Top Tips from the AFCPE “Twitter Queens”

twitter queens

How to Make the Most of Your #AFCPE16 Experience

Whether it’s your first AFCPE® Symposium or your 26th AFCPE Symposium (à la Dr. Barbara O’Neill), we guarantee you will walk away with new ideas, new connections and new resources to use in your work and practice. That said, a few good tips always come in handy.

Together, our self-proclaimed “Twitter Queens” (a title that was well earned at #AFCPE15), Kate Mielitz, AFC® and Dr. Barbara O’Neill, CFP®, AFC®, CHC® compiled 14 great tips to help you maximize your symposium experience this November!


  • Check out the proceedings and the schedule for information on speakers and topics ahead of time so you know what to attend and when! There are lots of interesting presentations from researchers and practitioners. The Symposium provides a great opportunity to learn specifically about a topic you are interested in and it’s a smaller group, so there’s generally more opportunity to ask questions and/or talk to the presenters one-on-one. ~ Kate
  • Read the attendee list that is sent out by AFCPE in advance. See who is going to the Symposium and identify the people you especially want to meet and where you might meet them (e.g., at their poster during the poster session). ~ Barb


  • Attend and participate in general sessions! These sessions are important opportunities to share thoughts and ask questions! Don’t hesitate to speak up and give your opinion. Just like many of us express to our clients and/or students, if one person has a question, it’s likely someone else in the room has the same question. ~ Kate
  • Get there early! Get to your “must see” concurrent sessions early, before the room closes up. Otherwise, you could get turned away at the door or have to sit on the floor. ~ Barb
  • Keep Moving! If you are into fitness like I am, get up early in the morning to exercise for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise you’ll never get 10,000 steps a day in on conference days because you will be sitting way too much. ~ Barb
  • Use Technology! If you are a presenter, post your slides in Slideshare so your workshop participants can access electronic copies of your slides if you decide not to bring hard copies or if they run out. ~ Barb
  • If you learn something new and interesting, or someone makes a great point, TWEET IT! Live tweeting presentations and general sessions is highly encouraged! Join your unofficial AFCPE “Twitter Queens” in sharing with the Twitterverse what #AFCPE16 is all about! Help generate interest in what we do! We’ve never been a trending topic before – it would be awesome if we could do it this year! ~ Kate
  • Follow the conference Twitter stream using #AFCPE16. There you’ll see photos and summaries of Symposium content. Twitter, along with the proceedings, is a great way to review content from workshops that you are unable to attend. ~ Barb
  • Sit with someone you don’t know at group events and presentation sessions. This conference is a great networking opportunity for everyone! ~Kate
  • When you meet someone new, make a note! When someone gives you a business card, write notes on the back of it to remember your follow-up action (e.g. sending a document or inviting them to a meeting). If you don’t make a note, you’ll forget when you get back home. ~ Barb
  • Check out the poster presentations for a quick snapshot of research being conducted! This is a great, informal way to ask questions of the researcher(s) or practitioner(s) who worked on the project! ~ Kate
  • Attend all of the social functions. This is where lasting personal and professional relationships are developed and you’ll learn a lot about topics that are not on the official formal program. ~ Barb
  • Visit the vendor tables to see what resources are available for FREE or for purchase! There are many terrific resources available! ~ Kate
  • Exchange Ideas! Do you have an idea for a project or research you might be interested in? If you are a practitioner, make sure to take the time to talk to a researcher (student or PhD). They can help you find what research is out there or even connect you with someone who might be doing research that interests you!  If you’re a researcher – talk to practitioners! What are they doing? What’s working? What do they have questions on? This is a great opportunity for practice and research to inform each other, which strengthens our field for everyone! ~ Kate

We want to hear from you! Share some of your go-to symposium tips?

August 31, 2016 at 9:53 am, by admin | No Comments | Category Symposium

Free: A Financial Counselor’s Favorite Price

ILoveFreeClient Support

When working with clients in a classroom setting or during a one-on-one session, it’s great to have tools and resources available to help support them in their journey toward their goal. It provides the client with an opportunity to take their future by the reigns and consider solutions that might work best for them. Having materials on-hand to thoroughly or briefly review during an appointment helps strengthen their understanding of the information you’re trying to relay. At the end of the day, it’s all about the client and their needs.

Providing your clients with materials that support their goals doesn’t have to be expensive. Who doesn’t love a bargain? When you look at the price tag and find out it’s free, you know it’s going to be a great day! Here are some great free resources available to you

  • CFPB Publications: Simply submit an order that can be downloaded or delivered straight to your office door free of charge. There are plenty of great materials to choose from. My personal favorites include the “Ready to Buy a Home?” slicksheet and the “How to Find the Best Credit Card for You” brochure.
  • FTC Publications: Everything from the topic of identity theft to paying for college is covered through materials which can be either ordered or downloaded. They even have excellent resources to begin the conversation of protecting yourself online between parents and children.
  • Save & Invest Resources for Military Financial Educators: You can order helpful materials for military families from DVDs and stress balls to booklets of financial information.


In order to be your very best for your clients, it is critical to stay attuned to updates within the ever-changing field of personal finance. This means allowing time and opportunity for self-support. Continuing education training and research on various topics can come with a hefty price, and while some are worth the investment, there are many great resources that offer free information and training. Below are a few options to help ensure that you are prepared with current information so that you can respond in the most professional manner to your clients’ needs.

  • CFPB’s Resources for Financial Educators: Not only can you access tools and articles but monthly webinars. Webinar topics include everything from auto loans to overall financial well-being. Even if you miss the live webinar, you can access the information via recording or read a transcript.
  • CFPB’s OSA News Desk: Working with servicemembers and veterans presents unique challenges, and the OSA News Desk plays a great role in communicating the specific topics seen by those working with the military population. Although this particular learning avenue tends to occur somewhat infrequently, the information is extremely value and is well-communicated through their webcasts.
  • Military Family Learning Network: Webinars presented by AFCPE certified professionals who are true experts on the topics discussed are geared toward those working with military families, but don’t let that stop you; the majority of the information is appropriate for a much larger range of audiences. Better yet, the information is approved by AFCPE for CEUs.
  • The Counselor’s Corner: As AFCPE’s new partner, CEUs are also available for webinar training through their platform. Many of the webinars are specific to housing, but they offer additional insights into credit and business practices.

Supporting your clients shouldn’t mean re-inventing the wheel, and supporting your professional growth shouldn’t always mean an excessive fee. Visit trusted sources and search through all of the information and find what best fits the needs of your clients and practice. Also, utilize your professional network to learn about new tools and upcoming training available to you.

Guest Contributor: Meghan Gardner, AFC®, FFC Candidate and AFCPE® member


August 24, 2016 at 10:29 am, by admin | 1 Comment | Category financial education, saving

AFCPE Membership Spotlight: Linda Jacob, AFC®, CFP®

Linda JacobLinda Jacob was an inaugural recipient of the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship back in 2006. After years working in various banking positions, she recognized that her true passion was helping people get control of their money and their debt.  Now she is living her passion and providing the education and guidance to get individuals and families back on track.

Tell us a little about your journey and what inspired you to become a Financial Counselor?

I started in banking when I was in high school. I worked as a teller. (It seems I’ve always worked with money.) After marrying my Army husband, we decided I would stay home and raise our boys. Once they were back in school, I took a job working for Mike Wood in Wiesbaden, Germany. I was one of the Financial Readiness Program Managers and Mike was the Director of ACS. It was Mike who suggested I apply for one of the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse scholarships to become an AFC®.

My husband retired and we ended up in Colorado (via Michigan) where I went to work at another bank.  I also would take assignments for MHN on the weekends doing financial counseling work. I decided to go full time with MHN and covered the state of Colorado.

The bank offered me a nice position to come back and work for the Trust dept. I took it and returned.  This is when I decided to get my CFP® certification. After three years of growing assets for my clients, I knew that my true passion was working with what I call the other 99%. Trust departments normally only work with the wealthier 1%, and I was not passionate about that work.

I left the trust department and began working for Zeiders, taking assignments all over the country and even Italy. While I loved the work, it was hard being away from my family. So when we moved to Des Moines, IA, someone suggested I talk to Tom Coates of Consumer Credit Des Moines. We met and he hired me on the spot! I now work in my dream job – helping people get control of their money and their debt, and helping them get back on track.

You are dual certified as both an AFC® and CFP® – how has this combination of experience and education been most beneficial to you?

I am proud to hold both the AFC® and CFP® certifications. My experience and education allows me to look at the entire picture. I am able to understand the cause and effect of the actions the client is taking today. What it means for their financial future, etc. Not to mention, my boys like to brag that their mom has 6 letters after her name. I’m glad I can be a good example for them.

You’ve also been a longtime member of AFCPE®. What do you find most beneficial about being an AFCPE member?

Being a part of AFCPE is extremely valuable to me. I find it invigorating to be around others who have the same passion. The educational focus of the group keeps me up-to-date on trending topics and continues to give me more and more tools I can use when working with clients. Of all the events I attend in my profession, the AFCPE Symposium is my favorite. This year I am really looking forward to being an exhibitor. I want to share the Debt Management Plan tool with my fellow AFC professionals so that they can help their clients get out of debt faster.

You recently wrote a book which launched this month. Tell us more about this endeavor.

My new book, No More Paycheck to Paycheck – Stop Living in Debt and Start Living the Dream, was written the year my husband was in Afghanistan. He always wanted me to write a book and I finally had the time. He left January 12th, came home December 10th, and I finished the book December 18th. It was the perfect time to have a project – giving me something to concentrate on while he was away.

I wrote the book by imagining what I would tell a client if they sat in my office for a series of appointments. I share a lot about my life since I have “been there, and done that”. It’s a way to connect with more people, not just those who can physically come to my office. My goal in writing the book was to help as many people as I can become successful money managers.

I learned how to write and publish a book by watching my friend (and mentor) Dr. Mary Kelly. She wrote a book (which I edited for her), so I knew I could ask her any questions I had during the process. She was invaluable!

On your blog, you talk about the 12 Traditions. Tell us a little about this approach in relation to money.

The 12 Traditions are used by recovery groups. They are considered the steps to getting along with others. On my blog, I use these traditions in a similar way – as useful tools to help families get along with one another and be successful when it comes to money. I just put my own twist on them.

And the question we ask in every Member Spotlight: if you had to choose, what is your favorite personal finance advice?

My favorite piece of personal financial advice?  Spend less than you make!

Interested in connecting with other AFCPE members who live in your area or share your professional interests? Use the AFCPE Member Search portal:

Access past Membership Monthly Spotlights HERE.


July 27, 2016 at 9:50 am, by admin | No Comments | Category financial education, General

Are your personal finances TOP SECRET?

Top Secret Finances

Recently, I attended a funeral for a much-loved, elderly friend. He adored his wife and spoiled her every day. Throughout their marriage, he took care of the bills, handled their portfolio, and never bothered her with investment worries. However, after his passing, she found herself in the dark about their personal finances and did not even have the password to access their Quicken account. Days later, a family member was able to remedy this, but it was just the beginning of many financial mysteries left to be solved. This scenario is all too common, especially for the senior generation.

After a funeral, when the dining room table is covered in condolence cards and medical bills, the last thing a widowed spouse needs to worry about is how to access a password-protected financial account. Or worse, have to wonder if there are enough funds to cover incoming bills.

Fortunately, with some planning, there are steps we can take now to ensure our loved ones can easily access the information they need when this time comes..

With a trip to the store and a couple of hours, you can put together a financial book that will provide the key to unlocking your financial life. The sole purpose of this book is to record account numbers, approximate balances, mortgage information, contact names, retirement account institutions and everything in-between for those left to sort through our financial matters. A book with every account, every contact and every balance written down in black and white will greatly ease the frustrations of a bewildered spouse or executor of an estate.

The sooner you start, the better. Like a will, a well thought-out estate plan is essential. Grab a notebook and make a list of all of your personal financial life information and place it in a safety deposit box with your will. Some items to include:

  • Bank Account – institution, address, account numbers, passwords, balance range, Payable on Death names, phone number
  • Retirement Accounts – institution, address, phone number, password, beneficiary, balance range
  • Insurance Policies – company and agent names, phone numbers, account numbers, amounts, beneficiaries. Include in this list, life, home, car, umbrella, medical and any policy you own.
  • Stocks – brokerage firm, phone number, account number, stocks held, amount of stock, beneficiary
  • Employer – company contact, phone number, employee number. List any life insurance, stock options, survivor benefits and anything else that would be needed.
  • Credit cards – account numbers, passwords, phone numbers
  • Password to computers and any relevant accounts such as online banking, brokerage accounts, Quicken
  • Mortgages – institution, accounts, phone numbers, balances, location of deeds
  • Auto Loans – loan Holder, account number, phone numbers, balances, location of titles
  • Bonds – bond Issuer, account number, phone number, bond amount
  • Will – location of will, name of executor
  • Funeral instructions
  • Safety Deposit Box – bank, location of key, contents
  • Location of any hidden cash or jewelry in the house

While not extensive, this list is a good start. Remember, our financial lives can be complex and complicated. Ease the burden for your loved ones and leave behind the key to help them navigate your financial life.

Guest Contributor: Dana Chitwood, AFC®

July 21, 2016 at 9:34 am, by admin | 1 Comment | Category Estate Planning, financial education

Help More People Start Saving:

Encourage Your Clients to Save with MyRA

Most people know that saving for retirement is important, but many Americans don’t have an easy way to get started. A recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that more than 30 million full-time employees in the United States don’t have access to retirement savings plans at work. Other barriers, like account fees and minimum contribution requirements, can make it even more difficult for people to start saving.

Now, there’s an easy way to save that can help eliminate these common barriers. myRA was developed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to make saving for retirement simple, safe, and affordable.

  • It costs nothing to open an account and there are no fees
  • Savers can contribute any amount they choose ($5, $50, $500 – whatever fits your budget!)¹
  • Withdraw the money you put into your account at any time without paying tax and penalty.
  • The account safely earns interest2

Saving for retirement has never been easier

Getting started with myRA is quick and easy. In fact, it only takes about 10 minutes to enroll. Each saver will need their social security number, driver’s license or other ID, and the name and birthdate of at least one beneficiary.

myRA also gives people the flexibility to choose how they want to fund their account. Savers can contribute to a myRA account from a paycheck via direct deposit, or from a checking or savings account. During tax season, savers can choose to direct some or all or their federal tax refund dollars to their myRA accounts.

See how others have started saving with myRA

Many people have already started taking steps to secure a brighter future by saving with myRA.

myRALakesha Douglas is a store manager at E-Z Mart, a convenience store chain in Texarkana, Texas. She hadn’t thought much about retirement until she heard about myRA. Her growing family led her to recognize the need to plan for retirement, and myRA was an easy way to start. “I feel like I’m taking a step in the right direction with myRA,” says Lakesha.

Like Lakesha, Mariela Ortiz was introduced to myRA by her employer. An employee at Coral Gables La Salle Cleaners near Miami, Florida, Mariela had been thinking about saving for a long time, but found that getting started was difficult. She decided to open a myRA account after her human resources manager told her about the program, and since that time has been saving a small amount from her paycheck each week. “It is important for me because it’s my future,” she says.myRA2

Help people start saving today

Talk to your clients and help them start saving for a brighter future with myRA. Visit for more information and to download free materials you can share.

1 Annual and lifetime contribution limits and annual earned income limits apply, as do conditions for tax-free withdrawal of interest. To learn about key features of a Roth IRA and for other requirements and details, visit
Accounts earn interest at the same rate as investments in the Government Securities Fund, which earned 2.04 percent in 2015 and had an average annual return of 2.94 percent over the ten-year period ending December 2015.

Guest Contributor: U.S. Department of the Treasury, myRA

July 18, 2016 at 8:25 am, by admin | No Comments | Category saving