2015 AFCPE Symposium: 15 Reasons to *Learn *Share *Grow

Save the Date 2015Each November financial professionals from all over the country come together for a professional development opportunity that is unlike any other in our field. With attendees representing financial education, research and practice, the AFCPE Symposium brings together these uniquely distinct areas of our field to unite them in our common goal and provide an opportunity to learn, share and grow.

There are many reasons to attend the 2015 AFCPE Symposium this November in Jacksonville, FL, but here, in no particular order, are some of our favorites!

#15: The Pre-Symposium:

The pre-symposium offers additional opportunities for professional development and allows unique groups of like-minded professionals to share best practices and ideas to enhance their work: Cooperative eXtension, Financial Therapy Association, Student Money Management Center. We are also thrilled to offer certification training opportunities: Financial Coach Certification Training and AFC® Onsite Review & Exam.

#14: The keynote speakers:

AFCPE keynotes offer insights from influential leaders in our field. Incredible minds share ideas on topics that are highly relevant to our diverse and expanding field.

#13: The networking:

The networking at the AFCPE Symposium is “second to none.” There is an energy and openness about the event that allows people to make life-long connections and share ideas that can enhance your career, support your work and positively impact the people that you serve.

#12: The student focus:

AFCPE® strongly believes in providing career-enhancing opportunities for our students – the future leaders within our field. This year attendees will share in the innovative research and projects of our student scholarship recipients. And for the first time, 5 teams of University undergraduates will have the opportunity to test their financial savvy in the AFCPE Financial Counseling Knowledge Bowl.

#11: The live, on-site certification training and support.

Each year we offer a special onsite review and exam for AFC® candidates. r certification candidates who

#10: The schedule:

Great keynote speakers, informative breakout sessions offering both important research and practical applications, ample networking opportunities, community outreach, fun evening events and activities…and the list goes on. The AFCPE Symposium has something for everyone!

#9: The town hall meeting:

Attend the AFCPE Business meeting on Thursday morning and get a firsthand look at the exciting projects and initiatives that we are working on to support YOU – our members and certified professionals!

#8: The evening events and activities:

And you thought the daytime schedule was fun…the Symposium offers a number of evening opportunities, from networking receptions to a groundbreaking documentary to an informal meet & eat dinner on the town.

#7: The Membership:

Your Symposium registration includes 2016 AFCPE® Membership.

#6: The Community Outreach Project:

This year we are excited to partner with United Way’s Real$ense and Family Foundations of Northeast Florida to connect local members of the community with counseling and resources. It’s a great opportunity for AFC® professionals to give back to the local community we are visiting and create an outreach model that may be replicated and used in your own local communities.

#5: The Location (Florida in November!):

Sunshine, a warm breeze and palm trees. Depending on where you call home, this reason may require no explanation.

#4: The Resources:

The Symposium provides access to resources that support your work and enhance your career. Resources are readily exchanged and shared throughout the 3-day event – while engaging with exhibitors and sponsors in our exhibit area, during each keynote and breakout session and through the conversations had with colleagues and friends.

#3: The research panel:

Research drives the discovery of new initiatives and informs the work that we do. The 2015 Welcome Session will feature an important, interactive discussion on building the bridge from research to practice. We’ll look at the varying perspectives of research, why it’s important and how we can work together and collaborate to move our industry forward.

#2: The AFCPE® Awards ceremony:

A time of celebration! At the Friday Awards Luncheon, we honor the good work and innovations that are happening in the field of financial education, research and practice.

#1: The Bridge:

Be a part of the bridge we are building. At the 2015 AFCPE Symposium, you have the opportunity to add your brick to the bridge. Share your insights, exchange ideas and find new ways to collaborate and enhance the work you are doing!

Still want more? Watch the AFCPE® Symposium video to hear what your colleagues are saying.

What are you waiting for? Early registration ends tomorrow, October 1! If you haven’t already, register for the 2015 AFCPE Symposium and share your #1 reason for attending!


September 30, 2015 at 10:29 am, by admin | No Comments | Category financial education, General, Symposium

AFCPE® Membership Spotlight: Susan Schroeder, AFC®

???????????????????????????????Susan Schroeder, AFC® strongly believes that financial empowerment interventions enable people to move forward and achieve financial well-being. For 10 years, she has focused her passion on increasing the financial capability, access, and inclusion for low to middle income individuals and families.

Susan joined AFCPE® membership in 2014 and in just a short time has seen the immense value of being part of such a diverse professional network – she has built new relationships and acquired new ideas (and provided some as well!) that have had an important impact on the individuals and families whom she serves. Read on to learn more about your fellow AFCPE member, Susan Schroeder:

As a financial counselor, you have a background in social work and the social services industry. What motivated you to pursue your AFC® certification?
My background in human services gave me the opportunity to hear the stories of more than 3,000 families. These families wanted the best for their children but struggled to meet their basic needs. I was moved to action when I observed how improved financial capability could help families transition from surviving to thriving.  My employer, Dakota County Community Services, values: putting the customer at the center of everything we do; innovation; and integrated service delivery. These values allowed me to approach my leadership team with confidence. I proposed we pilot a program to provide participants with financial counseling in conjunction with the delivery of other county services. That idea was supported and the work began. Of course we needed a practitioner for the pilot to work and that’s where AFCPE® came in. We chose the AFC© certification because of the organization’s reputation for maintaining high standards and its strict code of ethics. We also saw value in the AFCPE’s mission to provide professional development and promote best practices. The access to relevant, quality research and well-vetted resources was also very important.

You recently sent a note to AFCPE about an opportunity you had to promote financial counseling as a profession. I think many of us often overlook how simple encounters offer us easy ways to share the value of AFCPE and the AFC© designation. Would you mind sharing this experience?
The AFC© designation provides financial capability educators and trainers with credibility and security. I work with many community partners who assist folks everyday with personal finance issues. I recommend membership and pursuit of the AFC© designation because of the value I feel those things add to my work. Recently I was speaking with a community partner who leads economic vitality programming for Latino populations. I asked if their providers were accredited. When he said, “No, but I’d be very interested in learning more” I naturally suggested he check out AFCPE. Dakota County residents have benefitted from my membership and designation, of course we want to share our positive experience with our community partners.

AFC Twin Cities Meet UpYou and several AFCPE Members have formed a local AFCPE membership chapter. For members who are interested in networking with other professionals in their region, would you share some advice on how your group got started and some of the insights you learned and shared as part of this meeting.
Glad you asked about the Twin Cities AFC© Meet-Up! Jerry Buchko (AFCPE Board Member & AFC©) and Don Fulton (AFC©) reached out to members in the Twin Cities region earlier this year to gauge interest in the idea of getting together with other AFC©s. Their goal was to provide a platform for us to network, share resources, and provide support. Jerry and Don then set-up our first meeting. A group of us met to share a meal and get to know each other. I learned so much from these folks! One attendee was in private guardian/conservator practice. I was able to apply insights she shared to my work the very next day. We plan to meet again at the Symposium this November.

What do you find most beneficial about being a member of AFCPE?
I value the available resources and the professional development opportunities. My favorite resource is the network of colleagues I have come to know as a member. I now know researchers, counselors, and educators from around the country whom I can talk with about anything from outcome measurements to program marketing strategies. AFCPE membership has opened so many channels of information and our programs benefit from those relationships. My second favorite resource is the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning. It’s a biannual chance to totally geek out over scholarly research around financial decision making! I’m also a big fan of the AFCPE newsletter, The Standard. That publication has provided meaningful insights which help guide my work along with research to support its purpose.

What are you looking forward to the most about attending the 2015 AFCPE Symposium?
Ideas! I attended the Symposium for the first time last fall. I was a new AFC© and was completely blown away by the volume of valuable information and creative ideas. When I returned to work I was able to develop programming for Dakota County with those take-aways. One session last year featured the documentary Spent: Looking for Change. The session included a screening of the film and a guided discussion. We soon started using the movie as a training tool throughout Community Services. We inform staff about the impact financial access and inclusion has on our customers and how we can respond with education, empowerment, and consumer protection strategies. Over 200 staff have participated in these trainings and as a result we are connecting more residents to needed services.

As a financial counselor and educator, what is your favorite personal finance advice?
“You have the answer within yourself.” I am privileged to be in a position to listen to people who are facing financial insecurity, yet entrust me with their stories. Given the space, time, and knowledge most people can find the answer to their problems within themselves. Perhaps we find together they are underemployed and need a little help with their resume. Some people find they are simply spending too much on food and they need a few tips on stretching their food dollars. In most situations people find ways to achieve their goals. When customers hear, “Given the right tools, you have the power to solve your money problems”, they are empowered to take the reins and meet their goals!

AFCPE Members can connect with Susan, or other professional members living in their area, by using the Find A Member search located in your MyAFCPE Membership Dashboard.

September 29, 2015 at 11:00 am, by admin | 3 Comments | Category financial education, General, Symposium

Money, Debt & the Law 102: A Look at the National Landscape

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, recently issued it’s Monthly Complaint Report for August 2015.

The CFPB is the first federal agency that is totally focused on consumer financial protection. Consumer complaints are an integral and increasingly significant part of that work. Over the past 4 years, the agency has phased in an expanding program for handling complaints, beginning with credit card and mortgage complaints in 2011; bank services, student loans, consumer loans and credit reporting in 2012; money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans in 2013, and prepaid cards, credit repair, debt settlement, pawn and title loans, and virtual currency in 2014.

In July of this year, the agency started  issuing monthly reports about the complaints. Now let’s take a look at the agency’s second and most recent monthly report, issued in August.

The report analyzes recent complaints from 3 different perspectives: by product, by state, and by company. It also includes sections that spotlight a particular product, and a specific geographic area.

Today, we’ll zoom in on what has been happening with complaint volume by product.

In July of this year, the agency fielded over 26,000 complaints across these 9 categories of products: consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, credit cards, student loans, payday loans, mortgages, debt collection and bank services.

The agency compared the volume increase in each category over last year for May-July of each year and found the biggest increase in complaints in consumer loans (61% increase), credit reporting (45% increase), money transfers (28% increase), and credit cards (24% increase). Increases in each of the other categories was below 15%. And in the case of debt collection and bank services actually fell by a small percentage.

Despite the slight drop in debt collection complaints compared to last year, this product, debt collection complaints are still one of the three leading categories of complaint overall, with over 171,000 complaints since the agency started keeping stats, out of a total of 670,000 plus complaints overall.

Mortgage complaints, at 187,916 total, and credit reporting complaints, at 105,477 are first and third in volume of complaints.

Together, these top three categories of complaints represent about 73% of complaints submitted in July 2015.

Here’s how some individual states rank in terms of volume of complaints: Hawaii, Maine, and Georgia experienced the greatest volume percentage increase over the year; South Dakota, New Mexico, and Arkansas experienced the greatest volume percentage decrease. Of the most populous states, New York experienced the greatest percentage volume increase (29%).

Of the ten most complained about companies, Equifax, Experian, and Bank of America were the top 3.

On Tuesday, September 29, in a live webinar, we’ll take a more in depth look at what these statistics mean, and their importance to AFPCE members and certified professionals.

Guest Contributor: Marcy Einhorn, Esq.

September 22, 2015 at 8:52 am, by admin | No Comments | Category credit, financial education, General

Accredited Financial Counselors Are There for Everyone

NerdwalletThis article was originally published on

Financial advisors help people with financial and retirement planning. Credit counselors excel at helping people saddled with debt.

But what about people who need help navigating the confusing financial issues of their daily lives — debt, budgeting, retirement planning and everything in between?

For those people, an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) might be the answer.

The AFC certification was created in 1993 by educators and researchers to fill a need for unbiased financial education. It is supported by the nonprofit Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education®, or AFCPE®. Accredited Financial Counselors assist individuals and families in the complex process of financial decision making, including creating effective spending plans, overcoming debt, identifying and modifying ineffective money management behaviors and helping prepare and save for retirement.

“Effective money management skills are essential to living a healthy financial life, regardless of income level,” says Rebecca Wiggins, AFCPE executive director. “AFC professionals work with consumers from all walks of life, providing life-cycle financial education and helping clients establish a specific plan that helps them realize their goals.”

Once a firm financial foundation is built, AFC professionals often refer clients to a trusted financial adviser, such as a Certified Financial Planner, for wealth planning advice.

AFCs differ from other financial advisors and professionals in two main ways. First is the breadth and depth of their financial knowledge, from credit and debt to estate planning and retirement, which addresses a client’s complete financial life. Second, AFC professionals do not sell financial products, setting them apart from brokers and other wealth managers. AFC professionals are focused solely on providing unbiased financial education.

AFCs also serve a broader population than either credit counselors, who tend to focus on lower-income clients, or financial advisors, who gravitate toward wealthier individuals. AFCs offer financial education and counseling at military installations; within colleges and universities; through nonprofit community groups, governmental agencies, banks/credit unions, financial aid offices and credit counseling agencies; and in private practice.

Military families are a particular focus. AFC professionals provide financial education services to members of the armed services at more than 250 installations worldwide. Additionally, military spouses have had the opportunity to earn the designation through funding from the FINRA Education Foundation, providing them with a viable career and enabling them to provide services to the military community.

This year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched its Financial Coaching Initiative, targeting recently transitioned veterans and economically vulnerable consumers. All coaches employed through this initiative are required to obtain the AFC certification.

AFC professionals have now partnered with NerdWallet on its Ask an Advisor platform, in which financial professionals provide free advice to consumers on all aspects of their financial lives.

September 17, 2015 at 7:39 pm, by admin | No Comments | Category financial education, General

Staying at Home or Returning to Work: Financial Factors to Consider

Preparing for a baby is one of the most exciting and stressful experiences for new parents. There’s so much to do before baby comes, and only nine months to do it! That seems like a lot of time, but it passes by more quickly than you realize. One decision that sticks out for many is deciding whether one parent will stay home with the baby

For some, it is simple. Some people know their personality and beliefs and are concrete in their decision to either stay home or return to work. For others, like me, the decision was not as easy.

The determining factor on whether a parent will stay home or return to work is often determined by a family’s financial situation. For us, it was a very close decision and one that has required some sacrifice. Since my spouse is in the military, I was the one to stay home. On one income, our budget is tight each month, but we can take care of our obligations. Our deciding factor was the cost of me returning to work. Between having to update my wardrobe and the cost of childcare in our area, it would cost us money each month if I had opted to return to work. Even though I would like to go back to work, and I am missing out on some professional development opportunities, I have found other hobbies to keep me involved in the professional world. Moreover, staying home with our daughter and, very soon, our son, to me is priceless.

In making our decision, there were several financial factors that we considered:

  1. Child care costs – Child care, whether you use a nanny or day care center, will typically cost you a significant portion of your paycheck. Parents joke that one parent works just to pay for child care, but in every joke there is a great deal of truth. Ask other friends with children for child care recommendations. They can save you time by advising whom to call and will often tell you how much they pay. Other child care costs to consider are extra supplies (change of clothes, diapers, bottles) and extra meals (some daycares provide meals while others do not).
  1. Work related expenses – Working often costs us money too. There’s the cost of gas to get to and from work, an appropriate wardrobe, lunch costs, and those quick take-out dinners for when you have to stay late at work.
  1. Benefits – Does your employer provide benefits for health insurance, vision, dental, and 401k? Are they extra costs that you must pay out of pocket? If you did not work, does your spouse have significant coverage for the family and is it affordable on one salary?
  1. The cost of staying home –Staying home does not erase expenses; it simply reduces them. There’s still a need for the family to have to clothe, eat, and pay for the occasional child care so the stay at home parent can go to appointments or take a deserving break. There’s also expenses related to Parent & Tot activity classes to consider.
  2. Professional goals – Professional goals may not have an immediate impact on the family’s financial situation, but at some point they will. When a parent leaves the workforce, opportunities can be missed that can cost in the long run. This might include skill development, maintaining professional contacts, and other advancement opportunities that may have occurred which would raise your employable value.

What can you do to help decide if you or your spouse can afford to stay home with your new bundle of joy? Simply put – some simple adding and subtracting. However, first you need the numbers:

  1. Keep track of spending – For a week or up to a month, keep track of every penny spent. You may be surprised as to where money vanishes! Perhaps you eat out more than you realized, or maybe you are doing better on spending than you initially thought. But, you won’t know until you track it.
  1. Make a budget – Using your spending log, create a spreadsheet or grab some pen and paper and make a monthly financial map. It should include your income after taxes, your fixed expenses (monthly bills), savings, and variable expenses (food, clothing, entertainment). Be sure to include a buffer for unexpected expenses that always seem to pop up when we least expect them.
  1. Cut back – There are many places in a budget that can be tweaked to give more financial flexibility; it’s a matter of determining our real wants and needs.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but following these simple steps will help you determine if one parent staying home is possible or practical for your family.

Guest Contributor: Kara Schulte, AFC® 

September 8, 2015 at 7:36 pm, by admin | No Comments | Category budget, financial education, General