Photo: Frederick V. Nielsen, II 

By Sharon Pendana 

Financial behaviorist, coach and author, Jacquette M. Timmons has two great obsessions: shoes, and getting people to see that “you don’t manage money – you manage your choices around money.” Though she left home at sixteen to study shoe design in New York City, an encounter with an Estee Lauder exec opened an entirely different path— to finance. She was hired as her assistant, then moved with her to Wall Street. At Bankers Trust (now Deutsche Bank) Jacquette worked her way up and moved over to the private bank, while working on her MBA in finance. In 1995, she started her own company, Sterling Investment Management, to focus on two specific arms: consumer-facing, with one-on-one coaching for singles, couples, and entrepreneurs, and institutional-facing, with workshops, panels, and speaking engagements. The common thread always people’s choices and relationship with money.

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It seems you’ve found your niche; you are a financial behaviorist. What, exactly, does that mean? As a financial behaviorist, I focus on the human side of money by helping people prioritize their behavior, choices, and emotions with money – over the math of money. Behavioral economics and behavioral finance are disciplines that have been around for quite some time. The interest for me in the behavioral side started back in 1987 with the Black Monday stock market crash. While some people were freaking out, others remained totally calm. That fascinated me; what did they each know and what didn’t they know that contributed to their different reactions?

What inspired your book, Financial Intimacy: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Your Money and Your Mate?
One of my dearest friends died unexpectedly; he was absolutely an up-and-up guy, but he and his wife, also my friend, kept everything separate—there was a lot that she did not know about his finances. Then the father of a friend died, and that’s when her mother discovered they were $500,000 in debt — and not from their mortgage. Finally, I had a coaching client, who on paper is the epitome of financial success: a Wharton MBA, working on Wall Street, a high six-figure salary, day-to-day matters of money were not an issue whatsoever yet she and her boyfriend fought all the time about money. During our coaching engagement, we did the work to pinpoint what the issue was and pinpoint what to do about it. But what struck me with all three of those scenarios was what conversations are these smart, college-educated, professionals not having? What is it that couples are not talking about that leave women vulnerable when it comes to money. I started doing workshops called “Women, Money, and Romance” and every time I would do one, people wanted more. Financial Intimacy sprung from there; wanting to explore the intersection of love and money, but also looking at it from a social critic’s perspective. The numbers matter, but I dare say even more important are the emotional aspects of money and why you make the choices that you make.

Jacquette with Jonathan of Stella 34 Trattoria before the start of a The Comfort Circle™ dinner.

Fostering honest dialogue about money is a key component of your practice. Tell us about your recently launched dinner conversation series.
The Comfort Circle™ dinners where we talk about money, business and life over food and wine was created to give people an environment to feel comfortable talking about money. The dinner is kept small, no more than twelve people to foster intimacy. Each month has a different theme. I create a run-of-show that includes question prompts and exercises that guide our discussion over dinner so that people walk away with a concrete takeaway of how they can apply the evening’s theme into their life and business.

Give us three bits of “Sterling” advice to offer Curly Nikki readers.
One, have a financial vision for your life. What it is you want money to do for you? What is it you would like to have happen? These questions are not just about the dollars and cents, but bring clarity to your financial vision.

Two, pay attention to your financial habits. Dedicate a day for just journaling the things you do with money, the thoughts you have about money and take a look and see what message you might be getting from the patterns that emerge.

And finally, stop putting money matters on the back burner. Nurture that relationship.

Do you have a healthy relationship with money?

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