How Financial Planning and Financial Therapy Work Together To Foster Financial Intimacy

Aug 25, 2023

As a couple, you have a lot of money flowing through your life. It can take a lot of work to keep track of it all. There is checking accounts, savings accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, home loans, estate planning documents, etc. With a hope that it is all leading to increasing financial security and freedom. Perhaps even a dream drip or two. 


There are countless decisions that you have to make where money is involved. 


Every week In Therapy-Informed Financial Planning™ I  hear things like…


I didn’t agree to you spending so much money on that concert


That’s not how much money I spent


Why aren’t you paying the taxes, now they (the IRS) just took money out of my account 


I just feel yucky and uncomfortable inside


What do you mean you didn’t get our estate planning documents notirized


I like you being my protector


Will we ever be able to retire


The list goes on. 


As a couple, how can you work together on your finances?


My answer is fostering financial intimacy.


Do you know what financial intimacy leads to?


It leads to increasing financial security and financial freedom. 


Most couples I work with have never heard the word combination Financial Intimacy, but immediately it makes sense to them. How they get there is the process, but the idea of financial intimacy is what they start to work towards. 


How Comprehensive Financial Planning Helps

What comes to your mind when you think of financial planning? 


Take a moment to stop and reflect. 


Let’s stretch your imagination about what financial planning is all about. Yes, it is about numbers, but it is also about so much more. It is about becoming intentional, gaining clarity, making reasonable assumptions about the future, and being reflective and thoughtful. 


Financial planning has many therapeutic benefits when done from the perspective of helping people become more aware of themselves and their partners, more open to a range of possibilities for their lives, and increasing their confidence about themselves and their partners. 

Financial planning surveys all the major areas of your financial life and how they function. It is much like a doctor evaluating your physical health's different facets. 


The major areas of financial planning include cash flow (spending), investing/retirement, insurance, taxes, estate planning, and college funding. Within each of these big categories, many elements can be sorted through and made more explicit about how to navigate. 


The beautiful thing about financial planning is that we can use technology and software to track all of our financial information in one place and then use those tools to help make informed projections about what our future may look like financially if we make one decision versus another. 


Financial planning is often about helping individuals and couples understand the trade-off decisions they are making with their lives and the different goals they would like to pursue. 

How Financial Therapy Helps

I see financial planning as part of financial therapy. We all have a personal history and relationship with money that shapes how we think about, feel about, behave, experience physical sensations in our bodies, and structure our relationships. 


When I lead clients through the financial planning process, many of these wide-ranging reactions come up and into play. If it was as simple as just gathering financial information and putting it into the software, that would be easy, but it is so much more. 


The process of gathering a person's financial information can share a lot about where they are currently at in how they view themselves and money. 


I intentionally use the early parts of financial planning to help draw out client's stories and experiences about money and life. I will hear about family bankruptcies, drug and alcohol addiction, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, failed businesses, exceptionally high parental expectations, divorces and money, and the list goes on. 

I also hear stories about and look for times of overcoming difficult times, getting college degrees later in life, recovering from bankruptcy, finding new meaning and purpose, meaningful family trips, and many other great experiences. 


A large part of listening to people’s stories is trying to understand the impact those experiences have had on their mental and relational health, especially understanding how people’s lived experiences have shaped their autonomic nervous system and attachment system into particular regulation and attachment style patterns. Decades of research have shown these two factors are major predictors of mental and relational well-being. 


How we make and maintain financial decisions is directly influenced by the tone of our autonomic nervous system and the level of our attachment security. Which I have written more about in my book The Healthy Love and Money Way: How The Four Attachment Styles Impact Your Financial Well-Being.


Financial therapy acknowledges that we have a deep and complex personal history and relationship with money and that it is worthy of understanding when we experience pain (anxiety, depression, shame, fear, regret, jealousy, slumped shoulders, stomach distress, relationship criticism and cut off, etc.) around money and then find ways to bring relief to our mind, brain, body, and relationships. 


How Financial Planning and Financial Therapy Work Together To Foster Financial Intimacy

The practice of Therapy-Informed Financial Planning™ creates a holding space to practice financial intimacy. When I ask my clients how often did they see their family members openly, honestly, empathically, and lovingly talk about money in their life during childhood. I will most often hear never or seldom.


The absence of financial intimacy is a big problem for our experience-based brain, which must have first-hand experience of how things work so we can take it in deeply and live it out. Just like you can’t just watch someone ride a bike, crash and then know how to ride a bike without crashing. You have to learn to ride a bike for yourself to get a feel for it and learn to balance without crashing. 


Most of us have a combination of memories of parents arguing about money and avoiding money topics. Neither of which will foster a felt sense of financial intimacy and lead to the necessary neural pathways in our brain to live out financial intimacy. . 


The work of the financial planner and financial therapist is about creating a safe space for individuals and couples to be met with openness, honesty, empathy, and loving care, which are the prerequisites for fostering financial intimacy. 


Financial intimacy is far more than an idea. It is an experience within us, our partners, and one that is shared between people. Financial intimacy is the antidote to all of the statements and many more mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. 


Signs of financial intimacy:


With an empathic tone in the voice


I am curious about why spending money on … is important to you?


How can we work together to achieve both of our goals?


I can see that you are feeling (insert emotion word) about …. (insert financial reality)


Looking into our partner's eyes with compassion


Touching ourselves or our partner in a kind and loving way where there is physical distress.


If it’s time to work on developing a financial plan and fostering financial intimacy in your life, I would love to talk with you. Feel free to find 30 minutes of time to open a conversation about how financial planning and financial therapy work together to foster financial intimacy. 


Wishing You Financial Intimacy,

Ed Coambs - Therapy Informed Financial Planning™



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