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.

You 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

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