AFCPE Member Spotlight: Mary Howard

Mary Howard Pic

Member Spotlight: Mary Howard is the Financial Literacy Program Manager for Student Assistance Foundation (SAF) in Helena, Montana. She has held the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) designation since 2013 and has been an engaged member of AFCPE® since 2010.

You are both a member of AFCPE, as well as an AFC certificant. Why did you chose to pursue your AFC and what does the designation mean to you?
The AFC designation means that I am not only very willing to help students with their financial situation, but that I am qualified to do so as well. It provides the students I serve a measure of trust and confidence in me. My employer, Student Assistance Foundation (SAF) generously invested their resources to allow me to obtain my AFC Certification. SAF recognizes the value of having a professional credential from a national organization backing me when I work with students and their finances. It is an honor to be a part of AFCPE.

What led you to your current role as the Financial Literacy Program Manager at the Student Assistance Foundation of Montana?
I started my career over twenty-five years ago working in a financial aid office at a small, rural community college in Montana. I have since worked at a variety of colleges and universities helping students prepare for college through awarding of financial aid. I began working for Student Assistance Foundation in 2003; my background in student financial aid provided valuable experience which I brought to my current roles as Financial Literacy Program Manager, Outreach Supervisor and Outreach Manager.

What is most rewarding about the work that you do?
I feel a true sense of accomplishment when students listen to and understand the information I provide on financial aid and student loan borrowing, and then make a decision not to borrow student loans or even to reduce their borrowing to the bare minimum. I also love working with our Matched Education Savings Programs (MESAs) which help low-income students establish savings habits for college.  In communities where many families are unbanked and do not have an established savings plan, it is particularly rewarding to help students take an active part in funding their college education. To see students actually get excited about financial literacy and saving money for college is very rewarding.

If you would like to network with Mary on topics regarding student financial literacy or student financial assistance, or are interested in learning more about the programs at the Student Assistance Foundation of Montana, please contact Mary at or visit their website at


July 18, 2014 at 8:47 am, by admin | No Comments | Category General

AFCPE Member Spotlight: Jean Lown

Member Spotlight Jean Lown, PhD. is a professor in the Department of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University where she teaches investing, retirement and estate planning. She is a charter member of AFCPE and was present at the meeting where AFCPE was formed. Since then has only missed one annual conference, and for good reason. She was on sabbatical leave in New Zealand and Australia. Jean has served two terms on the AFCPE Board of Directors and received several AFCPE Awards, including the Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year award.

What made you decide to pursue a career in Personal Finance?
I started my focus on consumer issues and gradually evolved to concentrate on personal financial wellness. I attended college during the feminist movement, so I am conscious of the disparate economic situation of women and men, especially when women are single.

Tell us a little about the monthly seminar you teach for the local community, Financial Planning for Women (FPW). How did this initiative come about and why is it so important to you?
FPW started with an invited presentation on women and financial planning for the local chapter of the American Association of University Women in 1996. After the presentation a number of women expressed an interest in learning more, so I offered a monthly meeting to teach about finances. A plethora of studies have confirmed that women need to be encouraged to take more responsibility for their financial security. It’s now 2014 and I’m still teaching the monthly FPW seminars on a wide range of financial topics and encouraging my students to participate in the presentations so they gain experience. A monthly email newsletter has been replaced by a searchable blog: Please check it out as well as the FPW website:

Have you seen the impact of your workshops on the women within your community?
I’ve received lots of anecdotal feedback that FPW has changed women’s lives. And I continue to conduct research to determine what topics women are most interested in learning about, how to motivate them to take action, and to document the impact of FPW.

You’ve also done some great work to encourage and aid your students to attend the AFCPE Symposium.
At the 1993 Symposium in San Antonio, I was sitting in a session with one of my grad students when I had the idea that our undergrad Family Finance students should attend AFCPE. So I proposed, developed and taught a 1credit career seminar course for the Family Finance students. I designed an assignment to conduct informational interviews with professionals in areas of career interest, and encouraged students to attend the Symposium so they could conduct their interviews with conference attendees. Due to this seminar, USU has had Family Finance students attend the AFCPE Symposium almost every year since 1995. To help finance travel to the conference, I offer financial advising throughout the year, and donate the fees to a student travel fund. I’m proud to say that many of my past students are now active professionals in the association.

Jean is interested in networking with AFCPE members who have a similar interest in encouraging women to take responsibility for their financial future.  She is also working with fellow AFCPE member, Karen Richel, in an effort to provide financial education for jail inmates and is interested in educational materials targeted to prison inmates to help them transition to life outside.  If you would like to connect on these topics, please contact Jean at

May 21, 2014 at 8:52 am, by admin | No Comments | Category General

Test Your Credit Score Knowledge with for a Chance to Win $500

Your credit score can affect many parts of your financial life. And while the large majority of consumers have basic knowledge about credit scores, there are a few knowledge gaps according to the Consumer Federation of America’s latest survey findings:

  • Only 42 percent know that a credit score measures the risk of not repaying a loan rather than factors such as knowledge of, or attitude to, consumer credit.
  • Only half of consumers (50%) understand the three instances when lenders who use generic credit scores are required to inform borrowers of the credit score used in the lending decision – after application for a mortgage loan, whenever an application for a consumer or mortgage loan is rejected, and whenever the best terms, including lowest interest rate available, are not offered on a consumer or mortgage loan.

To encourage more individuals to increase their credit score knowledge and complete the quiz at, Vantage Score and Military Saves’ parent organization, Consumer Federation of America (CFA) are offering those who complete the quiz the opportunity to enter a drawing for a $500 gift card. The 20 –question interactive quiz allows consumers to test their knowledge of credit scores and receive the correct responses with explanations. The quiz is available in both English and Spanish. and

Join a TweetChat on Tuesday May 20, 3-4pm #CreditKnowledge

VantageScore and America Saves are also hosting a chat to test your credit knowledge. Follow @VantageScore and @AmericaSaves on Twitter and use #CreditKnowledge to join the conversation.

Get a Free Credit Score from FINRA When You Take the Military Saves Pledge

Put information here about how this works……

About is an informational tool developed by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions. The two organizations developed the credit score quiz and website to increase consumer knowledge about credit scores and how to improve them. Since 2011, they have asked the Opinion Research Corporation to administer this quiz annually to a representative sample of 1,000 adult Americans. The quiz results indicate that many Americans could improve their credit score knowledge and ability to manage their scores. They encourage individuals to take this quiz and urge teachers and other educators to utilize it in their financial education programs.

James Lander is the director of Military Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at

May 16, 2014 at 6:57 am, by admin | No Comments | Category General

AFC Student Blog Series Part 6: Preparing for Exams

After completing the reading materials for the AFC course, I am now ready to start the review.  With practice questions and answers included in the back of the books, I can conveniently test my knowledge. And although the reading is in depth, the tools for studying are very straightforward.

While some students start the quiz section using an open book, I like to challenge myself and answer each section with my book closed.  And, as it turns out, I do pretty well! Once I’ve scored my quiz, I then go back to the questions that were wrong and figure out what I did not understand. By the time I reach the third section of the review, I find myself doing better and better and I’m  becoming more comfortable with the material.

Everyone studies differently and everyone learns differently, and this is why I enjoy the self-study AFC program.  The study material is written in a way that suits all learning styles. Most importantly, I find it rewarding because it has allowed me to examine my own personal financial situation and think about where I want to be in five years.

Have you thought about it?

Nadia Marquez, Master of Science Student in Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University
AFC® University program student

May 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm, by admin | No Comments | Category General

AFC Student Blog Series Part 5

It’s understandable that many of us do not like to engage in estate planning—it can be a little overwhelming. However, it is important to “nip it in the bud” and start the preparation early so that when the unfortunate time comes, there is a reduction of conflict and a smoother process for all involved.

Studying for the AFC® has helped me realize the importance of this topic and all that needs to be done to settle an estate in advance. I, myself, plan on having an estate one day, don’t you? If not, you will likely have clients with estates – and as an AFC, I hope to practice financial counseling and planning with people from all levels of wealth.

In a nutshell, the AFC provides me with the skills that so many people want to attain but, either due to lack of time or of knowledge, they fall short in organizing their finances.   This makes me a valuable resource to them and gives me the opportunity to make a living out of helping others.

The sky is the limit for me and it can be for you too!

Nadia Marquez, Master of Science Student in Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University
AFC® University program student

May 2, 2014 at 11:10 am, by admin | No Comments | Category General