Money Angst? You Might Consider a Financial Therapist - Kanebridge News
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Money Angst? You Might Consider a Financial Therapist

Unconscious beliefs and emotions can mess up how people handle their finances. The hard part is finding experts qualified to handle both money and the mind.

By JOANN S. LUBLIN
Thu, May 23, 2024 9:47amGrey Clock 4 min

Do you worry a lot about higher food and gas bills? Fight with your spouse over spending splurges? Fear you’ll outlive your savings?

Some people seek to ease such money anxieties by hiring a financial therapist.

The goal of financial therapists ultimately is to help people make good financial decisions, typically by raising their clients’ awareness of how their emotions and unconscious beliefs have affected their sometimes messy experiences with money.

Needs for such help often arise following a job loss, bankruptcy or marital partner’s financial infidelity—when one spouse hides or misrepresents financial information from the other. Even something seemingly positive, such as getting a big inheritance or winning a lottery, can cause financial anxiety.

“Folks are craving help with financial well-being,’’ says Ashley Agnew , president of the Financial Therapy Association, a professional group launched in 2009.

Financial therapists tend to come from mental-health and financial-planning disciplines, and there are signs that their ranks are rising: The Financial Therapy Association has 430 members, up from 225 in 2015. Still, according to the group, fewer than 100 financial therapists have completed its certification process, introduced in 2019. You can be an association member without being certified by it.

The reason for the increased interest is clear: Many Americans are worried about their personal finances. In a survey of about 3,000 U.S. adults conducted last October by Fidelity Investments, more than one-third of respondents said they were in “worse financial shape” than in the previous year. Some 55% of those respondents blamed inflation and cost-of-living increases.

Similarly, 52% of 2,365 Americans polled for Bankrate.com  said money negatively affected their mental health in 2023. That is 10 percentage points higher than in 2022. Financially anxious and stressed individuals are less likely to plan for retirement, prior research has concluded.

Messy divorce

New York advisory firm Francis Financial hired financial therapist Allen Sakon last November to aid individual clients. Many are divorced or widowed women with complicated money problems.

Certain clients “don’t believe they have enough resources, even though objectively they do,” says Sakon, who is a certified financial therapist, financial planner and accountant. Meanwhile, others with limited means mistakenly believe “they can live as extravagantly as they want,’’ she says.

Sakon currently counsels a recently divorced woman who is struggling with her dramatically lower income and the imminent sale of the family’s suburban New York home. “Her world has been turned upside down” by a financially messy divorce, Sakon says.

Though the woman has stressful new money responsibilities, she long avoided financial decisions, according to Sakon. “A money-avoidant grown-up is typically someone who was excluded from money discussions as a child,” she says.

Sakon says she hopes to eventually help this client feel capable of making financial decisions based on her resources and the financial plan that Sakon created for her.

Nate Astle , a certified financial therapist in Kansas City, Mo., met nine times from May 2023 to February 2024 with Andrea and Gianluca Presti , a 30-something Texas couple who were having persistent spats over money. Andrea Presti , an email marketer, says she believed that “if we didn’t go to financial therapy, I was going to question our entire relationship and whether we could continue.”

The wife cites an argument over the possible purchase of an expensive new car to replace their decade-old vehicle as an example of the couple’s financial conflicts. They disagreed over whether to give up a car that still worked well.

The husband, Gianluca Presti, a music producer, says financial therapy taught him and his wife to communicate better through active listening. He says he stopped being the couple’s money gatekeeper, became more open-minded about spending—and agreed to pay up to $45,000 cash for a new car. “We have to be a team if we want to solve financial issues,” he now realises.

Astle helped the Prestis revamp their household budget as well. It now reflects each spouse’s interests by including expenditures, investments and savings.

Astle, who is also a marriage and family therapist, says he has seen his financial-therapy clients more than double to 43 since 2022.

Possible pitfalls

Still, there are possible pitfalls when hiring a financial therapist. One major drawback: Anyone can claim they are qualified to practice financial therapy.

No government agency regulates the young profession. Candidates for certification by the Financial Therapy Association must take online courses designed by the association covering financial and therapeutic techniques, counsel clients for 250 hours and pass a 100-question test. But you can call yourself a financial therapist and not be certified by the association.

Meanwhile, the cost of financial therapy varies widely—from $125 to $350 an hour, Agnew estimates. Insurance rarely covers the tab.

In addition, there is no broad evidence that financial therapy works well. No large-scale studies demonstrating the field’s effectiveness have been conducted.

Another potential downside is that financial therapists with mental-health backgrounds typically lack extensive financial-planning experience—and vice versa. It is wise to interview at least three financial therapists, experts suggest. Then, pick someone who admits the limits of their expertise.

“I am very upfront about my boundaries,” says practitioner Aja Evans , a licensed mental-health counsellor who isn’t certified in financial therapy. Evans adds that she failed the certification test but plans to take it again during 2024—and before she becomes Financial Therapy Association president in January.

She says she feels well-qualified to help clients recognise how their upbringing affects their money beliefs today. “But I am in no shape or form going to be advising you about your investments, money moves or creating a financial plan,” Evans says. For clients who want that assistance, she says, she refers them to certified financial planners and accountants she knows well.



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .