Can the Financial Gym Help You Fix Your Finances?

By  Tawnya Redding

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Over half of Americans want to make fixing their finances a priority, according to a recent MagnifyMoney survey.

While the first step in achieving any transformational goal is to acknowledge the need for change and make it a priority, some things like getting your finances in order are easier said than done.

Fixing your finances is an arduous task and many simply don’t know where to begin, or they start strong and lose steam. In these situations, it’s often worthwhile to have someone who can guide and motivate you to work toward reaching your goals.

That’s where a financial trainer comes in. Just like a personal trainer, therapist, or coach, a financial trainer helps you identify areas for growth, make a plan to achieve those goals, and help keep you on the path to success.

One option for financial coaching comes from the Financial Gym, which dubs itself your B.F.F. (Best Financial Friend).

But is the Financial Gym right for your situation? Read on to learn about the Financial Gym, its services, and whether this form of financial coaching is right for you.

What is the Financial Gym?

The Financial Gym is a program comprised of online and in-person financial trainers who take a fitness-inspired approach to coach clients toward meeting their financial goals. It was founded by Shannon McLay in 2013.

McLay was inspired to start the Financial Gym after noticing a significant gap while working as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch. As a financial advisor for a large company, she was only allowed to work with clients holding investing assets worth $250,000 or more. Realizing that most people wanting financial help have far less to invest or paying off debts is their priority, she sought to fill that gap by providing financial training services for everyday people.

Called B.F.F.’s, a Financial Gym trainer will help you design a customized plan to work toward achieving whatever financial goals matter most to you. B.F.F.’s then check in with you along the way to help you stay on track and make adjustments as needed.

Even better, you can choose to work with a coach online or, depending on where you live, stop by one of four financial gym locations to get your financial “workout” in in-person.

Aside from personalized coaching, the Financial Gym offers online courses, programs for businesses, and a list of approved products for those who prefer self-directed learning.

Whether it’s paying off debt, saving a house, or preparing to combine your finances as a married couple, the Financial Gym has trainers ready to help you design and implement a plan to get you where you want to go.

How Does the B.F.F. Program Work?

The Financial Gym training process is similar to that of personal fitness training, except in this case, you’re improving your financial fitness.

The first session is what founder Shannon McLay calls your “financially naked session.” This initial meeting is all about getting real with your financial situation and your goals. You’re then assigned a trainer and a financial fitness plan customized to you and your goals.

After that first session, the training process is relatively straightforward. You meet your B.F.F., work on a customized plan, check-in regularly with your B.F.F. to ensure you’re still on track, and eventually, you realize your goals and take control of your finances.

Within a week of joining the program, members are sent a 20-page report detailing the steps they need to take to reach their goals.

Financial topics covered by certified financial trainers include:

  • Goal-setting
  • Budgeting
  • Saving
  • Debt repayment
  • Travel hacking
  • Credit cards
  • Investing
  • Saving for retirement
Woman holding money wearing workout clothes.

B.F.F. Certification Requirements & Financial Gym Careers

Those aspiring to be a Best Financial Friend, aka financial trainers, go through an 8-week apprenticeship program in which they shadow a current B.F.F. to determine if the program and position is a good fit.

Once fit is determined, individuals complete a 4-week Certified Financial Training program to start their financial gym career before becoming a financial trainer. This program covers many of the same topics included in financial advisor and CFP (certified financial planner) programs but also emphasizes other topics such as budgeting and behavioral finance.

Founder Shannon McLay developed the training program based on her 7 years of experience as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. While this program does not result in CFP accreditation and financial trainers do not take securities exams like the Series 7 or Series 65, the goal of the Financial Gym is to provide financial education and not to manage client assets directly.

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Where are the Financial Gym Locations?

There are four Financial Gym locations where you can go for face-to-face interactions with your B.F.F. and other like-minded individuals for those who prefer an in-person approach.

There are two locations in New York City (in Brooklyn and Manhattan). Additionally, there are locations in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

As with physical fitness, some individuals may need that brick-and-mortar location to help with motivation and accountability. However, if you prefer that community setting and live near one of the Financial Gym locations, consider doing your coaching sessions in person.

How Much does the Financial Gym Cost?

As with a typical gym, members of the Financial Gym pay a monthly membership fee of less than $100/month.

Although the different membership fee amounts are not discussed on the website, founder Shannon McLay stated in an interview that they start around $85 a month and require a three-month minimum commitment.

If you don’t feel that the program is working, you have the option to cancel at any time (after the three-month minimum), and there is a money-back guarantee available if you meet certain requirements. You can also ask about student discounts.

Regardless of which membership option you choose, all memberships come with:

  • A 1-hour goal-setting meeting with your B.F.F.
  • A review of your financial plan
  • Quarterly check-ins with your trainer
  • Access to your trainer as things arise
  • Access to the Financial Gym online spend-tracking portal

Additionally, all memberships include access to all physical gym locations and their resources, plus free admission to events hosted by the Financial Gym. Members also have access to six Money Tribes located throughout the U.S. These groups offer monthly meetups to create a community of people who are passionate about money outside of your trainer.

Other Services Offered by the Financial Gym

In addition to the membership perks and other services discussed above, the Financial Gym also offers several other financial service options.

Online Courses

The Financial Gym offers six different online financial courses covering a wide range of topics. These courses range between $35 and $150 and are anywhere between 4 and 18 lessons.

The topics covered in these courses include investing, home-buying, family planning, entrepreneurship, and general personal finance.

Employee Services

In addition to services targeted at individuals, the Financial Gym also offers partnerships with businesses to provide financial literacy education to their employees.

Employers looking to empower their employees with financial literacy training can invest in webinars, personalized coaching, on-demand financial coaching, and customized financial content depending on the population and needs.

Approved Products

Lastly, the Financial Gym offers a list of B.F.F.-approved financial products and services to help take the guesswork out of knowing which products you should invest in.

The Financial Gym offers recommendations on loans, investments, mortgages, insurance, credit cards, and high-yield savings accounts.

If you’re more of a DIYer but not sure where to start, check out this list of approved products to see if one of these options works for you.

Man lifting green dollar sign weights.

Is the Financial Gym Right for You?

The Financial Gym program was founded to offer financial coaching services to everyday people looking to improve their finances and reach their money goals.

Along with financial literacy, the program focuses on behavioral aspects of finance and addresses anxiety around money, which often leads to avoidance.

Founder Shannon McLay likens the program’s design to a hybrid of a gym membership and Weight Watchers program.

Having summed the goals and purpose of the program, who would benefit most from the Financial Gym?

Long story short, average individuals without a ton of assets seeking to improve their financial lives and a path to reaching their financial goals should give the Financial Gym a look. In particular, those who have anxiety around their finances and respond best to the relationships and support afforded through one-on-one coaching will likely find this program especially helpful.

Even if your budget is tight, often the motivation and accountability provided by making a plan and having a coach will be enough to tip the scales in favor of success.

If you’re still not sure, the Financial Gym offers a free 20-minute consultation call where you’ll get to know the program, and they’ll get to know a bit about you. This warmup call is all about getting to know each other and deciding whether the Financial Gym is a good fit for you and your budget.

Warmup team members are not incentivized based on how many individuals join, so rest assured that you’re getting an honest portrayal of your fit for the program.

If nothing else, anyone looking to improve their financial literacy should look at the online courses and financial products/services recommended to see if any of the products offered might be beneficial and affordable for their situation.

Wrapping it Up

The Financial Gym seeks to make financial planning accessible to the average person through a program structured like a gym membership crossed with personal coaching.

On average, Financial Gym members increase their net worth by $2,500, raise their credit score by 40 points, and increase their annualized income by $5,000 within the first six months of membership.

If you’re looking for a plan and support system for reaching your financial goals, consider adding a membership to the Financial Gym to your list of monthly subscriptions.

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About the Author

Tawnya Redding

Tawnya is a Special Education teacher in the eighth year of her career. Along with her co-blogger, Sebastian, she runs the blog Money Saved is Money Earned. Tawnya has worked extremely hard to reach her goals and remain debt-free. She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University and has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer. Tawnya and Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. It is this wealth of tips and tricks that they wish to pass on to others.

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To make Wealthtender free for readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Learn more. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers.
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