A Money Coach in Canada

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This past week I began working with 3 new clients. One of the critical conversations I have with new clients is about the stages of change. This is a well-documented process used by dietitions, addictions counseling and coaches alike. Understanding the process increases the likelihood of achieving lasting change.

So many people come to me frustrated and discouraged about their experience managing money. This will help.

Stage 1: Precontemplation.

This is the stage when a habit is actually not working well, but the individual is oblivious. You know how sometimes you can see a friend or family member who is chronically overspending or wasting money (at least in your eyes), but if you try to say something about it, it’s not well received? She either doesn’t ‘hear’ your comments, or she denies there’s any problem, or she has 1,000 reasons why she cannot change. During the precontemplation stage, change is not likely to occur of course. (Note to family members – as tempting as it may be to say stuff to the person you care about, I urge caution. Sometimes commenting, or judging, or shaming drives the person deeper into this stage, rather than encouraging the person to try a new behaviour.)

Stage 2: Contemplation

During the contemplation stage, the individual acknowledges something needs to change for their own well-being. Usually this ‘awakening’ is due to specific, personal and relevant feedback. It could be exceeding a debt threshold. It could be a desire to buy a home. It could be one too many birthdays and still feeling not ‘grown up’ about money. During this stage, the person may slip back to stage 1, or they may move to the next stage.

Stage 3: Determination

The individual decides to take action. This is a critical stage. Deciding to take action is one thing. Taking action likely to lead to long term success is another thing. The most common example I see are clients who are freaked out by their debt. They are panic stricken, and all they can think about is how to get rid of this horror as fast as possible. Part of my role is to help the person get grounded, and make thoughtful action plans based on a more holistic picture of their finances. Shameless self-promotion: having an objective third party involved at this stage is likely to create a more balanced, not panic-driven, action plan.

Stage 4: Action

Enuf said. Well, maybe not: This is simply proceeding on, ideally, a series of small, incremental actions as ‘determined’ upon in stage 3. The action plan needs to be sane and sustainable.

Stage 5: DeRail

Yup, this is almost always part of the process. Again, many of my clients are discouraged because they’ve tried in the past, but feel they are right back where they started. The fact is, most long-term changes require a series of repeated attempts before things finally seem to stick. The key during this phase is to have some help getting back on track again, and minimizing the length and intensity of this stage.

Stage 6: Lasting Change

yes.jpgThis is the point at which there is a substantial shift in financial behaviour. In my own life, one lasting change I’ve experienced is impulse shopping. I simply don’t do it any more, full stop. Another example is saving – I always have savings account getting pooled up for holidays, christmas, taxes etc. I’ll describe these in more detail in a future post. Suffice it to say that these were big accomplishments for me that, as you can imagine, resulted in a much more stable and proactive relationship with my money.

Reader feedback wanted: have you experienced long lasting change in some area? Would you say the above is a fair analysis of how you experienced change? Or have you experienced the frustration of seeing from the outside a harmful money habit, that the person you care about just didn’t see for himself or herself?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Angela

    Hi Nancy

    Whilst I understand where you’re coming from with the above post, the thing that has stymied me from dealing with money issues (and I’m not in debt – I just want to earn more) is the attitude of Canadian employers (I moved to Canada from England 6 years ago). One of the things that has particularly caught my attention are employers who require ‘super flexibility’ in terms of available working hours (ie different hours on different days and work schedules varying from week to week with no advance notice) – whilst making no commitment to the employee in terms of available work. For example, a hardware store I approached recently was looking to employ someone for about 10 hours a week to begin with (although these 10 hours were not guarranteed) and the worker would go in on days and times to suit the store – the hours increasing as it got busier with the spring months. I found myself wondering who could possibly be in a position where they could take such a job with no guarrantee of the number of hours on offer and with the specific hours and days changing from week to week. I was talking to a friend about this recently and she has managed to string several part-time jobs together with a great deal of difficulty for exactly the same reasons. I run my own business (I don’t earn a lot) and am intending to go back to college part-time this Fall. So at present, I am trying to find a part-time job which I can fit around existing commitments – and I’m finding it extremely difficult. I would love any thoughts you have on this. To me, it seems like a basic respect for the employees ‘rights’ (for want of a better word) is missing when employers treat employees like this.


    Mar 09, 2008
  2. yup I have opinions. The employment practice you described is just plain rude – with the one exception being if it *genuinely* works for both parties. And because most of these jobs are for entry-level positions, often the employees are easy to abuse in this manner. Having said that, the relationship between the owner and employee can make all the difference – for example, if the owner can work closely with the employee to leverage the flexibility into something that can work for both parties, most of the time.
    Re: your personal situation – I don’t know what city you’re in, but I know generally “labour” is in high demand in Canada. I would keep seeking until you find something that works, or else be upfront with the prospective employer – in this market, employers eventually will discover that to attract good employees things have to be a win-win for both parties. Viva la revolution.


    Mar 09, 2008

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