At times financial counseling with culturally diverse clients may seem daunting and counselors may be unsure of how best to connect with their clients and help them effectively. This was true for some of the counselors we interviewed as part of our research, “Financial Counselors’ Experiences Working with Clients of Color: Lessons of Cultural Awareness”. Even with years of experience, counselors still expressed how complex it could be.

Our study asked nine experienced financial counselors to recount in-depth their experience working with clients of color in order to learn lessons from their journey.

Our findings: Financial counselors reported that their work with clients of color required a commitment to exploring and understanding the complexities of culture, acculturation to mainstream culture, race, ethnicity, familial values, and religion, and how these concepts intersect with money.

Theme 1: Beyond the Numbers

Counselors need to take the time to understand the client’s context and values, their family situation beyond just the nuclear family, their cultural practices, and also their experience migrating to the US as it both directly and indirectly affect financial decision-making. This is done by curbing their biases, being tentative with suggestions, being curious and asking questions, and educating themselves about other cultures.

Theme 2: Building a Bridge

Counselors need to invest in their relationship with their clients of color. This is done by building respect and appreciation for the client. In doing so, counselors should not push the client too far too fast, lecture the client, or assume what the client needs or wants.

Theme 3: Switching Gears

Counselors need to have the flexibility to shift their approach and interventions to provide culturally relevant financial counseling to their clients. This can be done by providing practical adjustments to make counseling more welcoming, such as lengthening the sessions, slowing down the sessions, and tailoring the curriculum.

Our study unearthed many valuable nuggets of knowledge. Download the article to read more about the counselors’ experiences in their own words, and share your insights below.

Guest contributors: Blendine P. Hawkins & Virginia S. Zuiker

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Download the research (available to AFCPE members or by request from the authors): Blendine Perreire Hawkins and Virginia S. Zuiker, “Financial Counselors’ Experiences Working With Clients of Color: Lessons of Cultural Awareness,” JFCP, Vol 30(1)

One response to “#ResearchWednesday: Counselors share lessons about working with diverse clients”

  1. Every person has a unique box of sacred beliefs hardwired in their personal drive that impacts their relationship with money.The beliefs are passed on by their parents,role, models and peers who they observe typically between the years of 2 and 12. I grew up observing my Indian parents viewing money as blessings from the Godess Laxmi who is the goddess of wealth and purity.As a child I watched my grandfather perform those rituals of hawan a hindu ritual that involves making offerings into a consecrated fire.”It is believed that the regular practice of havan brings purification and transformation to the individual and the environment. In this way, havans are also part of yoga ecology as they adhere to the yogic principles of purity and caring for the natural world.”.Deepawali the festival of lights is the time of the year when godess laxmi is worshiped.Hindus spend the whole month cleaning and decluttering their homes to attract wealth and good energy.The culture believes that money is survival and a form of security and stability.Gold to the hindus is a sacred weapon which attracts good vibration and positive energy,I was always obsessed with having a gold tooth .Living in extended families and taking care of your elderly parents is the biggest blessing.From when the child is born to when a person dies there are 16 samskaras or celebrations of the turning point in life.The hindus believe that discipline,focus and a positive attitude and mindset results in a wealthy life.Money is really sacred to the hindus and thats the reason they are typically frugal,always look for bargains and manage money well.I love cooking as I watched my mother cooking for the entire village and even back then my father had different streams of income which I find myself striving for .I also observed the Fijian culture growing up in the Islands and for them since they have alot of land they live for today and never worry about money or material possessions.They believe in community and sharing.Often times they would borrow money from their friends and family however the village life is a simple life where you plant some crops,go fishing and have to buy the bare minimum to survive.The sense of belonging and oneness is what sets them apart and typically you have to very sensitive to those value and beliefs when you are trying to help them see things differently as a counselor.Until such time people change their values and beliefs around money certain behaviors and types are very evident in different cultures and my opinion is cultural intelligence will be the next way forward for businesses and practitioners.

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