A Military Spouse Perspective: Pursuing a Career as a Financial Counselor

annette carterMy early financial education was given to me by my parents, sort of unintentionally and mostly from observation.   As I grew up and became an adult, I learned some better financial practices from friends and associates.  I also started reading books that taught about financial topics.

My husband and I started a small real estate investing company where I learned about accounting, budgeting and risk taking.  I also began to realize how many people live paycheck to paycheck.

After many years working in the private sector and maintaining his reserve status in the U.S. Army, my husband decided to go back into the Army full-time as an AGR (Army Guard Reservist) officer. Making the change to the military life meant moving and leaving my part-time job behind.  At our first assignment, I was not able to secure employment in my chosen field as there were too many restrictions in that state.  When we went to our next assignment, I was hopeful that I could find work, but was disappointed to find out that where we moved did not support me working there, either.  So, when I learned about the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship for AFC® I was very excited.  It was the perfect opportunity to pursue an area I had long been interested in and provide the flexibility I needed as a military spouse. I applied and was accepted into the program!

My undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education so teaching others is something that has always come natural to me.  That coupled with my interest in personal financial topics made pursuing certification in financial counseling feel like the perfect match. Now over a year into the fellowship program, I am so thankful I made the decision to apply. The program offers excellent study materials and a webinar style class taught by a very knowledgeable instructor.  The webinar format allows spouses to join no matter where they live. While the material is extensive, I felt well prepared to take the exam – and did so by keeping up with the syllabus and testing while the material was still fresh in my mind.

The curriculum of the course is varied and interesting and I feel like I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time.  I have been able to apply principles taught in my own life and it’s been a great reminder of things that will benefit my family and me financially.  I strive to teach my children intentionally about financial matters.

As part of the program, I have also been able to earn practicum hours and give back to the military community. Most of my hours were spent at Army Community Services in the Financial Readiness program.  There I was able to work with Soldiers and their families and civilians who work with the military.  It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve this population so far and I hope to find work in the financial field where I can continue working with the military population.

My overall experience with the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship has been incredibly positive and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to participate alongside so many fine individuals who know what it’s like to live the military life!

Guest Contributor: Annette Carter, AFC® Candidate, FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow

Apply for the 2016 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program. Accepting applications now through April 22, 2016.

March 22, 2016 at 10:36 am, by admin | No Comments | Category General, military

Why Financial Fitness Coaching? In A Word: Empowerment.

EmpowermentSometimes a legitimate quest for information can lead down unexpected paths. When AFCPE® first announced the Financial Fitness Coach certification in partnership with Sage Financial Solutions, I was curious. I didn’t know what the certification entailed, why I would need it, or even why AFCPE had decided to offer Financial Fitness Coach training. So I did what I would recommend to my clients considering a significant purchase: I asked a few questions. Those questions sparked a heated debate and, those questions revealed that I was not the only one who was new to the idea of a Financial Fitness Coach certification.

After a lively exchange about the cost-benefit analysis of the certification, I decided to enroll in the course and attend the November session. Admittedly, my decision to invest in the course came down to a colleague who had enrolled in the first cohort and was completing the certification that same November. “Do it. You won’t regret it,” was all she had to say. Sometimes, a strong endorsement from someone we trust is all that is necessary. In the end, she was right. I did it, and I have not regretted it.

I am nearly finished with my coaching hours and the additional live webinars, both of which are required for the Financial Fitness Coach certification. What I have gained from the course has far outweighed the cost. Financial coaching is the piece of the puzzle that I felt was missing from the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) designation. AFC professionals accumulate a breadth and depth of financial knowledge, which is further developed through interaction with clients. However, there is always that one client which is stuck, that all the financial knowledge in the world cannot budge. Because for some clients, the struggle is not about a knowledge gap. For some clients, the struggle is about everything else; their lives, relationships, childhood, teenage years, children, parents, pets. Coaching provides a communication dynamic that allows financial professionals to use all the tools in their AFC toolbox to help those stuck clients move forward.

Recently, I had the honor of helping a couple of long-time friends take control of their finances. Luckily for them, I had just returned from the seminar with Saundra Davis. Upon discovering that they were utterly convinced that they would never live debt free, I realized the traditional communication paradigm would not work. Early in our sessions, I also realized this conviction had little to do with a knowledge gap and everything to do with mindset and experience. Therefore, all my knowledge would be useless to them until they began to believe in their own potential. The Financial Fitness Coach model allowed me to flip the communication dynamic, which in turn provided the opportunity and space for them to begin seeing things differently. The power of the financial coaching process, combined with the emotional and intellectual gentleness of the approach amazed me.

Would I have been able to help this couple without the Financial Fitness Coach certification? Perhaps. However, they would not have owned their achievement in the same way. Coaching requires both active work and a level of responsibility from the client. When a coach views his or her client as capable, whole, and in command of their destiny, the client begins to see that as well. That is the heart of empowerment.

Guest Contributor: Adrienne Ross, AFC®, FFCTM Candidate



March 9, 2016 at 2:50 pm, by admin | No Comments | Category financial education, General

The Fiduciary Rule: Already the Standard

rebeccaSaundraOver the past ten years, there has been increasing focus placed on financial capability to address the increasing personal debt levels and the overall financial well-being of Americans. It is more important than ever that consumers understand their options, the financial services profession, and who is best equipped to serve them at all stages of their financial lifecycle.

Recently, there has been a contentious debate about the fiduciary rule proposed last year, which would require investment brokers to act in the best interest of their clients regarding retirement accounts. Resistance to this proposal is based on faulty reasoning that the middle class will be hurt as a result. The opposition argues that increased liability and regulatory costs for advisors will lead to higher fees, negatively affecting lower income clients.

However, the current “suitability standard” leaves far too much room for financial abuses. We only have to look at recent history to see that when financial services are not regulated, it is the consumer who suffers. Advisors, when motivated by commissioned sales, can and do recommend products that may be “suitable” for their clients, but they do not always recommend what is “best.” Of course, this does not mean that the individual advisor is seeking to abuse the client, but the fact is that the advisor’s fiduciary responsibility is to the corporation that employs them rather than to their clients. This system creates an enormous conflict of interest and does not serve the middle class or anyone very well.

As many reputable financial advisors will attest, individuals have more options today than ever before. Consumers with wealth know that they can turn to a financial advisor to manage their investments. However, all consumers, regardless of income level or socioeconomic status, deserve access to highly trained professionals with education and experience, as well as a strong commitment to ongoing professional development.

It is especially important that individuals with low to moderate income have trusted guidance to help change their money management behaviors, build savings, create effective spending plans, and achieve financial well-being. That’s why the fiduciary rule has always been the cornerstone of our financial counseling and financial coaching certification programs offered by AFCPE, like the AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor®) and the FFCTM (Financial Fitness Coach).

Our professionals adhere to high ethical requirements that guarantee the client’s best interests are the top priority. For more than three decades, they have provided qualified, unbiased financial guidance without selling products. The rigorous and comprehensive training, rooted in decades of field research, prepares them to address the individual’s entire financial lifecycle and unique needs. This standard of care goes well beyond popular, one-size-fits-all packaged programs, to ensure that every consumer has access to high-quality, personalized financial education.

As financial professionals, if we are genuinely committed to lasting and positive behavior change, we must enforce the standards and professionalism that already exist in the field with licensed professionals. Consumers should be able to expect high ethical standards, like those held by AFC® and CFP® professionals, to be the norm.

We must bridge the gap between the intellectual and the emotional aspects of money. We must create a more integrated and inclusive financial system where professionals and organizations work together to create a comprehensive continuum of care for everyone.

Only then will we begin to solve the issues of financial instability for our clients, and ultimately our country.

Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director
AFCPE® (Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education®)

Saundra Davis, Executive Director
Sage Financial Solutions Financial Coaching

To find a Certified Professional, click here.

March 3, 2016 at 11:03 am, by admin | 1 Comment | Category financial education, General

The Power of Financial Counseling & Education


As America Saves & Military Saves Week come to an end, we share a story that reminds us of the power of financial counseling and education.

Recently, a soon-to-retire service member came to my office after attending one of my financial education workshops. He wanted to tell me about the success he’d experienced simply by using some of the information I had shared, particularly on having credit card interest rates lowered through the Servicemembers Cival Relief Act (SCRA).

Following the workshop, he called his credit card companies to inquire about having his interest rates lowered. As a result, he was refunded over $50,000 in interest and annual fees, dating back 29 years. In turn, he was able to pay off his mortgage early. He calculated his windfall/savings was over $80,000 just by attending a six-hour workshop and making a few phone calls.

This is not the first time I’ve heard a similar story from senior service members. Many of them are unaware of the SCRA because this information tends to be shared more often with our junior service members.

~ Deanna S. Henderson, AFC®

If you followed the Savings Success Series on our blog this week, we hope you were inspired by the stories and found new ideas to use in your own savings journey. Remember, changing financial behaviors doesn’t happen overnight and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

Changing financial behavior is most successful when someone has support from others and when someone has an attainable realistic goal that will motivate them when times get tough. There are so many financial education resources available it is just a matter of finding the program that works for you and surrounding yourself with other people who make changing their financial behavior a priority too!

~ Letty Stevens, AFC®

 The journey is ongoing. Make every week an America Saves or Military Saves Week. And don’t forget to take the pledge!

Looking for guidance on your personal path to savings success?
Find an AFCPE® certified professional:

Want to become a financial counselor or coach?
Learn more about AFCPE® certification:

February 27, 2016 at 8:32 am, by admin | No Comments | Category financial education, military, saving

AFCPE® Membership Spotlight: Kira Dentes, AFC®

Kira DentesKira Dentes was introduced to AFCPE® just three years ago, when she applied and was awarded a 2013 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship. Now an active member of the organization, she continues to make a lasting impact both in the organization and the field. The newly graduated AFC® shares more about her journey and “love affair” with financial counseling.

What inspired you to apply for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program?

I learned about the fellowship through my volunteer work with the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society at Camp Lejeune, NC. After having trouble finding employment as a new military spouse, I needed a way to occupy my time and ended up finding a community of wonderful, dedicated professionals. There were several current or former fellows in the group that encouraged me to apply. I had already begun my new love affair with financial counseling and decided pursuing the AFC was a great way to jumpstart a new chapter in my life.

You currently work as a Financial Coach as part of the CFPB’s Financial Coaching Initiative. What part of this work has been most rewarding to you?

Most of my previous experience has been with primarily one-time counseling sessions. Working with clients in an ongoing relationship and watching them progress toward their goals is a great benefit of this job. Learning and applying the financial coaching techniques has not been an easy adjustment but it is incredibly rewarding to see clients develop their own solutions, which are often more creative and better for their situation than something I might have suggested.

What do you find most rewarding about being a member of AFCPE?

Attending the AFCPE Symposium the last two years has been a wonderful opportunity! The whole community is dedicated and passionate about personal finance and finding ways to improve financial lives. In addition to meeting wonderful people, I love the way the organization brings together professionals from different facets of the industry. As a practitioner, it is easy to get bogged down in the trenches. The conference is a great reminder of all the tools, resources, and research being done to give us more insight to serve clients.

This week, February 22-27, is Military Saves Week. What is your most memorable Savings Success Story?

I started working with a client when she was in transition from military service and between employment opportunities. She was going to school and completing an internship and wanted to organize her finances so she had more control over where her money was going. She wanted to pay off personal loan debt to give herself more freedom over her budget. She worked hard to organize her budgets and determine her spending leaks. Once she obtained solid employment, she was incredibly prepared and had more resources to begin taking a serious chunk out of her loan obligations. She is on track to pay off her entire loan in just 18 months!

And one of my favorite questions, what is your top personal finance advice?

I am crazy about budgets. I know not everyone loves the detail and planning of an extensive budget, but I think having some type of plan is essential to making your finances work for you. It doesn’t have to be overly detailed, complicated, or restrictive. It doesn’t necessarily even have to be written down, but knowing where you want your money to go puts you in control of your spending.

February 26, 2016 at 7:12 am, by admin | 2 Comments | Category financial education, General, saving