Written By: Carrie L. Johnson
This year the Cooperative Extension Service Pre-Symposium focused on how Extension is making a difference and the importance of conveying that message. Perspectives were given from a national level by Toija Riggins, Ph.D., USDA NIFA Program Leader and also from a state administrator’s level given by Michael Gutter, Ph.D. from University of Florida IFAS.
Cooperative Extension Family Resource Management Specialists from across the country have been working together for the past year to determine common indicators and reporting to show the impact Extension has on individuals, families, and communities. Maria Pippidis (University of Delaware Extension) and Elizabeth Kiss (Kansas State University Research and Extension) presented the work to date. They gave attendees a briefing paper that was developed for the project. Each attendee was asked to identify some indicators that they thought were most important. A plan was made to continue the momentum and start to gather common data throughout the country. From that a reporting system was developed that everyone can use to share collective impacts of Extension.
The Pre-Symposium then moved into IGNITE presentations provided by various Extension professionals to highlight some programs with high impact on people’s lives. Two rounds of roundtable discussions were held as well with a brief report out to the entire group. Finally, Dr. Barbara O’Neill provided an overview on how to create infographics to highlight impacts from Extension programs. Participants were asked to submit infographics to share. Four infographics were compiled, with two selected to receive a $50 gift card for top infographics – Dr. Erica Tobe and Dr. Carrie Johnson and Joel Schumacher.
Extension professionals plan to continue to meet throughout the year to continue work done at the Pre-Symposium utilizing the eXtension Financial Security for All Community of Practice. A follow up webinar was held December 13, with continued conversations to occur in 2018.
Carrie Johnson, Ph.D., AFC® is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist at North Dakota State University in the Human Development and Family Science Department. She earned her B.S. in English for Information Systems from Dakota State University, her M.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences from South Dakota State University, and her Ph.D. in Family and Consumer Science Education from Iowa State University.
Breakout Session: Vital Trends in Personal Finance
Presented by Brent Neiser, CFP®, AFC®, National Endowment for Financial Education, Senior Director
Recap by Vanessa Alanis
Brent Neiser, CFP, Senior Director of Strategic Programs and Alliances at the National Endowment for Financial Education, led an engaging discussion on 16 trends in personal finance. The trends, listed below, are wide ranging with social, political, and commercial ramifications.
The End of myRA—The discontinuation of the MyRA®program is sparking more states to develop their own Auto IRA plans. State governments concerned with the future economic health of their states are not waiting around for the federal government to make a way forward.
Payroll Tax Discussions—Industry leader Charles Schwab, is leading a movement to encourage legislators to eliminate the payroll tax on the first $50,000 of earned income after age 65. This is seen as a way to boost the savings and spending power of seniors.
Living Small—Tiny houses, micro-apartments, and multi-generational living situations are increasing. These increases are fueled by rising rental costs and difficult paths to home ownership, especially for those without a college degree. As a result, local governments are reviewing their zoning laws and developing land banking guidelines as a result.
Credit Report Changes—A positive trend in the credit reporting industry is that all three major bureaus are requiring more complete information on tax liens and judgments before they will list them on a consumer’s report. Credit scores are expected to rise as a result of this due to many liens and judgments being thrown out because they can not meet the higher standards of reporting.
Data Hacks—The string of cyber data compromises has created some positive momentum in personal finance. These data catastrophes are increasing dialogue on personal financial matters and creating teachable moments for the personal finance community.
College Credit Banking—In an effort to get more students to graduate college “on time,” high schools and colleges are encouraging students to earn more college credits in high school through either advanced placement courses or dual enrollment with a community college. This banking of credits may help students graduate on time and even reduce the amount of student loans they need.
Student Loan Reduction Proposals—In regards to student loans, there is growing pressure by various business interests (farmers, realtors, architects, etc.) for more robust student loan forgiveness or reduction programs. These businesses say that student loan debt is preventing people from entering their industries and securing business loans necessary to start.
Student Loan Payment Benefits—Some corporations, seeing their employees struggling with the burden of student loans, are offering student loan payback assistance as an employee benefit. 529 plans with automatic payroll deductions and possible matching are other benefits being touted by some employers.
Universal Basic Income (UBI)—This is a global topic and more national conversation is to be expected. Proponents of UBI say that it’s institution would help limit the effects of job loss due to technology and could replace the various supplement programs currently available.
The High Cost of Child Care—Child care costs keep rising and are currently keeping pace with in-state college tuition. As a result, more corporations are looking at making child care or child care payments a corporate benefit.
New Pension Payment Option—For years, many retirees with pensions had only two choices as to how the pension could be distributed. They either had to take it as a lump sum or as an annuity. The IRS and the Treasury Department are pushing initiatives that encourage plan sponsors to allow for a third option, a combining of the other two.
Fiduciary Standard Leadership—Expect continued discussion over who should set the standard for the fiduciary standard. Under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the SEC has the authority to establish this standard. However, the SEC has not acted and in the ensuing vacuum the Department of Labor and Congress have become involved.
Future CFPB Leadership—The fate of the CFPB will be a topic in the near future. The director resigned at the end of November and a DC Appeals Court curtailed its powers.
Future Flood Insurance—This year’s devastating flooding has led to increasing pressure for changes to be made to flood insurance policies and implementation. The House recently passed regulation wanting private companies to offer flood insurance.
529 Plan Proposal—A recent bipartisan piece of legislation in the Senate, the Boost Saving for College Act, hopes to assist people with money leftover in 529 plans. If passed, under certain conditions account holders could roll unused 529 and/or scholarship money into ROTH IRA or ABLE accounts.
Reverse Mortgage Changes—HUD recently announced increased up-front fees and tighter limits on reverse mortgages. Expect even more regulations as HUD tries to shore up its losses in the reverse mortgage program.
Session: Bridging the Gap from Military Financial Education to Military Financial Readiness
Presented by Scott Halliwell, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU® guided a panel of peers through a discussion on best practices to increase military financial readiness
Recap by Gerald Zeigler
The panel discussed several topics of interest for those serving in the military financial field. The first topic was how to reach more service members, particularly how to accomplish more counseling of service members. David Winfrey had a suggestion that may be more typically associated with private practice. He suggested branding yourself and one example he provided was being the financial “battle buddy.” The main themes in this segment were to be available, go to where you can reach service members, and assess unit needs for where you can help.
There was also quite a bit of discussion on the Blended Retirement System (BRS). It seemed that many of the anecdotal discussion points resonated with those of us whom are in the military financial readiness field. Many service members who take the online training say they don’t really understand or know how to make the decision on whether to opt in or not. Even after taking the training many of service members still have some misconceptions.
The final question to the panel was, “What is the biggest financial challenge for 2018?” Of course, BRS was one answer, as well as Barry Wilkinson pointing out that many service members aren’t used to making many decisions on their own. It was clear from both the panel and the audience that military financial educators and counselors really want to ensure that service members are receiving the tools and information they need to make an informed decision on BRS, and yet there are concerns that not everyone is being reached.
An audience member asked the panel how they handle outside organizations’ marketing financial products to service members, including products that aren’t always best suited for them. One answer came from Clint Strutt who said, “as aggressively as possible.” However, gauging from the panel and the audience, there seems to be concern that policy and execution in this area isn’t always protecting service members as much as we would like. The most important lesson from this breakout session was that we are not fighting the good fight alone and that the best resources are fellow financial educators and counselors.
Session: Serving the Other 95%: Bridging the Gap Between Financial Counseling, Coaching and Planning
Presenter: Alan Moore, MS, CFP® with XY Planning Network
Recap by Beth Watts, AFC®
Alan Moore is the co-founder of XY Planning Network, a support network for advisors. He is passionate about helping financial planners start and grow their fee-only firms to serve clients largely ignored by traditional firms. He challenged our industry to move beyond serving the wealthiest 5 percent of our country. Through stories with actual clients he highlighted problems with the charging fees based on assets under management.
Traditional firms typically have three options when working with many clients, Moore uses Jennifer as his example. The firm can sell Jennifer products she doesn’t need, work with Jennifer for free until she is “rich enough” to be a client, or tell Jennifer to come back when she is “rich enough” to be a client. Moore pushes a transition from a commission-based to a fee-based model in order to serve clients like Jennifer. Another problem is the idea that financial planning is only for rich people. Statistics show that Americans want to talk with a financial advisor. Seventy-seven percent of clients who have an advisor report wishing they had talked to a financial planner sooner. Fifty-one percent of Americans feel like they don’t have enough saved to get input from an advisor.
How to get paid as a financial professional then becomes the question. The assets under management model only works for people with money (1% of nothing is nothing). People are used to paying bills monthly and are open to paying a financial planner either monthly or set fee. A typical monthly fee structure could be $1,000 upfront with a $100-200 monthly subscription depending on complexity (1–2 percent of income seems to be the “sweet spot”). Then use the 1 percent of assets under management for assets managed.
Moore pushes a focus more on debt management, lifestyle design, developing savings habits, mini-retirements, and starting businesses/side jobs. Less focus on extensive estate planning, high-level tax planning, Social Security, retirement income, and time-intensive investment process. His analogy uses financial planners turning athletes into marathon winning athletes. The focus needs to shift to helping people become runners, more of a sedentary to 5K type program. He highlights the main difference between AFCs and CFPs is the focus the AFC designation has on behavior change.
Final takeaways include focusing on getting the required accredited designation (as a financial counselor, coach, or planner) and working with other AFCs, CFPs, and Financial Coaches to bridge the gaps in service.
Breakout Session: I Know I Should, But Do I Do It? Introducing the Financial Cognition Scale
Presented by Kristy L. Archuleta, Kansas State University, Associate Professor; Christina Glenn, Kansas State University, Doctoral Candidate; Derek Lawson, Kansas State University, Doctoral Student; Joy Clady, Kansas State University, Doctoral Candidate; Syble Solomon, LifeWise Strategies, LLP, President
Reviewed by Cherie Stueve, MBA CPA-Inactive AFC®
Researchers at Kansas State University developed a new scale to measure the relationships among the “I think,” “I feel,” and “I do” of financial knowledge and behaviors. The scale development is based on Cognitive-Behavioral theory of the interactions between cognition, emotion, and behavior.
The Financial Cognition Scale is three questions with possible responses between 1 (strongly disagree) and 5 (strongly agree):
I can predict the situation when I will spend more than I mean to
I know what I should do differently to manage my money better
I know what motivates me to spend or save the way I do.
The total score may help measure financial cognition to determine if adults with higher financial cognition are more likely to exhibit more positive financial behaviors. Financial behaviors surveyed included savings, planning to reach financial goals, budgeting, managing credit cards, and spending more than earning. The emotional side of decision-making was measured with financial anxiety questions about anxiousness, sleeplessness, concentration, irritation, and fatigue, as well as a self-efficacy question about confidence in making financial decisions. Lusardi’s five questions were used to measure financial knowledge.
The Financial Cognition Scale was tested on employed participants with an online survey that was distributed via email from their employer. The new scale was found to be both reliable (how consistently financial cognition is measured) and valid (how well financial cognition is measured). Early results indicate that higher financial knowledge and education are associated with more positive financial behaviors.
Additional future refinements and testing may include additional measures for subjective financial knowledge and better understanding of how one area impacts others in the model. Practitioners can use the new Financial Cognition Scale to better understand clients to help change covert (open) and overt (hidden) behaviors.
Breakout Session: Getting Clients to Come Back: Using Visual Cues to Improve Client Retention
Presented by Laura D’Alessandro, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Senior Program Officer; Emory Nelms, Common Cents Lab, Applied Researcher
Recap by Cherie Stueve, MBA CPA-Inactive AFC®
If more time with a financial coach results in better financial behaviors, why don’t clients choose to come back? A high percentage of clients only attend one or two sessions with their coach. Clients that miss one early session are more likely to miss another session. Human nature makes it difficult to stay motivated to meet with coaches if there isn’t immediate progress, if the process to meet is complex, or if the benefit of coaching will happen in the future, rather than immediately.
When designing an intervention to retain clients, the ideas were based on building a rocket ship: remove friction (examine or eliminate barriers to make it simpler) or add propulsion (motivation to complete tasks and return). Perhaps a visual cue could accomplish both? Specific photos like a house or car didn’t work well, because everyone has a different image of their own home or transportation.
Finally, eight general photos of bricks, stones in a forest, holding hands at sunset, stepping stones through a creek, highway, beach, keys, and an airplane in the sky were used in the study because of the openness to interpretation. The researchers asked audience members to pick an image and what it might mean, with very diverse interpretations. Client descriptions were shared and were just as diverse which demonstrated the power of personal connection to the image.
As an intervention to coaching retention, the photos became a visual representation of long-term goals and created an emotional response to the image/goal. On the back of the photo was a postcard that the client filled out with their vision of financial wellbeing and a reminder about how to meet with their financial coach again. This simple tool may help reconnect lapsed clients with coaches.
To test the effectiveness of visual cues and postcard reminders, 700 participants will be tracked for three months. The researchers from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Center for Advanced Hindsight/Common Cents Lab will continue work on this project and report future findings.
Session: Childhood Financial Socialization and Financial Fragility in Adulthood
Presented by David Allen Ammerman, PhD, West Texas A&M University, Visiting Assistant Professor of Finance; Cherie Stueve, Kansas State University, MBA, CPA(Inactive), AFC®
Recap by Cherie Stueve, MBA CPA-Inactive, AFC®
This research study examined whether adults with money handling experience growing up would have more assets and less debt. The Dutch household dataset, De Nederlandsche Bank Household Survey, asked respondents to rate their childhood experiences with allowances, freedom to make financial decisions, budget lessons from parents, and parents’ encouragement to save. The Dutch are similar to U.S. households in regards to many financial behaviors and large datasets in the United States do not examine childhood money experiences.
The researchers expected to find that adults who received financial guidance from parents would reach or exceed the commonly-used financial health benchmarks of current ratio (ability to pay short-term liability with liquid assets) and debt ratio (ability to pay all liabilities with financial assets). This was anticipated because other research indicates that parents exert the greatest influence on a child’s values and attitudes, hands-on learning during childhood helps build financial literacy, and adults with more financial knowledge will engage in more positive financial behaviors.
However, the results were just the opposite. Adults with strong financial experiences in childhood tended to appear financially fragile with ratios that were less-than-desirable by current financial planning standards. Why is this the case? Interestingly, being encouraged to save was the childhood experience that was strongly associated with a current ratio less than 100% and a debt ratio greater than 40%.
One possible explanation is that financially savvy adults are willing to take on more debt in order to push more cash flow towards financial investments. Financial practitioners and educators were asked to consider how childhood money experiences might influence adult behavior. Standard ratios may only paint part of a household’s financial picture and childhood experiences can influence adult behaviors. Programs for youth and adults should include all members of the household.
Session: Diversity Discussion Recap: Bridging the Gap through Diversity: Building an Inclusive Financial Community
Presented by the AFCPE Diversity Task Force
Recap by Meghan Gardner, AFC®, FFC™
It probably comes as no surprise to AFCPE professionals that diversity and inclusion topics were very popular during the 2017 Research & Training Symposium. “Bridging the Gap through Diversity: Building an Inclusive Financial Community” was led by the members of the inaugural AFCPE Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce, and the discussion-based session encouraged an open dialogue between all attendees.
Diversity is more than race and gender; it’s about all people. Diversity permits everyone to have their seat at the table. Inclusion is putting concepts into action and making room for the differences we have. Inclusion ensures everyone is treated equally. To seek perspective, listen to diverse populations’ suggestions; hear their needs, research information, create a middle ground, provide programming for varying abilities and skills, advocate for others, and always use the clients’ definition of success.
Challenges can be exposed when working with diverse clients, and we are ready to overcome those challenges as AFCPE professionals. We can work with clients to shed any shame they may feel for past financial mistakes. To help the client move forward, we must be open to listening and asking difficult questions. We must be willing to meet the client where they are and first be the clients’ student. “How do we meet them where they’re at to inspire them?” was a question posed to help inspire practitioners get creative in overcoming these challenges.
Awareness is key when working with diverse audiences—awareness of your personal biases, awareness of how easily you can make accommodations, and awareness of what stories will relate to the heritage of your clients. Get to know them, and reflect back to confirm your understanding. The best tool in the toolbox is simply to be respectful and remember who our work is really about.
What can the Diversity Task Force do for you? What tools do you need from AFCPE? What materials would be meaningful for your work? How do we continue to bring others in? When it comes down to it, the Diversity Task Force encourages you to have a seat at the table and be ready to roll up your sleeves. Diversity & Inclusion Task Force Co-chairs, Lucia Trujillo (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Schane Coker (email@example.com), would appreciate any ongoing feedback.