Liz Weston: How to give money advice that sticks

Combined Shape

Unsolicited money advice is like stale fruitcake: Most people wish the givers would just keep it to themselves.

Still, those who are “good with money” often want to help friends and family who struggle. Many of us remember the timely money tip that made all the difference: when a co-worker suggested we contribute to the company’s 401(k), for example, or that time a relative warned us off an investment that really was too good to be true.

So I turned to neuropsychologist and executive coach Moira Somers, author of “Advice That Sticks: How to Give Financial Advice That People Will Follow.” Her book was written for financial planners, but the techniques she suggests, backed by behavioral finance research, could be helpful for anyone who wants to give effective money counsel.


Even people who pay for money advice can have trouble following it. Somers learned about something called “non-adherence” while working in health care, and she now trains financial planners in some of the same techniques doctors use to help patients follow treatment plans.

Trump Launches New Website to Replace Deleted Social Accounts, Mobilizes Fans to Retake Twitter

A key principle: The person being treated needs to “buy in,” or agree that the suggested treatment is right for them. When someone hasn’t asked for your opinion, or even if they have, a good first step is making sure they want it, Somers says.

For example, you could say, “I’ve been watching you struggle, and I have a few ideas for some things that might help. If you ever want to hear them, let me know,” Somers suggests.


Some celebrity money gurus revel in shaming the people who turn to them for advice. Blaming people for their money problems is popular sport on internet forums, as well. But blame and shame rarely succeed in getting people to change their behavior, Somers says.

“That leaves the person feeling trapped or disempowered, or really, really bad about themselves,” she says. So they shut down, and your advice — like that fruitcake — is quickly discarded.

Warmth, encouragement and empathy are better ways to reach people, she says. Even if you haven’t been in the same position, you’ve undoubtedly made mistakes with money, so you can tap into that to understand how they might feel.

“People need to feel encouraged and buoyed,” Somers says.


Many people with money problems are cognitively overwhelmed, Somers says. They may be too paralyzed to take action. Good advisers ask questions to better understand the barriers their clients face, she says.

Caitlyn Jenner Sits Down with Hannity in 1st Interview Since Announcing Run for CA Governor

“People can ask curious questions like, ‘That’s something that you seem to be putting off. What about this is hard for you? How can I be of help?'” Somers suggests.

Once you know their challenges, you can look for ways to reduce the friction that keeps them stuck.

That could mean breaking a task down into simpler steps. To help overspending clients, for example, Somers first asks them to turn off one-click ordering on all their devices. When they confirm they’ve done that, she asks them to get online access to all their bank accounts. When that’s done, she asks them to start reviewing their transactions each day. This 1-2-3 approach works a lot better than telling people they have to track their expenses for a month.

Supervision or support also can help people follow through. A parent worried about an adult child’s debt may offer to go with them to see a credit counselor, or set up an appointment with an empathetic financial adviser , Somers says.

In fact, leading someone to the right professional may be the best move of all, she notes. Friends and family may reject even your best advice because there are things they don’t want to share with you, or they simply need a more neutral third party to guide them.

“They may not be able to hear the advice from you,” Somers says. “But you can say, ‘I know somebody that might be able to help you with this.'”


This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: Twitter: @lizweston.


NerdWallet: Best financial advisers: Find the right one for you

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City