JFS Financial Counseling Provides a Lifeline When Families Need It Most

"The Money Coach" is a free financial counseling service offered by Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford, a Federation partner, since 2008. Below, Certified Financial Planner Jim Goldman discusses the program he founded and extends an invitation to anyone in our community who is experiencing financial difficulties. 

When money problems strike, they are often as emotionally fraught as they are financially challenging — but the right advice can set your finances straight and restore your peace of mind. From maxed-out credit cards to massive student debt, identity theft to a lapse in mortgage payments, Jim Goldman (a.k.a. the Money Coach) has helped nearly 1,000 individuals and families get perspective on their finances and chart a path forward. Best of all, his financial counseling service — offered through Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford (JFS) — is free of charge and absolutely confidential.

As a certified financial planner, Jim maintains a fiduciary responsibility to all those he serves, including in a volunteer capacity. This means he is obligated to always act in the client’s financial interest and to uphold a code of confidentiality. But for families navigating money problems, it is Jim’s unique ability to demystify personal finance and get at the underlying issues that makes all the difference. "I ask a lot of questions up front to understand your circumstances," he explains. "My goal is to understand the origin of the problem. If we work to overcome a financial challenge, but don't get to why it happened, that's not going to work for you in the long term." 

Perhaps Jim's most critical message to those he coaches is to place their money problems in the context of their broader lives. "These are just your financial circumstances — and they will get better," he says. "But in the meantime, you're still a mom or dad, sister or brother, husband or wife. And that person has to show up every day." He is also quick to note that those who use his services don't fit into a neat category. Young or old, employed or between jobs, living on a budget or wealthy on paper — anyone can find themselves facing a challenge that requires sound advice. 

As the pandemic winds down, Jim has special concern for those who have missed rent or mortgage payments without a plan to catch up. However, even this scenario presents a path forward. "In most cases, it's just about taking a few smart steps in the right direction," says Jim. "And my goal is to give people the tools they need to take those steps forward." 

Although his work as "the Money Coach" isn't his day job, Jim wants to make one thing perfectly clear: "I have a bright line between my volunteer work and my private practice. No one I meet through my volunteer work can become a client of my private practice, so this is absolutely not a pipeline for me," he explains. "This is just about the one, two, or three sessions we need to get your household finances back on track."

Jim's path to pro bono financial counseling began nearly 13 years ago. Following a couple of life-threatening experiences, he began to wonder how he could give back. A chance encounter at a restaurant provided the answer: A family in the adjoining booth lamented that, although they'd planned a family outing the following day, their budget wouldn't allow for it. He quietly flagged down the waiter and paid for their meal, but he also realized that many families in the Greater Hartford area were facing the same money challenges — and he could help. After honing the service he felt he could offer, he soon found a home with JFS, and he has donated his time as "the Money Coach" ever since. 

CEO Katie Hanley notes that Jim’s service aligns well with the JFS mission. "We recommend everyone in our community take time with Jim. We are so lucky to have him as a volunteer; he's an essential part of our team," she says. "His confidential and individualized financial guidance supports families no matter what their income level is."
If you or someone you know would like to learn how to manage their money, click here for more information. Or schedule an appointment with the Money Coach by emailing Marcia Mizrahi at mmizrahi@jfshartford.org or calling 860.236,1927, extension 7112.

Photo: Certified Financial Planner Jim Goldman volunteers with Jewish Family Services to help local families demystify their finances.