Paying Off Six-Figure Student Debt with Erin Elmore

Paying Off Six-Figure Student Debt with Erin Elmore
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Paying Off Six-Figure Student Debt with Erin Elmore

Paying Off Six-Figure Student Debt with Erin Elmore

“What is my fee? And what is actually sustainable? And so I used that algorithm… to realize, okay I have to charge what to me seems like an uncomfortable amount in order to not burn out and to still make enough to pay off my loans little by little.”

~Erin Elmore

Meet Erin Elmore

Dr. Elmore is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in children, adolescents, and young adults. Soon after licensure, she held her own private practice for 3 years and now works with Triad as an educational consultant and licensing exam coach.

In This Episode…

Do you struggle with setting fees and boundaries within your private practice? Are you considering a transition in your private practice? Are you looking for ways to manage and pay off loans? In this comprehensive episode, Linzy and Erin dive into so many great topics including (1) how to set fees and boundaries in private practice and (2) how to manage the student debt that often comes with getting the degrees needed for a successful private practice.

Listen in to hear all about how Erin set boundaries and fee guidelines to better serve her clients and their families in her private practice, listen in to hear how she found her way out of six digit college loan debt, and check out the ways that she is using her psychology degree in the work she’s doing today. 

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Episode Transcript

Erin [00:00:04]  What is my fee and what’s actually sustainable, and so I use that kind of algorithm or whatever you want to call it, to realize, OK, I have to charge what, to me seems like an uncomfortable amount in order to not burn out and still make enough to pay off my loans little by little. 

Linzy [00:00:29] Welcome to the Money Skills For Therapists podcast, where we answer this question. How can therapists and health practitioners go from money, shame and confusion to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them in both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills For Therapists. Hello, and welcome back to the Money Skills For Therapists podcast. Today’s episode is brought to you by the waitlist for Money Skills For Therapists. Coming into this new year, if you are ready to finally get money really working for you and your private practice, if you’re ready to no longer feel confused or stressed about money and instead feel clear and calm and confident, then definitely jump on the waitlist for Money Skills For Therapists. That way, you will be the first to know when doors to the course open again, which is going to happen pretty soon. The link for that is in the show notes. So on today’s episode, I am joined by Dr. Erin Elmore. Erin is a psychologist turned educational coach, and we dig today into her experiences, basically moving in and out of private practice. In her practice, she worked with children and families and adolescents. So we dig in today about setting fees for specific niches and really that value of recognizing the specific things that you do because of your specialty that are valuable to your clients. We talk about these as boundaries with clients, and she shares about her experience with paying off six-figure student debt in four years, which is incredible. So if you’re looking for some tips on how to structure your practice to really serve you and also serve the clients that you’re serving and some inspiration and tips on paying off student debt, this is definitely the episode for you. So, Erin, welcome to the podcast. 

Erin [00:02:38] Thank you. I’m very happy to be here. 

Linzy [00:02:40] So, Erin, before we kind of get into some of the stuff we wanted to dig into today, I would love for you to share with people listening a little bit about your, kind of journey or trajectory as a private practice therapist, because I think it’s maybe a little bit different than some people listening in that you’re out of private practice right now. Maybe for now, maybe forever. So let’s let’s talk about, just briefly kind of your journey through private practice. 

Erin [00:03:04] Yes, definitely. So when I first got license, I worked at a group practice for a year to see if I liked that setting and kind of learn the ropes, and then I decided to go out on my own. So I did have my own private practice for about three years. And then more recently, I have closed my private practice and moved into working for this company called Triad. They’re really like, becoming the leading provider of education and career resources for behavioral and mental health. So they provide resources for social work, MFT, psychologists, counseling. And so as a psychologist, I do licensing exam coaching for the national EPPP exam and also I’m in California, so I provide coaching for the state licensing exam in California. So technically my role is Educational Consultant, right now. Yeah, there’s other little things I do as well, but most of it is coaching, so that’s where I find myself now. Yeah. Right. 

Linzy [00:03:57] So you’re a psychologist. You kind of did private practice for three years, and right now you’ve stepped in to basically like educational coaching. 

Erin [00:04:03] Exactly. Yes. 

Linzy [00:04:05] OK. So tell me about the work that you were doing when you were in private practice. What was your niche? 

Erin [00:04:10] Yeah. So my specialty all through grad school and then in private practice is working with families, kids, teens and families. So all the way up till probably age like 25. So I did a lot of individual work, but also a lot of co-parent sessions and family sessions and parent-child sessions. 

Linzy [00:04:26] Right. Yes. Which is like a very specific niche in terms of like all those different configurations. 

Erin [00:04:32] Yes, it’s almost like four separate specialties in one. Yes. 

Linzy [00:04:36] Yes. So I’m wondering for you then, being that as it was where you have all these like different types of sessions that you’re doing with your clients, how did that affect money in your practice? Like, for instance, like how did you think about charging for those, that different type of work that you were doing all within your one practice? 

Erin [00:04:53] Yeah, really interesting question. So I mean, coming out of my training, everything was very by the book. And so I assumed, OK, 45 minute sessions, one fee, that’s just how it’s going to be. But the child-family world has so many unique needs and timeframes that I realized that it made more sense to be a bit more individualized. So one thing I would do is if I had a family session, I would book an hour and a half and I would charge kind of a pro-rated rate for that time. So those sessions would actually be more expensive. But it just felt right because I always felt like I was rushing if it was 45 minutes to an hour for those sessions and you’re working so much harder, the more people there are in the room, so families totally understood that and were fine with that. Or I often checked in with parents by phone. There’s always extra phone calls and extra check ins that you do as a child therapist. And so I started charging just per 15 minutes for those types of calls. So if it’s just a quick check in, no worries. But you know, if I’m spending 30 minutes here or there, 10 minutes here or there, it adds up. And so I ended up charging for those extra supplemental times. I knew some child therapists that would charge, like if they visited the school, they would charge a transportation fee. Some would charge more for certain evening times that were more desirable and charge less for other session times. 

Linzy [00:06:11] Like premium spots, yeah. 

Erin [00:06:12] Exactly. I didn’t end up doing that, but there’s just so many different ways, I think you can individualize the fee structure that we don’t hear about often in grad school. 

Linzy [00:06:22] Absolutely. Yeah, and something I really appreciate about that, and I’m curious if that was always kind of – if that came naturally to you or not, I’m going to ask you that in a minute, but I know so many people listening struggle with that. Where it’s like, we’re almost like, so in our niche that we don’t realize that there’s things that are special about it and there’s things that we are doing that are specialized and exceptional and are valuable to our clients, right, beyond just sitting together in that room. And what I’m hearing is, you really built a practice that recognized all those different pieces of work that you are doing, right, of using your clinical skills that went beyond just sitting in that room. 

Erin [00:06:58] Exactly. Yes. Yes, exactly. And I will say I didn’t have that idea on my own, soI learned that from consulting with other child therapists and actually even more seasoned therapists who maybe worked with adults, but they had been in the field for a long time in private practice. And it didn’t come natural to assert my fee or these unusual structures, but I thought it out ahead of time. So by the time I had my first client, I was like, Hey, this is just how I do it. But it felt very unnatural, I had to work up the courage to say, Yeah, I’m going to charge you if you call me after hours because your kid is having trouble and we have a therapy session. And so it took, I would say it probably took a good year before I felt fine doing that, but I’m really glad that I did because our time is valuable, you know? 

Linzy [00:07:44] Well, and I’m curious, what do you think the impact that that had on those clinical relationships? How did that impact your relationship with those clients or families? 

Erin [00:07:52] I was surprised that it was harder for me than it was for them because I think everybody was like, OK, cool. Yeah, that’s fine. And I think it did sort of set the bar for certain, not every family, but some families who struggle with boundaries or need a more hand-holding. It really sort of was a buffer naturally for me that, you know, they would think twice before calling like, Do I really need to call Dr. Elmore or can we figure this out on our own? And so it sort of empowered them to practice the skills we’ve been working on and not just use me as like an easy coping skill because they would have to pay for a little bit of that time. And you know, it’s up to you, sometimes you can wave it. 

Linzy [00:08:29] Yeah, you get to make the rules. 

Erin [00:08:30] You get to make the rules. But I did find it helpful to have that policy to fall back on with certain families. And I think they may have appreciated it too, because it gave them a chance to again, practice what they’re learning on their own first. 

Linzy [00:08:42] Yeah. I mean, you’re setting clear professional boundaries. There you go. That’s something that really strikes me and something that I notice is, you know, sometimes as therapists and other types of health practitioners as well as coaches like, we’re doing it because we care and it’s easy to think that we’re doing somebody a favor by being on the phone with them for half an hour. At the end of the day, even though we’re tired and we want to go home, you know, or by doing a visit somewhere and it takes a lot of your time, but you don’t charge for it cause you’re like, Well, but this isn’t a therapy session, right? It’s so easy to justify not enforcing boundaries and not charging fees around those things. But what I’m hearing is like for some families, those clear boundaries are absolutely essential because there is boundary pushing, or there could have been a tendency to lean on you heavily rather than actually owning their skills and practicing those skills. 

Erin [00:09:28] Exactly. 

Linzy [00:09:29] But I think with all clients, there’s truth to that. Right. And as you say, we get to be flexible. We get to choose like, you know what? I’m waiving our phone call this time, this time it’s fine. But you’re making that active choice and they know that they’re accessing you in a professional manner. 

Erin [00:09:43] Exactly. 

Linzy [00:09:43] You’re not a friend who’s available for a little phone call because they’re having a moment of crisis. 

Erin [00:09:47] Right. And I think people know, they can feel if you’re in it for the money or if you’re in it to help them. And so at least my clients don’t have a problem with that because they knew – I mean, it was hard for me to do that, so they knew that I really wanted to just help them. 

Linzy [00:10:00] Yes. 

Erin [00:10:00] It never became a problem, at least as far as – no one brought it up or, you know, push back on it, which was really nice. And I kind of expected somebody to at some point, but nobody did. I think people, you know, they know that you’re professional and they want to pay for your services. I think that’s OK. I think it’s OK for us to say, Well, here’s my fee then. 

Linzy [00:10:17] And I think that’s so often the truth that it’s harder for us than it is for them. 

Erin [00:10:20] Yeah. 

Linzy [00:10:21] You know, we make up stories sometimes about our clients and their resilience or their financial situations or their ability to hear “no” or to receive a boundary like, we can make up all these stories, you know, maybe based on our own families of origin or our own, you know, stuff, you know, for lack of a better term. But so often, like you said, they make no deal of it at all. It’s like, Oh, OK, yeah, now they know your boundaries there. 

Erin [00:10:43] Now they know. And I will say the one area I had struggled with, or would go back and do different is fee reductions. So I had several families that were like, Hey, we want to get our kid involved in jujitsu and soccer and et cetera, like, can we do a reduced fee or some of them are more serious, like, you know, somebody lost their job and needed a reprieve. And so that was hard for me because I was always very agreeable, but it’s so much harder to get back to your normal fee when you have given a discount. Sometimes it’s very legitimate and I had no problem doing it. And sometimes in the course of a few weeks later, the child would tell me like, Oh, we just bought all new bedroom furniture for me and we’re going to Disneyland. And I was just sitting there thinking like, And you’re not paying me my regular fee, what’s going on?

Linzy [00:11:24] I know, I know. 

Erin [00:11:26] So then – so that was hard, and I think that was probably where I was the most awkward, is asserting the follow up conversation of, Hey, you know, let’s revisit this fee reduction. I hear this, this and this, you know, can we go back to the regular? And I think that was always the hardest part because you want to be considerate of what people are going through, but you know, you also need to get paid.

Linzy [00:11:47] Yes, you do. And I think that resentment, whether we like it or not, does come into the clinical relationship at some level, right? Like if we hear that – I remember a client who I worked with, sliding scale, who I loved working with, she was a long standing client, but she went to Iceland twice in like a year. And I was like damn, I want to go to Iceland. Like having that little part of me, like that little like what? That’s unfair. You’re paying me like $60 less than my fee. And you’re going to Iceland twice. Right? And like that does impact our work on some level. It doesn’t mean that we give bad service or that we’re cold to them or something like that, but it’s not a great thing to have in the relationship at all. Right? Like, we should also feel respected and like, we are getting the compensation that we need to be well as much as somebody who is able. 

Erin [00:12:30] And I think it helps people appreciate their sessions, too and know when they’re ready to graduate. Because if they’re just getting it for almost free, they’ll just come forever, and then it’s really awkward to say, OK, I think you’re ready to graduate because you’ve become a resource in their life. So yeah, I think there is that balance of, you know, there’s a reason that we have a fee and it really does help keep, like you said, the professional boundaries around. 

Linzy [00:12:50] Absolutely. And something I would notice sometimes when I’d raise my fee, is I never had a client quit because I was raising my fee. Like, I, you know, the fear is that your client is going to be like, You’re greedy, how dare you? I’m never coming back here. I’ve never had that happen, not even a version of that. 

Erin [00:13:06] Same. 

Linzy [00:13:06] But what I have had is people who already, I was starting to feel like, do they still need to be here? And I would raise my fee and two or three sessions later, they’re like, I think I’m good. Right, like, it just gives them that little nudge for them to also realize that like, yeah, as you say, maybe I’ve become a resource in their life, but do they really want to pay me my full fee anymore? 

Erin [00:13:24] Exactly, yes. It is a sort of reset or a reevaluation of where are we at with this? And is this worth it or not for you and for me? Yeah, I think that’s a good point. 

Linzy [00:13:34] So, as a psychologist, I’m going to guess that you have done a lot of schooling, as is the way. 

Erin [00:13:38] Yes, it is the way. 

Linzy [00:13:41] And we were chatting a little bit before we started recording about debt, student debt. Right. And your experience with it. I’m really curious about – for you, your experience with student debt, being a psychologist and doing the amount of education you did. What did that look like for you coming out of school? 

Erin [00:13:56] Yes, I have had such an evolution with student debt, so I think I was like most people that I know, most of my colleagues. So when I started the program, a grad program, it just seemed so easy to take out student debt. You know, the program’s pretty rigorous and it didn’t make sense to try and work through it, although some people do, I admire them for that. I just, for some reason decided not to. So I took out student loans, and if I could go back in time, I would not do that. I hate student loans, I’m sure most of our listeners do, too. Yeah. And it just, it was presented to me, and I’m sure most people like, that’s just what you do. It’s just it’s so easy. It’s like it makes no sense that you can just click two buttons and be in debt so deeply. Because I mean, who reads those forms? I didn’t read those forms in front. You know, there’s no screening procedure, or anything, and it just seems so easy. And so I went down that route, and of course over the six years or whatever that I was in school, it just sort of snowballed and I did my best to keep up with the interest, but it was harder than I thought it would be. My plan was to pay off the interest throughout the program, when the loans were frozen. And so then my genius idea was, you know, by the time I graduate, then I’ll just have the actual loan amount to pay off or maybe even a little bit less. But that just, you know, good intentions, it just didn’t end up happening. And so then upon graduation, I just felt so – like this weight of how am I going to get this handled? And obviously, I was very well educated and I loved my field and I wanted to work, it wasn’t that. But I really felt like my options were limited as far as what I could do to survive with this mountain of debt I had at that point. 

Linzy [00:15:32] And can I ask you Erin, can I ask you how much debt you had or are you open to talking about real numbers? 

Erin [00:15:37] It wasn’t the six figure range, so it was a lot. 

Linzy [00:15:40] Yeah, okay. 

Erin [00:15:41] Not not like deep in the six figures, just like barely in the six figures, but it was, yeah, it was significant where I would get anxiety, like checking on it, you know? Yeah, it’s just always – it’s like a little living thing that’s always with you.  

Linzy [00:15:55] So many therapists just don’t even look at it, right? Like this is what I’ve noticed is it almost feels so large and surmountable that it’s just like this – the attitude I’ve heard from some therapists who’ve joined my courses like, it feels like it’s just been with you forever. Like, you’re like, This is just mine till I literally die. And that’s the only way I’ll be free of it. 

Erin [00:16:13] For sure, because it’s not an even understandable number. You know, it’s like I’ve never seen that much money in one space in my life, and suddenly I owe this amount of money. Like, how is this possible? And so it’s so hard to even wrap your mind around that, yes, it’s very defeating, it’s like, Well, I guess I’m just going to be in debt until I’m 60. Or, you know, yeah, if I die, it’ll get paid off, that’s a solution, you know, like – I mean, well, not not like I’m suicidal. I just mean, like, you know, lying on my death bed at 90 or whatever then finally, it’ll go away. 

Linzy [00:16:40] At least that student debt’s going to be gone, right? Yeah. 

Erin [00:16:42] Yeah. So it just seems so overwhleming – and obviously, I knew the path was like, OK, just paid off, like little by little bit. So that’s a huge reason why I actually went into private practice. I mean, I love love working with clients, I really do. But I felt like that was the only way to make money quick enough without burning out. And actually, most of my training was at nonprofits, and so I actually really enjoy working at nonprofits or community mental health clinics. But I just – looking at the numbers, I was like, Yeah, that’s not doable for me. So that’s how I ended up in private practice, and I really, really loved it. But over the last three to four years or so, my husband and I have found a way to actually pay off my student loans, which I still cannot believe. So I’m sitting here without that weight on my shoulders. 

Linzy [00:17:27] It’s incredible. 

Erin [00:17:27] It is, and I – four years ago, I would have thought that was a miracle. And so because of that, now I have more opportunities to do other things. It’s not that I didn’t love private practice, I may end up doing that again at some point, but I had this opportunity with Triad and you know, was able to actually not see clients for the first time because that debt wasn’t there and it just feels so different. 

Linzy [00:17:46] Totally – that’s a really interesting perspective that you had, that you recognized the income earning potential of private practice. Because I think so many therapists, even therapists who are in it, haven’t worked out their numbers in such a way yet that they feel like, this is an easy way to make money. I think a lot of therapists feel like this is a hard way to make money. I’m curious for you, Erin. Like, what are some of the specific things in the way that you did in building your practice, that made it like a real income generator for you and allowed you to accomplish this incredible thing and pay off this student debt? 

Erin [00:18:17] Yeah. Well, I agree. It’s easy, but it’s also so hard because the clinical hours are hard, but on paper it is easier to make money there. Yeah. So one thing was I actually realized, that first year when I was in a group practice as an independent contractor doing therapy, I realized I have to get out of this setting because I’m doing everything, but part of my money is going to someone else. And I wasn’t sure about the paperwork and billing and all of that, so I’m glad I was there that year to learn those things. But I realized like, I could do this, like, I’m pretty organized. I can handle and take paperwork, I can schedule my own clients, I don’t really need marketing anymore, like, you know, so I realize one thing was just actually being on my own, which was a little scary, especially newly licensed. But then all the money is mine, you know? So that was one thing, and I created a structure of support around me with consultations and old supervisors I would check in with, so I didn’t feel super clinically alone. But that’s where the money was, was being on your own. And then I went through this process, I’m sure you explain in your podcast of trying to figure out, what is my fee and what’s actually sustainable? And so I used that kind of algorithm or whatever you want to call it, to realize, OK, I have to charge what to me seems like an uncomfortable amount, in order to not burn out and still make enough to pay off my loans little by little. And then I just worked my butt off, like really long days. And I think that honestly, that’s part of the reason I now want a break from private practice. I think the weight of student loans made me work so hard. I don’t want to say I was burnt out, but it was like headed that way. And if I didn’t have that weight, I would have had a more reasonable client schedule. But yeah, I hustled, I hustled for three years to make that money, yeah.

Linzy [00:20:00] It sounds like you kind of did private practice like fast and furious, and now you’re taking a break from it. 

Erin [00:20:05] Exactly, yes. And so, you know, I look back and I’m like, Man, if I didn’t have student loans, maybe I would still be doing it. Maybe I would have done the same thing, but just slower and enjoyed it more. And don’t get me wrong, I love my clients, I really do and miss them. But yeah, it’s like, it’s just it’s the way my path ended up, so it’s interesting. Yeah.

Linzy [00:20:24] Yeah. And I mean, thinking about your journey through private practice, it’s interesting because I feel like, I also feel like I kind of went through private practice fast and furiously. But in my case, it’s that I didn’t work too much, but I chose a really intense niche. Like I was kind of doing work when I first got into practice that other people were like, Oh, you’re too young for that. And I kind of. 

Erin [00:20:43] Oh, I would have referred to you those cases then.

Linzy [00:20:45] Like kind of dived in with two feet and like, did this really intense, really gratifying work. But like, it’s hard to sustain, right? When you’re doing something so intensely, whether it’s the amount of sessions you’re doing or the type of work that you’re doing. And what I’m hearing from you is, by being so diligent and focused and like working together with your husband to pay down this debt, now you have the choice to not have to do that. You’re not stuck there and now you’re able to go do different work. 

Erin [00:21:12] Right, yeah. I was surprised how much I was leaning towards not doing it once I had the option because I really did enjoy it. But it’s, you know, money shapes so much of our decisions because it’s not an option, it’s a must, it’s a need, you know, you need to make that money. And so then with that removed, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still need to make some money. But with the weight of that removed, I was surprised how many other things I was interested in as well, that just weren’t even an option before. 

Linzy [00:21:40] And I’ve definitely seen many of therapists that I’ve met at like a trauma conference or whatever who I’m like, Oh, should you still be doing this work? You know, like, are you – is your heart really still in this? Are you? Are you super burnt out and you have been for a decade? But I think people sometimes do feel trapped and they don’t feel like they have the option to make a move somewhere else or try something different. And so they do continue practicing, even when their heart’s not in it. And I have to say, like, I don’t think there’s any way that doesn’t impact, you know, the clients. 

Erin [00:22:08] Absolutely, yeah. 

Linzy [00:22:09] So obviously, you’re somebody who is very like, diligent and focused around money with this like incredible thing that you accomplished paying off the student debt. I’m curious for people who are listening today who are like, That’s great for Aaron, but holy shit, I would have idea how to do that, I have no idea how to start. What would you suggest for them as a first step in starting to build a better relationship with money, build up their confidence, more knowledge? 

Erin [00:22:32] So glad you asked that because that was me, that was me a few years ago or during grad school, so the number one thing – well, number two things that helped. One was budgeting, which I know can make you want to run for the hills, especially when you budget and you’re like, Yeah, I have negative money, this is not helpful. But just knowing down to the penny where your money is going, what you’re spending it on, sometimes it feels like you get a raise when you do that because you realize, Oh, I’m like, frivolously spending this on, you know, DoorDash or something and I don’t need to. You know, especially during the pandemic, it’s just so embarrassing. Or maybe it’s just, nothing’s labeled and so you don’t realize, Oh, like, I have this extra money I’m just kind of sitting on and I could put it to use or put it towards my goals. So being disciplined and getting help, if you need to about how to actually set up a budget monthly, track exactly what you’re doing. This works for your business, too, you would need a budget for your outgo and income with your business, and so doing it for your personal life is helpful, too. So that was one thing just to help – it was hard at first because I was like, Oh wow, this is a big mess that I’m in. But at least then you know what you’re dealing with and then you can figure out, OK, what’s next? Like, How do I get out of this? And then the second thing that was super helpful was my husband and I followed The Dave Ramsey plan, he is pretty conservative, so it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But you know, the principles that he teaches are super helpful, very practical, that was the number one thing that actually helped us get out of debt. And I didn’t think that was possible, but here I am, and it’s possible. And I had the six-figure debt, it was a lot. So he has a podcast called The Ramsey Show or I think his website’s, and he has step by step plan of how to get out of debt and how to get back on your feet, so that was helpful for us, too. And then on the business end, there’s this book I used to set up my practice, and that’s where I got the idea of how to set the fee. And I’m sure some of that’s repetitive from your listeners, but it was called the Paper Office for the Digital Age. 

Linzy [00:24:30] I have never heard of that book. 

Erin [00:24:32] Yeah, it was actually recommended to me by a lawyer – I consulted with the lawyer just for like 10 minutes of How do I know my paperwork is right for my practice? But they did have interesting things in there about fee setting and managing your time. And so it just helped me sort of create an identity as a private practice therapist, and I was newly licensed and didn’t know what I was doing. 

Linzy [00:24:53] And like that is a, you know, I want to give you props for that because I think it’s so easy to go in and just kind of flail around a little. And it sounds like, what I’m getting from you is you sound like a, you know, you’re diligent, right? Like, you’ve kind of, you did your due diligence, right? You talk to a lawyer. 

Erin [00:25:08] I overthink everything before I do it. That’s a nice way of you saying that, yeah. 

Linzy [00:25:14] Overthinking can, you know, serve a purpose. And it’s sounds like you really used your overthinking for good, right? Like, it’s helped you accomplish a lot. You’ve harnessed that. 

Erin [00:25:23] Yeah, I I’m proud. I am proud I can look back – I had very mixed feelings about deciding to end the practice, but one of them, I was like, Yeah, I’m really proud. Like, I pulled that off early in licensure when a lot of people don’t, and it was successful. And so I am very proud of how well that turned out, but it came from a lot of not knowing and mistakes and just figuring out what I needed, which I think is what we’re all trying to do. 

Linzy [00:25:44] I think that that’s a very good summary of we’re all trying to do. So, Erin, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been so lovely talking to you. 

Erin [00:25:51] Thank you. 

Linzy [00:25:52] I’m curious if people want to learn more about Triad, what are some of the resources that Triad has that could be helpful for our listeners? 

Erin [00:26:01] Yeah, Triad actually just launched, it’s like our version of Facebook and LinkedIn for psychologists, mental health professionals and that’s called And Triad is spelled Triad. So if you want to get connected with other professionals or see what CEUs use we’re offering. Sometimes people post blogs on their job opportunities on there. So that’s kind of the hub of communication for Triad. But obviously you can learn a lot more about what Triad is from there as well. 

Linzy [00:26:29] And we do actually have a discount code, if we can use our discount code here. 

Erin [00:26:33] Oh, wow, OK. 

Linzy [00:26:34] People can use the discount code, I’ll share the code in the show notes. So you can also get a discount on CEUs, I believe it’s 10 percent, but take a look in the show notes to see that. 

Erin [00:26:43] That’s great. Yeah, we have exam prep materials, CEUs, and then just kind of a community that you can connect with. 

Linzy [00:26:50] Great. Well, thank you so much, Erin. It was great talking you today. 

Erin [00:26:52] It was so great to be here. Thank you for having me. 

Linzy [00:27:09] Erin’s story about paying off her student debt is so inspiring, I know I’ve said the word inspired many times in this podcast, but it’s rare that you meet someone Erin’s age, she’s probably in her 30s, I’m guessing, Aaron, if I’m wrong, I’m sorry – who has paid down student debt, it’s incredible. And so I hope that for those of you listening who feel maybe disempowered or overwhelmed by your debt, that Erin’s story lets you know that it is possible to pay off the debt. And even if you don’t want to do it like she did, you know which in a certain way did have that cost of kind of doing private practice so hard that now she’s taking a little break from it. It did open up this huge financial freedom for her, that now she can do whatever kind of work she wants. And even if you take some of the tips that she suggested around budgeting and looking at different methods for paying down debt, Dave Ramsey being an example. Then, you can get that much closer to not having that debt hanging over your head and be able to make decisions about money that are rooted in what really makes sense for your life right now and what kind of work you’re drawn to – not kind of getting trapped somewhere because you have the stress of paying down debt. Today’s episode was brought to you by the wait list for Money Skills For Therapists. The New Year is a perfect time to start working on your private practice finances in a real way to set yourself up for success for the rest of the year. So if you’re ready to do that deeper work, jump on the waitlist and you will be the first to know when the doors open for Money Skills For Therapists next. If you want more free money content from us, you can follow me on Instagram @moneynutsandbolts. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please jump over to Apple Podcasts and leave us a review and tell your friends about it. That is the way to get this information to the right ears and get therapists feeling more confident about money and less alone. Thank you so much for listening today. 

Hi, I'm Linzy

Hi, I'm Linzy

I’m a therapist in private practice, and a the creator of Money Skills for Therapists. I help therapists and health practitioners in private practice feel calm and in control of their finances.

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Planning Ahead with Your Private Practice Finances Coaching Session

Planning Ahead with Your Private Practice Finances Coaching Session
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Planning Ahead with Your Private Practice Finances Coaching Session

Planning Ahead with Your Private Practice Finances Coaching Session

“This feels like helpful clarity. I like how this is working, and I’m already seeing what you’re saying about putting that amount aside for bills and obligations, and then once I’ve reached what I need for the year, I don’t need to put in anymore. So that’s really reassuring. I can see all of that, and it works well for me.”

~Fireda Ahmed

Meet Fireda Ahmed

Fireda Ahmed is a clinical social worker in private practice and has been in the field for over 15 years. She was recently the school social work clinical services manager at a French public school board in Ottawa. Fireda is passionate about equity and mental health and she will be joining School Mental Health Ontario as their Organizational Equity and Education Lead. 

In This Episode…

What is the next step with budgeting when looking toward the future? How can we make sure that we are saving appropriately for upcoming expenses? In this coaching session, Linzy and Fireda really dive into what is going well for Fireda with her budgeting, and they focus in on her desire to take her budgeting planning to the next level.

Don’t miss listening to this practical coaching session full of great tips! You can hear how Fireda is already leveraging budgeting software to help her manage her money within her private practice. She and Linzy really focus on what concrete steps she can take next to really get her money working for her even more effectively, and these action items apply to all of us who are looking to better plan for our future with our money!

Want more support with your private practice finances?

Free workshop: Setting Enough Aside for Taxes (in 5 Easy Steps) 

A FREE workshop that teaches private practice therapists how to teel totally calm about your private practice finances knowing you have more than enough in the bank to make tax time a breeze!

In this pre-recorded online workshop, I teach you:

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  • what mistakes to avoid when setting aside taxes for your private practice,
  • how to use a simple and pretty tool that will tell you exactly how much to put aside to cover your taxes each year!

Click here to register for the free workshop today.

Episode Transcript

Fireda [00:00:04]  And this feels like helpful clarity. I like how this is working, and I’m already seeing what you’re saying about putting that amount aside for bills and obligations. And then once I’ve reached what I need for the year, I don’t need to put it any mor. So that’s really reassuring, I can see all of that and it works well for me. 

Linzy [00:00:29] Welcome to the Money Skills For Therapists podcast, where we answer this question. How can therapists and health practitioners go from money, shame and confusion to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them in both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills For Therapists. Hello and welcome back to the podcast. So today’s guest is Fireda Ahmed. Fireda is a graduate of Money Skills For Therapists. She’s a clinical social worker in private practice who’s been practicing for over 15 years. She was recently a school social worker at a French public school in Ottawa, Ontario, that’s where she was working, I believe, when she started Money Skills For Therapists. She is passionate about equity and mental health, and she will soon be joining School Mental Health Ontario as their organizational equity and education lead. Fireda is a really thoughtful, lovely human, and today we dig into a very practical issue around budgeting. This episode, I think, is the most practical one that I’ve recorded in terms of coaching sessions with graduates. We get into a challenge that Fireda has with budgeting around, kind of taking that next step to create more clarity in what money is going to be due in the future, like getting more ahead of herself, looking around the corner from money that’s due after she hit a bit of a snag in the road and spent some money thinking that it was fine to spend, and it actually turned out that she was going to need that money very soon. This is a very tangible episode, and we really get into the value for Fireda that I think so many of us find in having money in tangible buckets. You know what I find with money? There’s kind of two types of people, you know, to say it very simply. Some people are happy to see numbers on paper, and that feels real and tangible and fine. So like a spreadsheet or tracking software is going to do more than enough to give them clarity on money. And other people really need to have that money in distinct buckets for it to be real – like separate bank accounts, it needs to be very tangible, and Fireda definitely falls into that camp, as you’re going to hear in this episode, so we look for some very tangible solutions to her challenges with budgeting and getting ahead on her money. Enjoy. So, Fireda, welcome. 

Fireda [00:03:08] Thank you for having me. 

Linzy [00:03:10] So, Fireda, you are a graduate of Money Skills For Therapists. And remind me, how long has it been since you finished up the course? 

Fireda [00:03:18] End of January, I would say about four, three, four months. 

Linzy [00:03:22] OK, three four months. Yeah. So tell me about the piece that you’re bringing today to our coaching session and what do you want to do some work on together today? 

Fireda [00:03:30] Yeah. So throughout the course and afterwards, I think I’ve really been able to start my practice on the right footing because I think when I started the course I was at a previous job – was, you know, coming to terminate and I’ve got a lot of things settled. So I have my Profit First set and I know how to budget all the income that I’m getting from my clients, whether it’s counseling or consulting. I feel ready for tax season, which is amazing, like it’s my first year and I’m set up for that. I also started seeing money differently. So, you know, whatever income comes from a consultation contract, I don’t get impressed with the numbers. I started breaking them down like, what am I actually making at the end of the day? So those pieces are, you know, settled in. But where I notice that I’m still struggling is in terms of like future – by that, I specifically mean budgeting. So I have the money, it’s in the right envelopes. When I need to spend it, I know how much I have to spend. But what happened between December and January is that I’ve spent all of my operating expenses on a training that I wanted to take, and come January, I had to pay rent and all of my other subscriptions and was like, Oops, I didn’t calculate for that. And it sounds really silly, I should have seen that coming, but this is where it kind of was a hint to the fact that that’s where my weakness is. I don’t have a budget where things are accounted for ahead of time. And if I had, I assume that I would have seen that coming when I made the decision to to sign up for that training. 

Linzy [00:04:59] You are doing some budgeting, but it’s not that detail oriented. You’re doing Profit First, so you have some separate bank accounts. So what I’m hearing is like the money was in that operating expense bank account when you saw that trading opportunity come up. But what you didn’t calculate was the money that was going to come due, you know as soon as we switched over to the next month? 

Fireda [00:05:17] Exactly. 

Linzy [00:05:17] OK, yeah. So with that Fireda, my first curiosity is what comes up when you think about now layering more of a detailed budgeting system on top of the system you already built? 

Fireda [00:05:28] I think it’s going to be a lot easier for me now. I know when I started taking the course because I was just starting my practice, a lot of things were not set up yet. I didn’t even have the income coming in to be playing around with the numbers, so that took a while to to build up. So I think it should be easier now because I have a better understanding of what some of my regular expenses are, with some of the unexpected expenses are like trainings that just pop up that you really want to take advantage of and things like that. So I think that part is OK. But then the other part is when I start thinking about the budgeting softwares and I get flustered again. I never got around to mastering YNAB and now I’m like, Oh, it’s still catching up with me. 

Linzy [00:06:05] Yes, OK. Because what system are you using right now for tracking your money? 

Fireda [00:06:09] What do you mean by tracking specifically? 

Linzy [00:06:10] Like, where are you keeping a record of the money that you have spent? 

Fireda [00:06:13] It is going through YNAB, like, YNAB is connected to my bank account. But I’m not going back to look at it very frequently. 

Linzy [00:06:22] OK. So YNAB for people listening is You Need A Budget, which is a program that is one of the options that we give in Money Skills For Therapists. And it’s one that many people choose because of exactly what Fireda’s talking about. It has this ability to budget forward, but also track the past. So I’m hearing you’ve already got YNAB connected to your accounts and do you have your categories set up in there as well? 

Fireda [00:06:43] I do. 

Linzy [00:06:43] OK. So, you know, whenever you sit down, that information is going to be there ready for you to categorize, to see where the money went. And what I’m hearing is because you’ve been using profit first, you are in integrity with your money in terms of like you do have these buckets, tax money is cared for and your paycheck is coming out of a certain place. But it’s this like more detailed, being able to see what’s coming around the corner, that is missing right now. OK. 

Fireda [00:07:07] Yeah. So like, December was a big month because I had to renew my membership with the Association of Social Work and with the College of Social Work, and so those were two big chunks. But now I know, you know, the end of January, 12 months from now, I’m going to have those expenses. I’d like to start saving those, and that’s the kind of budgeting I need to learn to do. 

Linzy [00:07:30] Because that’s the first thing I think about Fireda is what kind of budgeting do you want to do? Right? Because we do have that kind of software solutions available. And what I’m hearing is you’ve already got YNAB hooked up and it’s like, you’re kind of – at least you’re in position to be able to use it for half of what it does, which is tracks the money you’ve already spent. Right? The other half would be going back and learning to plan ahead with it. Tell me more about what comes up when you think about, basically kind of diving back in and continuing your learning curve with that particular software.

Fireda [00:08:04] Do you mean at the emotional level and struggling or at the intellectual level? 

Linzy [00:08:08] Let’s start with emotional. 

Fireda [00:08:09] I don’t know. I mean, there’s a bit of resistance still. I think I know I need to do it, I think there’s a bit of resistance, and it’s part of why I wanted to make this coaching call about that because I need a push, I know I need a push. I think I started to internalize that I don’t know how to do this and that I won’t figure it out. And so it’s just like, Wow, whatever, I don’t need to waste time anymore on this, it’s not something I, Fireda, am going to figure out. But at the same time, there’s a tiny little piece of hope, which is why I’m here, I guess. 

Linzy [00:08:39] Yes, because what I’m hearing is, you have figured out like 80 percent of your system, right? 

Fireda [00:08:47] That’s a lot more than I thought. 

Linzy [00:08:49] Oh, I think so. You have bank accounts set up, you have Profit First working for you, which in itself has a learning curve and planning. So you’ve planned out your numbers, you’re moving them every month, which means your taxes are taken care of and which means your paycheck is coming out of a regular place. Do you have like a regular paycheck that you’re taking at this point? 

Fireda [00:09:06] Not yet. 

Linzy [00:09:06] Or little up and down, OK? 

Fireda [00:09:08] I did just sign a major contract, which I’m excited about, so there will be a regular income. 

Linzy [00:09:13] Yes, because you’re in a building place still. 

Fireda [00:09:15] Yeah. 

Linzy [00:09:15] So you’ve got all those things done. You’ve also, Fireda, just to stop and validate, you’ve confronted and looked at your resistance to money in general and connected with enough motivation to learn all of these things. Because where were you before, like, let’s say, when you started the course? What was your relationship like to money back then before you did all this work? 

Fireda [00:09:35] Oh, it’s a whole other world. I knew I had a steady paycheck because I was working at a school board at the time. And, you know, as long as I needed to spend, I spent. I never really thought about what money was going into my pension plan or what money was going into my benefits. All of that was taken care of by the employer, so I wasn’t worried about those elements. And then in terms of what I had to spend, as long as the money was there, I just spent it. I never even looked at trainings. I only, you know, took the trainings that were being offered within my organization. Or I would look for them if I could propose them to the organization for them to pay. So I was still like dependent on their budget as my own budget. So there was a bit less freedom in that sense, which meant that when it came to my own personal money, I gave myself all the freedom, so I would spend on whatever I needed to spend. There was a bit of a challenge with saving up for my kids RESP in a regular manner, so that was something I needed to work on as well. But all in all, I think it was just a little mindless the way I managed money, and this made it so much more mindful, obviously, but just more intentional. Like, there was a very clear way in which the money came, in which the money was being placed, the percentages that I allotted to the different categories and Profit First, that was the first step in the intentionality, and it was very rewarding to watch, you know, this amount specifically every month going to my kids RESP, for example, or watching the amount of taxes I’m paying. It’s not something I would think about throughout the year, when I had an employment. At the end of the year, you kind of, you gasp at how much taxes you have been paying out of your paycheck. But now I know, I see it monthly because I’m calculating it monthly and putting it in the right bank account. So I’ve become a lot more aware and in control and a lot more free as well, because now I’m looking at trainings that I’m interested in and I can decide whether I can afford them or not, and not have to wait for anyone to tell me whether they’re in their budget because they’re in my budget, right? 

Linzy [00:11:35] Yeah. Like, I’m hearing so much more empowerment around money there, like it’s yours. Before, it sounds like it was something that was being managed for you. But then also, there was a flip side to that where at home, you were almost being extra mindless with it because it’s kind of like you weren’t the boss of it. Or where do you think that extra mindlessness at home came from? 

Fireda [00:11:55] I think it’s just a mental exercise, like you’re either looking at it and managing it or not. And I was not at that point, you know. 

Linzy [00:12:02] So I’m hearing now there’s a lot more – intention is a word you used a few times, which is like one of my favorite words around money because I think intention is so much more of like a gentle, compassionate word than something like control or – right. So you’re being intentional and mindful, and I’m hearing there’s now this extra little step that you’ve identified. Maybe it doesn’t feel a little, from where I’m looking over here, it seems a little, but from where you are, there’s this extra step to get into planning your money proactively in a more detailed way, right? To be able to say OK next year, I know in December my college fees, which is our regulatory body here in Ontario, I should say, and my association fees come out at the same time. So next year, I want to make sure the money is there, right? So I’d be doing that thing of like setting aside a little every month, you know that process? 

Fireda [00:12:48] Yeah. 

Linzy [00:12:49] What do you think is the belief about what that process is going to be like, that’s making it hard to take that step to go back and learn this last bit? 

Fireda [00:12:57] I can’t visualize it. Like I know, for example, those two subscriptions at the end of the year, they’re about $600. So I can take the $600, divide it by 12 and that money needs to be put aside, but I have an envelope for my operating expenses out of which I’ll be paying for those. But where do I put it aside? Like, am I going to have to create another envelope? And the abstract notion of the budgeting system with the YNAB, is that you’re putting money aside as a concept, it’s just not tangible. That’s why so far, I’ve gotten this far because everything else was quite tangible, but this seems a little not tangible to me. 

Linzy [00:13:35] OK, great. And that’s really helpful to know about yourself. I was just on a call last week with a student. She said, like for her, YNAB feels like make believe. Like, it’s like, Oh, I’m moving money, but I’m not really. And so that’s really good to know about yourself because it sounds like Profit First is giving you this tangibility. The money is really there, it’s really earmarked in a bank account that says taxes, and that’s really the money you have for taxes. And with budgeting Fireda, you can bring that tangibility into your planning if you know that’s important for you, right? Like the multiple bank account thing, for some people, that’s like hell. Like, they’re like -find it so overwhelming and it feels so cumbersome and confusing. But for those of us who are tangible and I’m counting myself in that category right now, too, because I started doing this at home, I’ve got like a dozen bank accounts at home, and I would not have thought that would be helpful, but it’s been really clarifying. It’s so clarifying to have that separation. So with your system now, what if you did set up a bank account, that is for future fees and to even get you ahead a couple of months? Basically, your like operating buffer because that sounds like something you might not quite have in place yet, right? If this expense cleaned out your operating expense account, then that’s another piece that would give you more cushion is having a couple of months operating money set aside, but also there’s those annual fees that you know are coming, and we know that there’s these two. Are there other annual fees that you anticipate will be coming in the next year as well? 

Fireda [00:14:56] I think my liability insurance, I’ve paid that one, so I probably have to pay that again on an annual basis. 

Linzy [00:15:02] Yeah, OK. So those are three big ones. And as a, you know, we’re both social workers in Ontario. So those are the ones that I always have in my mind, as well, those are the three big ones for us. So what do you think it would be like every month to actually move money from your operating expense fund into that, like annual fees? And maybe it’s an annual fees and buffer fund like, actually do have a separate account that is just for those big things, so you know that money is protected and it’s there when you need it. 

Fireda [00:15:30] That sounds pretty simple. So what I would need to do for that is figure out what my annual fees are, add whatever buffer amount I want, split that into 12 or 24 because I do Profit First twice a month and then transfer that amount. So it’s not necessarily a percentage of my income, but it’s a fixed amount that would be transferred? 

Linzy [00:15:50] It would be a fixed amount, yeah. So it’s looking at what would be, you know, two months of operating money for you and then what would be, you know, those totals, as you say, you got the math right there immediately. You know, you would divide by 24 because you’re doing 24 transfers right, 2 transfers a month, and then you would actually physically move that money aside, because what that would also do, Fireda, is it would give you a little bit of like a buffer, like sink money, so that if there is an opportunity for a big payment that you do have to make right away, like sometimes when trading opportunities come up, you have to pay it all at once. 

Fireda [00:16:19] Yeah. 

Linzy [00:16:20] It would mean that there would be a buffer that you could have taken like, this month’s rent money, you could have taken from that buffer fund to cover rent, rather than being down to zero on that account. 

Fireda [00:16:29] Right. That makes sense. Yeah, because that’s where it gets complicated because if I’m zero on that account, but really need the money like I did just this month, I’ll go take it from my salary and then I have to remember to pay my salary back. Whereas would make it much easier because it would all be for operating expenses, but annual, plus buffer, versus monthly. 

Linzy [00:16:49] Yes. And then what you could do is if you do have to dip into that buffer, then you just figure out, OK, how quickly do I want to pay it back? OK, for the next couple of months, I’ll put an extra hundred in there among until I’ve talked it back up to where I want it to be. What do you notice thinking about this idea, this add on for your system? 

Fireda [00:17:04] This seems really feasible. Like I can visualize it, I can see the bank account sitting there and I can see the category added on my excel sheet for my Profit First. So I would just subtract that fixed number from my income for that period, and then the rest will be split up into the percentages that I’m going to put into the different Profit First categories. 

Linzy [00:17:25] Nice. And is there anything else that you would need to or want to layer to give you more clarity on the system? Or does it feel like this would be the clarity that you need? 

Fireda [00:17:33] So that’s one level, I think even the monthly payments, like my other subscriptions and rent, again, I don’t have a plan in the budget for them. The money comes into my account, I split it up, and then when it’s time to pay, I just pull out of the operating expenses. So, so long as there is money in the operating expenses, I don’t have any concern. But after what I had just gone through, I just would like to not always depend on the money being there, but really know that I’ve put the money aside for it.

Linzy [00:18:02] Right. Yeah. And in that case, Fireda, you know, another option with budgeting, and I know this is what we do in my personal budget at home, as in any situation, be it a business or a home, there’s always those like fixed expenses that we can expect every month, and then there’s our variable expenses, right? So in your business, every month I’m hearing like, you have rent that comes out, you probably have your your clinic management software, your EHR, and you’re going to have like a list of expenses that are there pretty much every single month, they’re usually subscriptions. Would it be clarifying for you to separate those out to have like your -basically your bills, your operating expenses bills account, which would be separate from the variable expenses like trainings where you might not spend on a training for months and then suddenly you might drop $2000? 

Fireda [00:18:46] Exactly, yeah. 

Linzy [00:18:47] Would that be a helpful addition to your system as well? Or does that start to become too much if you think about separating into bills and variable expenses?

Fireda [00:18:54] No, it be it would be helpful. And what would that look like? It would be another account that I would label as – what would I label it? 

Linzy [00:19:01] It could be operating expenses, bills and obligations or something like that. And then it’s fixed because then you’re also going to know as you change things like if you add a different software, if you get another subscription to, you know, an online listing, you’re going to know, OK, I just signed up for this online listing, so that’s another 30 bucks a month that I needed to make sure is there for my bills, right? And then when money comes in, the very first thing you fund is your bills. You make sure your bills are covered, right, and then when you fill that up, say, if you know, every month, OK, it costs me $800 a month to run my practice. When you fill that account up to $800 and that $800 is covered, then you can move the rest of the money into that variable. Basically, like, what do you want? Right? You’re covering off the needs and obligations in that bills account and then on the variable account, that’s where you get to have your training money, your beautiful stuff for your office, travel money, that kind of stuff. 

Fireda [00:19:52] OK, so we’re talking about three different accounts. One is bills and obligations, one is variable account and one is annual fees? 

Linzy [00:20:00] Yeah. 

Fireda [00:20:00] OK. And the annual and the bills and obligations, those are fixed amounts because I know them? 

Linzy [00:20:06] Exactly. 

Fireda [00:20:07] And whatever is left is my operating expenses for the variable account? 

Linzy [00:20:11] Yes. 

Fireda [00:20:12] All right. 

Linzy [00:20:13] That would be another way to put it, and it’s like, it’s whatever, Fireda, basically makes your brain happy. Right? So you can always make it as simple, as complicated as you want. Right? Like some people, their version of clarity is have it all in one place, then I know it’s together and like, I’m going to look at it on a spreadsheet. That’s their version of clarity, right? But it’s always building a system that when you look at it, it’s going to click for your brain, it’s going to make your brain happy. You’re going to see the right numbers immediately and have the information you need to make those decisions, you know, pretty much right away. So for you, does that start to feel like too much? Or does that feel like helpful clarity? 

Fireda [00:20:49] No, no. This feels like helpful clarity. I like how this is working, and I’m already seeing what you’re saying about putting that amount aside for bills and obligations. And then once I have reached what I need for the year, I don’t need to put it in any more, so that’s really reassuring. I can see all of that and it works well for me. 

Linzy [00:21:07] And with the bills and obligations find, too, Fireda, like most the time bills and obligations, they’re things where we have either like a set check or – Canadians, we have e-transfers, like a money transfer that comes out. So we point those coming out of that bills and obligations account and then usually we would attach like our debit card to the variable account. Right. So it’s kind of like all the bills are covered out of that bills account, but you might want to put your debit card with the other account because that’s where you’re more likely to just like, go to the store and buy a book, right, or whatever, so you can figure out where to have money coming out of and how, to make a useful system, right? You want to have it so that when you’ve got to pay for something, it’s easy for you to, as much as possible pay for what you want to pay for out of the right place. 

Fireda [00:21:49] Right, right. That makes sense. All right. That looks good to me. Now, the other part that I want to bring up, if I may. 

Linzy [00:21:56] Yeah, please. 

Fireda [00:21:56] Initially, when I did my Profit First, I set up my operating expenses, I think it was 25 percent, and now I brought it down to 20 percent because it’s not that high. I don’t have that many expenses because I do work from home. I have an office, I rent one day a week, so that’s my rent and it’s minimal. And so I’m wondering how to figure out what’s the right percentage because I’m wondering if even 20 percent is too high? 

Linzy [00:22:21] Yeah. And that number, you know, the biggest thing about that number, Fireda, is it’s going to change as your income changes, right? So as you grow your practice, basically your operating expenses are probably going to go down, right, because they might not – they’re not going to grow, hopefully, they’re not going to grow as quickly as your practice is growing. So it’s mostly something to keep an eye on, like month after month. Does it end up feeling like you have extra money left over? Like, do you end up kind of accumulating a bunch of OpEx? You’re like, I would really get paid, like rather get paid that money instead. 

Fireda [00:22:49] Mm-Hmm. Exactly. 

Linzy [00:22:50] Or does it end up feeling tight because maybe you take on some extra expenses and you start to notice I could use an extra five percent in OpEx? Right. So it’s kind of feeling your way through that situation. And then if you do start to notice, Fireda, that you’re over contributing to OpEx. And when we say OpEx, we’re talking about operating expenses just for people listening. You can always choose to move it later. Like, that’s the nice thing, right? Is you don’t need to kind of get it perfect as you go, and I’m not hearing that from you, which is great. I think sometimes with Profit First, I notice people get stuck in that where they’re kind of like, well, this month I actually need a little less, so I’m going to change this percentage and I’m going to change this percentage. And then next month, I need a little more, so I’m going to change them again. But the ideal is like, you kind of set it and forget it. So it sounds like, that at 25%, that ended up being too much, so you brought it down to 20%, so I would say just keep an eye on it. And if you notice that it starts to accumulate too much again, then you can always split that money up between your salary and taxes account, take it as a paycheck, and then trend down your operating expense percentage a little bit more. Right? 

Fireda [00:23:44] OK, that makes sense. And this is the beauty of it is like, you get to learn one year after the other and you get to learn, you know, monthly, there’s so much learning throughout. And this is what I find really nice about this whole process is that, you know, you’re really in tune with, you know, the ebbs and flows of your business because that’s how it is when you’re an independent worker, it’s not a regular salary, so it’s nice. For me, I like the spreadsheet of Profit First, and I’ve now started using it for my home. I’ve converted my husband to, it took a while, but he came around. And so the same kind of clarity that I’ve grasped in my business, I’m happy to now transfer and grasp in our home home finances. 

Linzy [00:24:24] Oh, that’s so good. Yeah. And with this, Fireda, like what I’m hearing, and maybe you could agree with me a little more now, I don’t know, its like you have set up so much clarity, right? Like you have built out so many systems and now you just get to tune them up to fill in the gaps, right? But like, you’ve identified those gaps by actually doing it right, it’s not kind of an intellectual exercise, you’ve actually noticed, like, oh, I actually spent money that I needed for the next month because I didn’t have any kind of failsafe to prevent that. So now you’re building that. 

Fireda [00:24:52] Yeah. 

Linzy [00:24:52] Right? But you know, what I notice about you and maybe you’re just presenting very calm, is that you’re just like, very thoughtful and intuitive about it. Like, I’m not hearing you spinning off in any negative directions about what this means about your system or you or money in general. You’re you’re just thinking about, OK, what do I need to add here? 

Fireda [00:25:09] Yeah, no. It’s all running really well for me. And I’m, you know, I guess I am agreeing with you that I probably have it more under control than I thought. I think for me, it’s the YNAB piece. It’s still, like what you’ve proposed is to build on what I already have, and that works well for me. My fear and concerns came around jumping into YNAB and trying to work with that and perhaps having spent the next year doing it this way, YNAB will start making more sense, eventually. I just, I like to get things, and that’s frustrating that I don’t get YNAB. So maybe it’s just a matter of time. 

Linzy [00:25:44] Yeah. And with YNAB, like, what I’ve noticed is, some people work and work and work at it, and then it clicks and they get it, and they’re like converts, almost. 

Fireda [00:25:52] Yeah. 

Linzy [00:25:53] And other people, it just doesn’t click, like it’s just not meant for their brain. And I’ve seen students, I’m thinking of one student in particular, who I worked with back in 2018, when I first – my very first round of the course, YNAB didn’t click for her and she never used it, and she is doing amazingly with her finances, right? Like that just wasn’t the right tool for her, right? And so just because it is the right tool for a lot of people, doesn’t mean that it is for you. But also, as you say, as you get your feet under you and you’re like that much more grounded in your systems and you have that much more clarity and confidence, is how I think about it. You might come back to YNAB and noticed that there’s almost like increased resiliency there, around the learning curve and working away at it. But I think that what we talked about today would actually be a good – in the meantime, if not just full on replacement for YNAB. 

Fireda [00:26:37] Yeah, no, I like it. I’m excited to end the call and go put it into practice before I forget because I can see this working and I like to plan to plan ahead. So, this will be good. 

Linzy [00:26:49] Beautiful. All right. Thank you so much, Fireda, for being here today. 

Fireda [00:26:52] Thank you. 

Linzy [00:27:08] Something that I noticed in my conversation today with Fireda, is how easy it is to not fully own or sink into or feel the gains that you’ve made with money. You know, on one hand, Fireda was, you know, saying and she knows just how different her relationship to money is since she’s done this work. And yet, on the other hand, she definitely came in with this belief that this next part was going to be very challenging and figuring out this problem was going to be the thing that she wouldn’t be able to figure out, right? There was still this defeat there and not seeing all of the groundwork that she’s done and all of the foundation that she’s built, which actually made this particular challenge something that was pretty easy for us to figure out a fix. Sometimes the challenges with our money don’t require a huge overhaul, sometimes they just require tweaks and add ons and once you have a system that’s working for you and – it’s also once you’ve done that emotional groundwork on money and you’ve kind of cleared aside some of the noise and obstruction and you can look at it and think about it with your full mind, those little add ons can make a huge difference in getting your system really working for you. The final thing that I really noticed this episode is, money is something that you do. You know, Fireda was talking about how like, you know, she’s doing this and see as she’s continuing to do this, how it’s going to become more and more clear. So often, I think we’re daunted by money because we think that money is something you think about and you have to understand and it’s this very intellectualized thing. But really, money is something that you do, and by Fireda moving that money every two weeks and seeing where it goes and having that tangibility around what money is for what – that’s how she’s actually learning how to manage money, and that’s how she’s building confidence by doing, and that is so key. I really encourage, if you’re listening today, if you’re feeling paralyzed around money, just start to do something small. Maybe something like what Fireda is doing, where, create a little bit of clarity, so you have a bucket you can start to fill up, little by little for a distinct goal or need that you have. And it is amazing how solid and clarifying that can feel to start to just take small, meaningful action. If you want more content for me, you can follow me on Instagram @moneynutsandbolts, we’re putting out free content there all the time. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please go give us a review on Apple Podcasts, that really helps people to find us and tell your therapist and health practitioner and coach friends about the podcast if you’re enjoying it. Thanks for listening today. 


Hi, I'm Linzy

Hi, I'm Linzy

I’m a therapist in private practice, and a the creator of Money Skills for Therapists. I help therapists and health practitioners in private practice feel calm and in control of their finances.

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How to Create a Burnout-Proof Business with Maegan Megginson

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How to Create a Burnout-Proof Business with Maegan Megginson

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“But anytime you are operating a business that isn’t designed to take care of you as the business owner first and foremost, I think you are just asking to experience overwhelm and burnout because you’re working so hard to care for other people all the time that you aren’t really thinking about what you as the entrepreneur need to thrive.”

~Maegan Megginson

Meet Maegan Megginson

Maegan Megginson is a business coach, group practice owner, and licensed psychotherapist on a mission to help business owners create unique, burnout-proof businesses that honor their needs and bankroll their lifestyle.

As an ambitious introvert and highly sensitive person, Maegan is intimately familiar with the struggle that arises when your need to take a nap conflicts with your desire to create a profitable business. Maegan is living proof that it’s possible to do both and believes all entrepreneurs deserve to be deeply rested and wildly successful.

Check out Maegan’s website: 

Get Maegan’s FREE workbook, “4 Business-Building Mistakes That Will Leave You Burnt Out and Broke (and How to Avoid Them)”


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Free workshop: Setting Enough Aside for Taxes (in 5 Easy Steps) 

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Episode Transcript

Maegan [00:00:03] But any time you are operating a business that isn’t designed to take care of you as the business owner, first and foremost, I think you are just asking to experience overwhelm and burnout because you’re working so hard to care for other people all the time. You aren’t really thinking about what it is that you, as the entrepreneur, need to thrive. 

Linzy [00:00:31] Welcome to the Money Skills For Therapists podcast, where we answer this question. How can therapists and health practitioners go from money, shame and confusion to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them in both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham, therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills For Therapists. Hello, and welcome back to the podcast. So today’s guest is another one of my business besties. This is actually my third and final business bestie coming on the show, Maegan Megginson. Maegan is so many things, she is a business coach, she is the owner of a very large and successful group practice in Portland, Oregon. She’s a licensed psychotherapist, and overall, she is on a mission to help business owners create unique burnout proof businesses that honor their needs and also bankrolls their lifestyle. Maegan is an ambitious introvert and a highly sensitive person, which I very much relate to. We have a great many things in common, which means that Maegan is very familiar with the struggle that I think so many of us therapist and healer types have. When your need for naps and rest, conflicts with your desire to create a big, profitable business or take up space in the world. Meghan is absolutely proof that that is possible, and she’s all about striking this beautiful balance and teaching the rest of us how to do it and that is exactly what we dig into today. Our conversation hits so many points. It was actually hard for me to think about how to summarize it for you all today. We talk about burnout, overwhelm, martyrdom, patriarchy, the glorification of busyness and being tired, which she describes as our hard work addiction. And we also spend a lot of time digging into this arbitrary more. This feeling that you always have to be earning more and more, or in your life, you need more and more and really slowing down and questioning that and getting in touch with, what is actually enough for you? What do you really want? Not just in terms of numbers and money, but what do you want your life and your business to look at? We talk about the roots of why therapist and health practitioner and healing businesses so often don’t serve us, how we’re actually trained to not take care of ourselves. Oh gosh, there’s so much in this conversation, so enjoy my conversation with Maegan Megginson. So, Maegan, welcome, thanks for being here today. 

Maegan [00:03:17] Thanks for having me, Linzy, excited to have this conversation with you. 

Linzy [00:03:21] I’m always excited to talk to you. So, a topic that is your jam and something that I’m also really invested in, is where I wanted to start with you today, and that is about burnout and overwhelm. This is something that we have in common, is our own vulnerability to burnout and overwhelm and our interest in that not being the norm. And yet, it is the norm for so many business owners to struggle with overwhelm and burnout. Why do you think that is? 

Maegan [00:03:52] I think that as healers, therapists or fill in the blank like any profession where your job is taking care of someone else in some capacity, I think that we are taught in our baby, the baby years of our profession, that it’s our job to take care of everyone. Right. It’s our job to be of service. And when we go into building our own businesses with this mindset, we end up building a business that serves all of our clients first, and maybe it serves us as the business owner on the back end if we’re lucky. But anytime you are operating a business that isn’t designed to take care of you as the business owner, first and foremost, I think you are just asking to experience overwhelm and burnout because you’re working so hard to care for other people all the time and you aren’t really thinking about what it is that you, as the entrepreneur, need to thrive. Right? 

Linzy [00:04:51] Yeah. Like it’s like in the design, the business is not designed for you. It’s designed to serve. 

Maegan [00:04:56] That’s right. It’s designed for everyone else, except you. And you are just a little cog in the machine that has to give all your blood, sweat and tears to keeping it going in service of everyone else. So it’s like, where the starting line for most healers in their businesses is really terrible and just ripe for exhaustion. 

Linzy [00:05:20] 100 percent. And I would actually even say that I think that the starting line is even further back than that, in that I think our professions attract people who are more prone to self-sacrifice and caregiving and maybe martyrdom even, right. Like who gets drawn into these healing professions? Like we tend to be people who are already healers, when we were like three years old. 

Maegan [00:05:43] Right, we kind of came out of the womb over functioners. 

Linzy [00:05:48] True story. Right. So we come into this profession because we are drawn to do this thing that we already naturally do, which is like help and heal others and, you know, moves ourselves back into interactions so somebody else can move forward and be supported. And then we go through a school system that’s just reinforcing that. 

Maegan [00:06:06] Absolutely. And I think a majority of healers are also identify as women, and we’re raised in culture as girls. And I think that’s a whole other layer of conditioning that teaches us to be servants to others and to put everyone else before ourselves. 

Linzy [00:06:27] I’m curious if you have any additional thoughts about the licensing process as well, that like therapists go through, where often there doing unpaid hours. Certainly something that I’ve noticed is like, for people who go through that process, which is not how all people get to be mental health therapists, but for certain designations, that is how it works. You’re also just taught that what you’re doing isn’t really actually worth being paid for, like it’s not transactional in that training. 

Maegan [00:06:55] Yeah. You know, I’ve never thought about it through that lens, but I completely agree, and I have thought a lot about how the licensure process is designed to protect the client and not the provider. So everything about your ethical code, everything about the different boxes that you have to check in order to get and maintain a professional license are all about serving other people. You know, we don’t have to take an exam about how to take care of ourselves as providers or how to avoid compassion fatigue or burnout. We don’t have to, you know, take an exam that says we know and are qualified to run a private practice and to be business owners. Everything we do is in service of the client. And at the end of the day, I think that it’s a real detriment to who we are as entrepreneurs and as business owners. 

Linzy [00:07:51] Yeah, because then we end up in business. 

Maegan [00:07:52] Exactly. Yeah. And I just don’t believe – well, here’s what I believe. I believe that the patriarchy, if we can talk about the patriarchy here. Yeah, I figured. The patriarchy instills deep in our bones at a very young age, right, that it is our job to care for everyone else and not for ourselves. And it’s our job to work very hard, to give give give. And if you go into your role as a CEO and a business builder with that mindset, you are going to build a business that does that. You’re going to build a business that serves everyone else first and yourself last. And I think that is really the mindset shift that we collectively, as healers have to transform, right? We have to really give ourselves permission to think about our businesses as these machines that serve us, that give us the life that we want and the financial abundance that we need for our families to be safe and happy and well cared for. And second to that, I’m going to think about, how do I create experiences for my clients that go above and beyond? And the value in the care that they deliver to them. But that only comes after I take good care of myself first. If you don’t do that, you will be overwhelmed and you will burn out. 

Linzy [00:09:08] 100 percent. Yeah, I mean, it’s the classic like, you can’t pour from an empty cup. And yet, I do think that culturally it has become the norm that we are empty cups. We’re just a bunch of empty cups.

Maegan [00:09:18] Yeah, absolutely. 

Linzy [00:09:20] Telling other cups to also stay empty.

Maegan [00:09:22] Well, and there’s some weird like, there can be this – it’s like a badge of honor to be an empty cup, you know, like, Oh, look how hard I work, look how much I give, look how much good I do, and I’m so tired. Look, I’m so busy. You know, it’s like busyness is a badge of honor – I think just really feeds into all of those internalized belief systems. 

Linzy [00:09:41] Right. What do you think are some of the main causes of business owner burnout? And how do those things relate to money? This is our money podcast, so let’s dig into the finance side of this. 

Maegan [00:09:51] Yeah, let’s because I think money is a huge part of this conversation. Let’s be honest, ninety nine point nine percent of us don’t create businesses because we’re rich. Like, we’re not. You know what I mean? There are certainly people who are – who start businesses that are completely charitable in nature or, you know, they don’t need the money. But for everyone listening to this podcast, I have a feeling you started your private practice or you started your business because you wanted financial freedom and you wanted financial abundance for your families. So I do not think it is selfish at all for us to say, the number one reason I’m running this business is to provide for my family financially. The number two or three or four reason I’m running this business is to make the world a better place, to serve my clients, etc. So I don’t believe you can have a conversation about being well-rested, about burnout prevention, without talking about money. OK, then let me actually answer your question. So I think that there are two main causes of business owner burnout. The first I’m going to call, hard work addiction. This is a leftover vestige from the patriarchy that we were talking about a minute ago, right? This belief that the harder I work, the more value I have as a human being. The more productive I am, the more value I have as a human being. And obviously, overworking, having no boundaries, will lead you down the path to burnout. The second reason that I think comes more from our capitalistic society is what I call the arbitrary more, right, that we, as business owners kind of get sucked into this culture that believes we should always be striving for more. You know, first, it’s all about five figure months. And then once you hit five figure months, it’s about six figure a year. And then it’s like a multiple six figure a year. And then it’s about the seven figure year. And then it’s about scaling to eight figures, and it’s always about like more and more and more. And it’s always completely arbitrary, right? Those messages and those beliefs are not rooted in what you, Linzy, actually need in your bank account every year to live a full and happy life. And I think any time we get sucked into a culture and a belief system that is completely arbitrary, we are just inviting ourselves to live a life of overwhelm and burnout because we’re working out of alignment with what we actually need. 

Linzy [00:12:28] Yeah. I don’t think usually – we don’t even know what we actually need, right? Like this is kind of like my zone is like getting clear on like, what do you actually need? Like, what are your actual goals, what actually makes a difference for you? And like, is it having like that really nice car on loan? Is that actually what makes your life better or is it like taking off four weeks in the summer? Right. But a lot of people and certainly because we’re in this cycle that you talk about where we’re we’re so busy serving other people and we’re working so hard and we’re so tired. That’s a really hard place to stop and zoom out from and think about like, what do I actually need? Like, how do I make my life rich and enjoyable now? Or how much, like would actually just kind of unlock this level for me that would be enough? Because I think part of this, too, is enough. The counter of more is enough and like, it’s not like the settling enough. It’s not necessarily like you and I are certainly not people who are prone to like staying small and playing it safe in life. But it’s fulfillment. Like, when are you actually fulfilled? 

Maegan [00:13:32] Well, and I think you’re getting at something really important, which is this isn’t a static number. It’s not like when I sit down with my financial planner and look at my dream cash flow. And you know, how much money do I need to be bringing in to reach all of my goals right now? I guarantee you those are not going to be the same financial goals I have five years from now. Like, you’re allowed to evolve, you are allowed to reach a point of enough and to rest into the plateau of, I’ve arrived, I’ve made it, this feels really great. And then if there’s an ambitious part of you that starts knocking on that little door inside and is like, Hey, I think I’m ready for a little bit more now, can we have it? If you come back to those questions of like, do I have the energetic capacity? Do I have the time? Do I have the motivation? If all of those variables are pointing towards, give yourself permission to level up, then do it. You’re not going to burn out if you’re coming from this place of deep knowing about why you’re doing what you’re doing. But probably like right now, at this moment in time, I think if most people got really clear on how much money they actually need to be happy with the lifestyle that they are living today, you’re probably going to discover that you’re not that far away from reaching your financial goals in the current business that you have. 

Linzy [00:15:02] Yeah, and sometimes it’s only small tweaks that will make the difference that will get you there. 

Maegan [00:15:06] Exactly. And I think for myself, I know this is something you and I have talked about, Linzy. I have a feeling I will never not be ambitious. Maybe when I turn like eighty five, I’ll be like, cool, I think I’m done. But between now and then, I think I’m going to really continue to enjoy building and creating. But I like to think of my trajectory as a staircase, right? Like, I’m going to be in a season of growth and then I just want to plateau for a bit and rest and relax and enjoy what I’ve created for myself and for my family. And then again, when that ambition comes knocking on the door, I’ll level up again and then I’ll plateau and rest a bit. And those resting points for me are always rooted in understanding my numbers, my personal finances. You have to understand your personal finances to know what it is you actually need, and then you have to understand your business finances to know how you can get there and when you have arrived, so that you can stop and rest. 

Linzy [00:16:04] Absolutely. Because I think the more – that drive for more that we’re talking about, it really does rob you of the abundance that you’ve already built. And of like that rest and happiness, because more is, it is an incessant drive, right? And so you might actually be at a place where you can be taking time off, where you can be having like your favorite food every Friday night with your family, right? Or where you can work half days on Wednesdays and go do that pottery class. But when we’re always focused on more, there’s this idea that happiness is over the hill. You know, like if I just get there, it’s always just on the horizon line satisfaction, right? And it’s an illusion, right? And I think about this a lot with money and especially with the fire philosophy, which people listening might, may or may not be familiar with, which is like financial independence, retire early. It’s this kind of community and there’s like lots of great podcasts, and they’re a great community to dip into because they know a lot about money because the whole goal is to be able to stop working. And it’s all about like, putting away as much money as you possibly can so that you can, like, stop working and start enjoying life. But I just have this really strong suspicion and this lived experience myself that when you prolong happiness and you are just kind of grinding now and trying to get through, you’re not going to know how to be happy when you get there. 

Maegan [00:17:22] I completely agree with you. I think, like so many things about that philosophy, make me kind of roll my eyes a little bit. I mean, I respect it. I respect people who make that choice. But I agree with what you said. I don’t like living my life in an if then scenario, right? If I get – if I make this much money, if I achieve this goal, then I’ll be happy. I never want to live that way. The other thing that makes me really sad about that scenario is that those people obviously don’t love the work that they do. And I think that most of us who go into the business building space, do it because we love our work and we love the idea of expanding our impact in the world. And I think I can never see myself fitting in to that fire community, because I don’t want to be done working like, I really enjoy this, this is really fun for me. I think that’s where I’m coming from. You know, a lot of the clients that I work with come in, and the first thing they say to me is, “I absolutely love my work, but I cannot do it this way anymore.” And I think that’s what burnout sounds like for a lot of therapists. It’s not that I’ve stopped loving my mission and the work that I’m doing in the world, I just can’t do it like this anymore. And then if we can really dial in to one of the variables that I like to look at, which are your numbers and see how much do you actually need, how close or how far away are you from getting to that point? It’s like instant relief for business owners because they can see a light at the end of the tunnel and they know where they need to, like, put their foot on the gas. But they also know where they can slam on the brake and start really stepping away to rest and recover. 

Linzy [00:19:10] Yeah, and it actually gives you the clarity to kind of bring joy back into your work. 

Maegan [00:19:14] Yeah, absolutely. 

Linzy [00:19:15] And this is a philosophy that we absolutely share. I had a student write a comment the other day of like, I’m starting to understand that this course is about how like less is more and like actually not being so busy right now is actually a gift and it helps me be a better therapist. And I was like, yes. In the course I’m teaching about, you know, like money and developing confidence and skills and clarity. But like, that is ultimately what I think a lot of people discover when you step back is like, Oh, actually, when I see this many clients a week, I feel so much better about the work that I do. I come home and I’m actually present for my family. I actually have some bandwidth to like, do hobbies. And I actually have enough money, like I’m actually able to cover everything and like save for goals. But when we have that like again, that, you know, more more and more driving us, we don’t even stop to look around and realize what we have. 

Maegan [00:20:09] You know, I would say that I turn away a solid 50 percent of the business owners who call me and who are interested in working with me. Because when I actually get on the phone with them and we’re talking about their overwhelm or their burnout, and I start asking them, like, do you have a big vision for the future that is different than what you have right now? Sometimes they’re like, Yes, I do, and those are my dream clients. But the other half of folks are like, No, I don’t like, I used to be really happy with this business model. You know, I used to like that picture that you just painted Linzy, like being in private practice, having a small caseload, being really present for my family, like, that used to work really well for me. And then they got sucked into the more more more funnel and started to believe that what they had wasn’t enough, that they needed to want something more or want something bigger. And you don’t, right. You have to know, you have to trust your own intuition when you ask yourself, like, how much business do I want? If all you want is a private practice where you see 15 clients a week and make one hundred and fifty grand a year, and that like provides so much abundance for your family and you only have to work two and a half days a week, do that. Congratulations, like that is incredible that you know that, that that’s achievable for you. I think it’s just so important to get – check, like you don’t need to want more for your business, you don’t need to be like Linzy and I. Like our ambition, you know, like, I think our lives would be easier, Linzy, if we weren’t quite so ambitious. 

Linzy [00:21:43] That is true. 

Maegan [00:21:43] You know, we things would be a lot simpler. We’ve chosen this path, we’ve chosen it very intentionally. But I just want everyone listening to know that you get to ask yourself how big of a business do I actually want right now at this moment in my life? And then draw like, a permanent marker circle around that vision and then go to Linzy and say, Can you help me look at my finances to figure out how to make this vision that I’ve just circled an abundant reality for myself? 

Linzy [00:22:12] Yeah. And another thing that that makes you think I’ve got to hear a lot and something I’ve done a few times is talking people out of going into group practice. 

Maegan [00:22:20] My favorite thing to do. 

Linzy [00:22:21] I know, right? 

Maegan [00:22:24] And I own a group practice. 

Linzy [00:22:25] Yes, because I think that it becomes this, like natural next step that even we’re externally pressured. I remember when I was like, my practice was full and I would mention to, you know, like my neighbor like, Oh yeah, my practice is actually like, really full, I’m turning people away. They’re like, Oh, you should hire somebody. It’s just this natural thing. Like in the culture, even people who aren’t therapists are like, you need to get somebody under you. But often, not often, but in cases where I have encouraged people to maybe not go that route, you have to think about like, what does that actually mean? Like, is like a job you actually want? Do you want to be a manager? Do you want to be the go-to for clinicians? Do you want to be like an administrator overseeing multiple people? And often it’s not. 

Maegan [00:23:06] I think most of the time, it’s not. 

Linzy [00:23:08] Yeah, that’s a very specific role that very specific people are going to thrive in. 

Maegan [00:23:13] I think so and, you know, building on that, Linzy, what I hear people say to me all the time is if I’m sitting with a therapist, I have this full – to bursting private practice and they know they want something else, like they want to move in to what comes next. And they grab the group practice fruit because it’s the lowest hanging on the tree. But then I start asking them like, Hey, what is your big vision for yourself? You know, like when you’re laying in bed, staring at the ceiling at four o’clock in the morning, what are you daydreaming about? And often, it’s like becoming the next Brené Brown, really? You know, it’s personal brand. I want to write a book, I want to do a TEDTalk, I want to lead workshops. It isn’t group practice, and I just have made eye contact with so many people and said, Please, for the love of God, if what you want is to be the next Brené Brown, please, please stop. Stop trying to grow group practice because it’s not the model that you want. People who are in love with their group practices, they they’re just like, I am so thankful for them because they’re doing tremendous work in the world and, do that. If that lights you up, do it. But if it doesn’t light you up, don’t do it because it’s just going to hold you back from moving in the direction that really does light you up. And I think like, that’s where your greatest contribution to the world lies, is in whichever direction lights you up the most. So don’t go group practice just because somebody told you it’s an easy way to make more money because that person was lying. 

Linzy [00:24:42] It is not easy. 

Maegan [00:24:43] It is not easy. And honestly, it’s like the group practice model of, if you are in business growth because you really want to multiply your income exponentially, the group practice model just isn’t the right model for that. 

Linzy [00:24:57] No, no, it’s certainly not. 

Maegan [00:24:59] So all it all comes back to listening to thyself. Right? Like tuning into your own intuition. And I think so for me it’s, that’s the combination. It’s a combination of intuition and data. Intuitively, you have to know deep in your soul, like what lights you up and how do you head in that direction? But you can’t go on intuition alone. If you go on intuition alone, you’ll make a lot of mistakes. You’ll get overwhelmed. But if you go on intuition and data and the data being your numbers, your personal finances, your business finances, that in my experience, is the magical combination that leads to you not burning out. 

Linzy [00:25:38] Yes. And that was my next question for you, is how do we burn up proof our businesses? 

Maegan [00:25:46] Well, yeah, I think we just kind of set it. 

Linzy [00:25:49] We did it. 

Maegan [00:25:50] We beat ourselves to the punch, but let’s say it one more time to simply, how do we burn out of our businesses? I think that there are many different things that we need to do to burn our proof our businesses. But I do believe one of the core pieces is learning how to understand our personal finances and hiring someone to guide you along the way. So for me, that’s a certified financial planner. And the other side of this coin is learning to understand your business finances. And I think that what most people do, especially if you’re growing a larger business, is learn how to understand your business finances yourself, by doing something like your course, Linzy, and then hiring out all of those roles, when you get to the point that it’s, you know, being your own bookkeeper, being – well you can’t be your own accountant, but you know, being your own like financial team is not a good use of your time. So it’s that balance for me, I need to be able to understand it myself. When my accountant sends over my monthly profit loss statement, I need to be able to analyze that. I need to know what it means. Right. When my financial adviser gives me a suggestion about our retirement savings plan, like I need to know what the acronyms mean. I need to have a basic understanding of why I’m putting money where I’m putting it. But after I have that basic understanding, I’m just going to hire the best people to help me manage my money in the best ways. And I find that it is just a huge part of what helps me as a multi passionate entrepreneur with two big, successful businesses. Stay grounded and avoid burning out. 

Linzy [00:27:31] Totally. And I love what you mentioned earlier, too, about how it’s a blend of those numbers and the intuition. Because I think sometimes in the business world – and this is not something that therapist and health practitioners tend to be too vulnerable towards, but definitely we can be vulnerable to like, just looking at numbers and being like, those in the numbers, this is what I have to shoot for. You know, like, do or die, I’m going to like, do whatever it takes to get these numbers without necessarily doing what you’re talking about, which is like listening to your gut. Is this actually the right thing for you to be doing? Are you doing it in the way that’s truest to you, at the right speed? So there’s all these other questions that are more about who we are, that we need to be in touch with, but bringing those together with numbers is what I’m hearing from you. 

Maegan [00:28:15] I think so. I mean, I just feel, I’m just imagining a scale from like seventh grade science class. You know, picture that in your head. And I just don’t think it’s healthy as a business owner to be, to have all of your weight on the intuitive side of the scale. And it’s also not healthy to have all of your weight on the data side of the scale. Any time I can strike this balance in my life, between the emotional and the intellectual, the intuitive and the data driven, I find that that is when I feel the most grounded. And that’s when I have the most well-rounded clarity about how I can build a business that really works for me, how I create a business that allows me to be deeply rested and wildly successful, in a way that serves me and my family. Who gives a shit about what anybody else says I should or shouldn’t be doing? Because it comes back to me knowing exactly what I need for myself. 

Linzy [00:29:15] So Maegan, for people who are listening, if they want to get into your world, we’re going to put the links in the show notes. But what is your social media hangout, where we should go join you? 

Maegan [00:29:27] Well, I have a social media free business. 

Linzy [00:29:30] Oh, yes, you do. I forgot. 

Maegan [00:29:32] I think social media is not a place that I want to spend any more of my time. But you can certainly visit my website and you can hop on my email list. That is where my community hangs out, is in our email community. So my website is and my name is spelled a little funny, so check out the link in the show notes. And I think, are we also giving the link to my workbook? 

Linzy [00:29:59] Yes, we are. 

Maegan [00:30:00] Yes. So you can also download my workbook, which talks about the five biggest business building mistakes I see business owners make, especially therapists, that leave them burn out and broke. And what you can do instead. So if you want to avoid all of these things that I know Linzy and I have both done, on our path to growing bigger businesses. Don’t be like me and Linzy. I should rename the workbook, the “Don’t be like Maegan the Linzy” workbook. 

Linzy [00:30:25] It’s like, be like where we are now. Don’t do the stuff we did in the middle. 

Maegan [00:30:28] Yeah, go ahead and skip over that, you know, two year period, we’re making a lot of you know, silly mistakes. So yes, happy to share that with your community, Linzy, and just am always so grateful to be your friend and to have the opportunity to have these conversations with you. 

Linzy [00:30:47] Thank you so much, Maegan. So great talking to you today. I love this piece that Maegan brought up about people who come to her saying they love the work they do, but they can’t do it like this. And I think that is a trap that we fall into so often when we build businesses that are not designed to support us or nurture us or take care of our needs. We end up kind of killing what we love, right? We take this gift that we have and these talents that we have, and then all of this training that we’ve done to be able to practice professionally in our area and we exhaust ourselves and we burn out and we start not loving the work because we’ve created a container that does not support us. And so that piece that she talks about and that we talked about stepping back, clarifying your numbers, being able to stop and say, this is enough, I’m going to rest here, really lets you bring joy back into your work. And I really love this piece that we dig into, which I think and talk about a lot because I feel like I need to remind myself of it all the time, which is like, happiness is not over the hill. Happiness is here, right? So often I think when we’re trying to design our lives and be intentional about our lives, it’s kind of like what we want is just next to us. And yet we create these circuitous, complicated routes to try to get there that take us off and all these different, exhausting directions when really, especially if what you’re looking for is more presence, more time, more connection. There are things that we can be doing in our life every day to make that possible, and we can actually be building our businesses right now to make it so that we can get off work at two o’clock and have a date with our partner every Wednesday, right or so that we can do that Tuesday morning art class that we’ve been wanting to do. Often these things are so in reach, but we tell ourselves that they’re going to come later. So if you’re listening to this and you’re relating to that, I really encourage you to think about how can you bring more of what you want into your life now, even while you’re still building, even while you’re still working in your business and even if you’re not exactly where you want to be. If you want to hear more from me, you can find me on Instagram @moneynutsandbolts. We’re putting out free money content there all the time, balancing the practical and the emotional. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please head over to Apple Podcasts if you’re an Apple user to leave us a review. It really helps people to find us and tell your friends about the podcast. Thanks for listening today. 

Hi, I'm Linzy

Hi, I'm Linzy

I’m a therapist in private practice, and a the creator of Money Skills for Therapists. I help therapists and health practitioners in private practice feel calm and in control of their finances.

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Charging an Appropriate Fee to Match Your Money Goals with Tiffany McLain

Charging an Appropriate Fee to Match Your Money Goals with Tiffany McLain
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Charging an Appropriate Fee to Match Your Money Goals with Tiffany McLain

Charging an Appropriate Fee to Match Your Money Goals with Tiffany McLain

“If we’re avoiding our own money work, the ways we’re afraid to talk about money, afraid to think about value, afraid to set our boundaries around cancellation policy… If we’re not addressing those things, they are unconsciously impacting our therapeutic relationship with our clients.”

~Tiffany McLain

Meet Tiffany McLain

Tiffany McLain, LMFT is a clinical fee strategist for therapists in private practice. Her mantra is, “Full fees are the new black.” Via her program, The Lean In. MAKE BANK. Academy, she helps therapists ethically earn 30 to 50% more per month while seeing fewer clients by showing them how to think about and directly address fees in a clinically appropriate manner.

The Lean In. MAKE BANK. Academy is a program that addresses the underlying money mindset stories that keep therapists broke so they can become THAT therapist who charges premium fees, cash pay. With the LIMB 4-step framework to make BANK, regular coaching calls to help you go to the next level, a phenomenal community of funny and intelligent therapists, be ready to get real raw and real rich.

Get Tiffany’s Fun with Fees Calculator:

Check out Tiffany’s podcast, The Money Sessions:

Follow Tiffany on Instagram @leaninmakebank!

In This Episode…

Does thinking about raising your fees make you sweat? Do you struggle to charge what you actually need to charge to live your life? What stories come up when you think about raising your rates? In this episode, Linzy talks with Tiffany McLain, an expert on fees for therapists, and together, they dig into the background societal conditioning that impacts our attitudes and work as therapists. Linzy and Tiffany explore how those attitudes and stories often hinder us from making effective decisions when it comes to charging fees.

Listen in to hear Linzy and Tiffany share about their personal histories and stories, and they unpack why it’s so important (for us and our clients!) to make the changes needed to charge higher rates. Don’t miss it!

Want more private practice finances support?

Free workshop: Setting Enough Aside for Taxes (in 5 Easy Steps) 

A FREE workshop that teaches private practice therapists how to teel totally calm about your private practice finances knowing you have more than enough in the bank to make tax time a breeze!

In this pre-recorded online workshop, I teach you:

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Click here to register for the free workshop today.

Episode Transcript

Tiffany [00:00:07] If we’re avoiding our own money work, the ways we’re afraid to talk about money, afraid to think about value, afraid to set our boundaries around cancelation policy – if we’re not addressing those things, they are unconsciously impacting our therapeutic relationship with our clients. 

Linzy [00:00:29] Welcome to the Money Skills For Therapists podcast, where we answer this question – how can therapists and health practitioners go from money, shame and confusion to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them and both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills For Therapists. Welcome to the podcast. Today’s episode is brought to you by the Waitlist for Money Skills For Therapists. The New Year is a great time to start off on the right foot with money to avoid all the pitfalls and confusion of last year and start fresh. The New Year truly is a new financial year. So if you are interested in really getting your money in order getting the support and guidance to do that, sign up for the waitlist for Money Skills For Therapists and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open next. So today’s episode is with Tiffany McLain. I say that with great affection. Tiffany has become one of my business besties, but was originally one of my business mentors. She is literally the reason that I started this business. I won’t get too deep into this story, but there was a particular conversation that I had my partner where we were like, What are we doing with our life? What are we doing with your business? That reminded me that, I was like, Oh, there’s this woman on the internet, Tiffany McLain. I don’t even know how I found her, but she had this Fun with Fees calculator, that I haven’t ever used, and I used it and it blew my mind. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes, and it started me off on this path to starting Money Skills For Therapists. I sent Tiffany an email that night saying, Basically, take my money. What do you offer? How do I work with you? Take my money. And I ended up doing coaching with her. That was the foundation for Money Nuts & Bolts, this business. So, it has been a wonderful treat in my life that not only was she a mentor who helped me start all of this, but she has also become one of my business besties who I talked to pretty much every single day. We do a lot of Marco Polo videos back and forth. And today we are digging into fees, which is Tiffany’s bread and butter and art form, private practice fees. We dig into why it’s so hard for us as therapists to set the fees that we actually need to charge to be well and live our lives. We dig into some of the stories that therapists tell themselves, including our own stories. We dig into our own money stories that we’ve had coming up. Some of mine recent, some Tiffany’s a little older and we talk about how money actually comes into the clinical relationship, whether we want it to or not, and can impact the work that we’re doing with our clients, both in terms of how they’re experiencing the work, but also how we’re experiencing the work. There’s a lot here, lots to dig into. So enjoy my conversation with Tiffany McLain. 

Linzy [00:03:38] All right, Tiffany, welcome to the podcast. 

Tiffany [00:03:40] Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here. 

Linzy [00:03:43] So, Tiffany, these are your thing. I feel like you are like the person in the therapy space who like lives and breathes fees. Is that a fair thing to say? 

Tiffany [00:03:52] I don’t know that anyone else does it. I don’t think, when I entered the space and was like, What can I add to the conversation? Nobody was only talking about fees alone. And I think that’s still the case. 

Linzy [00:04:03] Yes, I think that’s true, too. And so you and I, like the work that we do is very complementary, which is something like I’m so grateful for. We have students move back and forth between our courses regularly, like, take mine than yours or yours than mine because I feel like our topics are so – they’re two pieces of a puzzle that goes together, right? Your deep diving on those fees in like a really focused, meaningful, like depth work kind of way. And then I’m teaching people what to actually practically do with money and how to set up their practice, so when the money flows through it, it goes to the right places and actually gives them like satisfaction in life. 

Tiffany [00:04:40] That is true. I love it. When folks raise their fees, we have therapists who raise their fees and then they actually are working less and earning more. They’re like, what do I do now? I’m like, I don’t know. That’s why you need to go take this program over here because you’ll learn what to do now with all this money you’re making. 

Linzy [00:04:53] Yes. And in Money Skills For Therapists, we touch fees like this much. It’s like we have a calculator, which I love the salary play sheet where we have people reverse engineer their practice based on like, OK, what do you want to earn, how much time off do you want to take? You know, what’s your fee? What’s your sliding scale rate? And then from there, it tells you how many hours you need to work and then people know – when they see it, they know in their gut if it’s a good number or not, right? There’s going to be like a number that makes them happy, which like sometimes is twelve or sixteen. And then there’s gonna be a number that makes them like sweat and want to cry, which might be more like twenty five. It’s very personal, right? But people know in their gut when their practice is not set up in a way that’s going to actually serve them. So it’s like, what I find in my courses, we often identify that fee piece and some people are like, OK, I’m going to raise my fee and other people are like, Oh shit. And that’s where you come in. 

Tiffany [00:05:45] Exactly right. That’s the thing is, when we get real about what we need to be doing for our money, like the things you’re helping people with, just like you’re saying, some people are very easily like, Oh, I gotta raise my fee to this or my fee needs to be this, done and done. And then a lot of therapists, just like you’re saying, are absolutely terrified of the changes they have to make in order to have the financial life that they uncover they need with you. And that’s where we step in.

Linzy [00:06:09] So why do you think that’s the case? Why do you think it’s so hard for therapists to charge that appropriate fee that actually fits what they need for their own life? 

Tiffany [00:06:19] I love that you call it an appropriate fee because it’s so true, so many therapists responses is this is astronomical, this is inappropriate, this is unethical. When actually, just like you talked about, it is the appropriate fee they need to be charging as business owners. I think, and this is particular to the community I serve and this is what we have found with these therapists – they typically grew up in working-class households. They may be the first to go to college or be having their own business in their families of origin, often marginalized communities, women, people of color. And so then they come into this space where they are business owners for the first time. But the messages they have received up until this point have been, typically, in their family, they were the caregiver, they were the ones who mediated the problems, went between family members, parents, siblings to make sure everything was OK. So they had their value from the outset was based on, putting their emotions aside, making sure other people’s feelings were taken care of, neglecting their needs in order to make sure other people had their needs fulfilled. So even from the very first family of origin issue, the therapists who typically, people who typically become therapists, were serving that role in their family, so it starts right there. And then we have a societal level again because a lot of people who become therapists are from historically marginalized and who am I talking historically, historically and continue to be marginalized.

Linzy [00:07:43] Thank God, that’s over, right? Not historical. 

Tiffany [00:07:47] Exactly. Ongoing marginalization, oppression, systems of racism, systems of the patriarchy. Our folks continue to get the message that your job is to serve other people, you don’t deserve to have wealth, that’s greedy. Your job is to be a good parent, a good partner, a giving person to all the people around you. Don’t be thinking about yourself. And then all those people go into a profession, which is the social work, psychology – where it’s then reinforced because we’re filled with folks who are caretakers in their family of origin, women and people of color. And then we go into the psychology profession where we’re continually reinforced, you got to serve other people, you’re never going to make money in this field. How dare you even be thinking about money, that’s selfish and greedy? I came here to help people, not make money, so it’s this triple fold reinforcement of this message that your job is to serve. You’re not supposed to have any. You’re supposed to be serving other people. 

Linzy [00:08:39] You’re hitting me in the gut. I’m just like sore under my breath. 

Tiffany [00:08:43] Well, I have a question, how has this, as you’re thinking about it and even you’re going into this field? How have these different, of these three, you know, society, family or profession impacted you? 

Linzy [00:08:53] Yeah, I mean, this is something that I was actually just digging into in therapy like probably two or three weeks ago, right now, because it comes up at different levels, right? So like when I was a therapist, I confronted it as I was like having to do fee raises and stuff. But I’m finding even now still, setting the price for my course. You know, like, I’m doing a price increase this year, right? And it’s very well thought out, there’s lots of strategy around it, but I really hit that in myself and what I really identified in therapy, which was interesting and I got therapized effectively. So let me tell you about my therapist doing good shit, is that I really had this message that, what I do is not valuable because I’ve always done it for free, right? And I’ve always felt used, like it, from the very beginning. Like, I remember my “best friend”, going to put that in quotations, my “best friend”, before I knew what a real friend who treats you well is like. I remember her calling me her therapist when I was 12 years old. Right, 12 years old. And already I developed this dynamic with somebody where I was feeling very much, like, used for my skills and I felt that they weren’t being appreciated and it wasn’t, like, reciprocal, I wasn’t getting that support back and it’s interesting how that traces through. But I will say, in my own little, like therapy breakthrough, I had the revelation that actually in my life, those skills that I have, to be like supportive and present and a good listener and help people to clarify their situation, has actually been in very high demand, right? And so what I’ve realized is actually in my life, although I have felt that it’s devalued, I’ve often had people want to be my best friend, really like, rely on me, feel closer to me than I feel to them. And actually, what I realized is like, it’s been extremely high demand in my life to the point that sometimes it’s made things difficult, right? Because people value that so much. But because this is my personal life and not business, it’s like there was no formal boundary to set there. I couldn’t say, you know what, I’m so good at this, but it’s going to be $250 an hour because I have a gift here, right? And so that was a real revelation to me that even though I felt so devalued, it’s actually been pretty in-demand in my world since I was literally a child. 

Tiffany [00:11:01] I’m really glad you’re sharing this. It’s so powerful, this idea of, you gave this away for free. And we could even say, this has been a natural gift for you. A lot of therapists, it is their natural gift. It’s been your natural gift, people have valued you for it. But then, you went to grad school where you actually honed and refined your skills and became a professional. And I think that’s where most therapists get confused, is, they’ve been so good at it. They have had people come to them for it, it’s just a natural skill. But the thing they forget, is that they then went to grad school and undergrad, two to seven years of training, and then post license or training to hone and refine this skill set as a professional. But then they go into their business and keep giving it away for free, as if it’s just something they should be doing. What? I’m really glad you had this break through, for all of us to hear from your therapist. Thank you, therapist. 

Linzy [00:11:50] Yes, because what that means to is, these therapists that then have all this education and usually they have a, I was going to say, fuck ton, it’s my podcast, I could say what I want. They have a ton of debt that goes with it, right? And then we end up in these helping roles where we’re having a hard time asserting that this is worth something because we’re so used to being devalued, as you said, family of origin, but also society every day. Also, like our professional training, also our colleagues, it’s coming from all corners, right? But it’s like, you’re almost barely treading water. And yet, you are trying to feed and give oxygen to all these other people, to switch metaphors midway. It’s like you’re low on oxygen, and yet you’re putting on everybody else’s masks. So, there’s such a disconnect there. 

Tiffany [00:12:31] Yeah, it’s in them, I don’t know. And we can’t use pandemic, endemic, but it really is, it is a pathology within our field as therapists and social workers that nobody is examining. We’re simply retraumatizing all the generations who come after us and not looking at our relationship to money and value as a psychological issue. We look at everything else, paraphilia, sex, trauma, abuse, drugs, and yet nobody’s talking about money in the ways that’s showing up symbolically in our relationships. 

Linzy [00:13:02] Oh my gosh, absolutely. So I’m curious, thinking about the clinical relationship, you know, because we’re thinking about therapists and we’re building this relationship that is very much about healing that other person through the way we’re presenting. How do you think that these things impact our clinical relationship when we’re charging low fees or when we’re avoidant of money or we’re carrying all this baggage around it? 

Tiffany [00:13:22] Oh my gosh. So for those who are not familiar with how I think and work – and for people listening, here’s some disclosure, Linzy and I know each other very well, we talk all the time about this stuff. She is one of my business besties in terms of thinking about these things, all the time. So Linzy knows this about me, for folks who don’t know, I’m really into psychoanalytic thinking, the unconscious process, that’s the orientation I come into this work with. And so when I think about the therapeutic relationship, there are, of course, all kinds of different orientations EMDR, CBT, solutions focused, family therapy, just so many different kinds. And no matter what kind of therapy you do, there is a relationship that’s present. And so, if we’re avoiding our own money work, the ways we’re afraid to talk about money, afraid to think about value, afraid to set our boundaries around cancelation policy. If we’re not addressing those things, they are unconsciously impacting our therapeutic relationship with our clients. Something that came to mind when you asked me this just now, Linzy, was – when I’ve gone to coffee shops, I’m a coffee snob, and I will go to the same coffee shop over and over again once I find one I like. Inevitably, the barista is like, Oh, Tiffany, don’t worry about it, this one’s on me and they’ll give me a free coffee. My experience to that is anxiety. Over the course of time, I think, uh oh, here’s this barista, Paulette, whatever her name is, Paula and now she’s going to give me a free coffee, what do I have to give her in return? And so it’s not like a comfortable thing that I feel great about personally. It becomes a relationship that is now been unfair because I know that that coffee costs four dollars and fifty cents and a tip and I’m not giving them that money. Do I have to pay them extra? Do I now have to give them a five dollar tip every time I go, right? Do I have to ask about her personal life? And I would get sweaty, like, I don’t want to go to that coffee shop any more because now there’s this weird exchange that I don’t know what the value is being exchanged here. It’s funny and awful. This happens every time and so, I think about that. You could laugh, because it’s true. Like, some people would be like, Wow, I’m going to go to Paulette every day because I’m gonna get a coffee. I love it. I don’t have any feelings about that. But a lot of people, unconsciously, something is being exchanged and we’re not talking about what that thing is. So we can take this to the therapeutic relationship. If I’m a client and I know my therapist fee is $200 per session and I am paying them $50 per session and I don’t know why, I don’t know how they’re making that happen, I don’t know how long I’m allowed to be paying $50, when their fee is $200. Whether we’re talking about it or not, this is impacting the clinical work. I, as a client, I get a promotion. Am I allowed to talk about that? Is my therapist then going to say, you have a promotion, now you pay me more? I went on a vacation, am I allowed to go on vacation while I’m paying my therapist much less than their fee? If we’re not talking about these dynamics, they are present, they’re weighing on the unconscious and they’re having an impact on what can be disclosed in the therapeutic relationship. So that’s even just a tiny example of an incredibly deep, important Pandora’s box of clinically relevant details that are being missed when the therapist is not talking about money in the clinical setting or examining their own relationship to money in a clinical setting. 

Linzy [00:16:32] Because what I’m hearing there is, that’s a circumstance where there’s been a lack of communication and clarity around what the setup is, why we’re doing it, how long we’re doing it, when we’re going to check in again to see if this still makes sense. And so what I’m hearing is, from this particular kind of character perspective of somebody who’s maybe very aware of that there’s an exchange here, that you’re kind of breaching the boundaries of the professional relationship really, right? Like what should be a very clear, and I’m going to use the term safe container, is now like a little smoochy at the side. I’m making box hands – nobody can see this because it’s a podcast, but I’m showing like, it’s kind of like your box is losing integrity. The container is starting to get a little bit threatened, when we start to make these slide for clients and don’t have very clear communication or boundaries around that with them. 

Tiffany [00:17:22] That is right. And I think that 99.9% of the time when therapists set up their fee policies, they’re not actually doing it with a clear understanding of what their needs are financially, what their business policies are, and they’re 99.9% of the time – they don’t even know why they’re making the decisions. You all listening, you don’t know why you’re making them – they’re driven by anxiety, fear, I don’t really want to look at this, I don’t want to be mean, I don’t want to be greedy, OK, let me just charge what my therapist charges minus, you know, fifty dollars, that’s my fee – it’s not thought out. So these unconscious dynamics are absolutely going to be coming into play clinically. You’re not doing your best clinical work when your very foundational policies are coming from a place of anxiety, fear, a binary around making money or helping people.

Linzy [00:18:12] Right. Because the other side that I think about that too is what’s happening in the therapist, when we have, when somebody’s paying $50 and our full fee is $200 and it’s been that way for so long and we don’t want to revisit it because it’s awkward and like, how do we even determine what fee they should be paying? What I see happens so much in therapists and what I 100% experience myself is resentment. Right? Where somebody does tell you about that vacation and there’s a part of you that’s like, huh, you’re paying me a quarter of my fee and you’re going on vacation – like I haven’t been on vacation in a year. Right? Like, you start to see your clients through this tainted lens because now this is impacting you. And yet you’re supposed to be sitting there and you’re totally grounded in partial self, but you’re going to start to have your own feelings about them come up. If there hasn’t been like clarity and if those boundaries are not solid, 

Tiffany [00:18:59] I love it. You brought up the thing that so many therapists are afraid to talk about out loud, but absolutely, they feel this unless they’re so dissociated or compartmentalized that they don’t know about their own internal world. Yeah, if you are, if a therapist is not having their own needs met financially and they are doing work where a client is not paying them what they need because they set it up that way as a therapist, inevitably resentment will come up and fees going to come up. And then because as a field, we do not, there’s a way we look down on those feelings, resentment and envy, then therapists feel ashamed, oh no, I’m feeling this, I can’t talk about it, I’m not supposed to, let me just push it aside. What happens in the therapeutic space often, is that the clients leave because these feelings are welling up and nobody knows why. They might say, Oh, everything’s good, I don’t need to be coming anymore. And the therapist doesn’t know what to do with their feelings, so they say, Yep, I think everything’s good, all right, done, what a great therapy we all had together. Or something ends uncomfortably, or the client just ghosts. And again, all of these things have been brewing under the surface, but there’s been no way for the therapist to – there’s been no safe container for the therapist to acknowledge, talk about, understand these feelings. And so then it unfortunately plays out clinically. 

Linzy [00:20:14] Right? Absolutely. I mean, another thing that occurs to me, as you’re talking about this is the stories that we tell ourselves about our clients that underpin, you know, these. And one that comes to mind for me immediately is the story that our clients like, they don’t have money or like, they need the money for something else, like as though they could not manage their own finances. Like, I’ve definitely seen this, I’ve seen it in myself. I definitely felt it in agency work, like because I started in an agency where services were free, right? Because we were government funded. We weren’t working for free. But the government was paying for services. But you don’t see that stuff, right? I remember this kind of ethos that, like women were victims. Women don’t have money. Women are victims, they can’t pay for therapy. She can’t go to private therapy. Looking back in retrospect, like I had clients who were teachers in Canada. I know it’s not in the U.S., in Canada, that’s a well-paying profession. That’s somebody who’s making literally double the money that I am. If I was making 40 grand, she was probably making 80. And yet I had absorbed this ethos that this woman is a victim because she’s experienced violence and she can’t afford to pay for therapy. Meanwhile, like I’ve experienced violence, I pay for therapy, what the shit. So I’m curious, what are some other stories that you see therapists carrying that keep us from raising our fees or really owning what we need to earn in our practice? 

Tiffany [00:21:33] I think this example is phenomenal, and I’ll give my own version of that. And then I really, for those who don’t know me, I will, I was going to say call our our students out, but I’ll say even more, call them in. Like, I’m very direct, like, this is what you’re doing, this is what you’re saying, this is how this is showing up. We really are direct and honest with our students because we have been there. So for me, my story, I’m black for people who don’t know my father’s black, my mom is white, biracial and I thought, I really want to do this work as a therapist when I open my practice. I’m in the psychoanalytic community, which is a very white space here in San Francisco. San Francisco is a very white city, and I thought, I want to be able to charge premium fees, but I want to work with people of color and I want to work with white folks, too. But I would love to work with people of color and they’re who’s going to, they are the people who are going to want to work with me, but I have premium fees. So unfortunately, I can’t work with the people I want to work with. And then I was like, Wait a minute, what kind of internalized racist idea is that, racist and classist? Black people can’t work with me because my fees are, what, $200 a session? Whoa. So that was a wake up call for me, and I see all the time now with people who are interacting with our company, Lean in. MAKE BANK. They say, I can’t charge premium fees because I want to work with queer folks. I can’t charge premium fees because I want to work with people of color. And I have to say to them, Wow. So your thought is that no queer people, no black people, no Asian folks can pay you premium fees? Let’s examine that projection before we even begin with thinking about what your fees should actually be. 

Linzy [00:23:08] Yeah, absolutely. And those stories are so deeply held, right, that it’s like, often we haven’t even like pulled them out to look at them and be like, Wait a second, is that true? You know, I had a call with one of my students the other week, where we were talking about this kind of thinking, she was on her way, she’d already set her fee, she had looked at numbers and she was very clear of what her if she had to be. But she was just having this like gap, of like, but people, people like queer and non-binary people who have ADD, they don’t have money. And so I was really challenging her because I told her like, Well, first of all, according to my TikTok feed, which Tiffany knows I’m fully addicted to, everybody is non-binary and queer and has ADD, and they’re doing all sorts of shit. They’re making all sorts of money at different things. And so something that we, like I encourage her to think about is just like, who are these people. Like, think about where they are, you know, where they’ve gotten to, like, how faith in them basically, have faith in them and like, what kind of jobs are they doing and what is their life look like? Maybe when they’re 21, they can’t pay you that, but when they’re 35 or 41, like, what are they doing? And having that like, openness and creativity to have, kind of faith in your people, I think is a way to start to counter these like, really simplistic stories that actually don’t make sense at all. Right. But it’s amazing how we kind of swallow them sometimes hook, line and sinker. 

Tiffany [00:24:24] It makes me think, also, of course, speaking of the things we project or the stories we tell ourselves, we’re often wanting to go into the space, for example, of working with queer, non-binary folks with ADHD, because that’s who we, that’s our trajectory. And so we often say no one will pay me my full fee because we, as therapists, have never paid another therapist that amount of money. Yes, on a sliding scale, thank you. Or we are just thinking, Oh, I can’t afford $150 per session because you’re paying your therapist 50 cents per session. So one of the things we actually encourage our students to do in our curriculum, go pay someone the fee that you want to one day be charging and set up a session and see what it’s like to sit with a therapist who’s charging $300 per session. That’s your job. 

Linzy [00:25:09] Yes. Yes. Because it is this little loop. I see this happen with my students as well. Again, our students are the same people, where it’s this self-fulfilling logic. Where you’re like, well, I can’t afford to pay somebody $200 an hour. So therefore, nobody can afford to pay me $200, and it’s  like, Well, no, the reason you can’t afford to pay somebody $200 an hour is because you’re not charging $200 an hour. It’s like, somebody needs to raise the bar at some point and then you have more wealth and stability, and then you can start charging people when they actually need to be paid right? It’s kind of like everybody rises. But yeah, there is this like self-fulfilling prophecy there. Yeah. Are there any other stories that you see come up for people? I mean, I’m sure there’s tons, but I’m curious if there’s any other common ones that you’ve noticed. I’m hearing yours. Other things that you see with your students?

Tiffany [00:25:59] Yeah. And I think, you know, when we talked about the ways that we are making judgments about who can afford us based on what we have been able to afford and what we are seeing around us by the people we’re surrounding ourselves with, that really is the foundation for any other story we tell ourselves. So it could be things like, nobody in my area can pay x fee, right? Well, because we’re surrounding ourselves with people who cannot pay x fee and we’re not paying x fee. So that’s one. It’s greedy. Or I’ll even say this one, I have to be accessible. And if I get off insurance panels in the states, I am no longer accessible, as if we as individual therapy practitioners, business owners, as if we have to be accessible to everyone. And I will say, even with that one, it’s very easy to start disbanding these stories with logic. Like if your story is I have to take insurance, so I am accessible to everyone. Guess what? There are a lot of people who don’t have insurance, so the insurance is also not making you accessible. Or you sliding your scale to $50 per session, that’s not making you accessible to a whole bunch of people. So really, when we start digging into these stories, just like you’re talking about Linzy, we actually find out underneath or all kinds of personal traumas, personal stories, unconscious beliefs that we have not yet worked through, that we’re playing out in our businesses and were playing out in our fee structure with our clients. 

Linzy [00:27:24]  Yes, and that community piece is so important, you let me into your community in December. Well, you didn’t let me in. I didn’t ask me anything in your community in December, I should say, which allowed me to poke around. Cause, Tiffany and I are both, you know, course creators, wer’e course creators. What are we? And I know that you have a thriving community, that is one of the things about your course that just really works. And that is something that I witnessed being in there, and I see so much of the value of that because there’s that saying, I’m probably not going to get it right, but it’s, this thinking of like, you’re kind of a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. Right. And what I’ve seen in your community, is it’s just like this whole level up continuum. I’m doing an upward tornado, kind of spiral, of like, just surrounding yourself with people who are going to inspire you and lift you up and then you get lifted up and then you turn around and inspire other people. That community piece is so essential, and I think for so many therapists, it’s such a missing component. They don’t have the experience of being in a course like mine or a course, like yours, where you’re having these honest conversations with other people about money. 

Tiffany [00:28:26] That’s absolutely right. And it comes back to that thing you were saying around the idea of being resentful or envious of our patients or our clients and then feeling like, I’m not allowed to feel that, I shouldn’t be thinking that, I’m going to just put it over here in this box and then our, we keep having clinical ruptures and we don’t know why. One of the things that has been foundational to the program we created from the beginning, we have our framework and our modules, but it’s all within a net of being part of a community, where therapists are going through the struggle themselves. We are honest and direct with each other. We give and we take in direct feedback, critical feedback because we all want each other to grow. So we have to learn, we’re not just a space like these Facebook groups, where you just process, process, process and then you get mad and people respond. Instead, we have a very specific template for how we engage with each other in the community, how we respond to each other in the community because we’re learning to do in the community what we’re going to have to do clinically, which is have honest feedback, conversations and reflections on how we have been colluding to keep ourselves victims, broke, traumatized because we’ve been hurt. And so we have to have a place where we can make space for our hurt, without playing it out in our businesses. 

Linzy [00:29:43] That’s very powerful and also kind of sad to me, to think about, all the private practices throughout time, where hurt has been just getting played out for maybe decades. And then that person like retires, having this very particular experience, of like, how their helping superpowers are used or appreciated or not appreciated. 

Tiffany [00:30:02] You’re being, I’m going to for the people listening, Linzy was actually moved as she was speaking. As you were talking just now, you were a little teary. Can you say something – this is why you’re good at your program, this is why your students have transformation. Can you say something more about why that idea is so moving to you to imagine, these trauma traumatized therapist for years. 

Linzy [00:30:20] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, obviously I’m connecting with with parts of myself and my own experience, and I just think about, we have such profound gifts as therapists, right? And with this podcast, too, when I’m saying therapists, I’m also talking about people who are really good at manual therapy, like physical therapy, right? And like, who have that intuitive ability to not just be with someone and be present and understand what’s going on, but know the right way to respond at the right cadence, at the right time. You know, like we all know as therapists like, there’s times when you could strike because the iron is hot and there’s times to wait, you know, and strike when the iron’s cold. Like, there’s all of these incredible processes happening inside of us, that most people don’t have. It’s such a profound gift. And I think, I’m struck just by the tragedy, maybe I’m feeling a little melodramatic, but I’m struck by the idea of so many therapists, especially women, people of color, queer folks, who, there’s just this repetition of essentially like, trauma and oppressive systems inside our practice. It’s like we end up building a practice that just reaffirms to us what we’ve been told the whole time, that what we do isn’t that valuable, and we need to put our needs aside and just give and give and give and give. And that ends up being your career. I think that’s really sad. 

Tiffany [00:31:39] Yeah. There’s something about – I’m so glad you brought this up, when a therapist raises their fee for the first time or it gets off the insurance panels, if that’s the choice they decide to make. The first time they say, Oh, I don’t take insurance to a new person who calls, and that potential client says, Oh darn it, I’m not going to come see you, I really need someone who’s on insurance. For the reasons you’re saying, the first response of so many therapists is, I knew it. ,obody’s going to pay me this, I should never have done it, Who do I think I am? I feel so ashamed. I’m not good enough. And this is where the community is so important. If you don’t have a community, you will make a decision about your fees, but you go out and take that little risk to raise your fees or get off insurance panels, I’m going to say it. And if the first response you get, which it will be the first one to five responses may be, no thanks. If we’re alone, we say, I knew it. I’m going to lower my feedback down, I’m going to stay on insurance panels because I’m not worth it or nobody’s going to pay someone like me that. If you’re surrounded by a community of people who is doing this work and challenging you to step up, they’re going to say, Actually, that’s a story. It’s not true. The work you do is extremely valuable, go try it again, we got your back. Go take that to your therapy because those are really important feelings and they’re valuable or you need to understand them. But in your business, go ahead and stay your $200 fee, one more time, we got you, come talk to us after. Just just like you’re saying, so we’re not letting our traumas dictate our business decisions. And inevitably, on the sixth time you say my fee is $200 dollars, you have someone who says, Great, when can I see you? Your whole life is transformed. 

Linzy [00:33:23] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that with that too, then you also, I think, start to figure out who those people are like, who are your people, who are the people who love what you do and they’re a connection and a fit. And for them, $200 like, Oh, was it $200 or $225, I can’t remember. Right? Which I remember with my own clients, even my most recent fee increase, before I closed down my practice last summer, I remember having, like this a little bit of anxiety. I was down to like, just my core clients, like people who had pushed through my, I’m not taking clients, to come back, like I knew that they loved the work that I do, and I knew that they had seen other people while I was away on my maternity leave and they had come back to me like, I knew all of that. And even still, you know, it’s incredible the stories that come up. But I had that exact experience where the person was like, Oh, when does the fee go up and what is it again? And what is it now? She didn’t even know what my fee was now. So it’s like, finding those people and what I found in my own practice that kind of like, click, that niche that I so often hit for some reason, was women in science. 

Tiffany [00:34:24] Interesting. I don’t know why.

Linzy [00:34:27] I attracted a lot of like people in research, veterinarians, medical fields, but there was just a perfect click there between, you know what I offered, and they’re people who earn a lot of money, this is no big deal to them and what I did was so valuable, that I probably could’ve raised my fee another $75 and nobody would have blinked. Right? I’m curious for you, what did you find was your niche and was it surprising to you when you did find that, like, group that you really clicked with? 

Tiffany [00:34:53] Interesting question. I, you know, I was, as I had my private practice, I was also doing my money work because I was like, this is something I struggle with, this is something I see other therapies struggle with. So, I’m going to see what it’s like for me to go on this fee raising journey as I’m trying to help other people and teach other people to go on this fee raising journey. So I initially, and I was also thinking, how does this all tie up with marketing? So I initially said, OK, I’m in San Francisco, I want to work with people of color and fortunately or not, here’s a little backup. I have a white friend who I’m very close to, who’s also a therapist, an immigrant, and she said to me, Wow, interesting, Tiffany, I would never go to a black person for therapy, but I would go for business consulting. She certainly has some racist ideas about black folks. And so for me, I was like, I know she’s not the only white person who’s not going to come to a black person for therapy. And oh my gosh, all my network are these psychoanalysts who are white. When I first went into private practice, I had, not one white person came to see me for the majority, even before I started marketing with people of color. White people did not call me to see me for therapy. That changed over time, but I was like, Holy mackerel, of course, in this racist system, white folks are not necessarily going to seek out a black therapist. Interesting. So taking that information, I initially marketed and intentionally marketed to people of color in tech, particularly biracial people. Because it’s interesting to me, I understand what it means to straddle multiple worlds as a person of color, and so I intentionally went for those folks. But just like you’re saying, as my practice grew, who actually ended up coming to me was almost 100% biracial people, almost 100% women. Here’s a little surprise, who had a lot of co-dependence in their family system. So I’m like, Wait a minute, why did this codependent people with mother issues keep coming to me? I don’t know. Oh, surprise. So it actually kind of filtered out to having those kind of people, regardless of their profession, they could afford me. But the primary issues they were coming in for, surprisingly mirrored my own journey and my own issues that I was working through as a human being. 

Linzy [00:36:59] Right? Yeah. And I think about how once you identify that right, like once you realize, Oh, this is who loves me, it’s biracial women who have codependent families, then you can speak exactly to your target audience. And as you say, it’s always a good start to just talk to yourself. Like, let’s be real, just talk to you. But by really owning that, how that also gives you this foundation upon which to say, my fee is $250, because you know that you’re just really fucking good at working with that population. And you know that they could go to a therapist down the street who charges $150 or $125. But they’re going to come back after six months and want to see you because that person doesn’t really get their issues in the way that you get their issues. 

Tiffany [00:37:40] It’s so true, and people even came to me because they saw something, just like you’re saying, they saw something in my marketing or how I spoke that appealed to them, when they may have gone to somebody for 100 bucks a session and they could have done that work and it would have been great. But if you market well, people come to you for you and they’ll be willing to pay whatever your fee is. And if they don’t have that money initially, surprisingly, they start finding ways to make it work. I’m going to cut down over here, I’m going to have more clear conversations with my spouse. I’m going to stop giving money to my family, I’m going to ask for a raise at my job because they want to see you because something about your story inspires them. And so it’s also interesting to see how people, not everyone, but the folks who want to – actually let me speak for my own experience. If I have a money story of scarcity and then I see someone in the world who inspires me, I’m going to find a way to pay that person and I’m going to make some sacrifices because I want a little bit of something that they have and something – a growth opportunity I want, that I believe I can have by virtue of working with them. Right? 

Linzy [00:38:41] Yeah. And something, the practical number side of my brain, too is also reminding me that by having a really effective therapist as well, and maybe now we’re just speaking to therapists here about your own therapy. By having a really effective therapist who really gets what you do, has the right tools for you at the right time – you also end up doing less therapy because there’s less like beating around the bush, right? Like, your sessions are so much more transformational. And it’s true for our clients too, right? Like, they might be able to get a discount rate down the road, but they might be doing therapy for five years to get the movement that they get with you in six months. That’s a huge difference. Right. And so that’s a really, I think, important part to think of. We’re thinking about our fee, is like if you know that you can, you know, I was an EMDR therapist. If you know that you are effective and after 20 sessions with you, somebody’s life will actually be literally transformed, the relationship will be more solid, they won’t be haunted anymore, they’ll be sleeping through the night, they’ll be exercising again. Like, those changes that you can make for them are invaluable. Right? There was so much more than like $250 an hour or whatever fee you set. So really owning that and owning your skills is something I talked to my students about a lot. I’m sure you do too, is really helpful because ultimately you’re helping them and by you being well, you’re going to literally change their world. 

Tiffany [00:39:59] That’s right. There’s something about – I’m so glad, even as you’re talking, I’m imagining the therapists out there who are saying, but I don’t think I’m that good, I don’t believe I can actually do that level of transformational work. And even that is something super powerful. If we’re keeping our fees low because we don’t know if our work is good enough, huh? That’s something really to examine and there’s no cure for that insecurity like charging $200, seeing someone for $200, feeling all the feelings of fear, raising your fee with current clients and saying, Oh wow, when I was keeping my fee low, part of that was me avoiding the things I was afraid of, avoiding my own money stuff. I was not really doing my great clinical work because I was afraid of raising fees. So there’s actually an interesting cycle around when folks raise their fees. They actually start growing into a level of clinical work that that fee requires internally, and they start stepping up and doing a better job. 

Linzy [00:40:58] Yeah, that’s exactly the way I started thinking. Like, you’re making yourself step, by kind of doing the scary thing first and then you have to grow into that role of being a premium therapist. 

Tiffany [00:41:07] 100%. 

Linzy [00:41:08] Yes. OK, I can talk to you for like hours and hours, as you know, because that’s what we actually do. And we will, but not on here. Yeah. So Tiffany, I’m curious, for people who are listening, who maybe they’re like feeling a little like cold, sweaty right now or a little bit like, Well, that’s great for Tiffany and Linzy. But like I – what would be a first step? What would you suggest as a first, even just a little baby step for one of our therapists listening to start to improve their relationship with money? 

Tiffany [00:41:38] I would – this was not even something I had thought about beforehand, but I would say the babiest, most delicious step they could take, would be to go check out our podcast, The Money Sessions, where they will actually hear of therapists just like them, wherever they’re at. Oh, I can’t do it because of X, Y or Z reason. Go look through our titles. Find the therapist who says I can’t do it because I – this therapist raised fees even though she lives in rural West Virginia. If that’s your story. Go listen to that episode right now and start hearing from therapists who are just like you where you are now, who are able to make these changes. 

Linzy [00:42:13] Yes, go find yourself in Tiffany’s episode list. You’re there. 

Tiffany [00:42:17] That’s right. You are there. 

Linzy [00:42:19] Well, thank you so much, Tiffany. If folks want to hear more from you, where is the best social media place for them to follow? 

Tiffany [00:42:25] Go to Instagram, that is where we are at and go to @leaninmakebank on Instagram and you will find endless resources there.

Linzy [00:42:36] OK. Awesome. Thank you so much, Tiffany. 

[00:42:54] I really enjoyed this conversation with Tiffany. I love talking with Tiffany in general and getting to dig into these things in an in-depth way together. It just makes my brain pingy and happy. That relationship between fees and our work and our sense of self-worth and trauma repetition and oppression. There is just – there are endless things to talk about there. If you want more from Tiffany, she mentioned that on Instagram, she has resources and I really suggest her Fun with Fees calculator. It is the thing that got me into her world, got me thinking more expansively about my practice and what was possible, and ultimately inspired me to start Money Skills For Therapists and teaching therapists about money. The link for it is in our show notes and I really suggest that you check it out. If you want more free money content from me, you can follow me on Instagram @moneynutsandbolts. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please jump over to Apple Podcasts, if you’re an Apple user and leave us a review, it is the best way for other therapists who want to hear more about money to find us. I really appreciate you taking the time to give us your feedback. Thank you so much for joining me today. 

Hi, I'm Linzy

Hi, I'm Linzy

I’m a therapist in private practice, and a the creator of Money Skills for Therapists. I help therapists and health practitioners in private practice feel calm and in control of their finances.

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