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Financial coaching is about more than just the money

9 March 2016
Author: Chloe Stanois
Before Ava Williams signed up for the MPower Money Coaching program, she was struggling to pay off her OSAP and bank loans, finding it hard to stick to a budget and was worried about saving for the future. When she found out that Toronto Employment and Social Services was offering a new program providing free financial coaching support to help people on low incomes achieve financial goals, she jumped at the opportunity to improve her finances.

“I was motivated to join the MPower Money Coaching program because I wanted to try and rebuild my credit and start saving more money for my children’s post-secondary education,” Ava said.

Ava began her financial coaching sessions by working with her financial coach to set realistic goals. “My major goal was to figure out how to pay off my OSAP and bank loans in a timely manner. My other goals were to stick to a budget, create an emergency fund and get a job,” she said.

Ava and her financial coach met for frequent coaching sessions where she received helpful information about money management and tips on developing financial skills, such as budgeting. “Learning how to set a budget was really important for me, because it taught me how to account for how I was spending my money,” she said. Her coach taught Ava how to use the envelope method to budget, which involves putting the cash from her monthly budget into spending categories, such as groceries, transportation, utilities, etc. “I found the envelope method easy to use and it saved me money!” 

The support and encouragement Ava received from her financial coach helped her stay motivated. “I don’t think I could have done this all on my own. My coach was there to guide me and talk me through achieving my goals,” Ava said. “My coach was always there to encourage me, which made me feel empowered.”

Throughout the five-month program, Ava came to realize that her finances were connected to other areas of her life. While she was improving her finances, she was also improving her emotional wellbeing and physical health. “When I’m stressed, I impulse shop or stress eat to comfort myself, which is bad because I don’t need those items. My coach taught me how to find ways to better myself and my surroundings, which I found very important,” she said.

After attending five financial coaching sessions in five months, Ava made great strides in reaching her goals. She started paying the minimum amount on her OSAP loan, increased the monthly payment amount on her bank loan and successfully used the envelope method to stay on a budget. Ava plans to continue working towards her other goals. “I didn’t get a job, but my coach helped me prepare for the job search and encouraged me to keep applying,” she said.

Ava’s financial coach was Colin Barry, a Certified Financial Planner at Canfin Financial Group. At the end of the program, Colin was impressed with how much Ava had accomplished. “Together we used some simple tools to focus on the goals that Ava identified. Keeping the end goal in mind helped us overcome challenges along the way. I think that Ava now has the tools and confidence to continue to make progress,” he said.

Ava finished the MPower Money Coaching program with the unexpected result of feeling more empowered about her finances and her life. “I feel like this program should be offered to people living on a fixed income because it will actually help you feel better about yourself,” Ava said. “You go into it thinking it is just about the money, but you come out of it feeling better about yourself and your life.”

Being client-centred makes the program inherently empowering to participants. MPower Money coaches focus on meeting clients “where they are at” and providing coaching services based on clients’ financial circumstances, skills and priorities.

Funded by a consortium of companies, participants of the MPower Money Coaching program are living on a low income, and may also be undergoing educational or job-readiness training from City of Toronto Employment and Social Services to make their way towards financial stability and independence. Through the first round of this pilot, participants created a vision for a better life through learning how to budget, improving their spending habits, understanding suitable banking practices, and identifying debt management options available to them.

Prosper Canada and Toronto Employment and Social Services are gearing up to launch a second round of the program this month.

Click to learn more about the MPower Money Coaching program.


Chloe Stanois is the Marketing and Communications Officer at Prosper Canada. Chloe is passionate about using storytelling to share Prosper Canada's vision and connect with others. She has a communication studies and sociology degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a corporate communications and public relations post-graduate certificate from Centennial College.

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