Cherie StueveMember Spotlight: Cherie Stueve, MBA, CPA (Inactive), AFC® is currently a PhD Student in the Personal Financial Planning Program at Kansas State University. She was a 2011 recipient of the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship program. Below Cherie shares with us how she transitioned into the field of financial counseling, her experiences in the Military Spouse Fellowship program and her goals for the future.

How did you first learn about the Military Spouse Fellowship program and what inspired you to apply?

Another Coast Guard spouse in the program recommended the Fellowship. I had recently attended a financial counselor training workshop and was looking for my next step to shift my career from accounting. I believe in the education, experience and endorsement that professional accreditations represent so the AFC® was in perfect alignment.

Share with us some of the work you did for your practicum hours or an experience that you found inspiring. 

I wanted to help military families and that is the goal of the Fellowship program. I enjoyed creating and delivering a 5-part workshop series for a large Coast Guard unit in California. The senior enlisted service members really opened up about their past money mistakes and were surprisingly emotional when encouraging the younger service members not to make the same mistakes regarding credit cards, overpriced cars and waiting to participate in the Thrift Savings Program (TSP). Creating an environment where these members felt safe to share added to the impact of the workshop.

I have been a Mentor with the Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. HOPE program (Helping Ourselves Prosper Economically) since 2012. Meeting with HOPE families routinely for an entire year to build their financial capability continues to be one of my favorite volunteer activities.

You have a strong foundation of financial knowledge through your education in accounting and the AFC program. Now you are a PhD student in the Personal Financial Planning Program at Kansas State University. Is there an area of research you are focusing on?

The K-State program is designed to give students opportunities to partner with faculty on a variety of topics in both quantitative and qualitative methods. I have a wide range of interests but have started to narrow it down for my dissertation.

My broad concept is the decision-making process of parents when they transfer (or not transfer) financial assets to their young adult children. Some working parents struggle with balancing their own needs and wanting to assist their adult children in their 20s and 30s. Then the question becomes how to keep peace in the family when one child has different needs than another. I believe this is a relevant and fascinating topic to explore.

What do you hope to do with your education and experience upon graduation?

That’s the million dollar question! Everything! I love the one-on-one dynamic of financial counseling. I want to teach at the college level and put all these new research skills to use. I feel the opportunities are endless, especially as the fields of financial counseling and financial therapy continue to evolve. This is an exciting time to be involved in the personal finance arena.

You’re planning to attend the 2014 Annual Symposium again this November. As a repeat attendee, what are you looking forward to the most?

The AFCPE Symposium is a wonderful mix of practitioners, educators and researchers – as both attendees and presenters. Where else would I be able to meet so many of the researchers I am studying in my K-State program? In addition, I enjoy the face-to-face time with other FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellows that I correspond with online during the year.

If you are interested in connecting with Cherie around her research or her experiences as a Military Spouse Fellow, she can be reached at

If you are a Member of AFCPE and would like to share your work in the field or network with other members, email

September 29, 2014 at 10:09 am, by admin | No Comments | Category General

Balancing Your Savings: Retirement vs. Everything Else

Should I save money or pay down debt? Should I pay for my child’s education or save for retirement? Should I pay down my student loans or build my savings? These are valid questions, as many of us have multiple savings and debt repayment goals to achieve at the same time. Figuring out how to prioritize them can be a struggle.

The good news is that in most cases, the answer to these questions is the same: DO BOTH. A recent Boston Globe article discussed savings strategies for every age and touched on situations where multiple goals commonly arise including:

Paying Down Student Debt vs. Saving for Retirement

Young and first-time workers may want to pay down their student debt as fast as possible. And paying down debt is a good thing. But, if these workers are not also saving for retirement, they are missing out on some of the most important years to save. Because of the miracle of compound interest, money saved for retirement in your 20’s grows more than money saved later. Contribute at least enough money to get a company match while you continue to pay at least the minimum payment on student loans.

Buying a House vs. Saving for Retirement

Workers in their 30’s and 40’s may be tempted to cash out their retirement saving accounts to buy their first home. But this could be detrimental to their retirement savings. Don’t touch your retirement savings to buy a home. Instead save a portion of your pay in addition to saving for retirement.

Saving for Your Childs College vs. Saving for Retirement

Parents want to provide the best for their children. Saving money for your child’s education will help them avoid taking out large loans they will need to pay back later. But don’t forgo retirement saving and only save for education. Research lower-cost schools, find free money for schools, and continue to save for retirement. Remember, you can apply for grants and scholarships – or take out student loans, if your savings doesn’t quite cover the costs – but these options are not available for retirement.

Get Started During National Save for Retirement Week, October 19-25, 2014

National Save for Retirement Week is an opportunity for employers to make employees aware of how critical it is to save now for their financial future, promote the benefits of saving for retirement, and encourage employees to take full advantage of their employer-sponsored plans by starting or increasing their contributions. Encourage your employer to participate and learn more at

Katie Bryan works for America 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

September 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm, by admin | No Comments | Category General

AFCPE Member Spotlight: Michael Gutter

gutterMember Spotlight: Dr. Michael Gutter is an Associate Professor for the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences at the University of Florida. He earned his BS in Family Financial Management and his PhD in Family Resource Management from The Ohio State University with a specialization in Finance. A longtime Member and current Board Member of AFCPE, Dr. Gutter will assume the role of Board President in 2015.

Your research, teaching and outreach are all focused around one common goal – helping families achieve financial security. What inspired you to take this path in your career?

I grew up in a household with very limited resources. My parents were extremely hard working but fell on tough times for many reasons beyond their control. Despite their best efforts this took its toll on my brother and me as well.

When I learned of a financial management degree in college, I became intrigued. The more I learned, the more passionate I became about helping other families to make better decisions, arm themselves for the unexpected, and prepare for the future.

Tell us a little about your current research project. What is inspiring you right now?

Currently I am working with the NC 2172 multistate research team consisting of researchers across the country focusing on “Behavioral economics and financial decision-making and information management across the lifespan.”This project was developed with a goal to better understand consumer financial decision-making across the lifespan. How consumers process information and make decisions regarding housing (rent vs. buy & mortgage), post-secondary education financing, and Social Security retirement will be examined.

The importance of this project is to address the problem of consumer decision-making in an increasingly complicated financial world. Simply providing consumers with information and education are necessary steps, yet not sufficient to address the larger problem.

 As someone who wears “multiple hats,” what do you find most fulfilling in your career?

I find the mentoring of students and junior faculty to be an amazing experience. Watching them blossom into future stars of industry and research has been the highlight of my work, in addition to the impact my own efforts have made in peoples’ lives.

You are currently serving on AFCPE’s Board of Directors and next year will step into the role as President of the Board. What are you most proud of during your time on the Board and what are you most excited about during your term as President

AFCPE has been at the forefront of financial education and counseling helping to shape the industry. I am very excited to be working with members and stakeholders to help build the future of financial education and counseling. I look forward to being a steward of that energy and dedication as we work together to move this field forward continuing to inform practice through state of the art research.

If you are interested in learning more, Dr. Gutter’s research will be featured in three poster sessions at the 2014 AFCPE Research & Training Symposium in Bellevue, Washington this November. Mike can also be reached at Or follow his regular tweets on personal finance under @mikegutter on Twitter.



August 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm, by admin | No Comments | Category General

AFCPE Member Spotlight: Don Fulton

Don fulton

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, 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


July 24, 2014 at 11:20 am, by admin | No Comments | Category General

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