approach to interviewing helps his clients tell their stories and talk about their unique set of experiences and backgrounds.