3 Necessary Qualities of a Money Mentor

When there are 100 voices trying to influence, persuade or normalize a well-trod path, where is the voice that calls you to walk your own path? Mentors help us swim upstream. The more unique the path we start carving out for ourselves, the harder it can be to find the right voices to spur us on.

finding a money mentor

Tomorrow I will catch a flight and check into a hotel/resort to spend 2 days with one of my best friends and mentors. We will plan, dream, scheme and spur each other on. We are bit like Pinky and the Brain. This girl is a game changer, ruckus maker, disrupter of the average, visioneering, make-it-happen, conquer the world, passionate about people, force to be reckoned with. After 12 years, I am significantly better because she is in my life.

Oprah credits Maya Angelou as a mentor that provided the guiding direction in her life. Oprah met Maya early in her career and remained close to her until Maya’s death at 86 years old. Oprah referred to Maya as “one of the greatest influences in my life.”  “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life,” Winfrey said. “Mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship,” she added.

 3 Qualities of a Money Mentor

1. Support your destination and vision

Do you want to take a year off, retire early, create flexible work that allows for more travel, or live debt free? What is your destination? You mentor must support that destination. Even if it isn’t the path for them, they should fully believe it’s the right destination for you. They need to see this vision for your life. They should be excited about the idea and possibility. If it’s not a well-worn path, they still need to believe that you can do it. They see the benefit, the potential, and the possibility.

The less walked a path, the harder it is to find the right mentor. But the right mentor has total buy in. As you paint out the details of your destination, your mentor can clearly see it in their mind’s eye.

2. Understand the path

Do they understand how you can get from point A to point B? Do you agree with their assessment? Maybe the path could work, but it’s not one you want to take. If you have a desire to live debt free, but their best plan is to keep leveraging and extending your credit. That won’t be a great fit for you. They need to understand your vision. They need to have an understanding of the path that will lead you were you want to go. You don’t have to agree on 100%, but their approach to money fundamentals should be common ground.

There is a path between poverty and lower middle class. There is a path between high consumer debt and positive net worth. There is a path between average middle class life and financial freedom. Does this money mentor understand the path? Can they provide clear, actionable advice on how you can get there?

3. Challenge and Encourage

I love what Oprah said about Maya; “It is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakable calm, confidence and a fierce grace.”

You need someone who will challenge you. And encourage. Both are so critical. Sometimes our ideas and methods need to be challenged. We need to be pushed. It’s the reason teams have coaches. Although an athlete has an incredible drive and skill, they still need to be challenged. In their conditioning, form and methods. The right coach can bring out the very best in the athlete.

But we also need encouragement. When we are tired. When we doubt. When we lose our own vision. When we think this next step is the right one, but we are just a little scared. We need to be cheered on.

I’ve lost my vision before. I’ve been tired. I’ve felt crushed by the pain of life. My friend/mentor stood in the gap. She was able to speak words of life and encouragement into my situation. When I felt stuck, and wanted to give up. The right mentor will see the best in you, even when you can’t see it.

Find your tribe

In Their Up is My Down, I wrote about the importance of a tribe of people cheering you on. Instead of swimming upstream, the momentum of the right group that has a shared vision, can change the tide.

A mentor is like a friend giving you directions to the restaurant over a cell phone. They know right where you are, and where you are trying to get. “3 blocks up then take a left.” They can speak into your specific situation.

A mentor is the friend at the bottom of the rock climbing wall. Slightly removed from the wall, they have a bigger perspective and can see the hand hold 3 feet up and to the left. You aren’t sure you can stretch, but from where they are standing, they know you can make it. Challenge and Encourage.

Finding a mentor who supports your direction, understands the path and will consistently cheer you on and challenge you is a tall order. Start with the low hanging fruit. Blogs, books or podcasts that can spur you on. Then look for friends, family or acquaintances who have these three qualities. Look for people who naturally and consistently have mentored others. Some people are too consumed by their own life to make mental space for others lives. That is never a great fit.

When you find the right mentor, it’s like magic.

I’m so excited for this weekend retreat. These times are often the catalyst, like fuel being poured on a fire. They sharpen my vision which provides the long burning motivation to make things happen.

This late Spring/early Summer, I will be putting together a video series that will explain a few of the pieces of my money mentoring program so that you can DIY it with a friend, spouse, or anyone who is excited to take on that role. If you want more information as the videos are released, be sure to sign up for my emails.

If you love the idea but have struggled to find that right fit, I have spots available in my mentoring program. Just fill out the form on the mentoring page and I would love to chat with you to see if we could be a good fit. Mentoring others to help create more financial freedom is just about my favorite thing to do!


For conversation

Do you have a mentor/been a mentor?

What ways has it helped or not worked out?

Any other qualities you would recommend?


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17 thoughts on “3 Necessary Qualities of a Money Mentor

  1. Great tips! I’ve never mentored anyone, but I had a mentor when I was in college (my grad school advisor). He was a tough cookie who wasn’t afraid to tell me when I messed up and how I could fix it (or avoid it next time), but he was equally quick to tell me when I did something truly great. He was patient when I needed space and even now, two years later, is still helping me put the finishing touches on some of my work. I hope I can be a mentor like that to someone someday.

    • I think almost everyone has something to offer (usually a few things!) The hardest part about being a mentor is the time and mental energy. But there are so many places to connect with people. I just finished mentoring a teen (a 3 year relationship) and it’s so cool to see how much can happen when one person comes along side another for a significant length of time. It’s great that you have had that experience! It will be a great frame of reference when you take on the mentor role.

  2. One of my biggest concerns with mentors and advisors is so often they don’t ask where you want to go. Where you are is important, but where you want to go is even more so. Your point about them having to support your destination must start with their desire to learn what that destination is. I’ve had exactly one company appointed mentor (but many personally chosen ones). He never asked me where I wanted to go or cared to hear about it. That killed his value as a mentor to me.

    • This is so important in personal finance! Because everyone has an “ideal” that is vastly different. And the paths to get there are so different. Even in the extremely small group who would classify as the “FIRE”, you have some who just want to take mini-retirements, some who want more flexible, enjoyable work, and some who have far flung adventures and never want to work another day in their life. Even in this tiny group, those are very different destinations that require different paths. I have hired a number of financial advisers and CPA’s, and this was the big issue. They were great at talking about life insurance, portfolio diversity and a 3 month emergency fund, but they didn’t have a clue where I wanted to go, let alone how a person gets there!

  3. This is a great topic, Ms. M. A lot of very successful people swear by mentors. And for the reasons you laid out in this post, I now understand why. But how does one get a mentor? Is it just a matter of asking someone more successful or knowledgeable than yourself for some of their time now and then? For all of my life my mentors have been virtual (i.e., books, blogs, and podcasts), and it might be time for a real live one.

    • There are at lest two more posts needed for finding a mentor and being a great mentee. =) But I have found mentors all sorts of ways, in professional/school/organization participation. Via friendships. Recommendations from others. Right now I have a paid mentor for one area of my life. Building relationships with people a few steps ahead of me. Sometimes it’s a one off conversation, or lasts for years. Sometimes it’s very structured, like 1 hour every week. Other times it’s as needed a few times a year. To compress a 1000 word idea into a sentence or two, I would suggest finding someone who really seems to like helping people, and ask for one small thing. Then go from there. =)

  4. I’ve never thought of myself as a mentor in a formal way, but I’ve taught friends to negotiate for raises and promotions and so far have helped people double their income over the course of a couple of years. I also advise two friends on their journey out of debt and to a good financial place, and they’re making really solid progress despite low and variable incomes. I’m not sure what the secret is since I’ve never tried to scale this work but I do know that none of my expertise or help matters when the mentee isn’t absolutely committed to doing the work themselves.

    The one failed mentorship was when the person was in denial about the changes they would need to make to their spending habits in order to achieve any of their goals, and after thoughtlessly spending many hours of my time asking questions about things that weren’t part of their goals, they seem to have decided that it’s my fault that this didn’t work out. I’m only willing to take 50% of the blame in any situation where we were both responsible for the results! 🙂

    • I want to do two or 3 more parts about 1. finding a mentor 2. Being a good mentee 3. Structures of mentorship. Because you are right that none of it matters if people fail to be a good mentee. Wasting time, never taking action, complaining and negativity. A great mentor doesn’t want to waste their time and energy on that.

      It’s awesome to see the success you have been help to help others create. Things like that make it all worth while. =)

  5. I have benefitted greatly from professional mentorship (and, conversely, suffered from lack of it). I have often thought that the same principles would apply to financial mentorship: someone you respect, someone ahead of you on the path, someone who knows you, both your wisdom and your warts, someone who derives satisfaction from watching you succeed. Blogs can often provide the first two, but numbers three and four need a personal connection.

    • I have had mentors in all areas of my life, and each time saw so much growth in those areas. Generally I tend to seek out different people for each role. Money mentors have been by far the most difficult to find, but in those rare occasions some of the most helpful. I think the tricky part with money is such a large percent of the population isn’t great with it, and even if they are capable, don’t like/want to talk about it. I think people can make a lot of ground with blogs and books, but at some point can save themselves a lot of time and money by finding another person for some guidance.

  6. I never considered myself a mentor, but since I am a finance manager (and CPA), people naturally ask me for financial advice. I give it away for free. I just helped a colleague invest money into a Roth IRA yesterday. As in, I literally picked out the index fund for him and he invested right in front of me in my office at work. I have asked a few friends here to sign up for the 401k, and they have. This isn’t detailed mentor-ship, but I feel like I am doing them a favor as they will have a lot more money in the years ahead, than they would have had, without my coaching/directing.

    • That is wonderful! I think everyone needs a “money friend.” Sometimes just an hour or two of help can really get people going in the right direction. And you are right, they will be significantly richer in a few years. I think if people saw how those small changes could compound, they would put more effort into getting a bit of advice now and then.

  7. Very cool. That’s one area where I’d like to put more effort into. A lot of people needs a money mentor and I’m pretty sure I can do it. I’ll need to put together some material and maybe take some classes. New immigrants and poor people are the most in need. Someday, I’d like to put a volunteer program together to help those folks…

    • Absolutely! I bet there are dozen organizations that would be thrilled if you called up and offered to teach a free class or give a small presentation. It always easier to help others in the program they already have set up rather than build something from scratch.

  8. Cool post & especially that you channeled Maya’s timeless wisdom 🙂 I’m looking forward to your posts on how to be a good mentee. I’m really interested in having mentors but I’m not sure I know how to find them or make good use of them, especially since I just have loose ideas.
    ps- i followed you here from the recent post by Joe @ retireby40 I really loved your comments! I’m really glad to have found your website!

    • Hey Abby! I’m glad you found your way over here as well. =) I have a few more posts in the works. It can take some time to find the right person, but mentors have been so important in my life. =)

  9. Nice outline of the elements of mentoring! What an important topic.

    Two key additional elements to an effective relationship are (1) reciprocity in the willingness to learn and (2) clarity on the goals of the relationship and, as important, it’s endpoint.

    You allude to the reciprocity element in #5 Inquisitiveness, and in your concluding line. Research suggests and my experience corroborates there is power in a mentor’s willingness and expectation to learn from the mentee. It should be a stated goal at the outset of the relationship.

    Clarity of goals for the relationship is pretty basic, but often overlooked is being very clear from the start what the endpoint is. How will mentor and mentee know when it is time to gracefully and gratefully close the engagement? Far too often there is conflict and discord at the end of powerful relationships because neither party knows how to say “We’re done.” The pain of a poor ending can jeopardize all the great learning that led up to it. Endpoints can certainly be re-negotiated, but having an agreed set of criteria for concluding successfully makes that a conscious conversation.