If you started 2019 by setting some ambitious (but totally doable) money goals, kudos to you for taking ownership of your financial future. Now that we’re deep into February, it’s a great time to take stock of those goals. Are you on your way to crushing them before the year’s over, or have they fallen by the wayside thanks to one-too-many late-night food deliveries or a spontaneous new year, new ‘do dye-job? (And hey, no judgment here.)
Either way, you’ve probably discovered how difficult it can be to stay on track. If you haven’t found the right tools to help, perhaps it’s time to consider finding a money mentor—or someone to help you stay accountable.
So what exactly is a money mentor? Carly Kidd, a financial advisor with Pinnacle Investments says, “A money mentor can be someone that you look up to and aspire to be like someday. Your focus should be to find a money mentor whose personal financial goals align with yours. For instance, if you want to learn new ways to earn more income, you can speak with someone that is successfully renting out properties or has a side-hustle by blogging. They may even share with you what not to do based on their own experiences.”
Kidd cautions, “It’s important to be aware of the difference between a money mentor and a financial advisor. A financial advisor is someone that is licensed to give advice that pertains to wealth management and financial planning. A mentor can provide guidance based on their own personal experience or knowledge but should always remember to be wary of state and federal laws when providing financial advice.”
A money mentor isn’t to be confused with a professional mentor, though. “A career mentor can be the highest earner at a company, but they might not necessarily be the best at budgeting, investing, and saving their money,” Kidd says. “They may be someone that you seek advice from on how to have productive conversations with a manager, or how to negotiate a raise. But their financial goals for retirement and saving may not align with yours.”
So how do you go about securing a money mentor yourself? Get the must-know information, ahead.
Start within your circle
“If you’re talking to someone about your current financial situation and goals, it’s important that you feel comfortable with them and have a trusting relationship,” Kidd says. “You can start within your family but take a close look at how they have worked to achieve their financial goals. Find someone that lives a similar lifestyle to the one you would like to have someday.
“If you feel like stepping out of your comfort zone you can explore reaching out to people you may know from a professional group, or maybe a connection on LinkedIn that you’ve been reading up on and want to learn more about. Most people that you reach out to for advice will always be happy to help. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for support or guidance.”
Request informational interviews
Amanda Clayman, a certified financial therapist and Prudential’s financial wellness advocate, notes that while it’s possible to start by speaking with a family member, you run the risk of encountering blurred boundaries between “mentorship” and “advising” (or even “dictating!”) as the person expresses their own strong feelings about whether and how you take their advice.
To avoid this, Clayman suggests using the format of a job seeker requesting an informational interview with a person in your field. “Even people who aren’t available themselves to be your mentor might be able to connect you with another person who can.”
Start the conversation by expressing your own interest in the subject of money mentorship; what it is, specifically, that you think would be helpful; and what you’re hoping the prospective mentor might be able to tell you.
Clayman models it here: “For example, ‘Aunt Jo, I read an article about money mentorship. I’m trying to learn more about this. I’ve always admired the way you started your own business and grew it into a huge enterprise. Did you have a money or business mentor along the way? How did you decide when it was time to take a risk, versus wait for another opportunity? As I think about starting my own business, these are questions that I wonder how to tackle.’ The idea is to open up the conversation, get a sense of the other person’s capacity and potential availability, and to assess whether they seem like they’d be a good fit.
“Think of it like dating: Early in your dating interactions, you keep it light and engaging as you sense whether you’re compatible and have good chemistry,” Clayman says.
Be transparent, to an extent
Kidd says talking to a financial advisor about your money situation is like talking to your doctor about your medical situation. “As uncomfortable as it may feel to dish out all of your ‘TMI’ details, it is imperative for the doctor to have all of the necessary information for them to be able to make the best recommendation for their patient.”
“Unlike working with an advisor, a money mentor doesn’t need to be disclosed of every single detail,” Kidd says. “I would start by telling them a basic overview of your income range and budget and any goals that you would like to achieve.”
As you start to have more in-depth conversations you’ll be able to choose what you’re comfortable with sharing and what you want to keep to yourself. Kidd points out that conversations with financial advisors are confidential so if you are lacking trust with your mentor, this may be a cue to seek out a professional.
Keep the accountability rolling with monthly check-ins
So what happens after you connect with your mentor and how can you work together to keep your financial goals on pace?
“When you tell someone about your financial goals, you are making a promise to them that you will try your best to achieve them. No one wants to say to someone, ‘Hey, your advice and recommendations were really great and all but I’m not going to follow through with them,’” Kidd explains.
“Having a money mentor and making goals with them adds additional responsibility that will hold you accountable for your actions. Have you ever made plans to go to the gym with a friend and felt even more pressure to go when you really didn’t want to? Thank you accountability!” she adds.
“Sometimes all we need is an extra push and support from someone to make us take action. Setting up monthly check-ins with a mentor would be a great way to make sure that you are on track with your goals and are meeting expectations.”
Don’t be too hard on yourself
“If you’re making the first step to find a money mentor, then you’re moving in the right direction. That being said, if you ever feel like you’re being judged by your money mentor, it’s okay to walk away from that relationship,” Kidd says.
Clayman notes that if you’re embarrassed by where you stand financially, find a mentor who understands that and can support you in working through it. “Be upfront about your feelings: ‘I could use someone to keep me accountable in tackling my finances. This area of my life makes me really anxious, so right now I just want to start small. Can I check in with you each week to let you know I’m looking at my bills and account statements as they come in? Anything else you’d recommend to help me manage my anxiety around these tasks?’ In saying this, you’re making it clear that your emotions are part of what you’re seeing to include in the framework of mentorship, instead of pretending those don’t exist.”
Take it to the next level with a financial advisor
Depending on the effort a mentor wants to give you, Kidd recommends having a financial advisor to help fill in the gaps a mentor might not be able to fill. “A financial advisor can take the time to go through a full financial plan customized exclusively for you. It’s great to have mentors that can offer big-picture advice to start you off and be your motivation, but when you want to get down to more specific questions, make sure you consult with a financial advisor.”
Bottom line, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Kidd says, “If you aren’t going to plan your future, who is?”
Always speak to a licensed financial services provider or specialist before making big, game-changing decisions that could affect your financial wellbeing.