The 2014 AFCPE Research and Training Symposium provided informative sessions on the art and science of financial counseling. If you weren’t able to attend, or you want a refresher, here attendees provide a synopsis of their favorite sessions:

Advancing Financial Counseling as a Profession—General Session Reviewed by Michelle Pimentel – Virginia The AFCPE Career Task Force’s presentation provided an energizing look at the innumerable career options in the field of financial counseling. It was helpful to see the financial counseling field organized into four separate career paths: (1) Government, (2) Research, (3) Nonprofit, and (4) Private practice. It was also a welcome surprise to learn that I was not the only one who felt like a straight line from college to a financial counseling career was hard to find, if it exists at all. I am excited to see my career and AFCPE grow with the tools that the Task Force is developing.

From Layaway to Bitcoin: Generational Issues in Financial Thinking, Planning and Literacy—General Session Reviewed by Katie Leiva – South Carolina The general session with Mark Taylor was particularly enjoyable for me. My masters is in sociology, so I really appreciated Mr. Taylor’s description of the generations and, more importantly, how understanding the differences between the generations can inform our teaching/counseling styles. I also went to Mr. Taylor’s session the next day for a deeper view of this topic. I enjoyed his delightful southern style but also his pragmatic explanations of how certain approaches will work better with boomers than Xers and how that can be both similar to and different from the millennials (or neXters, as he calls them). I like that his message seemed to seep into other sessions I attended  in questions or comments, which kept the information fresh and applicable.

Give Me a Little Credit Reviewed by Mel Stephens – Georgia While one might quibble about one or two points, this was a well organized presentation that touched on history of credit reporting as well as understanding of how credit reporting works. The main thing I picked up is that my overall understanding of credit reporting is strong; however, there was something to be learned. I long understood that when purchasing an automobile or seeking a mortgage, inquiries within a specified period of time as one sought to get the best deal on an auto or mortgage loan would only count as one inquiry. The speaker in addressing this issue explained that the clock starts ticking based on a 14-day period under a rolling 30-day time frame. In short, if one starts search for an auto loan on the 5th of a month, the seeker of the loan can meet with as many potential borrowers within 14 days of the 5th without the inquiries counting as more than one inquiry. By law all inquiries must appear on the credit report, noting who has access, but the inquiry rule for a mortgage or auto purchase will only count as one under the circumstances noted above.

Take Action in Your Community: How Are You Doing? 25 Financial Wellness Metrics Reviewed by Michelle Pimentel – Virginia Dr. Barbara O’Neill’s workshop covering 25 Financial Wellness Metrics was a helpful session for both clients’ and my own personal finances! She covered everything from basic financial statements and ratios to credit checks to insurance needs.

Something I had not considered before was assessing risk tolerance in terms of dollar amounts at risk rather than percentages in an investment portfolio. Her presentation was a timely reminder that financial health is an ongoing process, not a one-time task.

Reviewed by Tiffany Hays – Colorado This workshop was fantastic! It was a reminder of how basic financial ratios are such a fantastic barometer of financial well-being. I think it will be great to have a comprehensive list of indicators that I can use with my clients to assess and explain their financial wellness. She included everything from an insurance check -up to W-2 assessment. I look forward to going to the website to download some of the resources and worksheets that are available free of charge from the presenter. She also reminded us not to try to tackle all 25 metrics at once … for ourselves or for our clients.

Recovery After Disaster Creating a Comprehensive Plan for Financial Counseling and Education Reviewed by Katie Leiva – South Carolina I attended the Minnesota extension presentation about the videos they made for surviving a disaster. They gave practical tips for anyone considering making and posting videos. It’s good to know someone has already put together resources for people in dire situations.

Poster session Reviewed by Andi Wrenn – North Carolina I enjoyed learning more about the poster presentations and research during this session. One that intrigued me was the Power Pay poster session. It was great to learn that they now have an app for Power Pay. This is a program that I use with many clients. I was also able to give feedback as to a desire I have as a financial counselor. I wish that the budget portion of the program would be something that could be retained after it is entered. It was nice to be able to share positive experiences with those in the extension program that created Power Pay.

Boots to Backyards: A Mentor Program Toward Financial Stability and Successful Home Ownership Reviewed by Katie Leiva – South Carolina I attended the Boots to Backyards presentation and it lifted my spirits to see how a few people have been able to make a big difference. It’s one thing to hear people say they “support the troops” or “thank you for your service,” but it’s quite another to see people really doing something to show their gratitude.

Educating Consumers and Businesses on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Reviewed by Tiffany Hays – Colorado The University of Missouri Cooperative Extension took on the arduous task of teaching a non-biased, non-political class on the ACA for the people in their state. This workshop did not focus on the facts of the ACA as I was hoping for. Instead it was a primer for other cooperative extensions on how to take on the task themselves. Although I wish it had been described more accurately in the program I really appreciated hearing the methodology used by the group to obtain facts and continually update their presentations with the many changes that are happening with this law. The curriculum and updates are available for purchase through the Missouri extension and would definitely be worth purchasing for other state extensions.

Finance Facts Fun Reviewed by Katie Leiva — South Carolina In the past I’ve made the mistake of going to more “academic” presentations just because the topics seemed interesting, finding that those tended to present research findings but not always offer practical, useful advice. This session and the one immediately after validated what I already knew about “death by PowerPoint” but also gave me lots of new ideas, suggestions and tips to engage and enrich my classes. Not only was it immediately useful, the presenters also did a great job of engaging the audience themselves (practicing what you preach!) so I got plenty of good ideas from other participants as from the presenters! Just today I told my parents one of the tips I learned. They were lamenting that my brother doesn’t want them to lavish his kids with a ton of Christmas presents, but rather just get one or two meaningful gifts.  As grandparents, they want to give those kids everything!  I told them about the exercise someone suggested in which you name five things you got last Christmas, then list five Christmas traditions. I assured them that more than any doll I received or didn’t receive, my memories of our time together have been way more important to me  and it will be the same for the grandkids. I think I may have gotten through to them!

Removing the Silos: The Creation of Student Financial Education Financial Reviewed by Mel Stephens – Georgia The speaker spoke to how we as consumers are provided financial information in what the speaker described as “Silos.” The speaker wanted the listeners to recognize that we are provided information in pieces instead of in a holistic manner so that we can see the connections of a car purchase for example and how this purchase impacts other costs. The purchase requires inspection, insurance, maintenance, fuel, oil changes and tires. This one area just speaks to one silo, but we all have multiple silos of financial issues that impact our lives and without a holistic approach in seeing the total picture of our finances, we can spend a lifetime juggling and stressing ourselves in managing our personal finances.

Get More People to Come. Get More People to Come Back! Reviewed by Tiffany Hays – Colorado The focus of this workshop was making your presentation interesting to clients from pre-workshop marketing to conclusion. The presenter offered some great marketing strategies when advertising your event. She talked about the effective use of tools
and games in presentations to keep your audience engaged. She introduced us to her money habitude cards that she sells. The best take away tool for me from this workshop was a list of buzzwords to use in marketing your workshop and words to avoid when marketing. The audience shared ideas for marketing and presenting to attract and retain an audience. This collaborative sharing was excellent.

9 For 9: A Nine Point Review of Nine Free Financial Apps for Android Phones Can Financial Literacy Programs Make a Difference? Reviewed by Linda Thede – Iowa I thought this presentation was very good. It outlined smart phone apps for financial uses. They were rated on nine different areas and then those were tallied up to give you a good idea of which ones are best for your purposes. This was one of the best breakouts that I attended.

College Affordability and Student Debt Reviewed by Andi Wrenn – North Carolina
This presentation confirmed all my experience on the topic of college costs and debt. The next big bubble to burst, in my opinion, is going to be people with college debt that they can’t pay back. It is so eye opening to see how much state funding has changed over the last 30 years for state colleges and how few increases have been made to financial aid. A great take-away for many I hope was that not everyone should be attending college. It isn’t the right decision for everyone. There are so many technical fields that need more students.

Overall Reviewed by Katie Leiva – South Carolina One of my biggest takeaways of the conference is that there are a lot more resources than I am usually aware of and I am looking forward to taking advantage of the hard work and dedication of so many talented and passionate people and organizations to make my job easier!

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