The certifications by AFCPE can provide a foundation for your work and communicate to others that you meet the highest standards of your field. I have found this to be the case in my work, as have other extension education colleagues throughout the country. In this article, I will share how it has assisted me while sharing quotes from some of my colleagues. 

If you are not familiar with Extension, we provide community-based education outside the traditional classroom setting. Our work reaches all age groups and includes a variety of areas. Some of my colleagues work with youth teaching good money habits using programs like Captain Cash in Indiana or Real Money Real World in Ohio. Some states like Michigan, Tennessee, Iowa, and Georgia offer homebuyer education and/or tax assistance through VITA. General money management classes focus on financial knowledge and increase financial confidence in states like Idaho, Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana. Others such as Wisconsin, Illinois, and Maryland provide volunteer and professional development programs to extend capacity. Extension serves the communities in which they work providing research-based educational programs based on the needs of their given community.

“I feel my AFC® lends credibility to my work when I promote programs in the community.  Anyone can call themselves a financial educator, or financial counselor, but showing that I’ve earned the AFC demonstrates that I have a tested knowledge base.” – Dorothy Nuckols

In 2016, I assumed the role of Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis in financial literacy for University of Maryland Extension. With degrees in both business and education, I thought I was well prepared for teaching financial classes in the community. After all, I had taken several accounting courses, so I knew that assets = liabilities & equity. How different could that be from assets – liabilities = net worth?  

“Having an AFC® allows us to have more meaningful individual relationships and help with their specific concerns, as well as sitting down and helping them to create their own spending plan or debt repayment plan, instead of just teaching about how to do it.” – Glenn Sturm

In my case, you don’t know what you don’t know. Our state specialist at the time, Dr. Jinhee Kim, encouraged me to pursue an AFC®. In the spring of 2017, I attended the online course offered by AFCPE. After reading the books, I developed a greater knowledge of personal finance and financial counseling. I felt prepared to explain the material that I was teaching in class. 

“I’ve shared productive and preventative extension education, my AFC® has helped me shift the narrative just a bit to be more mindful of cheering people on and empowering rather than always talking about the behavior gap deficits or actions and attitudes that are slowing down progress towards financial goals.” – Amanda Christensen

This new knowledge became the foundation for my work. Having this greater knowledge allowed me to move beyond just presenting material. My confidence increased not just in facilitating classes but also in working with people individually.

“I use my AFC® by offering one-on-one financial counseling. I usually share information about the resource at the end of my educational sessions, at the end of news articles, and am working on getting a form posted on the Personal Finance page of our Extension website for individuals to fill out who would like to contact me.” – Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head

At the beginning of my presentations, I introduce myself and my role, immediately followed by I am an Accredited Financial Counselor®. Not everyone in the audience knows what it means, but for me, it implies confidence and knowledge in financial counseling. Participants see me as a reputable presenter with the AFC® credential.

“I mainly use my AFC® as a marketing tool to give people confidence in my financial management expertise. Staying current with the required number of CEUs keeps me up-to-date on financial issues and regulations which are constantly evolving in our fast-paced society. Membership in AFCPE provides me with a wealth of resources and continuing education, as well as the support of numerous colleagues, enabling me to serve Extension clientele with excellence” – Karen Poff

Some of you reading this article may not be in Extension, you may be considering an AFC®, or you’re in Extension and may be considering an AFC®. No matter what role you serve, you need a strong foundation. If you are going to build a house, it starts with the foundation. Consider the AFC® your foundation in financial counseling whether you plan to do individual counseling or teaching. 

“I truly use my AFC® EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I use it, along with other certifications, to do counseling and coaching, teaching basic foundational topics as well as more advanced financial concepts. The resources I get from AFCPE are always my go to first. And, the AFC® is recognized by many people as the standard of excellence. It is always the certification that I work on first to maintain my CEUs. I wouldn’t be able to do my job in Extension as well as I do without my AFC®.” – Karen Richel

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