PWR's San Diego Experts: Financial Coaching with Jenn Steliga

Welcome to our “PWR’s Experts” column, where we highlight some of the industry experts we know. As Financial Planners, we have met many smart and talented people who are experts in their own fields. We have used them as resources for our clients and sources of knowledge for ourselves. We hope you enjoy our experts series!

Our expert today is Jenn Steliga, Owner Jenn Steliga Coaching LLC

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Jenn Steliga is a Financial and Personal Coach. At Jenn's firm, she covers the behavioral and emotional hurdles that can hinder financial planning progress. We were interested in interviewing Jenn because financial coaching often overlaps with financial planning. We wanted to know more about when and why someone should see a financial coach and what types of services financial coaches can provide.

As financial planners, we don't always have the time or resources to dive deep into why our clients feel or act certain ways when it comes to their money and the financial choices they make. It is nice to have financial coaching as a supplement for our clients who need help understanding why they may be engaging in destructive behaviors.

About Jenn Steliga, Financial Coach and Personal Coach: MS, NCC, BCC:

Jenn brings a breadth and depth of experience to her coaching practice. She is a trained marriage and family therapist and Nationally Certified Counselor having earned her Masters of Science in 2014. She is also a Board Certified Coach, a Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach and a certified MBTI administrator. Jenn is a veteran of the US Air Force and a graduate of the US Air Force Academy. Her time in the AF inspired her to motivate others to reach their full potential and realize their dreams.

So Jenn, what is financial coaching?

Financial coaching is a collaborative relationship between coach and client designed to target beliefs and behaviors that are hindering client progress so that clients can create long term behavioral change, growth and success.

How is financial coaching different from financial planning?

Financial coaching targets behaviors: the process encourages you to become your own best advocate in your financial wellness and build a team of trusted advisors to guide you. It’s behaviors, and the beliefs behind those behaviors, that shape the relationship we have with money. Personal financial wellness is 80% behavior and 20% numbers. As a financial coach, I help people identify and understand their unhelpful beliefs and behaviors around money in order to create a healthier relationship with their finances. Think of it this way: financial coaching is laying the foundation for a strong and resilient house; financial planning builds on that solid foundation and helps to build the house of your dreams by showing you how to best make your dollars work for you.

Who should seek out help from a financial coach?

If behaviors are getting in the way of achieving your dreams – regardless of your income or net worth - it’s time to do something different. If you’ve ever struggled long-term with sticking to a budget, you’re finally fed up with debt, or you can’t quite see how it’s possible to achieve your dreams when there’s never enough money left at the end of the month, you can benefit from working with a coach. If you intend to follow the plan your trusted financial advisor is offering, but regularly veer off course, coaching could help get you back on track. Or perhaps you simply don’t know where to start and are looking for someone who will offer support and guidance in a non-judgmental way - coaching can help.

How much does financial coaching cost?

Everyone’s scenario is different, and because of this, I meet with each prospective client for a complimentary 1-hour session to determine a few things. First and foremost, is coaching is a good fit for them? Not everyone is ready for coaching. For it to be successful, clients must dedicate time and energy to forming new habits. They have to be willing to learn more about the link between behavior and financial success. If the client is ready for coaching, then I determine how I can best serve them. Once I have better clarity on where their needs and my services intersect, I can offer them fee-for-service pricing options tailored to their situation. My current hourly rate is $150 an hour.

What does the process of financial coaching look like?

Once a client decides to work with me, we agree on the frequency and duration of meetings as well as where to meet (I have a physical office in San Diego, but also do a lot of virtual meetings using Zoom video-conference with clients all over the US). Typically, we meet for a 1-hour session once a month, or once a week, depending on the immediacy of their needs or timeline for goal completion; email, phone and text support is also available in between meetings.

How do you determine how much financial coaching help someone needs?

For most people, I recommend working together for a minimum of 3 months. Change takes time, so going into the coaching relationship with that in mind helps to manage everyone’s expectations. Sometimes change takes longer, so we can work together for as long as it takes: 6, 9 and 12-month packages are also helpful. If you don’t have a history of behaviors that have negatively impacted your financial decisions but are finding yourself stuck at this particular moment, you might benefit from one session.

What can someone expect out of a relationship with a financial coach?

I approach coaching as a non-judgmental, collaborative relationship that focuses on the future, not on the past. As your financial coach, I guide and challenge you to grow outside your comfort zone. Once you start the trek, I’ll walk with you to point out potential pitfalls, help you develop the discipline of habit to bolster your willpower and rewire past habits, but ultimately you will do the hard work of change. I’ll help with accountability, get you back on the path when needed, and continue to assist in refining your goals to make sure you’re working toward what you want. I will emphasize and show you how to build that solid foundation by creating and sticking to a budget every month – no exceptions. I emphasize budgets for one very simple reason - they work; it is the foundational tool that allows you to take control of your money and stay in the driver's seat of your financial wellness.

What is the most common problem or concern that individuals need financial coaching for?

Using and sticking to a budget, along with getting out of debt are the most common concerns. Consider the following: according to 2017 data from CareerBuilder, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and 66% would struggle to pay cash for an emergency costing $1,000. I suspect those statistics are in large part due to the fact that 7 out of 10 couples do not budget regularly. There are reasons for that, and it’s those reasons we address directly during coaching.

Unfortunately, debt can also be a problem shrouded in shame and guilt; those destructive emotions will drive people into silence because they’re embarrassed to ask for help. That breaks my heart. I want to help people bring their concerns to light where they can be addressed and fixed! There is no shame in asking for some guidance – we all need it from time to time.

Lastly, why do you love being a financial coach?

I love helping people achieve their dreams so that they can experience the freedom of an intentional life. Too often I see people choosing to let life, and others, make choices for them and sadly they’re not even aware that they’re making this choice. But when you choose to take control of your life where you can, that intention makes all the difference in how you approach the world. You start to realize that you matter - that you can make a difference in your life and in the life of your family. Seeing the relief and smiles on my clients’ faces when they’ve worked hard to take back control of their money (and ultimately their life) makes me feel incredibly blessed to do the work I do!

If you would like to learn more about what Jenn does and how she helps her clients, you can visit her website or contact via phone or email.

Alicia Butera, CFP® is a Financial Planner for Planning Within Reach, LLC (PWR) located in Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA. Alicia is the Director of Financial Planning and Marketing for PWR. Alicia manages the financial planning process from start to finish with her clients, answering their questions and providing them guidance. Alicia has 8 years of experience in wealth management and works virtually with clients all over the US.

Planning Within Reach, LLC (PWR) is a fee-only and fiduciary wealth management firm offering one-time comprehensive financial planning, ongoing impact-focused investment management and tax preparation services in San Diego, CA. PWR is a virtual firm that is woman-owned and serves busy families and impact investors. Planning Within Reach, LLC and their advisors never receive any type of commissions for sales and does not have any insurance licenses or brokerage relationships.