Some wealth advisers are stepping up their game...by becoming therapists.
Increasingly, financial consultants are donning the mantle of "therapist" when it comes to helping their clients manage money. Why is this happening? One theory is that it's a bid to compete with the new, popular trend of tech-driven "robo advisors," who offer cheaper services and target clients of all ages.
Unlike traditional wealth advisers, financial therapists aim to get at the root of your inability to penny pinch, including any emotional baggage and family history that may be associated with spending habits.
Financial therapists tend to come from diverse backgrounds. Some are trained mental health professionals, while others are better versed in wealth management. Megan Ford, for instance, is the president elect of the Financial Therapy Association, a professional network consisting of practitioners and academics in the fields of psychoterapy and financial services. She holds a MS degree in marriage and family therapy. The Aspire Clinic, where Ford practices, offers pro-bono financial therapy to students and professors at the University of Georgia, as well as the Athens, Ga. community at large, and profits from traditional therapy services for external clients.
"Generally, financial therapy is about helping the client to really name the concern, generate some understand about why this concern exists, and understand what kinds of experiences are involved in [them] believing what they do about money," she tells Inc.
As a field, it is extremely nascent. Ford says that financial therapy actually took off in 2009, at the height of the economic receission, and when the FTA was founded.
Today, the association counts 210 registered financial therapists in the U.S., compared against the roughly 72,000 practicing financial planners. Some universities even offer financial therapy certification courses. Kansas State University has a graduate program which aims to teach students to "integrate relational, behavioral, cognitive and emotional elements with personal finance."
Still, no official certification is required for someone to become a financial therapist, a reality which is bound to raise eyebrows.
"Financial therapy is, in principle, a good thing for the many people who could use it," says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. "The problem is that inevitably there are going to be huge differences in quality between financial therapists, just as there are between financial advisors or traditional therapists."
"Given the scarcity of good financial advisors and traditional therapists, and the great difficulty of identifying those who do exist, one can only imagine that finding someone with both skills will be even more difficult."
You should also consider, as Ford notes, that financal therapists rarely take "traditional" health insurance plans, and that means that services can become costly. That can be an irony for some, or surprising helpful for others.