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Money Mentors Learn About Financial Behaviors to Relate Better To Clients

United Way - money mentorsThe Issue: How to train money mentors to understand how they see money – and how their clients may see money differently. Improve financial coaching.
Who: Joanie Davis, Community Initiatives Director at United Way of Henry County and Martinsville.
What: The United Way of Henry County and Martinsville is part of the HOPE (Helping Others Progress Economically) Coalition. The asset building coalition includes financial institutions, government agencies, and civic and nonprofit organizations working to improve the economic self-sufficiency of low-income and low-wealth families and individuals. Rather than just financial assistance, participants take charge of their money and their lives through free personal financial management classes and financial coaching. Volunteers serve as money management mentors. The United Way also trains VITA volunteers to provide free tax preparation for low-income individuals and families to claim benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

  • The United Way’s money mentors work one-on-one with people seeking financial assistance.
  • Many of those who volunteer to be a financial coach come from related professions. This includes social workers, financial planners, etc. Many of the money mentors are able to use their financial coaching training in their regular jobs.
  • Money mentors attend a train-the-trainer-style class once a week for 6 weeks. Each financial coaching class is 2 hours.
  • The financial coaching class mirrors the IDA (Individual Development Accounts) curriculum that the United Way offers. This includes modules on:
    • income versus expenses
    • banking basics
    • living on your own (for young adults)
    • managing income and expense over the long term, with goal-setting
    • debt reduction
    • investing  and your financial future
    • getting a loan
    • credit reports and scores
    • understanding yourself and your relationship with money (including Money Habitudes and True Colors)
  • Each money coach is also trained to use Money Habitudes. It is used as a money personality assessment and a money conversation starter. Money mentors receive a guide and decks of cards to use with clients.
  • As a learning tool, doing the Money Habitudes activity helps a money coach understand his or her money personality. As the money mentors better understand how they see money themselves, it helps them work better with clients by:
    • Being less judgmental.
    • Being more sympathetic and understanding.
    • Tailoring advice so it is best suited to someone with a different view of money.
  • A money coach can also choose to use Money Habitudes as an icebreaker or assessment tool when working with clients.
  • The financial coaching program helps transition some of the United Way’s clients from free tax preparation services to more holistic and individualized financial help. Beyond tax prep and the money coach program, the United Way offers:


  • “It’s been a good fit for us. It seems like people are more receptive to our other financial education materials after we do Money Habitudes. It’s been very positive for us.”
  • “I saw the cards at a conference and it clicked with me. I thought, ‘We can talk about the relationship with money and assess their personality – their habits, attitudes and behaviors about money – and that’s how we can get them to change.’ At first, I was thinking we’d just focus on numbers like their income and expenses. I thought there had to be something else. And Money Habitudes was that tool.”
  • “It’s a good ice breaker activity that can get people thinking about money and open up their minds, to say, ‘Ok, maybe I do need to do a budget. Maybe I am spending too spontaneously.’ For me, it was a real eye-opener.”