Member Spotlight: Don Fulton, AFC®, CRC®, and longtime member of AFCPE®, has more than 15 years’ experience in financial counseling and coaching through employee assistance programs and employee benefits services. A graduate of Golden Valley Lutheran College and Augsburg College, Don earned a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Theology from Luther Seminary. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
You have a very unique background as both a Lutheran Pastor and a financial counselor. What led you to your work as an Accredited Financial Counselor?
From an early age I was drawn to church as a place of belonging. A growing sense of what the church refers to as “call” eventually led me to attend Lutheran colleges, as well as seminary. I became an ordained Lutheran Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America called to a ministry of word and sacrament.
During a transitional period in my life, I explored making a career shift. I asked a coworker who would hire someone with my background, and he suggested an employee assistance program (EAP). I then had what some describe as a “six degrees of separation” experience, or what I call “Higher Power” stuff, and decided to pursue and obtain employment with an EAP.
In this new position, financial counseling was among the services I provided to client companies and their employees. I became a member of a dedicated financial team which focused on financial issues including budget, credit and debt management. In order to share a common base of financial knowledge, members of this team pursued their Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) designation.
So began an unexpected journey that combined faith and finance. These days I talk about wearing two hats – one of a Lutheran clergy and the other a financial coach. Some people seem to think this is an unusual combination, but I disagree. In the church world we call this stewardship, or what could be broadly defined as resource management.
In practicing stewardship, themes of generosity and scarcity emerge that are important to how we as individuals, couples, businesses and a society approach decisions about money. The question gets raised, “How much is enough?” Generosity takes the viewpoint that there is enough for all and is gratitude based. Scarcity takes the viewpoint that resources are limited and is fear based. The point of view we chose to take can influence and motivate our behavior. To live as “wise stewards’” means we become aware of what motivates us in managing all that we have.
Tell me about Money for Two workshops. How did these workshops come about and why is the initiative so important to you?
Money for Two Workshops, LLC started in response to a need. A fellow Lutheran pastor, who had been doing pre-marriage workshops for a number of years, mentioned that more couples were asking financial questions. She saw that financial decisions were a major source of stress in relationships and was looking for a resource who would talk about financial issues without trying to sell a product. I knew I had gifts I could offer in this area, so we started putting ideas together.
Since I had been practicing financial counseling for a number of years and understood financial issues, I built the workshops to address these issues. I connected with S.C.O.R.E. = Service Core of Retired Executives and was assigned mentors who helped me put together a business plan. Then I found people who specialized in communication to help me develop a website and, thus, moneyfortwoworkshops.com was created.
Money for Two Workshops, LLC is faith-based because, I believe, faith is a resource. In the workshops listening with respect and offering a safe place to share is emphasized from the start. Interactive exercises are used to communicate about money and we talk about how each member of a couple comes from different financial backgrounds. Inventories are used to gauge the financial knowledge of each member of a couple. Stewardship stories from the Bible are used to help illustrate how faith and values relate to the role of money in our lives and the importance of managing money well. Time is spent on financial terminology and where to find financial resources. Each couple sets goals and identifies the steps they will take to reach those goals. Overall the goals include reducing stress around financial decision making and building healthier relationships.
Please share a story or anecdote that has made your work so rewarding.
I offer a version of Money for Two Workshops as a class through a local community education program. One evening, about an hour into the class, I asked if the financial information I was sharing was new to them. The response was overwhelmingly affirmative, and at this point all we had covered was the importance of credit, budget basics and thinking about financial goals. These were couples in their 20s and 30s and this information was new to them. Obviously the need for couples (and all of us) to receive sound financial information is there. I find it rewarding to offer financial information that can help strengthen a couple’s relationship and decision making for the future.
If you are interested in learning more about Money for Two workshops, or networking on issues of faith and finances or financial health within relationships, please contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com or visit their website at www.smartaboutcollege.org.
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: http://fpwusu.blogspot.com/. Please check it out as well as the FPW website: www.usu.edu/fpw.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 CreditScoreQuiz.org, 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.
Join a TweetChat on Tuesday May 20, 3-4pm #CreditKnowledge
Get a Free Credit Score from FINRA When You Take the Military Saves Pledge
Put information here about how this works……
CreditScoreQuiz.org 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 americasaves.org.
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