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Transitioning from Financial Literacy Seminars to Financial Counseling

The Issue:

How to get more people to feel comfortable attending financial literacy classes – and then to seek out financial counseling. An important component is to help people understand that improving one’s finances is often about more than just the math or doing a budget.


Sally Massey Wiebe is a Financial Counsellor with Community Financial Counselling Services. CFCS is a United Way-supported non-profit based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Community Financial Counselling Services


CFCS often works with vulnerable, high-risk populations. It partners with other interrelated organizations around workforce readiness, free tax preparation, or gambling. It provides services for:

  • financial counseling
  • debt management
  • gambling addiction
  • employment and income assistance issues
  • financial literacy (consumer education/information)


  • CFCS raises awareness for its services, including credit counseling and debt management, through financial literacy seminars. This may be for community groups, other organizations, or the public.
  • These financial literacy seminars often address behavioral economics and behavioral finance. The goal is to get people to see that values, behaviors, habits, attitudes, and emotions play a significant role in financial decision-making. CFCS’s financial seminars stress that fixing one’s finances is not just about math.
  • Massey Wiebe notes that addressing financial habits and attitudes as opposed to just doing a budget, is also a friendlier, more human introduction to what can be a difficult, scary topic.
  • In financial seminars, Massey Wiebe talks about the Money Habitudes methodology, mentioning the different money personality types and the way these affect people’s financial decision-making process. She also tells participants about the Money Habitudes cards and offers to let people use them when they return for financial counseling. Participants discuss the basic Money Habitudes types but do not use the cards in the awareness seminar. “Even without having gone through the exercise in great detail, there’s an awareness of the significant differences between the Money Habitudes types that allow people to say, ‘Oh, I can see where that might be an issue for me.’ I encourage them to explore the concepts further by coming in to meet with us and do the Money Habitudes exercise.”
  • For Canada’s annual Financial Literacy Month, CFCS put on a seminar called, “Is It Just About Money?” which made people aware of the behavioral components of personal finance, rather than just focusing on tallying accounts, doing a budget, or filling out a spreadsheet. “That message resonated with people. We had 30 people in our class. From the feedback we got, it certainly seemed that this approach made sense where a ‘how to do a budget’ session probably wouldn’t have gotten people to attend,” said Massey Wiebe.
  • When people come in for individual or couples counseling, they are offered the opportunity to use the Money Habitudes cards. Some also specifically requested the activity after hearing about the cards in the larger financial seminar.
  • A first financial counseling session usually lasts one and a half hours. It not only involves assessing the client’s situation but also laying a foundation for a strong, trusting relationship. Couples may sometimes choose to do the Money Habitudes activity separately with a counselor instead of sorting their cards at the same time.
  • CFCS tends to develop long-term relationships and works to address financial issues holistically, rather than just servicing debt or providing credit counseling and ignoring other issues.


  • Money Habitudes aids individuals in assessing their financial situation, identifying obstacles, and exploring solutions with a new understanding of their money habits.
  • Rather than repeating failed attempts at budgeting, understanding the underlying reasons for financial challenges is crucial. Money Habitudes provides a different perspective to uncover these insights.
  • Money Habitudes is a practical tool for individuals to explore financial behaviors, assess change benefits, and understand partner relationships.
  • It’s about dispelling the notion that financial struggles stem from incompetence. Instead, it focuses on the information that operates in the background, influencing decisions without conscious awareness.
  • It delves beyond calculations, uncovering hidden influences on financial decisions in an engaging, non-threatening manner.