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Casey McClurkin of Evolve Money Coaching helps clients get their finances in order

Many cringe at the thought of examining their finances and creating budgets. Not Casey McClurkin. The head of Evolve Money Coaching has always enjoyed helping people achieve personal financial balance and success. After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, McClurkin worked in corporate accounting as a budget analyst and staff accountant. In 2014, she moved to Maine from Denver, where she lived for 16 years, and began working as a financial advisor for Ameriprise.

Casey McClurkin of Evolve Money Coaching meets with most of her clients virtually, usually from a coffee shop or library. Here she is photographed at the Commercial Street location of Arabica in Portland. Photo by Molly Haley

“I quickly learned that selling and trading wasn’t my cup of tea,” McClurkin says. What she really wanted to do was work with clients on basic financial planning, budgeting and setting goals. On rare occasions she got to work with clients who needed those services, and that inspired her to branch out on her own, launching Evolve Money Coaching in September 2018.

McClurkin says she wants to live in a world where “talking about money isn’t taboo, people understand where their money is going and the word ‘budget’ makes people think of financial freedom. Everybody has to interact with money and most people were never taught the skills they need to be good at it.” McClurkin helps her clients manage their daily finances by identifying their sources of financial stress and creating a budget to examine their income, expenses and debt.

Another important part of McClurkin’s work is to help her clients to determine their core values, set goals in alignment with those values, and better understand their relationship with money. “What I have found is when people have shame about their spending or consumer debt they may have accumulated, it’s often because they were not spending in alignment with their values,” McClurkin says “I help them to see and break that pattern. It’s a behavioral approach to money management.”

“Everybody has to interact with money and most people were never taught the skills they need to be good at it.”

What’s the most common mistake people make around money? Not understanding their cash flow, which leads to living paycheck to paycheck and/or overspending. “If you can’t see how all your bills, cash withdrawals, debit card purchases, auto-pays, direct deposits, etc. fit altogether, it can be a confusing mess,” McClurkin says. “If you know what is due, when it is due, and when you have income coming in, you can make your money work for you.” She often focuses on cash flow in her initial two-hour session with clients, helping them see how all the pieces of their financial puzzle fit together.

Photo by Molly Haley

To get her business off the ground, McClurkin focused on networking and staying involved in her community. In the spring of 2018, she took a course and passed an exam to be certified as a behavioral financial advisor (BFA), distinct from a certified financial planner (CFP). McClurkin took Financial Coach Academy’s course and is a member of the networking group Think Local Kennebunk chapter, as well as Women Standing Together, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps women network and problem-solve in their careers. “In our meetings, women present problems they have in their business and small groups help them problem solve and generate solutions, McClurkin says.

One challenge has been finding and growing her client base, which she says is due to the level of trust her work requires. “It takes time for people to talk about their money/finances and build that trust and relationship,” McClurkin says. “It’s been slow to start, but I’m committed to building relationships and networking to help my business grow.” Most of her clients come to her through word of mouth. She’s working on building her social media strategy and is launching an online course in the spring to walk clients through her process at their own speed. McClurkin meets with most of her clients virtually via Zoom. These are sensitive and personal topics for most and for some, it’s easier not to meet in person, she says.

Photo by Molly Haley

Evolve Money Coaching’s target demographic is clients in their 30s or 40s. “The Millenials and GenXers tend to gravitate towards me and are interested in talking about values and they are at the stage in their life where they’re really ready to look at their finances,” she says. With so many financial planning tools available online, isn’t there fierce competition for this kind of business? McClurkin says no; she’s offering a different kind of service. If her clients use Mint or another service and are happy with the tool, she doesn’t change what’s working for them. But a budgeting tool alone often isn’t enough, she says. “People and businesses need support, accountability, advice, and behavioral changes. That’s where having a financial coach can be helpful. The work I do with my clients can enhance their experience with other online tools. I help them get more out of every dollar that they can then track with Mint if that’s their choice.”

McClurkin practices what she preaches in terms of her own personal financial journey. “I had struggles with credit card debt and cash flow so I know what it feels like,” she says. In order to overcome her own challenges and self doubt, McClurkin worked with life/business coach Jodi Flynn at Women Taking the Lead in Portland. Flynn helped her see her own value and gain confidence needed to launch her business. She’s also in a “mastermind group,” a peer to peer mentoring group and has three different accountability partners, including a financial coach in Canada. “Self-awareness and self-development is critical for me. The more I can learn about myself, the more I can help my clients become self-aware and self-reliant.”

Learn more about Evolve Money Coaching: evolvemoneycoaching.com

Mercedes Grandin is a freelance writer, editor, English teacher and tutor. She lives in Brunswick with her husband Erik and their chocolate Labrador Fozzie.