Most of us don’t think we need a financial planner. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who can pay their bills and throw a few dollars toward their 401K every month. Or maybe you live paycheck to paycheck and all you do is worry about money.
Thing is, there are things both of these people can learn from a money manager. April is Financial Literacy Month (not to mention Tax Day on the 17th), and it’s time to consider how a financial planner could change your life — because the work a real financial manager does is nothing short of that.
“It starts with the finances, but it ends up being about everything else,” says Shannon McLay, a former Merrill Lynch financial analyst who started her own company called Financial Gym, a fitness-inspired money management hub to help with anything from resolving debt to figuring out how you can have that extra glass of wine when you go out to dinner. “Once they start focusing on their house, or they can afford the gym now or they’re eating in more and it’s healthier for you, it’s a lot of different things.”
So, who needs a financial trainer? We asked McLay what unlikely candidates may get out of making a few money moves.
The youngest spenders
The Financial Gym’s clients range from 18 to 72 years old. Young people just entering college come to her as a preemptive strike against student loan debt, a problem that 44 million Americans are facing to the tune of over $1.4 trillion.
“I have a conspiracy theory that the schools don’t want you to know these things, because how else would they get you to take out six figures of debt, which makes no sense?” she says.
One of her clients came in with $250,000 in student loan debt at the age of 26, telling McLay, “I feel like I’m unlovable, like no one would marry me with this debt. And that’s such a sad thing, but we’ve heard that more than once.” Being fiscally responsible doesn’t just assure your financial future — it may be something to put on your Tinder profile.
The ones who just can’t
If a financial problem is bad enough, they’ll figure out a way to find you, right? That’s the kind of thinking that gets you into real trouble — one of McLay’s clients found out from her boss that her wages were going to be garnished because she hadn’t responded to repeated collection requests. “We have people literally come in and open mail with us,” says McLay. So if you just can’t take the pressure of knowing how big your problem is, let someone else sort through the mess and figure out a way through.
The social media addicts
We’re all slaves to Instagram, but waiting in line for two hours to get a giant milkshake and going after the brands Kim Kardashian endorses are two different things. “Social media is killing everybody,” says McLay. “A lot of what we end up doing with our clients is life coaching them and mentoring them to not get caught up in the social media beauty of it all, because we know what’s behind the scenes of social media posts and it’s usually a lot of credit card debt and sadness and depression.”
The couples who are in trouble
It’s not on McLay’s business card but it should be: In the four years that Financial Gym has been in existence, not one of the couples have divorced. That’s because financial advice often ends up being relationship advice.
McLay noticed a wife spending $1,000 over three months in $3 increments at Rite Aid. It turned out she was buying Diet Cokes there because her husband didn’t like her buying it in bulk at the grocery store because it’s unhealthy. “I say, OK, but what’s really unhealthy is your wife acting out because she’s not allowed to have it in the house,” she says.
Want to feel like you’re working as a team and being honest with each other? Nobody can hide behind a balance sheet.
The frugal ones with savings
Even clients who are doing well come to McLay worried — nobody, she says, feels “abundance” when it comes to their bank account. “One of my most financially set couples, I say what’s your goal and he said, ‘I just want to know I can afford an extra glass of wine,’” she recalls. “They had $90,000 in the bank. Our really fit clients are scared to spend money or judge themselves for spending money.” Talking to a financial advisor can help you understand how to spend money, not just save it.