Written By: Rachael DeLeon, Interim Executive Director
Happy Birthday, AFC®!
This year marks the 30th birthday of the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) certification program, and we have a lot to celebrate!
Whether you are an AFC, an AFC candidate, or simply someone who has been positively impacted by the AFC, please take a few moments to share a testimonial, story, or anecdote about what the AFC means to you.
- Share how you found your way to the AFC certification
- Tell us how the AFC has positively impacted your work with clients
- Share a fun story about being a part of the AFC community
- Tell us why you decided to become an AFC and/or why you continue to maintain your designation
As with any milestone birthday, it’s always fun to reflect on our journey.
From humble beginnings:
In the late 1980s, the critical need to certify financial counselors was becoming more apparent. In 1992, with the support of Mary Stephenson, who chaired the certification committee, AFCPE co-founder Jerry Mason helped launch the AFC certification program. He did so while working from a spare bedroom in his home.
To lasting impact:
Now, thirty years later, the AFC certification program has established itself as the gold standard in financial counseling and education and has grown to more than 3,300 AFCs in good standing worldwide and more than 1,600 candidates currently pursuing the designation.
A few monumental milestones:
- FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program
Since 2006, FINRA Foundation has provided more than 1,700 military spouses the opportunity to earn the AFC®. While pursuing the mark, Spouse Fellows have provided financial counseling and education to more than 165,000 service members or their spouses and have dedicated more than 516,000 hours helping military families reach their financial goals.This year’s application is open through May 2. If you are, or know, a military spouse, encourage them to apply!
- CFPB Financial Coaching Initiative
In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) started a national financial coaching initiative to provide financial coaching services for veterans and economically vulnerable communities across the country. Recognizing the need for the highest level of training and professionalism, the CFPB required all coaches to earn both the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) certification and the Financial Fitness Coach (FFC®) certification. In three years, over 19,000 clients received more than 40,000 coaching sessions. 84% of active clients saw improvements in their financial situation, as measured by the financial capability scale.
- North Carolina State Employees Credit Union (NCSECU) invests in the AFC
In 2015, NCSECU committed to putting more than 1,000 employees through the AFC certification program. This decision was part of a larger strategy to formalize and expand their financial counseling services, and to raise the credibility and proficiency of their staff to better serve their members. Since then, more than 1,500 SECU employees have graduated from the AFC certification program, and SECU has set a standard of quality for other financial institutions to emulate within their own communities.
- NCCA Accreditation
In 2016, we hit one of our largest milestones – achieving accreditation through NCCA, or the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (formerly the National Organization for Competency Assurance). This achievement set the certification mark apart and emphasized the highest standard of excellence that AFCPE has built for this field.
- Strategic Impact Fund Scholarships
In 2018, with stable finances, a growing certification program, and a healthy reserve fund, we were able to establish the Strategic Impact Fund. Since that time, with generous support of donors (like you!) and partners like JPMorgan Chase and National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), we have provided more than $200K in group capacity building scholarships, as well as hundreds of AFC certification scholarships, primarily for those serving marginalized communities.
- Pro Bono Financial Counseling Initiative
In a time of need, AFC professionals never cease to amaze! At the onset of a global pandemic, when many professionals in our community were also navigating uncertainty, hundreds volunteered to offer pro bono financial counseling to those in need. Thanks to a generous grant by Wells Fargo foundation, this program has been extended through the end of 2022. If you know of someone who can benefit, please share this link: https://findanafc.org/home/pro-bono/
A commitment to our community:
The AFC community is as diverse as the people that we serve, and we will continue to embrace this as a cornerstone of the designation and the organization.
- Our professionals work across research, education, and practice – for banks and credit unions, nonprofit organizations, universities, government, military, private practice, and more.
- AFC professionals are located in every state, and on military bases around the world.
- Unlike the majority of the financial industry, 67% of AFC professionals are women.
- And according to our 2018 job analysis survey, 48% of our professionals are people of color.
Diversity of background, experience, and thought is what allows AFC professionals to learn from one another, and to meet clients where they are. The AFC certification program doesn’t teach a one-size-fits-all prescriptive approach. The AFC provides you with a holistic education that gives you credibility, confidence, and helps you better understand how diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences impact your clients’ money behaviors.
I love this quote from our Certification Program Manager, Jarod Taylor, “I think what is missing a lot of the time when talking about personal finance is the personal. It’s not a one size fits all situation. It all comes down to an individual’s values and what they want out of life. The AFC® recognizes the personal in personal finance.”
- To all of our AFC professionals – thank you! Your work matters.
- To our AFC candidates, keep studying and don’t forget to lean into our incredible community of support!
- And to anyone thinking about pursuing the AFC – there is no better time than now.
Join us in celebrating #30yearsofAFC!
SETTING THE STANDARD,
Interim Executive Director