Coach Interview Series: Bev Miller

by Brandon

Bev Miller

Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Bev Miller. Bev is a Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Bev: I am a Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach and I help people from all walks of life to get better control over their personal and household finances. I work with some small businesses but mostly personal and household. I teach them how to do a proper budget, eliminate debt, and follow a step-by-step plan to build wealth according to, in particular, the baby steps that Dave Ramsey teaches. I have mostly married couples, but there’s no requirement for that. I also work with single people.

NCA: What made you decide to go to the coaching route as opposed to a financial planner or something of that nature?

Bev: I get that question a lot: what’s the difference between them? The simplest way I like to describe it is that a financial advisor or investment advisor focuses on your money’s behavior, whereas a financial coach focuses on your behavior with money. It never occurred to me to become a financial planner. This is kind of a semi-retirement gig for me, anyway, so it wasn’t going to be a 30, 40-year run.

I discovered Dave Ramsey on the radio back a few years after my husband and I had paid off our mortgage and I just loved how he was teaching people the same financial principles that we had for the most part been using for years. We paid off a 30-year mortgage in 12 years. I thought, “Oh, isn’t that cool? Somebody actually teaches this stuff.” So then I started his Financial Peace University class at my church and through that, I had class members asking me for one-on-one help with implementing what they learned in the class, like doing a budget, which is fundamental to all of this. So I started helping people that way.

Then I found out that Dave Ramsey has a training specific to become a financial coach. It’s now called Financial Coach Master Training. Back then, it was called Financial Counselor Training. I took that and started building a business out of it. It is a different animal altogether than financial planning.

Frankly, my service as a coach is the first step for most people. I get people ready to go see a financial planner because if you follow Dave Ramsey’s steps you will be out of debt with a sizeable emergency fund before you start seriously investing. Most of my clients are in those early stages of getting out of debt and building their emergency funds. They graduate from what I do to what a financial planner does. I have a network of folks like that whom I refer to.

…I won’t coach half of a couple. Both spouses have to be on the same page at least as far as recognizing financial problems and being willing to address them.

NCA: What are some of the most common mental challenges that you have to work through with clients to get them in a better position to handle their money?

Bev: The toughest thing that I run into is psychological or relationship issues that are affecting their money. I have to make sure that I stay in my lane, so to speak. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a counselor. I can put together a financial strategy for any clients who are really motivated to improve. I talk them through mental blocks but sometimes, we have to pause the coaching process while I send them to somebody who can deal with deeper issues than I’m qualified to handle.

Mostly we’re talking marriage problems. That’s the most common roadblock I run into. With rare exceptions, I won’t coach half of a couple. Both spouses have to be on the same page at least as far as recognizing financial problems and being willing to address them. I try to evaluate before I take someone on as a client whether they really are on the same page. Things won’t be perfect but I try to make sure that at least both want to be coached. If that’s not the case, either I won’t take them on as clients or sometimes I just say, “You know what, I can help you but I think first, you guys need to see a marriage counselor. Come back to me when you can agree on what your goals are and each of you is ready to take responsibility for whatever the financial problems are.”

Sometimes I run into gambling addiction, shopping addiction, shopaholics and I have to again stop coaching and say, “Before we can really focus on this plan, it’s more important that you get this problem taken care of because otherwise, we’re not going to make any progress.” I can help people follow a plan and I can talk them through some typical mental blocks and issues but if it’s really a deep-seated psychological problem, then I have to say that this is beyond what I’m qualified to deal with.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding part of your career and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Bev: The most challenging part just follows on from what we were just talking about — recognizing those problems ahead of time. As I am talking with the prospect I’m trying to understand whether they will make a good client so that I don’t have to get a few months down the road and say, “You know what, we need to stop.” If I could have a better way to predict in initial conversations when there are going to be these bigger obstacles, that would be great.

What’s wonderfully rewarding is seeing the results that my clients get. It’s not even always the numbers so much. We deal a lot with numbers but a lot of clients might not reach certain financial milestones until long after we’ve finished our coaching relationship. Even just initially, most of them start with a great deal of stress and worry about money — that’s why they sought me out. I can fairly quickly relieve that part of it and thus, to see the worry go out of their faces and see them get their hope back — that’s the greatest thing.

It’s part of what we try to do. We restore hope for people. It’s when they see the plan that we put together and understand what really is achievable and the timeline for getting there (which is almost always much shorter than they ever imagined). I can take someone’s numbers and even before I’ve taken them on as a client do a quick calculation and say, “I think you can be out of debt in 18 months.” The usual reaction is, “Really? Wow! That’s awesome. I thought it would be four or five years.” That initial transformation is really wonderful. Then walking them through that and actually making that happen is great.

We have to get over ourselves. We can’t swoop in and save everybody. We’re coaches, but the clients have to do the work themselves. We can’t do it for them.

NCA: In your training, is there a mentor that you encountered or worked with who was the most vital to your success as a coach and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Bev: That’s an easy one. If you’re to talk to any Ramsey coach most would say Chris Hogan. Anybody that knows the Ramsey personalities is familiar with Chris Hogan and he is very involved in the coach training program and in the yearly continuing ed conferences that they have. He’s just a fabulous mentor to all of the coaches.

There’s one lesson that he’s taught me and all of us. I can literally see him standing on stage at the conference, bending over, hands on his knees, staring into our eyes, telling us to remember that we do not wear a superhero cape. And there’s been times I’ve had to visualize him telling me that. I can think of him looking me in the eyes. He’s got this deep booming voice telling us, “You can help anyone, but you can’t fix everyone.” And he would close that with a long, pregnant pause.

And he’s so right. We have to get over ourselves. We can’t swoop in and save everybody. We’re coaches, but the clients have to do the work themselves. We can’t do it for them.

I tell my prospects upfront that I am going to immerse myself in their financial life as if I’m them. But everything in life has a dollar sign attached to it, so I’m going to be asking them some very personal questions because it matters to their money. I pretty much jump into their lives and say, “If I woke up in your shoes, what would I do?” You’ve got some really personal knowledge and you get to know them very well. You can see the possibilities if they would just do whatever it is they need to do. And it’s really disappointing when you have one that can’t get over their obstacles and you realize the potential that you see for them.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is just starting out in their coaching career?

Bev: If someone asks me, ”Hey, I want to do what you do as a Ramsey coach.” I’d say first, learn as much as you can about the Ramsey approach before you even take the coach’s training. For example, you should be able to listen to Dave Ramsey’s show and answer every caller’s question the same way Dave does before you hear his answer.

Secondly, you should have taken, and led at least a couple of times, Financial Peace University. That will introduce you to some of the real-life scenarios from the other class members and those will usually be typical of what you’ll encounter in coaching. You can kind of dip your toe in the water and talk to these people and maybe help some for free with their budget.

Some people disagree with me on this, but I also think you should be out of Baby Step Two as we call it, of the 7 Baby Steps. I think you should be debt-free except for your home mortgage before you take the training because it shows that you’ve “been there, done that”. It gives you additional credibility, and prospects want to know that you’re a good bit further down the same path that they want to follow. That’s specific to becoming a Ramsey coach. People will find you out if you’re a fraud.

People come from different places financially. We never really did have much in the way of non-mortgage debt back before I learned all of this stuff, but I’m honest with where I come from and we still live by the same principles. You have to be able to relate to where they are but you also have to have moved on beyond that. Doesn’t mean you’re finished but at least a couple of steps ahead of them so that you can say “I’m successful. I have succeeded. I’m not done. I’m not at the ultimate end but I have succeeded by doing these things and getting from where you are to where I am.” Walking beside them is one thing but you need to be a little bit ahead of them to have the credibility.

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