One of the opportunities that financial freedom can provide is the opportunity to help others. As part of our freedom we were able to travel and visit my parents for a full two weeks in November last year around Thanksgiving. Mom and Dad became my first coaching clients and so far they have become my biggest financial success story. You read the title right, my parents paid off $24,000 in 9 months. Hello retirement.
After attending FinCon as a volunteer in September last year I began to build my website and the items I would need for my coaching business. As someone who has paid off over $100,000 in debt I rely heavily on my own personal experience to help others.
I don’t shove the information down my friends and family’s throats. Instead I do my best to lead by example. They are also aware that if they have a question I am happy to take the time to put on my Even Steven Money hat and share what I would do in their situation.
This has been my approach with my parents as well. I know they have made financial mistakes over the years and even recently. Realistically what good would it do to tell them they made a mistake?
Instead I choose to acknowledge the mistake even empathize with the situation and provide a suggestion or explain what I would do in their shoes. Remember I put myself in six figures of personal debt so I made TONS of mistakes and I can relate to just about all of them. Remember each financial success story is different.
During our time in Arizona my Mom and Dad asked me to be their financial coach. They knew that retirement was coming around the corner and it was time to face the reality of the situation. My parents had debt. Not to the tune of six figures but enough to make them question if the next stages of their lives were possible.
Like many individuals looking to transition into retirement they were asking themselves can I retire? Do I have too much debt? Am I overspending? Do I have enough income? Should I sell my house and downsize?
These are scary questions. These questions are even more scary as you move into your 60’s and 70’s. Your health, well being, mental and physical capacity, are often diminishing at this point in your life. My parents wanted to retire but they were afraid because of debt and previous financial mistakes they would have to work forever.
Talking about money with Mom and Dad is NOT easy. These are the same parents that changed your diaper. They helped you with your homework. They spanked you when you were bad. Encouraged you when you were struggling. Even had the audacity to yell at you to go to your room. Above all they guided you to who you are today.
Now it’s your turn. Don’t worry there are no diapers that need to be changed and chances are even if you told them to go to their rooms they couldn’t hear you anyways.
My parents are pretty old school. So when it came to talking money with my parents I received a couple curveballs. Here are a few things they do as an example:
I guess that makes me new school. Here is what I do as an example:
Today all of my interactions with coaching clients are virtual. The work I have them complete is online and shareable. The free discovery call I offer to see if we are a good fit is face to face. The prep work that I ask my clients to complete online instead was handed to me on a sheet of paper.
My parents were my first coaching client, they even signed up on the spot. Although I think they paid me with 30+ years of being a parent rather than through Venmo.
My parents sat down with my wife and I then proceeded to share their financial lives with us. Not just how much the mortgage costs, but what financial fears they were facing not only that day, but in their attempt to officially retire in the near future. Some of those scary questions that I talked about were met head on.
Now the questions were asked. Conversations were had. Emotions were displayed. However no answers were given that day. I face this issue with many of my clients. The initial conversation they want every answer at that exact moment.
While I might have the answer right there and then, helping people as a money coach is not about feeding quick answers that they can find just as easily on the internet by searching Google. It’s about taking a moment and listening to their situation. Wants. Needs. Values. Dreams. Why.
People don’t work with me because I can tell them whether to choose the Debt Snowball or the Debt Avalanche pay down strategy. People work with me because they know that I am going to have their back every step of the way. I tell clients this all the time. I don’t use the word “You” very often when I’m coaching. Instead I use the word “We”, because I truly believe that WE are in this together.
My parents asked for both my wife and I to sit down with them. I do think some of this is because they have changed my diaper. My parents have seen me make mistakes growing up. I’m sure it is more difficult to listen to someone that not long ago couldn’t grow facial hair.
Having my wife at the table for them gave them someone who they respected and has made sound financial decisions almost every step of her financial life. Also my wife is clearly the better looking one of the marriage and just her smile can put most at ease.
My 2 hour coaching session with my parents was face to face, live and in person. We talked about what needed to change. What they were doing great. But the biggest part of our conversation was providing an action plan to reach their goals.
My parents had debt. Credit cards, a bank loan, a yearly timeshare maintenance fee, a second mortgage or HELOC, and a mortgage. The debt could take years to pay off at the rate they were going, but my parents wanted to retire in months.
To be clear Mom and Dad were not bringing home six figures. In fact they were just trying to pay the bills and make ends meet like most people in America. Lights, camera, action plan.
After giving my parents an action plan I did include a little Even Steven Money magic on the side as part of my coaching. I didn’t pay off my parents debt like this Kansas City Royal 1st round draft pick, but then again I didn’t sign a 4.25 million dollar signing bonus either. Cheers to Brady Singer for doing this, I’m sure it’s a moment his parents will never forget.
The edge I gave my parents was I did some of the leg work for them. Let’s just say they received the VIP Even Steven Money package. I personally got on the phone with Directv and negotiated the bill, saving $50 per month. In fact I used the same strategy I used for negotiating with Comcast Xfinity.
Next was doing the research on how to eliminate the timeshare. This is not the easiest process in the world. The specifics were painful, but the reward was eliminating what amounted to thousands of dollars each year. I was even able to do it all on a deadline as the rather large yearly maintenance bill was coming due in a few short days.
This was just the beginning. While we were able to save money, the big challenge was ahead. Like any good financial success story it has twists and turns.
I call my parents every week, well almost every week. Starting in December the calls also included a weekly check in on how they were doing with the action plan.
After my clients have worked with my for the 2 hour Road to Financial Freedom I find out if they are able to take the action plan I provided and run with it on their own.
In almost every case the client has seen how much value I have provided and want the accountability that goes along with what’s next in their financial journey. In the short 2 hour call they know if they continue working with me they will achieve their goals that much faster.
The follow up phone calls were a fun conversation. I would go from asking my Dad if he had watched the weekly football game to a seamless transition on how the budget and debt payment plan were going. The initial going was a little rough, but so is every financial journey that begins with putting your financial life in order. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Once the budget was in place and the weekly calls about money became every other week the debt began to come off like clothes on a summer day. The phone calls moved towards sharing each small victory along the way. A credit card paid off here and a small debt there. Things were going great.
Although not every moment was high fives and chest bumps. I don’t think my Dad could jump high enough for my chest bump anyways. However, I really believe that having a plan to follow and a financial coach to encourage, congratulate, and ultimately hold them accountable helped accomplish what they would have told you months earlier felt impossible.
Over the course of 9 months my Mom and Dad paid off $24,000. This was all part of the action plan. In fact they actually paid off the debt faster than we originally thought it would it take. Well done Mom and Dad, what a great financial success story.
I often use the analogy that you might be able to pay off your debt on your own. The results are often like running a mile and zigzagging to get there. When you work with me you are running in a straight line. My parents now in there 60’s and 70’s aren’t running very much these days, but I assure you they sprinted to the finish line during their debt journey.
Mom and Dad recently put in their 2 weeks notice. For the first time that I can remember my parents will not be working. Paying off this debt gave them the piece of mind they they really could retire and feel comfortable doing it. The official retirement date is coming soon. Congratulations Mom and Dad I couldn’t be more happy for you.