Money and Happiness with Dr. Sonya Lutter, Episode #126
Today’s guest is Sonya Lutter, Ph.D., CFP®, LMFT, owner of EnLite.World, and Director of Financial Health and Wellness at Texas Tech University’s School of Financial Planning. Dr. Lutter founded EnLite, a research and training consultancy firm for financial planners and therapists.
Enlite provides research design, data collection, statistical analysis interpretation, customized reports, and training programs for businesses. Their areas of focus include the psychology of financial planning, behavior management, and human capital issues.
Sonya draws upon decades of experience in academia to apply theory to practice. Her developmental work in financial therapy is summarized in Financial Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice with co-editors Drs. Brad Klontz and Kristy Archuleta.
Listen in for some great takeaways about the intersection of psychology, emotions, and money and why Dr. Lutter believes hiring a financial advisor can lead to happiness.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…
- Learn more about Dr. Sonya Lutter and her work [2:59]
- How—and why—Dr. Lutter became both a Ph.D. and CFP® [5:14]
- How addiction patterns can be demonstrated in finances [7:01]
- The difference between therapy and psychology [10:49]
- Do most people in therapy need financial therapy as well? [12:58]
- Why every stakeholder needs to be heard and listened to [14:34]
- How financial therapy can help overall mental health [20:20]
- What can you do to alleviate anxiety around money? [22:05]
- The interplay between emotions and money in our lives [25:28]
- Why both partners to understand family finances [28:50]
- Why Dr. Lutter wrote “Want to be happy? Hire a financial advisor” [32:29]
- Is it an advisor’s role to introduce core values to their clients? [36:36]
- What Dr. Lutter did today that put her in the right mindset for success? [37:53]
Learn more about Dr. Sonya Lutter and her work
Initially, Dr. Lutter set out to become a speech pathologist. She wanted to work with deaf children and teach them how to communicate with hearing peers. But after realizing it involved science, she veered toward financial planning. But then she found her way into therapy.
She learned about the conflict most couples have related to money. Many therapists don’t have a background in personal finance and struggle to connect the dots for their couples. Dr. Lutter wanted to combine personal finance with therapy. It’s where she’s found she can meet the most needs.
Why did Dr. Lutter become a Ph.D. and get both LMFT and CFP® certifications? When Dr. Lutter started her Ph.D. research program, there wasn’t anyone doing financial therapy in the research space. The CFP designation is important because people want to know that you know what you’re talking about.
How can addiction patterns affect finances?
When people hear the word “addiction” they think about alcohol or drugs. But addiction can extend far beyond that. The addiction cycle starts with an emotional reaction. It’s an obsessive craving you can’t get rid of that takes over your thoughts. Ultimately, you lose control. You give in to your craving.
But then you feel guilty. You vow to stop doing that thing and you stop…for a time. But when another emotional trigger takes place, the cycle repeats. You’re trying to fill an inner need that’s lacking in your life. But that fix doesn’t meet the need.
Dr. Lutter notes that we see that with personal finances, too. Perhaps you’re trying to meet someone else’s standard or you’re trying to “Keep up with the Joneses.” You see someone who you think has what you need to be happy. So you give in and spend and immediately feel guilty. The cycle continues to repeat itself until you get to the core of what you really need.
Do most people in therapy need financial therapy as well?
According to Dr. Lutter’s research, ⅓ of couples receiving marriage and family therapy had some other financial issue that they wanted to discuss that was impacting their relationship. Conversely, ⅓ of couples meeting with financial advisors have marital issues to address.
Dr. Lutter isn’t asking financial planners to treat anything. She simply wants them to understand the psychology of money. You have to recognize what’s going on and help people address what’s happening. Ultimately, you have to address the underlying stress to be effective.
People have to get to the root of what money means to them as an individual and a couple as well as what it means for their future. It’s about what the money represents and figuring out their core values.
How can financial therapy help? 30–35% of the population is struggling with symptoms of anxiety, much of which is related to finances. The ability to meet anxiety needs by putting “financial” in front of it opens up doors for people who wouldn’t otherwise seek help.
Why both partners to understand family finances
Dr. Lutter points out that a couple won’t implement your recommendations if it doesn’t align with both of their values. If they don’t agree with a financial plan, they’re going to argue about it and do nothing. It will lead to resentment in their relationship, which will trickle down into your office. You’re left with an unhappy couple that lives two separate financial lives.
How can advisors tell if both spouses are on board? Are they making eye contact? When you shake their hands, does one of them have a cold handshake? Is one person disengaged or daydreaming? Do you have to repeat yourself constantly? Are they mentally present? You need both spouses on board.
What can you do to alleviate anxiety around money? Listen to the whole episode to learn more!
Resources & People Mentioned
- Dr. Lutter’s Research: Financial Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice
- Dr. Lutter’s Article: Want to be happy? Hire a financial advisor
Connect with Dr. Sonya Lutter
Sonya Lutter, Ph.D., CFP®, LMFT serves as the inaugural Director of Financial Health and Wellness with Texas Tech University’s School of Financial Planning. She leads curriculum and continuing education opportunities in the areas of financial psychology, financial therapy, and financial behavior. Sonya is also the owner of EnLite.World, a research and training consultancy firm for financial planners and therapists.
She holds degrees from Kansas State University and Texas Tech University in marriage and family therapy and financial planning. Her work is regularly featured in major news outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Sonya draws upon decades of experience in academia to apply theory to practice.
Her developmental work in financial therapy is summarized in Financial Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice with co-editors Drs. Brad Klontz and Kristy Archuleta.
Dr. Lutter’s work in financial wellness involves multidisciplinary teams to focus on food insecurity, relational dynamics as it relates to money, and wellness among professional students such as veterinarians.
Dr. Lutter’s work at the financial counseling centers at Texas Tech University and Kansas State University have guided her effectiveness of financial counseling research agenda, which culminates with a co-edited book with Dr. Dorothy Durband titled, Student Financial Literacy: Campus-Based Program Development.
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