Financial Literacy Month: If a Financial Coach Could Give One Piece of Advice

Cathy (left), Kalvin (middle), and Judy (right) at the Emerge Baltimore Community Resource Fair

Cathy (left), Kalvin (middle), and Judy (right) at the Emerge Baltimore Community Resource Fair

Each year in April, we recognize National Financial Literacy month and promote the importance of developing and maintaining smart money management habits.  

At St. Ambrose, our fantastic team of housing counselors provides comprehensive financial counseling and coaching to many of the clients who walk through our doors as a routine part of their services. Additionally, our housing counselors provide financial coaching to young people in St. Ambrose’s Journey of Hope program.  

We asked St. Ambrose Senior Housing Counselor, Cathy Poindexter, what kind of financial advice her clients find the most helpful. 

My interview with Cathy took place at an event we attended together – the Emerge Baltimore Community Resource Fair – where we were able to connect with members of the community and spend time talking with one another about the work we have been doing. I asked Cathy, “What would you say is the most helpful piece of advice you could give someone reaching out to you for financial coaching?” Cathy thought for a moment, and responded, “If I could give a coaching client only one piece of advice, it would be to create a written budget. Most of us create a budget in our minds, and generally stick to it, but a mental budget will never be as useful as a budget written down with a pen on paper.”  

I thought this was an excellent yet extremely simple piece of advice; I asked Cathy to elaborate on this more. “A mental budget, might give you a general idea of what you want your budget to look like, but by writing it down on paper, you can actually be precise about how much money you want to allocate to different things, and have a more detailed plan of what your month to month spending will look like. Once you write it down once, you have a template to go off every month going forward – it just takes doing it once to set yourself up for success.” 

Again, I loved that the piece of advice Cathy picked out was so simple yet seemingly so impactful. I explained to her how I have always benefited from writing my thoughts down and grew up with my mother always making sure to create a written budget. Cathy went on, “Yep. Creating a written budget is like drawing out a roadmap of your financial goals. Whether you want to save for a down payment on a home, pay off debt, or build an emergency fund, having a plan that you can see right in front of you helps people track their progress and stay motivated.” 

Whether you are a current client at St. Ambrose, someone in need of financial advice who has not yet reached out, or even someone just interested in financial literacy, Cathy’s simple piece of advice can help you make great strides in your journey of becoming fiscally responsible. Creating a written budget is something we can all do, in our own homes, without even needing access to technology. I know that I’ll be taking Cathy’s advice – I hope many of you do too. 

 – Kalvin Garrah, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center University of Baltimore NextGen Intern