The first time Jim Goldman knew he wanted to give back to the community was when he stepped on a live power line—with both bare feet. As he was being treated with emergency care, firefighters who witnessed the mishap told him he should not have survived.
Over the coming years, Goldman would experience several other circumstances where people with the right skills or resources in the right place at the right time helped avert disaster. With each such encounter, his desire to give back grew.
But the ultimate catalyst for action was a conversation he overheard at a pancake restaurant. In the next booth, a family was discussing inexpensive things they could do together the next day, while lamenting the fact that their meal together would use up the last of their money.
After anonymously paying their bill on his way out the door, Goldman stood in the parking lot, overcome with emotion. It was then and there that he understood both his gift and who he would serve. He realized he wanted to become a “money coach” for those in need.
As a financial advisor in the RBC Wealth Management–U.S. Hartford, Connecticut branch with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certificate and more than 30 years of experience serving clients, Goldman is well qualified to deliver the expertise necessary to help coach people to better finances.
A “money coach,” as Goldman defines it, offers one-to-one financial counseling. The goal is two-fold: reducing debt and increasing resiliency. This may include addressing credit card debt, student loan debt and eviction/foreclosure proceedings.
“I essentially tell people that if it has a dollar sign in it, I can help,” he says. “I’m trying to help people make fewer money mistakes.”
Goldman has been providing complimentary financial counseling to people in need through Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Greater Hartford, a nonprofit organization serving people from all backgrounds, since September 2008.
“I try to remind people they are not their circumstances,” Goldman says. “At the end of each interview, I have several pages of notes. I turn them around so the person I am coaching can see them and say ‘this is not who you are.’ Then we talk about roles. ‘You are a father or mother.’ ‘You are a husband or wife.’ And so on. Then I tell them ‘this is who has to show up every day to do the work necessary to change these circumstances.’”
Goldman says he is not trying to serve as a therapist. However, like any successful coaching relationship, he does apply some of the same principles used by therapists.
“I pay attention to framing the issues and motivating them to be the best them they can be,” Goldman says. “I try to share knowledge in a compact, digestible form, so they can remember it and model it back to their family.”
After more than a decade years of providing money coaching to hundreds of people in need, Goldman has seen a lot of financial tragedies and heard many hard luck stories. What keeps Goldman coming back? The answer is multifaceted.
“On a practical level, I like solving problems,” Goldman says. “My degree is in engineering. It’s the engineer in me. But I also find it overlaps with my real work, helping people take action. In this way, my work as money coach helps me to continue to grow professionally.”
“I also have developed a theory,” Goldman adds, “that everyone is just one hug or one kiss away from someone who has financial problems. Even the wealthy. Your wealth cannot insulate the people you care about from financial troubles.”
Goldman sharing his message of financial empowerment at a Jewish Employment Transition Services event. Credit: Penny Phillips, Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford.
Katie Hanley, executive director of JFS of Greater Hartford, says the volunteer work done by Goldman has a significant impact on JFS clients and members of the broader community. “He approaches work here with commitment and enthusiasm,” Hanley says. “He has made financial recovery possible for many individuals who have lost jobs or have challenging financial circumstances for other reasons.”
Because of his service to the community, Goldman has been recognized by his colleagues at RBC Wealth Management, and several years ago was named the firm’s Volunteer of the Year.
“I am very proud of Jim for both the quality and quantity of volunteer work that he performs throughout the year,” says Aaron Scott, director of the Hartford complex where Goldman works. “Jim is the epitome of volunteerism at its finest and is a highly regarded representative of RBC Wealth Management in the local community.”
In addition to meeting with people weekly as a money coach, Goldman has trained more than 100 social services professionals and volunteers to provide similar personalized financial counseling services through the Connecticut Local Administrators of Social Services. By training other money coaches, and through speaking engagements at Jewish Employment Transition Services sponsored by JFS, he has shared his expertise and message of financial empowerment exponentially with thousands of people.
“My long-term goal is to have people get smarter about money, so there is a ‘no go’ zone for predatory financial organizations in central Connecticut,” Goldman says. “I want people to be well-enough informed about money matters that these organizations decide it’s not worth it to operate in our area.”
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