Episode 18 – Couples Financial Coaching with Adam Kol

Hear how to safely talk about money with your partner or spouse!

Find the full Transcript here… *Please note* This episode is transcribed using Otter.ai, so please excuse any typos or errors!

Stacey Cordivano 0:07
Hey there, it’s Dr. Stacey Cordivano. I want veterinarians to learn to be happier, healthier, wealthier, and more grateful for the life that we’ve created. On this podcast, I will speak with outside of the box thinkers to hear new ideas on ways to improve our day to day life. Welcome to the whole veterinarian. You guys are definitely going to come away with a different perspective. today. My guest is Adam Kol. He is a former tax attorney, a certified mediator and most importantly, a couple’s financial coach. He is also the host of The Equal Partners podcast and a huge animal lover. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode.

Stacey Cordivano 0:50
Adam, thanks so much for chatting with me today.

Adam Kol 0:52
Thank you for having me. Thank you. This is a really unique podcast, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Stacey Cordivano 0:58
I was so excited to find you your podcast and your Instagram, I think it’s a much needed service that you’re offering. Can you explain a little bit about what exactly a couple’s financial coach is?

Adam Kol 1:11
Yeah, and it’s an important question, right? Because there’s not really too many people who do this, which kind of makes me sad, because this is one of the top issues in relationships is financial stress. It’s one of the top causes of fighting arguments of breakups of divorce. Right. And as someone who myself has experienced the pain of divorce, I’m like, that sucks. I don’t want people to end up there. Right? So my job is really to work with committed couples, and help them bring clarity to their finances. And that clarity is not just in, what are your numbers, for example, like, how much debt do you have? How much income do you have? Those are extremely important, right? But also, a lot of my work centers around how do we learn how to talk about money in a way that feels safe, so that we can really put our heads and hearts together. And when we make a plan, it’s not just you made it and I begrudgingly signed off? No, it’s we sat down, put our heads and hearts together. And this plan reflects our both individual and shared priorities. And we know how we’re going to get there and achieve those goals.

Stacey Cordivano 2:25
Did you find that people don’t even know what feels safe or unsafe about money? Because like when you say that, even I who have done some money work, like I’m not even sure I know what feels safe.

Adam Kol 2:39
Yeah, I mean, of course, safety is a subjective term, right? But money is a taboo topic, in general for most of us, right. And we have typically really distorted relationships with money. And we don’t feel confident about it. And so we meet this person who we want to spend our life with. And you know, we commit to them, maybe we get married. And they also, money was probably a taboo topic for them also. And now we’re trying to come together and create a life and maybe have a family and all of this and all the challenges around like, you know, even being a vet, like, should I go into someone else’s practice or open my own practice? And how much does that cost? And, and we, we barely know how to tackle these questions within ourselves. Mm hmm. Let alone How to talk with our partner about them. And it can lead to a lot of tension, right. And so what I find is that some couples either charged forward, even though they don’t really know how to talk about money or feel safe to, and oftentimes that can create fights. Or they say, I’m a little afraid about that. So they just avoid it. Right? And and those are the two most common buckets for my clients. And of course, there are people who are like, not only are we fighting, but it is really bad, and like we need to resolve this or else we’re gonna end up splitting up. You know, I’ve had clients like that. But for the most part, it’s these like, professionals in their 30s, who are like, I’m making good money like, but either I don’t know where it’s all going. Or even though we’re making a good household income, it’s still uncomfortable to talk about it. Yeah. And like, when I say safe to me, I mean, like, it can still be uncomfortable, right? This is a challenging topic for us. To me money, like we think about talking about sex and intimacy. That can be an uncomfortable topic, because we don’t necessarily as a society have a healthy relationship to it. And our money is similar, but how can we make it feel safe? How can we make it so that you know, you can bring your fears and anxieties to your partner as well as your hopes and dreams, and that they will receive it and that you can do the same for them? Because that, to me, is the essence that’s like the flame at the center of the relationship is that ability to connect with each other at that, like really deep, whether you know if this resonates with you like a spiritual or soulful kind of level, or if not just like a really deep intimate like, this is what I really want. This is what I’m really afraid of kind of thing.

Stacey Cordivano 5:12
Being able to safely voice your fears, but also your hopes. Yeah, that’s, that’s good. I like that. I know you have some financial background and then you’re also have a law degree, how did you move into this arena?

Adam Kol 5:25
So while I was an undergrad, I studied economics. And I took a job at a financial advising firm called Northwestern Mutual. And that was where I first really saw the value of financial information and tools to bring those two people into families, what a difference that can make in their lives, and like, bringing them kind of more at ease and peace of mind. And I’m like, person who loves stability, by nature and anxious person by nature. And so I’m like, ooh, insurance sounds great. I love insurance, minimize my risks. And I’ve just always loved numbers and finance. You know, I grew up watching the stock market channel with my grandpa was like six years old watching the ticker, oh, my God, what’s the s&p doing? And then I went to law school, and ended up getting a master’s in tax law after law school, because again, I always loved the like financial side of things. But through a whole lot of life events, I mean, some of the biggest ones being my divorce that I mentioned before. First of all, I knew what the heartbreak of divorce felt like, and I don’t want anybody to have to feel that. But it also gave me kind of a new outlook on life, I was able to move to a new locale that I chose myself, rather than with my partner, and I ended up in California. And while I mean, I grew up on the east coast and went to school on the east coast. And while I was in California, just a lot of different things happened, getting involved with animal advocacy, realizing that I had a knack for conflict, resolution and mediation and becoming a certified mediator, became a coach got really involved in personal development work. And few years ago, I started this coaching business at the time, I was looking for other jobs. But a few months in, I was like, I really like this, I think I’m gonna stop looking for other jobs. And around the same time, I had a conversation with somebody and I said, You know, I help people with their finances, and I help them with, I also help people with their relationships and with communication. And he goes, What about financial communication? That’s the top causes of divorce. And I said, huh, and he seems credible when he said it. So I researched it. Because Anyway, I’m still the skeptic, you know, that’s me. And I was like, well, he’s right. It’s one of the top causes of divorce. And so I remember searching for, well, there must be people who specialize in this then. And I didn’t find him. And I went to Amazon. And I’m like, there must be a bunch of books about this. And there are a handful, but I found like eight and ordered all of them and started to read them. And I said, You know what, with my background in tax law and financial advising, as a mediator, as a coach, I think I can make an impact in this area, right? It’s really one of those things that like, the people who describe finding your purpose is like, what is the unit? What does the world need, that you can provide? Like, that was really what it felt like, like, Whoa, there’s this huge need. It’s not being filled by much of anybody. And I think I can help people with this. And so I started to figure out well, what would it look like to meld my backgrounds in finance and in mediation, to be able to bring this work to couples? And that’s the journey I’ve been on, you know, perfecting that art for almost three years now.

Stacey Cordivano 8:46
Yeah, that’s amazing. The whole time, I was thinking, this is a perfect example of taking a point in life where you’re like, not exactly where you plan on going, really thinking about what motivates you and turning it into something amazing, that’s also of great service to people. That’s awesome.

Unknown Speaker 9:04
I feel very, very fortunate to have found something that brings together so much of my life experiences and passions. And I mean, just as the kicker, right, like, because money is emotional, and money is political as in like politics, and these, like these things affect our money, right? I get like, I am passionate about those things as well. And so I get to talk about money, and emotions, and society and social norms and stereotypes, I get to talk about all this stuff. And not in like, an overtly political way. It’s not about like, support this candidate or that candidate, but it’s about like, Hey, you know, how did it affect your mindset to grow up as a man in our society or as a woman, as a white person, as a black person as a whatever, right, because depending on where we sat, we often got different kinds of messages, and depending on who we are regarding money, Men and women being the most classic example. But yeah, race plays a huge role in /

Stacey Cordivano 10:05
that.

Stacey Cordivano 10:06
So you said that you love talking about emotions and money. And I am going to generalize here. But I would say that most veterinarians would have that on the low part of their list of things that they enjoy.

Adam Kol 10:18
Fair enough.

Stacey Cordivano 10:19
And I would be included in that list. So I’ve talked previously in other episodes about how I feel so strongly that, you know, a cash flow plan and a family budget is very important. But I did not start off that way. And it has not been that way for very long. And when my husband and I were struggling, in our marriage and our family, a big part of that was finances, and he approached it terribly. I can say that, because I’ve said that to his face. He had these grand plans, and did a bunch of research and learning without me and then kind of came in, and was very domineering. And I am also a strong leader. And that felt very abrasive to me. And it kind of shut me off. So I guess I’m curious if you have some examples of ways that the more financially minded person or someone who’s at least interested in getting started with this could broach this subject with their partner?

Adam Kol 11:27
Absolutely. So I’ll share with you in the shownotes, where people can find a guide that I’ve put together, that’s for free on three steps to start the money conversation, right? If you want to have something more static that you can work through. But it’s like anything else in life that’s a challenging topic. It’s a mix of self awareness, and then courage and compassion. Right. So let me let me break that down, like self awareness. What are the thoughts and triggers that come up for me around this topic? Let me think through those a little bit. So I can be aware of them maybe the triggers so that if my partner says something, I don’t have to fly through to the moon, right? I can kind of take a breath and stay grounded. And then the courage is about making a request, like, Can we have a when’s a good time to talk about this. And then that compassion is really about listening to and understanding them. I was fortunate to be quoted in the Wall Street Journal A while ago, and I talked to the reporter for like, half an hour, and she pulled a single quote, and it was like, the most unprofessional thing I said in the whole interview. But a lot of people really liked it, because it was kind of true. It said, like, when you’re not on the same page, it’s easy to think that your partner is just being a jerk. Right?

Stacey Cordivano 12:46
Yeah. That is very true.

Adam Kol 12:49
You resonate with that? Yeah. And and it can be it’s a small step from there to, why don’t they care about this? Why don’t they care about me? Are we even on the same page for our relationship? Are we going to end up, right? It’s so easy to go there for the human brain better, for worse, our brains are incredible, but they’re also terrifying sometimes. And if you can manage yourself, and listen Curiously, and ask your partner questions to understand them, they will eventually open up to you. And most likely what you’ll see is they weren’t trying to piss you off. Right? Like we all have our own relationships to money that as I mentioned before, because it’s such a taboo, they go unexamined. Oftentimes, people have a narrative in their back of their mind, like, Hey, I work hard. So I deserve this. I deserve to have X nice thing.

Stacey Cordivano 13:42
Yeah. Especially like for us after getting through four years of vet school and additional training. And I’m sure a little bit you felt like that way after law school.

Adam Kol 13:49
exactly. Right. And there’s nothing wrong with that idea. But sometimes it ends up looking like defiance. Like, well, I don’t care that we set up this budget, it was stupid anyway. And I didn’t really agree to it, right, like you justifying, you’re like, so I want that $500 XYZ. And this is when the rift can start or grow with us in our partner, and that is where it can become a problem. And here’s the thing, even if you’re doing fine financially, like even if your balance sheet looks okay, even if there’s more money coming in than going out. If that emotional rift is there, if you don’t feel like you can trust your partner, if you don’t feel like you’re on the same page. If you don’t feel connected on this topic, it will drive a wedge. Wealthy people get divorced all the time. It’s not because they had money issues as a cash flow issue. It’s because they never got on the same page about it and it became a topic of tension. And then we go into our default modes. Some of us become patronizing. Some of us become resentful and either get angry or passive aggressive, right, it can get ugly real fast. And if you can be proactive and you can come compassionately to Your partner, and just start from a place of curiosity. See, that’s the thing, the number one mistake that couples make, especially if money is an uncomfortable topic for them, is they go straight to the numbers and straight to the budget. And the budget is great. The numbers are essential. However, if you go straight there, imagine that you don’t feel safe at all talking to your partner about anything related to money. And then you sit down and you’re like, should we keep DirecTV? Or should we cut the cord and go to like Hulu and Netflix? There is no context for that conversation. Yeah, there’s no How does this fit into our bigger plan? Why would I cut the cord on the TV stuff? Like what is happening to that $50 that we save? What about that goal that I want? I really want to have a massage chair. Are we working on that? Because I know we’re working towards this for you is like whoa, slow down there. Right? Like, maybe it’s because I’m with an equine veterinarian. I’m like, Whoa, Nelly, like, you know, I got that image in my head. Yeah, it’s a whole different ballgame, if you can start from a place of getting to know each other on this topic. And you can almost think about it like your first date. But it’s like your first date about money. Because most of us have never had a real conversation about it. And you don’t need any superpowers. Right, the place I recommend that people start is talk about how money was for you growing up, you know, what did you see from your parents or whoever raised you? What messages Do you think you internalized or rejected from that? You could just start there?

Stacey Cordivano 16:32
Yeah, it’s interesting. You know, it wasn’t that my husband and I were afraid to talk about money, we kind of had talked about our backgrounds and things. But it wasn’t until we approached it in the big picture. What are what are our goals? And what are we both working towards, and, and realizing that they were very similar. And that then all the back work had to come into play? So yeah, I think the point of, even if your cash flow is good, and and you’re making money, things can still go wrong. I think that’s very important.

Adam Kol 17:06
Yeah. And I mean, you know, at a really high level, the process that I recommend, and the process that I take all my clients through, whether it’s private coaching, or group coaching, or whatever, is like learn how to talk about money with each other and understand how each of you feels about money, then zoom out to the big picture and like, get a grasp on what are your individual and shared goals? And then kind of like you were saying, like, then you work backwards. Okay. So if we want to have a house in three years, and we want this kind of house and this kind of downpayment, what are we? What do we have to do today? To be able to be there in three years, right? And then you actually have a financial plan. That makes sense. So now when you have that conversation about DirecTV versus Hulu and Netflix, you say, Oh, well, if we save that $50 extra a month, and we put it towards the down payment, you know, we’ll actually be able to move a couple months sooner. Oh, okay. Well, yeah, I mean, I like DirecTV a little better. But I really do care even more about the house. So let’s do that. Right now. It’s a whole different, whole different narrative.

Stacey Cordivano 18:08
Yeah. And it’s not like you’re doing this wrong by choosing to spend on this. It’s like, remember, we’re working towards this. It’s not that one person’s doing one thing wrong or the other, it’s that we need to remind each other that we’re working towards the bigger picture.

Adam Kol 18:22
Absolutely. And so it gives you something when you have that plan, you have something to hold each other accountable to right and my process with my clients, I mean, sometimes they need me to be a little heavy handed. But for the most part, I’m like, Listen, if you want to make that purchase, make that purchase. What I want for you is to be aware of how it impacts you. Right? So you might look and say, Oh, you know, that $5,000 season tickets to the opera. I know if I get that it’s gonna we’re gonna have to wait, you know, an extra six months till we feel ready to have our first kid. If you’re okay with that. Great. Go for it. There’s a word we say in Yiddish. My family’s Jewish, like European Jews, say it’s like, go for it, enjoy, have it, like, go for it. But if you look and you’re like, wait a minute, no, having kids being able to start our families sooner is more important to me. Then you can choose from a place of intentionality. Okay, how do I prioritize the kids versus the opera versus this other thing? And it’s not that you’re gonna get anything, everything absolutely right and perfect. But it’s the more intentionality you can bring, the happier the more satisfied you will be. And the more you are able to talk about it with your partner and have a plan, then when your priorities or values change or when life changes, when somebody gets laid off, or it gets a raise. When somebody changes careers, right. You’ll be able to adapt to that situation. Yeah, that’s my goal. Like you can go to a you know, financial advisor or somebody and have them handle a financial plan. But what happens in two years when your financial ratio changes. My goal is to leave people through my content through my coaching with the ability to adjust and adapt over time so that they can as needed, reorient to a plan that actually fits with their vision for today and tomorrow.

Stacey Cordivano 20:15
Yeah, no, that’s great. And I love the word intentional. I think that’s so important in sort of a life plan, a finance plan, I think it really helps guide you, like you said, When different opportunities or problems come your way for sure. So you have the podcast, which provides awesome content, what’s the website again,

Adam Kol 20:34
so it’s ahkcoaching.com.

Stacey Cordivano 20:39
And elaborate a little bit on the services that you do provide, specifically,

Adam Kol 20:44
of course, so I mean, it’s all along the lines of what I mentioned, you know, but I have private coaching, I can’t really call it one on one because I work with couples, right? So one on two, but private coaching, and then also currently running my first group coaching program for couples, and it’s going great so far. So hopefully, that’ll continue into the future. And those are the paid services. And they’re the same curriculum and content, it’s all about helping you and your partner, getting on the same page, feeling safe talking about money, getting that clarity or looking for in how you want to handle money inside of your partnership, in a way that empowers each of you and the two of you together, right. and ending with having that clear vision, like, these are our goals. And here’s our plan and how we’re going to get there. And we understand our current finances and where we’re going. Right. So getting you that clarity in a concrete way, as well as the emotional safety talking about it. And I know a difference between the group and the private is that one is in a group and one is private, more, more individual time with me. And you know, the group is kind of fun, because you also have the other couples who are dealing with similar kinds of things like you are to work through. And then I have all different kinds of free content. I know I mentioned my guide to starting the money talk will link to my podcast is called the equal partners podcast, you can find it on all the major platforms, put out new episodes every Tuesday, and just having really deep and vulnerable conversations about anything related to relationships and money. And I have people on there who are anything from entrepreneurs, financial advisors, all the way to other folks who work in the money and relationships or money and marriage space. And we do our best to go deep and have some interesting conversations. So feel free to check that out.

Stacey Cordivano 22:32
Yeah, I’ll definitely link to all the resources in the show notes. I want to ask you something I asked all my guests, please. What is one small thing that has brought you joy this past week?

Adam Kol 22:44
Do I have to name only one or can I name a couple,

Stacey Cordivano 22:46
You can name a couple,

Adam Kol 22:47
Because I was reflecting on how fortunate I feel this morning to have all this love and joy around me. So first is my dog Nelson, who is just the best. And second, I am lucky to be an uncle for the first time as of the end of last year. So my nephew comes over a few days a week and hangs out with us. And we take care of him.

Stacey Cordivano 23:11
That’s awesome.

Adam Kol 23:13
And yeah, a little vulnerable for me to share this. But I’ve started talking to a new woman about two and a half months ago as of recording time. And it’s a special bond that we have in a a new experience that feels like a much more mature love and affection that feels different in just like it physically feels different in my body than past relationships that I’ve had. And I feel really grateful for that experience.

Stacey Cordivano 23:42
That’s amazing. Thank you for being so vulnerable. I appreciate that.

Adam Kol 23:45
My pleasure.

Stacey Cordivano 23:46
I also appreciate all of the knowledge you just gave us. I think it’s a great starting place for my listeners who haven’t had these discussions with their partner, spouse, and I’m sure they are going to go check you out. So thank you so much for spending time with me.

Adam Kol 24:00
Thank you Stacey. I really appreciate it.

Stacey Cordivano 24:04
Thanks again to Adam Kol for joining me for this episode. I hope you were able to take away some tangible and actionable steps to get on a better financial plan with your partner or family. I truly believe this can be life changing for a lot of people. If you are struggling in this area, please reach out to me and I’ll be happy to connect or go through the show notes and find direct ways to connect to Adam. He is an amazing resource. And also make sure to fill out the quiz that he provided on couples financial assessments. I hope you have a great week and I’ll talk to you again soon.

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