Joanna Leffeld worked in New York’s traditional finance world for years. Now in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she’s a different kind of financial adviser. She calls herself “the moolah doula.”
“I help people give birth to a healthier relationship with money,” she said.
Her clients want to think about money and stability in a new way. Especially the younger ones.
“Having a new car every two years, buying a home in an inflated market, being able to retire at a certain age, all those paradigms are changing,” she said.
Leffeld’s voice is reminiscent of a gentle, yoga teacher — probably because she is one. And she practices mindfulness with her clients. She said that helps them break down barriers to making financial decisions.
“People need to have a safe place where they can begin speaking about what is a meaningful life to them,” she said.
Sonya Lutter, who teaches financial health and wellness at Texas Tech University doesn’t necessarily think financial planners need to go to that means to connect with clients.
“We don’t want financial planners practicing therapy,” she said. “But we want them to engage in conversation. We want them to recognize when there’s anxiety issues.”
She said there’s a transition happening in the financial planning world. It used to be all about stocks.
“I would cold call you, you would buy a stock. That was financial planning,” she explained.
Now she teaches other planners about how stress and nutrition affect financial decision making. That’s an approach that works for Sarah-Neel Smith, an art history professor in Baltimore. A few years ago when she was in her mid-30’s, she had a lot of anxiety about money.
“I think money is ruled by emotions, and emotions are ruled by money,” she said. “And I wanted a Financial Advising Service that acknowledged that.”
After a lot of searching — mostly on social media, she said — Smith found one. Her financial planner advises on the standard things — investments, risk, budgeting — but also offers guided meditation.
“Closing your eyes and trying to shut out all those dollars and cents anxieties. And instead, envision yourself on a peaceful beach somewhere or, you know, as a happy elderly person in retirement,” she described.
Smith said this is the way she and her other millennial friends want to be talking about money: Normalizing self care and mental health. She wants help with the practical number crunching. But also, “I just want to be at peace with my financial decisions, right?” she said.
And she said if doing an embodied visualization exercise helps get her emotionally on board, all the better.
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