Ed Coambs, CFP®, CFT-I™ Healthy Love and Money

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About Ed Coambs, CFP®, CFT-I™, LMFT

Ed Coambs MBA, MA, MS, CFP®, CFT-I™, is an internationally recognized thought leader and award-winning author in financial therapy. He leads couples through Therapy-Informed Financial Planning™ from financial despair and frustration into financial intimacy and connection using the latest in love and brain science. His ideas appear in the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, Time, and CNBC. He earned master’s degrees in business, counseling, and financial planning. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and Certified Financial Therapist-I™.

Ed is the founder of HealthyLoveandMoney.com, an organization on a mission to help couples transform their relationship through learning, healing, and growing. He offers fee-only Theray-Informed Financial Planing™, social content, books, courses, blogs, and podcasts through this website, all aimed at helping couples and the professionals that serve them understand where their relationship and money challenges come from and how to create financial intimacy in their lives.

Listen to Ed’s podcast here: https://www.healthyloveandmoney.com/podcasts/healthy-love-and-money

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Recently Published

10 Financial Intimacy Keys To Ensure Money Fights Don't Ruin Your Marriage

June 1, 2023

Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand and all your money differences and financial resentments would disappear between you and your spouse? 


I certainly have. I know there are no magic wands but there are keys to fostering financial intimacy which softens money differences and financial resentments.


Sadly as couples, we are sent into marriage and money blindly. Many of us grow up in homes that do not role model healthy or helpful patterns of love and money—leaving us making risky moves as we navigate the dangerous intersection of love and money together. Sometimes not even realizing how risky it is what we are doing. 


Trying to sort through love and money can be challenging. In most cases we are then left to figure it out on our own. There was no college course called Healthy Love and Money. Instead we turn to friends, other family members, religion/spirituality, and maybe even ChatGPT. For some, finding the path towards financial intimacy is worse than navigating the Amazon Jungle and more deadly for some couples. 


The good news is that we have science on our side. I know science is not perfect, but it has revealed some remarkably consistent findings about psychological well-being, relationship health, and financial well-being. 

There Is More Than Meets The Eye When It Comes To Money Conflicts


These are just A Few of the Many Money Differences and Resentments.

You told your partner that starting that business was a bad idea. They didn’t listen to you, and now your financial life is a mess. Yes, you had some great years, but if only they had picked the safe career, everything would be okay. 


You try to address your partner's constant spending without regard for how much stress and anxiety it is putting on you to work harder and longer, only to hear that you are never home and working too much. 


Finding a way to a shared purpose and vision for your life together and a financial plan to follow can be challenging. But it can be eased when you know how to work with the major keys that are impacting both you and your parter relationship with each other and money. 

Ten Keys To Unlock Money Differences and Resentments.


Sometimes we need to go deeper before we can go further. My own journey into trying to foster financial intimacy with my wife and working with countless couples has shown me the power of psychology to help couples expand their perspective and deepen their ability to engage in mutually beneficial financial decision-making. 


Key 1: Great Communication

This one goes without saying. We all think we know how to communicate, but when is the last time you read something about effective communication in intimate relationships? Developing great communication skills takes reflective effort and learning new ways of communicating.


One trick of the trade to build increased communication is to write down everything going through your mind before you say it. This helps you to see what you have to say before you say it. It gives you a chance to reflect on where you are currently at and what you would like to actually say. 


Key 2: Your Attachment Style

This is going another step deeper into psychology. Your attachment style (Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, Disorganized) will impact your relationship expectations automatically. Knowing your attachment style is a must for opening up more effective communication. 


Our attachment styles don’t change easily but can change with self-help resources and therapy. Each attachment style has different relationship expectations about our willingness to engage in relationship closeness and how we expect our partners to engage us in intimacy. 


Take this attachment style quiz to learn more about your attachment style.   


Key 3: Knowing How Your Brain Works

Don’t worry. You don’t have to become a brain scientist. But learning the fundamentals of how the brain works will change your perspective on why you and your partner make the money decisions you make. 


When we become curious about how our brain works, we start to realize that many of the things we think are being done intentionally to hurt each other are actually automatic functions of the brain that are happening faster than we realize. 


What do you think neural pathways have to do with financial decision-making? 


They are the bedrock of our financial decision-making as they store the wide range of experiences we have had with money. There is no surgically removing these experiences that shape our financial decision-making. 


Key 4: The Essential Role Emotions Play

I am well aware of a wide range of attitudes and beliefs about the nature of emotions and what we should do with them. What I do know for sure is that we all have them, and they do impact how we make financial decisions. 


The more important question invites you to reflect on your relationship with emotions and how that impacts your intimate relationship and your approach to money. 


Take some time to notice and name what emotions show up for you while talking with your partner about money. How do your different emotions impact your partner? How do your emotions impact you?


Key 5: Our Family History Matters

There is no escaping the reality that our families profoundly shape our starting relationship with relationships and money. What we do as adults is a whole different question. We must become conscious of how our families have shaped our relationship with money to achieve deep financial freedom.


Many people are stuck either in loyalty to how their family managed and navigated money or they are reacting against their family's patterns with money and overdoing it on the opposite end of the continuum. There is a middle zone between financial polarities that the two of you can create for yourselves. 


I can all but guarantee no family navigated money perfectly. Your family did not do money right as much as they did it differently than your partners. There is and was a mix of good and bad financial patterns more likely determined by generation, location, gender, religion/spirituality, and other cultural contextual realities than some objective measure. 


Key 6: There is Money Maturity

What comes to mind for you when you think about money maturity? Stop and think about it. 


In the field of psychology, there are many models for what maturity means and looks like. I am less concerned about the exact right definition of maturity and more interested in you considering the concept of financial maturity and asking questions about what that could look like in your own life?  


Each stage of maturity brings new challenges and opportunities psychologically, relationally, and financially. 


Key 7: Social Class Has An Impact

Couples partner across social class lines and within the same social class, and either way their experience of social class impacts their attitudes, values, and emotions related to money. 


This is not about saying one person’s social class is better or worse than another, while that is common. When it comes to social class and intimate relationships, it is essential to understand, respect, and grow in determining what lessons you learned about the meaning of money through the lens of social class and how your partner's lessons were similar and different than your own. 


When we approach social class differences with compassion and non-judgment, we can discover the good and limiting realities of each experience. 


Key 8: Mental Health & Trauma History Matter

Managing your money together is impacted by your and your partner's mental health and trauma history. The two of you may become either overly mired in your own mental health and trauma history or excessively focused on your partners, but the reality is that most couples partner at similar levels of psychological differentiation, and there is a need for a balanced perspective and approach. 


Increasing your levels of differentiation can have a positive impact on many mental health concerns. When it comes to your shared financial life, differentiation helps you see that you are both autonomous individuals with your own thoughts and desires about money. At the same time, you are intimate partners with shared desires and goals. 


Increasing mental and relational health helps couples balance and allocate money in a way that honors both autonomy and togetherness. 


Key 9: Pursuing Financial Planning Together

Seeing all the pieces of your financial life in one place can be an incredibly liberating experience. It can also help you to identify where there are gaps in your financial plan and life. 


Engaging in comprehensive financial planning helps couples sort through decisions that benefit today, tomorrow, next year, and many years down the road. 


Partnerships of equality include both people in the financial planning process, and both partners recognize that financial planning impacts both of them. There is a mutual interest and recognition of the value of working on your finances together. 


Key 10: Integration and Connection

As a couple, using each of the keys at the right time and in the right way is a learning process. It can take time to practice using each key to unlock a significant part of your shared financial life together. 


However, the more you focus on fostering and developing the keys you will create increasing financial intimacy in your life. Financial intimacy is one of the most profound ways a couple can be with each other while navigating their shared life together. Leading towards increased financial security with both financial and relational confidence. 


Making A Bigger Commitment to Financial Intimacy

Fostering financial intimacy in your relationship is no small task but one with many rewards. I created The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy which takes couples deeper into the ten keys and provides couples with the knowledge and skills they need to help them unlock their most frustrating financial realities. 


When we start building a healthy financial foundation together, we can solve the money problems in front of us. 


Wishing You Financial Intimacy,

Ed Coambs - Therapy-Informed Financial Planner™


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Does Financial Therapy Work? Let's Process That.

May 26, 2023

It All Starts With A NY Times Article

Asking hard questions is the job of great reporters, therapists, and researchers. This is something I have found in common between the three professions. However, great questions sometimes lead to difficult and uncomfortable answers or, even worse, more difficult and complex questions. Ultimately leading you from curiosity and certainty to confusion and chaos. Only in the end to find your way to a deeper understanding of the original question. 


Susan Dominus of the New York Times wrote a recent article titled Does Therapy Really Work? Let’s Unpack That. She starts by acknowledging her experiences of therapy being comforting and helpful but not always beneficial in the ways she expected. After different periods of life in therapy, she is curious about the scientific research on the effectiveness of therapy. 


I love that she shares that when she poses the topic of research on therapy to her friends, they either redirect the conversation or it might even raise a slight bit of hostility. For me, this is where I think that therapy starts to function a lot like religion. Both religion and therapy have established belief systems about the nature of humans and what we should do with ourselves in light of this reality. 


Questioning something that is supposed to be helpful and is helpful in somewhat mysterious ways can be unsettling. What if what we have believed about the thing that is supposed to be beneficial isn’t true? Where does that leave us, then? 


The difference between religion and therapy is that, in theory, therapy is based on the scientific study of the mind, brain, and body. Yet, the reality is it is a mix of philosophy, science, and lived experience that combines into numerous models of understanding how we work as humans. Ian McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary, talk about the false dichotomy between science and philosophy and its impact on our understanding of the brain. It is our understanding of our brain that should shape the way therapy is understood.


So what did Susan find from her deeper inquiry into Does Therapy Really Work? In short mixed results. Not surprising to me as that is something we are trained about in graduate school. A hard pill to swallow for someone that likes certainty. What is encouraging about the research and I remember being trained on early in my development as a therapist, is that it is different from the model of therapy that has the highest predictive power of positive effect. Instead, it is the relationship quality between the client and therapist. 


At this point in my journey through receiving and providing therapy, I am confident there are many different ways to look at what is happening within us humans and what needs help. Each therapy model explains what is happening with the client and then, in light of that, what types of interventions would be appropriate to help the client. Each view has its value and limitations. 


Where Does Financial Therapy Fit In This Picture?

Financial therapy is built on the back of therapy and financial planning. As with any field of professional practice, there should be open and ongoing questions about the effectiveness of its practice. If we can not question, research, and challenge the work of a profession, we risk much harm. Financial therapy aims to help people work through the various thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationship dynamics that can adversely impact their ability to experience financial well-being. 


The challenge of both therapy and financial therapy is a question of the degree and significance of impact. What represents healing and growth for one person can be very different for another. Enter context, personal history, and cultural history as determinants of success and future potential of opportunity of financial therapy being helpful. 


Professionally I have been trying to understand how best to help people with money for the last 16 years. Each year, new knowledge and skills have expanded my understanding of people and money. At the same time, what it takes to help people achieve financial well-being continues to maintain some mystery. This keeps me humble and curious to understand better how to be of the best help to people.


Financial therapy is a particular approach to understanding what people need help with relating to money. Different than other commonly cited ways of helping people with money. Namely financial literacy,  financial planning, or at a larger scale, financial policy. All of which are important. Financial therapy can be about greater participation in and change in our economic systems.  


The reality is that when financial literacy and financial planning do not work, that is one of the most likely signs that it is time for financial therapy. On the other hand, when financial policies create exclusion, hurt, and suffering it is also a time when financial therapy can help.  Financial therapy goes deep into the psychology of being human and it’s many facets with the anticipation that this depth of understanding humans will free up our ability to engage with money in more rich, dynamic, and collaborative approaches while navigating the realities of the complex economic and relational systems we live. 


This view is far different than another New York Times article in which a woman wrote in asking if it is fair if her husband flies first class while she and her kids fly in coach on their family trips. This question was posed as a moral question, but beneath the morality of it is the underlying psychology, history, and cultural context of experience with money that sets the stage for this question and moving toward an appropriate answer. 


One of My First Personal Experiences With Financial Therapy 

I have not always seen things this way. Instead, it has been a further journey beyond learning about the technical side of money. The lesson that we all have a personal history and relationship with money really started to take shape years ago in Mexico  at a Financial Therapy Association conference when Rick Kahler was teaching The Money Egg Exercise. The meaning of that powerful exercise has grown over the years like many profound truths we do not initially recognize as such. 


Many people have never considered how their experiences with money and relationships shape how they later approach money in adulthood. And if they have, they can be left at a loss for how to effect positive change.


Now the money egg is one of my favorite financial therapy exercises to explore my relationship with money and that of my clients. It is a reflective exercise inviting people to start with their earliest money memory at the bottom of a large oval egg drawn on paper. You continue up the egg, adding new images along your life timeline. Once you have gotten to the top of the egg, you are close to the present day. Then you return to the egg's bottom and add emotional words next to each memory. Lastly, you take a moment to reflect and complete the sentence money means to me…


One of the most important insights from this type of exercise is getting a close look at the emotions you have tied to money. We connect emotions to money from a very early age, even before we have words to describe emotions. This is primarily an automatic process, not one we consciously choose to do. From emotions, we then make meaning and establish beliefs about money. Typically when we have comfortable emotions (joy, pleasure, happiness, excitement), we have positive beliefs about money. When we have uncomfortable emotions (sadness, fear, anxiety, shame, anger), we develop negative beliefs about money. 


In financial therapy, we are trying to surface and work through the different emotions that got tied to money for you. As we process the emotions, we see how they impact your financial beliefs, which are then connected to the different financial behaviors you do or don’t do and the thoughts you use to explain your actions. 


Financial Planning As Financial Therapy 

Comprehensive Fee-Only Financial Planning is a semi-structured process designed to help people look at the whole of their financial lives and the individual parts to help make sure they are working together currently and setting people up for success in their future. 


What I know as a Therapy-Informed Financial Planner™ is that in the process of financial planning, a person and couple's relationship with money will be evoked. There is no way around it. When we start to think about our financial life, a full range of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, beliefs, and relationship dynamics will come out and come forward. 


At first, this might seem overwhelming, and for others, this might be partly why you shut down the very idea of financial planning. But when we can find the middle ground, comprehensive fee-only financial planning can be a significant part of developing a healthier relationship with money. 


When comprehensive fee-only financial planning is approached with a therapeutic lens, it makes it safe and secure for clients to explore their relationship with money. Difficult and uncomfortable emotions and experiences with money can openly and honestly be discussed. Being met with empathy and compassionate inquiry makes it easier for people to talk about their financial life and make plans appropriate for their current age and stage of life. 


One of the biggest hurdles that individuals and couples face while navigating their financial life is the reality of shame. Many therapists consider shame the most difficult emotional response and it can head us into profound psychological suffering and denial of realities. 


I often hear some version of:

Am I good with money?

Am I making enough money?

Does my partner respect me and my money decisions?

I have had some business failures. 

I am not meeting my parents, family, and friend's financial expectations.


These are some of the many statements and questions I hear in the process of providing financial therapy during financial planning with clients that have shame woven within and between the words. 


Will Financial Therapy Be Helpful For You? 

The short answer is yes, and it depends. 


Getting the most out of financial therapy is about you and your financial therapist's willingness to show up, be curious, and collaborate on finding ways to move forward with your relationship with money. 


There are many ways to do financial therapy. The vital consideration is what you want out of the work and being open to seeing that there will be different ways to approach the work. 


From my perspective, financial therapy is about addressing the pain and creating greater degrees of resolution around the pain associated with money, which will lead to increased flexibility and the range of motion you can take in your financial life. 


For some people, acute issues need to be addressed, like spending that has become problematic and led to increasing debt. Yet the reality is that often beneath the surface of the spending problems are a handful of other challenges that need to be worked through like developing the ability to set boundaries with themselves and others before they can stop the overspending. For some people, their problems with money rise to the same level of significance as eating disorders, addictions, and issues with sexuality. 


We may want simple and quick fixes, but often I have found that by the time we need financial therapy, the issues are deeper and more nuanced than what any one-time fix, exercise, or intervention can address. It typically means there is a more significant change process that needs to be worked through to get the desired results. 


This is why I like working with individuals and couples in Therapy-Informed Financial Planning™, where we can work together through their objective financial life alongside their psychological relationship with money. 


When we look honestly in the mirror of our financial life, we can see and clear up the distortions in our minds about our financial lives. We all have them. 


One of the most challenging and liberating experiences we can have with our money is to look in the mirror and get as close to an honest appraisal of where we stand with money. 


Let’s talk about your financial life. Feel free to schedule a 30-minute conversation with me to see if Therapy-Informed Financial Planning is a good fit for you. 


To Your Financial Well-Being,

Ed Coambs - Therapy-Informed Financial Planner™


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How Couples Can Make Confident Money Decisions By Balancing Data, Emotions and Intuition

May 18, 2023

Let’s take a both and approach.

All he does is use spreadsheets to explain why we will be okay Danielle exasperately explains. She is so tired of being spreadsheeted. For Nathan, spreadsheets are the best way to make a financial decision, and he doesn’t see what is the big deal. He remarks that “the numbers don’t lie.” 


Doing money in intimate partnerships can be challenging when each partner has a different way they approach life and money based on their psychological makeup. Looking through a simple lens, some people love data and numbers to guide their decision-making. For others, they use their intuition, emotions, and feelings to guide them. 


This doesn’t have to be a problem when both people can recognize, embrace and expand their ways of knowing and processing financial information. On the journey of financial planning, we often need to return to understanding and respecting both our way of making decisions and our partners. 


The Value of Data In Financial Decision Making

When it comes to our financial lives there are two broad categories, there is financial information about how we are doing at a larger group level and there is how we are doing in our own personal finances. My wife recently forwarded me these statistics about retirement from USAFacts.org that reminded me of how much we struggle with our finances as a group.


Approximately half of U.S. citizens have no retirement savings. The median retirement savings is $25,000, and the 95th percentile is $690,000. Looking at these types of numbers is likely to evoke some difficult emotions as you start to reflect on your position relative to these numbers. 


I would encourage you to check out USAFacts.org and some of the other available data and take some time to reflect on what this means for your financial life. 


Beyond the group data, there is your own personal finance data. These are the numbers in your checking, savings, retirement, home value, mortgage, etc. From these base numbers, some projections into the future can be made mathematically. The reality is that many of us also make psychological projections about what our numbers mean that may or may not align with the mathematical projections. 


While I am not a major statistics nerd, I have come to appreciate and respect that statistics and personal finance math, like compound interest are invaluable for checking my emotions, feelings, and intuitions about the status of my own financial life. Staying in contact with the objective data of our financial life helps to balance the intuitive, emotional, and feeling side of our financial life. 


As a financial planner, I learned to highly value; I would argue overvalue the financial math and data side to guide my financial decisions to the exclusion of my emotional, feeling, and intuitive side. 


Sometimes we use our financial data, spreadsheets, and financial projections to protect and hide ourselves from our financial emotions, feelings, and intuitions. 


It can be as simple as I have X amount in my savings account. Everything is okay. When in reality having X is only a small percentage of the emergency fund you need. And you need to be working towards retirement savings, but you don’t want to see that financial information. 


It can be as complex as having a full financial plan showing you are well on your way to retirement, being tax efficient, and having all the proper estate and insurance products in place. Objectively everything is great, but it hides your fear that you still won’t be okay financially. 


The Value of Feelings, Emotions, and Intuition in Financial Decision Making

Some of you reading this are likely ready to stop reading now. You think there is no place for emotions, feelings, and intuition in financial decision-making. I hear you on that. I would like to invite you to consider the valuable role that emotions, feelings, and data can play in financial decision-making. Think of emotions, feelings, and intuition as their own form of data that can be understood with some study and introspection. 


For my readers that are deeply connected to feelings, emotions, and intuition, let’s find some balance in their role in your financial decision-making. You likely appreciate the heart and belly centers, as some would say. 


When we look at or even begin to think about any aspect of our financial life, emotions, feelings, and intuition are active, whether we are aware of it or not. This is foundational to the human experience. Let’s remember there are different philosophical, psychological, and spiritual traditions that all teach about what the role of emotions, feelings, and intuition should be in life. Beneath these teachings I hope we can agree that feelings, emotions, and intuition are part of the human experience. 


Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.


What parts of your financial life evoke joy, delight, and pleasure? Can you experience these emotions as you connect with different parts of your financial life?


What about relaxed shoulders, open chest, soft stomach connected with your finances? These are the feelings in your body. How do these feelings help you approach your financial life? 


Now consider how dread, anxiety, shame, and fear play a role in your financial life. When do these or other uncomfortable emotions show up around mone?   


Now consider how collapsed shoulders, bubbly stomach, and pounding chest show up in different areas of your life related to money. How do these physical feelings affect your approach to money? 


Our intuition builds on emotions and beliefs and guides us toward what we feel is good and, hopefully, away from what is bad. As much as we want our intuition to be right and helpful, we are sometimes misattuned to our intuition. Fortunately, with practice, we can recalibrate our intuition. 


Sometimes we hide behind our feelings, emotions, and intuition, avoiding what the larger financial data is telling us and what our personal financial data is telling us, leaving us at risk of not accomplishing our more significant and meaningful goals. Both financially and relationally. 


My training as a therapist trained me to become highly attuned to using emotions, feelings, and intuition to help my clients. We would pay less attention to objective data, especially as it relates to personal finances. 


The Synergy of Data, Feelings and Emotions, and Intuition in Financial Decision Making

After years of study, self-reflection and work with countless clients, I am convinced that there is a deep synergy between data, feelings and emotions, and intuition. When we become overly focused on one of these elements, we miss out on the other elements that help us to complete a full picture. 


From this place of deep integration, I was able to talk recently with my wife about buying a single ticket for the 2024 Olympic Swimming Finals. We are planning a larger family trip to France for the summer of 2024 to see both the Tour de France and the Olympics. 


As we reviewed ticket options for the swimming events, they were much more expensive than some of the other events we wanted. I could hear her discomfort with spending so much money. Emotion, feelings and intuition were pulling her away from going for the ticket. Emotion and intuition was pushing me towards encouraging her to go. Swimming is the sport my wife loves the most. There is a deep history here. The objective financial data is that we have a savings plan for the total trip cost and can absorb this expensive ticket. Once we worked through the conversation and she bought the ticket, tears came forward a bit unexpectedly. 


The tears represented a mix of excitement, relief, and gratitude. Buying this ticket represents something far deeper for my wife. It is a symbol of achieving financial security, using her “hard-earned money” to buy something specifically for herself. It symbolizes that we are out of the woods of some of tough places in the past of our relationship. 

Why This Matters For Financial Intimacy

As a couple you each bring a lot to the table. The ways you connect with financial data, emotions and feelings, and intuition will be in different ratios. That is not the problem. The reality is that each of you can work with each of these elements of being human. 


Your task as a couple is to expand your capacities to engage and integrate each of these essential elements of being human as they help you navigate your shared life and finances together. 


Getting to know yourself and your partners patterns with data, emotions and feelings, and intuition will foster increasing financial intimacy. Leading to your increased ability to manage your shared resources between the two of you. 


If you need help navigating data, emotions and feelings, and intuition, then I would like to invite you into my Fee-Only Financial Planning practice, where I help couples get organized, work together, and develop a financial life that works for both of them. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation here

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The annual XYPN membership fee paid by this firm is in consideration of a variety of services and benefits provided by XYPN to its advisor members - including the ability to be listed in this Directory. For a complete description of current XYPN member benefits, please refer to the Membership Benefits section of this website. For current membership pricing, please refer to the Pricing section.

XYPN, due to the compensation it receives from advisors in the form of the annual membership fee, has an incentive to list only these such advisors in the Directory. This creates a material conflict of interest.