We had a situation with a client at Fiscal Fitness recently where they couldn’t afford our services because of some poor decision making. We work with them on a monthly basis and our monthly payment was coming due. But between our previous session with them and the one that was coming up, they decided to sign up for a CrossFit membership.

This expense was not in their budget, and by signing up for this membership, it meant they didn’t have the funds to pay us.

This was frustrating.  

But I wasn’t frustrated about their inability to pay me. It would have been easy to get mad about that, but that’s the last thing you as a coach should do. I want you to think about the big picture here. You can’t make this about you and think this purchase means they don’t respect you as a coach or even that they’re not getting anything out of your services.

The reality of this situation is that it represents the way they make decisions about money, regardless of whether it has to do with you or some other person or expense they’ve committed to.

What happened for my client was that they had a plan in place. They wanted something, and they committed to it without recognizing the impact that that decision would have on their budget as a whole. It just so happened to be that we were the ones impacted by that decision, but if we can remove ourselves from that situation, we can clearly see it’s not about us.

It’s about their money habits.

So instead of chastising them for not being able to pay, we say, “We need to talk about this because you have a troubling decision-making process. It so happens to be right now that I’m the one that’s feeling the impact of it, but regardless of that, if this keeps repeating itself this is only going to cause trouble for you later.”

You have to really work hard at not making it about you as the coach. You have to coach them through their broken commitment to you. I say, “Let’s talk about that process you just went through and how if you repeat that month after month or year after year how much farther behind will you feel and how now honoring your commitments will impact your own integrity and self-esteem. That is damaging to your financial progress and a toxic way of making these decisions.”

It’s a direct reason why, in this couple’s case, they have so much credit card debt and why they have zero savings. Their decision was a representation of a much bigger problem.

This is not to say you can’t feel hurt or disrespected by their decision. It is okay to feel that way. Don’t dismiss it. Instead, have a conversation with your client about how that feels to you, and how the way they’re making decisions is impacting other commitments in their life. Tell them how they are sabotaging their finances because they’re making purchases they can’t afford and not seeing their money clearly. That’s a far more productive way to have that conversation than simply pointing out that they can’t afford to pay you.