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Overcoming the social stigma of getting financial help

Social stigma plays a big role in whether people seek out financial coaching, counseling, or education. Social stigma also plays a part in whether people feel good while getting financial help. People often use Money Habitudes to reduce the perceived stigma associated with seeking financial help. Therapists, coaches, and planners often use Money Habitudes to improve client interactions, unaware of its connection to social stigma.
There are several social stigma theories, but there are common elements between them. Below, we’ll largely consider Erving Goffman’s seminal stigma structure.

Ways that Money Habitudes can help alleviate social stigma:

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  1. Easier to walk in the door – A lot of financial programs implicitly speak to clients and participants about having problems. For example, if you sign up to attend a “Get out of debt” class, it sends the message to others that you’re in debt. That can be stigmatizing and hard to admit. Participating in Money Habitudes often means joining a session with reduced stigma, exploring your money personality type, or understanding your financial influences.
  2. Less confrontation and judgment – When people seek financial help, many of those interactions take on the tone of an expert telling a novice what to do. It can be very prescriptive and come across as “You’re not handling your finances well. I know how to do it better. You need to listen to me and do what I say.” That can make people feel shame or embarrassment. Money Habitudes cards create a money personality profile without passing judgment on whether individuals are good or bad, smart or stupid, regarding money. They start the process in a more comfortable space, encouraging people to share and reveal stories—an uncommon feature in starting interactions.
  3. Avoiding numbers – A temptation of financial counseling and coaching is to jump right into numbers. This frequently means collecting receipts and making a budget. Not that there isn’t value in this step, but it can be a difficult introduction if someone feels uncomfortable or incompetent with numbers, math, spreadsheets, and the like.
  4. Sympathy and empathy – As Goffman theorizes, some people are “stigmatized” and then there are those who are “normally” who do not bear that stigma. A subset of “normally” are people who are “wise” and are accepted by the “stigmatized” as understanding their difficult situation. Going through the Money Habitudes process – either as a staff training exercise or as an activity with a clients that helps people relate better to one another. It facilitates sharing stories and highlights that everyone has both strengths and challenges with money, emphasizing that financial habits and attitudes can be beneficial or detrimental.
  5. Not the only one – In a group, Money Habitudes fosters valuable shared moments, creating an “Oh, yeah, me too” connection among individuals. Hearing that others face similar problems is helpful, providing reassurance and often revealing shared wisdom on overcoming challenges.