Each year, the AFCPE Research and Training Symposium committee and staff work diligently to provide members with the deepest, most innovative and impactful content available in financial counseling and planning education. The 2015 event, in Jacksonville, Florida in November, 2015, upheld the high standards that you have set for education in your field. If you were there, you know first-hand what an outstanding event it was, and if you weren’t able to attend, here’s a recap of what you missed:

Extension Pre-Symposium

The theme of this year’s Cooperative Extension Pre-Symposium was E3 (Extension, Education, Evaluation): Documenting the Impact of Extension Family Economics Programs. The pre-conference offered a great opportunity to enhance their knowledge
about evaluation methods to document program outcomes, engage in high impact programs, receive updates, and network with Family & Consumer Economics colleagues.

Brent Neiser, NEFE Senior Director of Strategic Programs and Alliances, provided his annual presentation on trends impacting family consumer economics. The fourteen trends highlighted addressed: automatic IRAs, housing, the Affordable Care Act, pay cards, CFPB reform, college and student loans, HUD Reform, the 2016 Presidential Race, expanded view of ‘household’ for housing loans, income equality, and retirement and tax reforms.

Billy Hensley, NEFE Director of Education, spoke on “Defining the Scope, Needs and Role of Evaluation in Financial Education Programming.” Nine Extension colleagues from across the nation presented Ignite Presentations (20 PPT slides in 5 minutes) about high impact Extension programs.

General Session: Rethinking Financial Inclusion: Lessons from the Teller Window

Lisa J. Servon, a professor at Milano Graduate School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy, The New School in New York, New York, opened the conference by asking two questions: If banks and credit unions are the best choice, why are there people who don’t use them? If alternative financial services are so bad, why do so many people use them? She then described a continuum of financial services users—banked, underbanked, and unbanked—and described why it might make sense for various users to be in one category or another:

  • Lower cost
  • Greater liquidity
  • Greater transparency
  • Better service
  • Higher level of trust

She argued that understanding users of alternative financial services hinges on understanding their desire for benefits and the personal attention they don’t feel they experience when using mainstream financial services. Actions AFCPE members can take include recognizing our own biases when working with clients and advocating for safe, affordable financial products and services. Learn more about unbanked and the need for better alternatives at: http://cfed.org/ blog/inclusiveeconomy/new_data_reveals_ high_unbanked_underbanked_rates_in_ localities_across_america/.

General Session: Financial Innovations Labs

Josh Sledge shared a lot of information related to the work of the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and how they are innovating financial products and services for financial health. He shared learnings from several efforts including the U.S. Financial Diaries project and the Financial Capability Innovation Funds projects. Four take-aways he suggested for AFCPE members were:

  1. Try something new
  2. See if it works
  3. Repeat
  4. Extend your presence

General Session: Research Panel Discussion: Building the Bridge from Research to Practice

This general session helped us think about ways that researchers and practitioners can collaborate to enhance each other’s work. Dr. Sherman Hanna introduced the basic types and approaches to research. Dr. Barbara O’Neill emphasized the necessity of evaluation since we are in an “accountability era.” Dr. Dottie Durband expressed how an evidence-base adds value to what we do as practitioners, because it informs our practice. She emphasized that we do not need to be a researcher to be a consumer of research. Dr. Sandra Huston used a broccoli analogy to illustrate how to connect research and practice using three steps: (1) choose a diet of knowledge attained through scientific research to feed practice; (2) focus on a preponderance of evidence; and (3) help make knowledge from scientific research more palatable. The relationship between research and practice is bidirectional. It is hoped this theme of bridging research and practice will continue in the future, and include the voice of practitioners.

General Session: Moving Clients to Action with Motivational Interviewing Dave Christian led an engaging session about motivational interviewing. He reminded us that providing information and knowledge to clients does not necessarily
lead to action. Clients need to progress through the  stages of change in order to overcome the “know-do gap.” Dave suggested that as we work with participants we try to (1) collaborate instead of using authority, (2) evoke clients’ reasons for change rather than give our reasons, and (3) accept resistance instead of confront resistance. How do you know if the motivational interviewing is working? Dave suggested it should feel more like dancing than wrestling!

Breakout Session: Improving Financial Readiness in the Military

Scott Halliwell and Steven Finley, from the USAA Educational Foundation, emphasized in their breakout session that we need to go beyond simply educating the individuals we work with—we need to help individuals change behavior. One tip offered was to help clients paint a picture about what they would like to achieve. The suggested approach was to ask clients two questions: (1) What concerns you most about your current situation? (2) Can you paint me a picture of what _ (identified concern)_ means to you? To some it means “x” and to others it means “y.” It means different things to different people.

Knowing the answers to these questions can help financial advisors frame the conversation about what clients want their financial future to look like.

Breakout Session: Financial Socialization and Behavior

Kenneth John White, Ohio State University, shared findings from a study that analyzed the influences of financial socialization on money management, perceived financial control, professional advice-seeking, and participation in financial education among college students. He reported that receiving an allowance as a child or teenager was related to being less likely to seek the help of financial professionals. Those who took a high school financial class were four times more likely to take a college financial education class. Those who took a college financial class were two times more likely to seek financial advice. Parents who were good role models and were comfortable having discussions with their children and teenagers about money were important influences in students developing sound financial habits.

Breakout Session: Effective Adult Education in a Financial World

Deborah Haynes, Montana State University and Ginger Phillips, Arden Solutions, discussed effective adult education, and identified challenges of adult education and learning styles. They shared that adults need to know why they need to learn something. Adults need to learn experientially and approach learning as problem solving. Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value. Session handouts are available at: https:// ardensolutions.sharefile.com/share#/view/ sfab41dd896444c3a/fo7070ab-7aef-41168e09-25a7544d49c7.

Breakout Session: Does It Matter Who Makes More: Exploring How Income Disparity Impacts Types of Relationships

Kristy Archuleta, Melanie Mendiola, Julia Mulll and Bradley Klontz, Kansas State University, shared findings from a study that looked at how income disparity in couplesimpacts arguments. They identified that the arguments between spouses varied depending upon which spouse made more money or if income was about equal. Session take-aways for helping financial professionals were to:

  • Be sensitive to couple dynamics in particular when there is income inequality
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss differences in values and expectations
  • Keep couples focused on mutual goals vs. blaming each other
  • Listen to both partners
  • Value what both partners have to say

A Sampling from Poster Sessions

Jenny Rea, University of Minnesota PhD student, presented her poster on “Financial Well-Being in Junior Enlisted Military Families: A Proposal of an Integrated Model.” She provided a conceptual framework that integrated three family science theories, including family ecology, general systems theory, and social and exchange theory, which can be helpful in understanding the decision making process within military families.
Carrie Johnson, SDSU, and her team presented “Housing Decisions of Millennials: Challenges and Consequences.” They reported that mortgage accessibility is a key constraint to homeownership for millennials; high student loan debt among millennials impedes their transition from renters to homeownership; and family events, such as marriage, divorce, and childbearing are associated with home purchases and moving.

General Session: Building a Private Practice

Susan Bross, founder of BrossMoney, a private practice financial counselor and coach provided the keynote address on how she built a successful private practice.

The advantages of private practice, according to Bross, include flexible scheduling, full control over the creative and coaching process, and full responsibility for the business’ bottom line. Drawbacks include compliance issues, having a flexible schedule to meet clients’ needs for availability, irregular income flows, and the amount of time it can take to build a self-supporting income stream.

Bross stressed the importance of developing a business model that meets your needs and is aligned with your professional strengths and objectives. Whether a counselor desires primarily individual clients, group clients and classes, or speaking engagements, it is important to develop a plan and a product that aligns with the goals of the business. The Small Business Administration and a good tax professional are very good places to start to shape the business model as your business is evolving.

The most challenging part of establishing a private practice is determining a workable fee schedule. Bross does not recommend an hourly fee or a sliding fee schedule. Rather she suggests building bundles of services for a flat rate whether they take two hours or ten. Clients can then choose the bundle of services meeting their individual needs. Further, client engagement improves when the client has pre-paid for services.

Bross outlined the importance of marketing language. For example, which has a better ring: “preparing budgets” or “achieving financial independence”? Marketing words should trigger an emotional response that leads the potential client to take action. Bross also cautioned that marketing is the total package—from your appearance to the words you use, to the professional image you present, to not only potential clients but also potential referral sources.

Last, Bross stressed the importance of reaching out to your network for help when it is needed. None of us is an expert in all things and there is nothing wrong with hiring talent whether that is a consultant to help you grow your business or a virtual assistant to help you manage it. Keep first and foremost in mind that your job is to provide exceptional client service and support so if you need to outsource other functions to keep focused on your clients, do it.

Don’t miss next year’s conference in Louisville, Kentucky, November 16–18, 2016. Registeration will open in June 2016.

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