I've seen this dozens of times: a spiritual, health, wellness, or lifestyle coach starts their business off with great intentions. They want to see and create massive change in the world, and luckily, they are able to reach a large enough audience to start being taken seriously in their work. They book clients for sessions, start hosting retreats, create larger group practices, and work their craft into a full-time business. It's amazing, truly - I deeply admire the concentrated time these coaches put into their online presence, their message, and their talents.
Obviously building a business from the ground up, and very quickly, generates a lot of sudden wealth. And this is great too, but often times it leads the coach to believe they've found "the secret" to getting rich quick. Their next course will teach you how to follow in their footsteps and do the same (for the low, low price of $444, or something).
Again, I'm all for small business owners, healers, emotionally-intelligent and gifted people creating a platform and a list of profitable courses that allows them to thrive. If it were my calling, I could surely see myself attempting to build something similar out of Lead to Gold. But what I'm not so crazy about, especially when working under the guise of wellness, is the sudden transition from helping clients to rediscover their bodies, gain intimacy and vulnerability in their relationships, and strengthening their mental health, to promising them their first six-figure year of profit if you just adopt their mindset about money. Every teacher I've personally worked with in this area has at some point bragged about their amassing amount of wealth, and every time it happens, it immediately turns me off from wanting to work with them.
Perhaps I should give a bit of context to where I believe my distrusting reaction comes from. As a child I was by no means poor, but finances were absolutely a struggle for my family. I always had what I needed, but we were paycheck-to-paycheck for most of my upbringing, accruing debts and having to borrow money from other family members on the regular. I remember being incredibly self-conscious of the size of my house when my friends would come over, or of the clothes I wore to school because my mom couldn't afford to buy me Ugg boots or Abercrombie. Anytime we went to the grocery store together, I would walk away from the register before I could see the total we were about to spend, because it would fill me with dread and guilt. I knew how much stress finances caused for my parents, and I hated that my brother and I seemed to make it worse. For years after, money inherently meant stress, dread, guilt, bad. Only recently have I gotten to a place where I feel I can actually be flexible with and free to spend my money in a way that feels a bit zealous, because I've recognized I actually won't go into debt, or go broke, or have to borrow from someone else. I'm okay.
But it took my entire life to feel that way.
That is essentially the reason for why money coaching leaves such a bad taste in my mouth - these people got lucky and it happened for them quickly. Amazing! But for many people, achieving financial security takes decades, no matter what they've been taught. For many others, it never comes at all. Surely, there are professionals and scholars in economics out there teaching people strategies that actually benefit them, but in this realm, I want to focus on the many wellness influencers and coaches who saw a quick rise in their numbers, a speedy influx of wealth, and then decided to sell their luck as a one-size-fits-all approach. I want to explore in more depth why these types of coaching methods are not only tone-deaf, but actually quite harmful to the masses. Keep reading, and we'll discuss three reasons why money coaching has no home in the world of true wellness.
1. Obsession with money is inherently capitalistic.
When we think about overall wellness or wellbeing, financial health could certainly be a subcategory of it. We all want to feel at least financially stable, if not actively watching our wallets grow and thrive. The reality is, it's just not easy to do under our current economy unless you work extremely hard, are presented with a lucky opportunity, or had a lot of help from the start. It shouldn't be a secret to anyone at this point that the middle class is shrinking; so quickly, in fact, some argue it doesn't even exist anymore. With this in mind, there are a few ethical approaches to take in teaching the masses how to interact with money. The first that comes to mind is financial literacy courses, and from there you may see sections specifically for women, for Gen Z, or for people who are otherwise "beginners" in the economic world. I see no issue with this if the person offering them is qualified to do so - after all, managing money and understanding the expenses that come with being alive are skills we all have a right to learn.
The issues arise when self-proclaimed gurus pretend they have a secret shortcut through all the steps, all the boring preparation and sound financial advise that is - spoiler alert - already out there for free. Part of selling a money-making course - actually, part of selling anything, really - is to make it enticing. To make it sound like this specific person is the person who has it all figured out, and if you think like them, if you like their content already, it'll work for you, too. You'll watch as they post about how many people have already bought the course and try to guess how much money that alone has dropped into their account. You'll listen as they tell you how nice it is to be able to go to hot yoga at noon on a Wednesday because their business and wealth gives them the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever. You'll think, "wow, this is so simple for them." You'll either be impressed, or jealous, or both.
And then their course will do next to nothing for you. Maybe you'll have a shift in your mindset, maybe you'll be less afraid to spend money. But will you amass that promised six figures in the next year?
What happens after? You'll be frustrated and jaded, or frustrated and continuing to look for the right answers. Either way, this person profited off of selling you something they can't provide, because they don't know you. They're just really good at acting like they do. This doesn't sound like a person who is interested in helping anyone feel more fulfilled, free, or "well." This is a person running the race of capitalism and stopping at nothing to make a few more bucks.
2. Most teachings are dishonest and unrealistic.
Similar to the tactic of "secret keeping" many coaches will use to tempt us to buy their money courses, they will also often promise results they can't exactly deliver. Admittedly, I've paid what I felt was a fair price for a set of modules designed to help me grow my Instagram following - they assure you if you follow their steps, you could amass 10,000 followers in under six months. Though I didn't expect anywhere near that number as the outcome, of course I haven't even reached a fraction of it. The vast majority of money coaches approaches are the same: they come off as so confident in their system, it could work for any situation, any person, anytime. Why not try it?
Well, how similar is your life, your financial situation, or your needs to theirs?
This is a critical question to ask if ever considering paying for someone to help you make more money. You will not see results by adopting the beliefs of someone who lives a different life and faces different obstacles in achieving their goals. Those goals are not likely to be your goals. But again, it's easy to make a course sound like it's the perfect option for you and your situation. Be cautious and read between the lines - just because it worked for one person does not mean it will work for you.
3. Courses largely ignore the reality of the 99%.
When filling out applications or questionnaires to enroll in these courses, a common question that appears is "how much are you willing to invest in yourself/your success?" This is a trick question. You are supposed to want to invest anything and everything you can, but for the average American today, even a few hundred dollars is hard to give. When many of the wellness coaches offering these courses want thousands for their tuition, they exclude the audience who would likely benefit the most from their teachings. Some offer pay scales or plans to pay over time, but even these present way too high of a barrier for the average citizen to cross. It's disheartening, because it creates the message that the lower class isn't worthy of building themselves up financially. Access is already severely limited to quality healthcare, housing, education, transportation, and much more - to create a barrier to entry for these people again clearly shows that wellness of the collective was never actually the goal in mind.
And I get it - these people want to make money, too. But I often wonder if they've considered lowering the fence and allowing instead a wider audience of people to join in on the learning. Maybe it's not the way most "money coaches" do it, but would it be such a risk to try something different?
For most Americans, "investing in yourself" looks like a new top or two a few times a year, or getting an iced latte after a stressful week. It's low cost and short-term, because that's about as far as one can go without breaking the bank. Larger investments are too difficult for the masses right now. Coaches need to stop speaking as if that's a personal disgrace. It's just reality.
Perhaps this pocket of influencers haven't found their way into your wellness journey. If that's the case, I'm glad! But I'm sure we've all considered ways to expand our wealth, and those of us who find ourselves in these more spiritual realms of internet communities may have a more difficult time finding actual sound advice though them. Though I am by no means a financial expert, I do believe in keeping it simple. Here are a few things we can all do on our own path and within our own means to help us strengthen our financial wellness if it's something we've been stressing about:
Set small goals for saving, like making coffee at home or limiting online shopping
Start budgeting with a free app like Mint or Fidelity
Speak with a financial advisor - someone trained to help you one-on-one with money questions or goals, often for a fraction of the price of a "money coach"
Know what is realistic for you in terms of growth and goals. Take it slow and have compassion for your individual journey.
Practice balance. Don't overspend, but recognize when you are able to do something nice for yourself. It's okay to invest what you can into your personal wellbeing.
The rise of the Instagram money coach has brought to light a concerning trend that warrants our attention. While their promises of financial success and empowerment might initially seem appealing, it's crucial to recognize the potential harm these coaches can cause. From promoting unrealistic expectations to exploiting vulnerable individuals, the problematic nature of this industry cannot be ignored. The bottom line is that we have to approach financial education and guidance with a critical eye, seeking reputable sources and professionals who prioritize actual financial well-being over quick fixes and sensationalized success stories. In doing so, we can protect ourselves from falling into the traps and instead work towards building a sustainable and responsible financial future for ourselves.