What is the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial CounselorProgram?
The fellowship is a grant to military spouses who want to become certified as an Accredited Financial Counselor®. The fellowship covers the AFC registration fee, study materials, webinar review sessions, and up to two attempts at the AFC examination, a value of approximately $2000.
Who IS eligible for the fellowship?
Current spouses or surviving spouses of a Uniformed Service member; Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Space Force, National Guard, and Reserves, Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or retirees of any of these branches. Spouses have to be entitled to DEERS card possession or eligibility.
Who is NOT eligible for the fellowship?
The following individuals are not eligible for the fellowship:
- Current paid Federal Employees
- Current paid employees of contractors serving the United States government
- Current Active duty or Reserve Component members of the Armed Forces
- Holders of active securities licenses
- Those already enrolled in the AFC® certification program
- Those who previously accepted the fellowship, but did not complete the program
Further eligibility clarification
- Federal Employees or employees of a federal contractor are not eligible for the Fellowship. For example, anyone who works in a paid capacity at a Fleet and Family Support Center, Army Community Service Center, or Airman & Family Readiness Center, or who works for a government contractor in any capacity, is ineligible for the Fellowship.
- Military spouses who work in an unpaid capacity (volunteer) for those government entities above are eligible.
- Employees of non-federal government entities (state, county, municipalities) are eligible.
- Employees of services’ relief organizations are eligible. These are not government entities, even though they serve the military.
- Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) employees are eligible. These employees could work for:
- The Exchange (formerly AAFES)
- CGX (Navy or Marine Corps or Coast Guard Exchanges)
- MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation)
- Spouses of veterans who are not military retirees are not eligible. If your spouse is not currently serving on Active Duty, in the Guard or Reserve, or retired from Active Duty, Guard, or Reserve service, you are not eligible for the Fellowship
What is an AFC®?
An AFC® assists individuals and families in the process of financial decision-making. AFC professionals agree to maintain the highest ethical standards as outlined in the AFCPE® Code of Ethics.
Through continuing education, AFC professionals maintain up-to-date knowledge in the fields of personal finance and financial counseling. After certification, in order to maintain the credential, an AFC must pay an annual fee each year and obtain and report 30 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) every two years. More information about maintaining certification may be found HERE.
Who is paying for this fellowship?
The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial Counselor Program® is made possible through the generosity of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to provide investors with high quality, easily accessible information and tools to better understand the markets and the basic principles of saving and investing.
One of the Foundation’s major initiatives is the development of a financial education program to improve the saving and investing knowledge of military service members. This fellowship program is part of that initiative. For additional information about the FINRA Foundation and its military financial education program, please visit us here.
What types of skills does an Accredited Financial Counselor® gain through this program of study?
Accredited Financial Counselors® gain the knowledge and skills to assist individuals and families in the complex process of financial decision-making, including the ability to:
- Educate clients in sound financial principles.
- Assist clients in the process of overcoming their financial indebtedness.
- Help clients identify and modify ineffective money management behaviors.
- Guide clients in developing successful strategies for achieving their financial goals.
- Support clients as they work through their financial challenges and opportunities.
- Help clients develop new perspectives on the dynamics of money in relation to family, friends, and individual self-esteem.
What types of employment opportunities can I expect as an Accredited Financial Counselor®?
The field of financial counseling is growing. Potential employers are located throughout the country, in both small and large communities. According to many job satisfaction studies, financial service providers feel challenged and satisfied by their work. In general, providers believe that they are making a significant contribution to their clients’ economic well-being. Job opportunities can be found in the following:
- Bankruptcy courts
- Banks and savings and loan associations
- College financial aid offices
- Community programs
- Consumer credit counseling services
- Consumer finance companies
- Cooperative Extension services
- Corporate and government employee assistance programs
- Corporate credit departments
- Credit bureaus
- Credit unions
- Divorce mediation firms
- Employee benefits counseling firms
- Family service agencies
- Housing and urban development offices
- Insurance companies
- Loan associations
- Mental health associations
- Ministerial organizations
- Mortgage lenders
- Mutual fund companies
- Social welfare agencies
- Uniformed Services family/community service agencies
Education / Exam FAQs
Will I be required to attend classes?
This is a distance learning program. You receive all of the course materials by mail and you study at your own pace. However, in order to enhance your learning experience, increase the opportunities for success, and encourage completion of the program in a timely fashion, AFCPE® offers an eight-week webinar review series covering the material. Each live session is 90 minutes in length. All study sessions are led by an experienced instructor.
What is the format of the examinations?
The examination includes 165 multiple choice questions and takes approximately three hours to complete. The examination is taken at a PSI professional testing center and you will receive an immediate pass/fail determination. Please note some overseas (OCONUS) testing locations may not be able to provide immediate test results.
What are the requirements to become an Accredited Financial Counselor?
To become accredited you must do the following:
- Earn a passing grade on the examination, (The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Accredited Financial Counselor Fellowship will cover the cost of the study materials, webinar review sessions, and up to two attempts at the examination).
- Comply with the AFCPE® Code of Ethics.
- Obtain up to 1,000 hours of financial counseling/education experience, which may be acquired through paid employment or through volunteer work. Experience may be accumulated before and after passing the AFC exam but must be completed during the fellowship period.
Is there help available to prepare for the exams?
The program includes the AFC Online Study Guide, designed to guide you through the material and provide you with additional tools and resources to develop your skills, test your comprehension, and put your knowledge into practice.
The instructor-led webinar review sessions with other fellowship recipients are an excellent way to prepare for the exam. Upon selection for the fellowship, recipients receive a schedule of webinar review options to choose from; while attendance is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged.
How many classes will I be required to take?
The AFC® program is a self-study program. Once you have a full comprehension of the AFC core competencies, you may schedule your AFC exam at the PSI/AMP testing center of your choosing.
How long will it take me to complete the study portion of the program?
This is a self-paced course so completion time depends on the individual. However, once registered, you have up to 3 years to complete the program.
How do I schedule the examinations?
Once you are ready to take the examination, please visit schedule.psiexams.com to locate a testing facility in your area and schedule your exam.
Experience Requirement FAQs
An important component of this fellowship program is to increase the amount of financial education and counseling services available to military members, and to ensure that certificants have a significant amount of financial counseling and/or financial education experience. To that end, all fellowship recipients will be required to complete up to 1,000 experience hours. Those with previous educational and/or work experience in finance or counseling (or a related field) may be assigned fewer experience hours than those having no previous experience. Because scholarship awardees are located around the world, specific placement is not provided. There may be some virtual opportunities, but due to the nature of this work, most experience will likely be face-to-face.
What type of work can count toward the experience hour requirement?
This program is designed to be flexible for military spouses, so experience hours can be earned in a variety of ways. Activities such as writing articles, attending conferences, or observing counseling sessions can qualify. However, the majority of your hours should be acquired by providing supervised personal financial counseling or education.
How much time is required to complete the experience?
Normally, the program requires a minimum of 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience during the fellowship period. However, in order to provide flexibility and to accommodate the challenges of the military family lifestyle, AFCPE® has adapted the experience requirements for the recipients of the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship. Fellowship recipients will be required to fulfill a minimum of 400 hours and no more than 1,000 hours during the fellowship period (the experience hour requirement will be determined by AFCPE® based on your previous relevant experience in the field). Fellowship recipients may begin tracking and reporting hours in September of the year your program begins.
Am I required to complete my experience hours at a military installation?
While this program is intended to give back to the military community, we understand that not all applicants live near a military installation. In that situation, we encourage participants to take advantage of virtual opportunities that can serve the military community. Additionally, don’t forget your National Guard or Reserve community, civic organizations, and non-profit organizations; they may have opportunities that are closer to where you live. AFCPE® will provide you with a letter of introduction explaining the program and your training to any company or organization you hope to work with to complete your experience requirements.
Maintaining Certification FAQs
Once I become an AFC®, how do I maintain the certification?
You will be required to pay an annual certification fee (currently $65) and obtain 30 hours of Continuing Education every two years. For additional post-certification requirements, visit the Guide to Maintaining Your Certification.
If I receive the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship for the AFC®, will I have a contact to help me through the process?
Once you receive notification from AFCPE® that you have received the fellowship, you will be provided with information from AFCPE that outlines the steps you will need to take to become an AFC®. AFCPE will provide you with the name and contact information of the individual you will be able to contact should you have questions or concerns and will make every attempt to match you with a mentor should you chose to participate in the optional mentorship program.
How will Fellowship Recipients be selected?
Your application will be reviewed by a team of judges comprised of AFCPE and FINRA Investor Education Foundation representatives. Selection of grant recipients will be based upon the following criteria:
- Meet the eligibility requirements stated above,
- Complete the 6 fellowship application tasks by the May 2 (12am ET) deadline:
- Applicant Information
- Service member details
- Letter of recommendation (optional)
- Education and experience (high school diploma or a GED is required; give priority to work and volunteer experience that is related to the AFC core competencies),
- Essay questions (judged on quality of content, writing skills, and ability to understand the challenges faced by military families)
- Demographic information (optional)
- Additional information
- Have strong interpersonal skills to work effectively with other military spouses, military families, military agencies, local federal government offices, individuals and groups at every level of society,
- Be willing to dedicate the allotted time to complete the program. It is expected that the study component will require as much as six hours of study time each week, for a period of 6-12 months.
- Be willing to complete 400-1000 experience hours (to be assigned by AFCPE based on the individual’s previous experience in the field) by assisting as a paid employee or volunteer in financial education or financial counseling position.