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My Story - How did I get into coaching?

Updated: Jun 18

In my last post, I answered the question of "why" I coach. For this second blog post, I'll be sharing about an equally important question: the "who" behind coaching. To give you a better idea of the face behind New Trajectories, I will share my story for how I realized I wanted to become a budgeting and financial coach. Looking back, I realize a desire to coach came through a variety of "seeds" that were planted in me from many life experiences. The most significant seeds coming to mind are my experiences as a teacher/tutor, my own personal financial journey, and a conviction of the importance of bettering the lives of others. Let's dive in!

Experiences as a teacher and tutor:

Growing up, my parents held jobs in the fields of bookkeeping, accounting, and financial auditing. I always said that I wanted to forge my own path and didn't want to work a career in the world of finances, so I pursued degrees in math and sciences at a college in the upper Midwest. I was employed as a math tutor at my undergraduate university, and I LOVED it. I realized while tutoring that I thrived on being able to communicate challenging concepts and see the mental "light bulb" turn on for each person I was working with. After holding various teaching and tutoring positions while in college and beyond, I eventually realized I was best fit in a one-on-one or small group setting where I could identify the specific roadblocks each person was having and find ways to explain a concept so they could "get it." I discovered I was able to communicate clearly so listeners could have clarity on whatever concepts they were struggling with. I also gained a few "softer" skills while teaching and tutoring, such as listening, having compassion for others, and recognizing inherent value and dignity in each person. I never thought that one day I'd be interested in taking my teaching background and using it to help others with their personal finances. In short, despite initially not wanting to work with finances as a kid, my love for math, good communication, and being personable with others set the stage for me to start New Trajectories.

My financial journey:

My financial journey also instilled in me a desire to be a coach. Growing up in the upper Midwest, my parents taught me the importance of saving and reconciling my childhood savings account. They even helped me think through how to budget using an envelope system. I don't quite recall what categories all my envelopes were labeled with, but I think I gave up on the envelope system when I wanted to split a $20 bill between two envelopes and couldn't. I also came into contact with materials from a local course of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. At my parents' encouragement, I read all the study materials and completed many of the exercises in the workbooks. I also pushed myself to get a large portion of my undergraduate college paid for with scholarships and maintained part-time jobs throughout most of high school and college. By the time I graduated from college in my early 20's, I had a bank account in the tens of thousands of dollars. With all this good financial upbringing through early adulthood, you might think my finances were set for the rest of my life. Not quite.

With all I did to set myself up for financial success, I believed had plenty of money in my bank accounts and had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, I was not maintaining a budget throughout my undergrad college years and had not assigned the dollars in my accounts to specific jobs, so I didn't have any sense of what the priorities for those funds were suppose to be. As I graduated from college, my accumulated savings quickly began to be depleted. After receiving from my undergrad degrees, I was accepted into a Master's degree program for education in Tennessee. The program was fully-paid for, with the caveat that I would remain in Tennessee for a minimum of 3 years after graduation to serve at an under-resourced school. Unfortunately, the Master's program didn't go the way I was originally thinking it would. When I dropped out of the program, I needed to pay back past tuition and fees according to the contract I signed. Ouch! Then, after moving to Pennsylvania and enrolling in a new university for post-graduate studies, I elected to pay for some of the tuition and fees out of pocket. Double ouch! Let's not forget the expenses for the two moves partway across the country, paying rent (and breaking a lease in Tennessee), and paying for regular living expenses. These quickly took a toll on the dollars in my bank account. Looking back, I am very thankful to have had the buffer in my account, but I sometimes wonder if I would have made different decisions had I assigned those dollars to specific jobs in a budget. Would I still have some of those dollars today? If I would have invested a portion of those dollars, would I have seen a return? Truth be told, while I don't regret the decisions I made in the colleges I attended, I am confident my spending decisions were reactionary rather than being intentionally planned out in advance. Put another way, the dollars in my bank account gave me confidence I could make quick decisions about what universities to attend for graduate studies, but the bank account didn't give me a way to gauge the financial impact those decisions would have on me for the future. The bank account simply served as a holding spot for my funds without providing any useful information about how to best spend those dollars. Fortunately, after moving to Pennsylvania in 2014, I found YNAB (or, "You Need a Budget,") and began to budget using YNAB's methodology and software platform. It was a big help in getting me to consider how to propel my finances into the future rather than being reactionary.

In 2015, after having finished grad school and securing a full-time job, I realized my car was getting older. I thought it would be good to start saving for a car replacement, and I started to do so in YNAB with the hope I'd have a long time to save. Up to this point, I had not yet established Pennsylvania residency, so I started that process soon after I began saving for a new vehicle. Pennsylvania requires annual safety inspections for all registered vehicles, and when I went to a mechanic after getting my PA driver license, I was notified that the undercarriage of my car was significantly damaged from rust (likely from salt build-up while driving many miles in harsh winters in the upper Midwest), and there was very likely no mechanic who would be willing to give my car passing marks on a safety inspection. At that point, my car was at the end of its life. If only I would have thought about the need for a car replacement before I started to drain my bank account! So, I quickly purchased a vehicle (and the loan to go with it).

Up to this point, I had been friends with my now wife (Crystal), and things started to get more serious between us. We discussed our finances at one point while dating, and I soon realized our debt burden from student and vehicle loans exceeded $80,000 between the two of us. Realizing this felt like a punch in the gut, and we wondered if our relationship was over. After I cooled down from my shock, Crystal and I decided we could work together as a team to pay it all off using a budget in YNAB. After we got married, Crystal and I eliminated our loans in two years, which was unbelievable! Up to this point, I had heard stories of people who had gotten themselves in debt and worked hard to get out of it, but I never thought I would be one of them. After paying off our loans, I realized the ups-and-downs of my financial experiences to that point - the draining of my bank account, the sooner-than-expected need to purchase a replacement vehicle, and finally paying off all our debt - were experiences I could use to help others who were also having financial difficulties. A seed was planted in me at that point to be a coach. I remember wanting to tell others, "If we can pay off all our debt, you can too."

Besides our initial shock at realizing how much combined debt we owed, Crystal and I have also had a few other experiences where we feel like we've gotten financially tossed around. The two experiences standing out the most are an accident that totaled my wife's car and the loss of my wife's income at the start of the pandemic in 2020. With these two circumstances, things shifted in our budget - we moved money from things we now saw as less-important to cover the impact of these life-changing occurrences. Thus, another seed was planted propelling me to be a coach. These events solidified a powerful concept for me that I wanted to teach others: It's OK if your budget changes. I think so many people hear the word "budget" and shrink back, thinking that if they start to budget, they will be too restricted. A budget that works is one that changes with your life. Through these experiences, I realized I wanted to lead others to financial success with a flexible budget that changes with life circumstances.

Desire to help others use their finances for the benefit of others:

There's one last thing I think is important for why I desired to become a financial coach: the desire I have to enable people to change the world with their finances. It's no surprise that there are a lot of needs in the world. From proverty, war, public health, food security, mental health concerns, water shortages, biodiversity loss, and a whole host of other things, the list seems endless. Let's also not forget the more localized troubles, such as the coworker who lost their child or the neighbor who just received a cancer diagnosis, for example. Being a Christian while growing up and now into adulthood, I've been aware of the need to live my life for the benefit of others and not strictly for myself. At one point within the past couple years, I remember reading through the parable of the rich man who unexpectedly passed away (Luke 12:13-21). The quick summary of the story goes like this. A man's fields yielded an abundant harvest - so abundant, in fact, that he had no place to store his excess crops. But, rather than sharing the overflow, he decided to keep it all for himself, desiring to take it easy for many years. Unfortunately, the man passed away soon after this, and God asks him, "Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" It struck me while reading the parable that the overabundance unexpectedly provided to this man was not intended solely for him. Is it possible this man had been given an overabundance so he could be a conduit to meet the needs of others around him? Although I realize this parable may not have happened in real life, it has challenged me to think about my finances in terms of stewardship. I don't know how many years I have left in my life (hopefully many!). All the funds I have, however much or little they may be, can be used for the benefit of others around me. I've started to think about this in terms of our budget. Yes, my wife and I have needs each month, and of course it is wise for us to save for the future and have some enjoyment in life. But as I reflect on this story, I've come to a place of believing that our money is also placed in our hands for the benefit of others.

Reflecting further, I've wondered how many people have a desire to give and see a lot of needs around them, but like me, also have personal or family needs that need to be met. I suspect there are many people who aren't sure how to "balance" their needs with the needs of others. This realization has spurred me to help others sort out this balance in the way they believe they are called to do.

Ok....So how does all this relate to me?

If you've read this far, thank you! I am honored you took the time to read through my story! If parts of what I've written about resonate with you, or if you're looking for someone to talk with about your finances, I invite you to consider working with me.

  • Perhaps you also feel like your finances are getting punched around quite a bit and you want to gain some control.

  • Maybe you are making quick decisions about how you're spending money and would like to move toward thinking more intentionally about your spending.

  • You may also have had a recent shock about the total amount of debt you owe, and it's overwhelming you or you aren't sure how to start tackling it.

  • Maybe you too have struggled with some attitudes about money that don't necessarily reflect reality. (In my case, it was "I don't think I need to be concerned about money!")

  • Or, perhaps you have a heart for others and a desire to give, but you're struggling with "letting go" or you're not sure how to fit generosity in with all of the other needs in your life.

If any of these resonate with you, let's talk! I would love to help set you on a "new trajectory" in your financial life.

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