All information used with the client’s permission.
In 2010, Louise was a single mom with a teenage daughter and another daughter under age 10. She spent her days working with words, writing sales and advertising copy that garnered her great respect in her field, but at the end of the day, it was numbers that weighed her down.
Despite the outward signs of success, Louise owed $15,000 on credit cards and $10,000 in income tax. She had purchased a duplex and had upstairs tenants to help offset the mortgage, but she was also paying rent of $1,000 a month for her daughter at college. And just over the horizon loomed an income tax bill of $26,000.
“It’s very shaming to be that far in debt,” she says, “so you start hiding a lot of information from family and friends.”
She felt isolated and uncertain about how to turn things around. She read books and blogs about money management, but confidence in her financial skills was so low, she wasn’t able to turn the general information into personal solutions. She discounted the idea of reaching out to a financial planner because she believed planners were for investing and not for dealing with debt.
“I had never heard of a money coach,” Louise says, until she came across the term in a Canadian Living magazine article featuring Money Coaches Canada co-founder Sheila Walkington. The idea that there were financial professionals who could guide and teach her how to manage her money gave Louise just enough courage to break her isolation and reach out.
“Initially it was really scary,” she says, “because money coaching costs money, and I was already in debt. But after our consultation, my second feeling was that there’s hope and help. Sheila listened. There was no sense of judgement; there wasn’t any sense that I’d done something wrong. It was simply, ’This is your situation; let’s help you deal with that.’ I really appreciated having someone who would listen and understand and not judge me.”
Working together through phone conversations and emails, Louise and Sheila created a debt repayment plan that was challenging but workable. Louise was able to start paying $1,000 a month of her debt.
“We really honed in on what was important,” Louise says. “Initially, there were a lot of forms to fill in and a lot of number-checking. The first month was the hardest, but after that it got so much better, so quickly. It was super-scary to think that I had to come up with $1,000 a month to pay off this debt when you’re pulling your hair out thinking, ’How am I going to do this?! ’ But I’m really glad I stuck with it. When you see your efforts start to pay off, it gets fun.”
“John had his own debts when we met and was going to sell his home,” says Louise. “I entered his life at the right time and said, ‘Hang on, I’m going to teach you’. Now we’re team players – and he’s even more frugal than I am!”
Louise also made a point of teaching her two girls the skills she was learning in her money coaching sessions. “We all talk about money very openly now,” she says.
By 2013, Louise and John were debt-free.
Louise says working with a money coach completely changed her relationship with money. “You start to understand that debt is not something normal, not something you should be living with. When we became debt-free, it was the best feeling in the world. I was so proud of myself.”
One of the biggest changes was going from avoidance to engagement. “Every morning, I check our bank accounts to see what came in and what went out. I just love it. What can we ‘play’ with? Is there anything we can make happen this month? Before I didn’t want to open my bills. Now bills are the first thing I open, and I’m always looking for ways to cut expenses or ways to adjust my budget to get something I want. We still buy luxuries, but we’re really selective with what we buy.”
Since 2013, Louise and John have had to deal with new challenges. Health issues, job loss and career change, unexpected expenses, and a new home have meant that there is temporarily less money for retirement planning, but Louise is not discouraged.
“Every stage or success or milestone that you reach, there is always something new to chase after and different setbacks along the way. But now, after working with Sheila, we know how to take care of ourselves. We know how to work and plan our budget so that we’ll manage, no matter what life throws at us.”