Dawn Torres Gale, AFC® is a financial counselor who is passionate about helping her clients identify or refine their financial goals and create a road map to get them there successfully. She especially loves, “helping people reclaim their personal financial power.”

AFCPE: Tell us a little about your professional journey.  What inspired you to pursue a career in financial counseling?

Dawn: My family and I lived in Hawaii for four years while my husband served on active duty in the Coast Guard. I was a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, Manoa studying Public Administration with a focus on Conflict Resolution. During that time, I also volunteered as a court appointed mediator in small claims court.  I saw what seemed like a significant number of military service members as defendants.  Most of the cases I worked on involved personal debts like payday loans, small auto loans, or past due rent.  The Military Lending Act did not yet exist, so some of the defendants were showing up with personal debts carrying three-digit interest rates.  I was very disturbed by what I was seeing especially when I discovered that many of the military clients had little if any financial literacy.  I decided to find an opportunity as soon as possible to help service members and their families become more financially literate.

AFCPE: What led you to the AFC®?

Dawn: When we were at our next duty station in Massachusetts, I learned about the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship. I applied and was accepted into the class of 2008.  Because I had three daughters, two of which were under five years old, and my husband was away at sea a lot, it took me three years to complete the AFC program.  I never gave up though!  After I obtained my AFC, I spent several years working at various assignments in Massachusetts and Oregon as a Personal Financial Counselor with military members and their families.  I even spent 90 days at an army base in Germany which was the best assignment ever!

AFCPE: That does sound exciting! What have you found most rewarding about this career path?

Dawn: I had no idea when I started how much of a difference the AFC program would make in my life. While I was working on my AFC certification, I decided to run on a pro-financial literacy platform for a contested regional school board seat from the small town where we were living at the time.  After a vote recount, I won the seat by only two votes!  Due to military restrictions, my husband was not allowed to help with my campaign.  I learned a lot about what I was made of while campaigning for myself.

AFCPE: Today, you have your own private practice. What advice would you give an AFC professional who is looking to start a private practice?

  1. Determine your core customer. Look at your competition and see if there are customer niches that are not being served.
  2. Make sure to get adequate legal advice about how to protect yourself as a small business owner.
  3. Do a lot of networking, both in person (when safe after COVID) and on social media.

AFCPE: You are also a personal finance writer.  Tell us more about these pursuits and where people can find your writing.

Dawn: I love financial education and writing so it seemed like a natural fit when I started pursuing opportunities to write articles on personal finance. My articles cover all manner of topics ranging from reviews of bill trimming services to best practices of tipping. My largest ongoing client is A Guide For Your 20s, an online lifestyle guide for young adults and I am having a great time writing for them.

Dawn answers the Friday 5:

  1. My why: Because everyone deserves a fighting chance no matter the obstacles

  2. My favorite quote: ‘Service is the rent we pay for being’-Marion Wright Edelman

  3. My hero: I can’t pick just one. Elie Wiesel, Jimmy Carter, Dith Pran, A. Phillip Randolph, Dalai Lama, Elizabeth Warren, Shirley Chisholm and many more.

  4. My favorite resource: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

  5. My favorite advice:
    1. For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: If you get overwhelmed with all the details of your personal finances, take a break and know you are not the first person to feel this way.  Going forward handle things in chunks rather than trying to complete all the tasks at once.

    2. For a new professional: Having a sincere, caring and non-judgmental attitude with clients is EVERYTHING.

If you are attending the 2020 AFCPE Virtual Symposium, be sure to stop by and visit Dawn’s poster session, “Financial Education & Counseling & the Reserve/Guard Community: the Role & Relevancy of Non-Profit Organizations”, or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Our Money Goals.

2 responses to “#FridayFollow: Helping People Reclaim their Personal Financial Power”

  1. Dawn, you have a great passion for the others in need of financial clarity. Keep doing what you do, helping others understand their money.

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