What is the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial CounselorProgram?
The fellowship is a grant to military spouses who want to become certified as an Accredited Financial Counselor®. The fellowship covers the enrollment fee, study materials, webinar study sessions and two attempts at the examination, a value of approximately $2000.
Who IS eligible for the fellowship?
Current spouses or surviving spouses of a Uniformed Service member; Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, (active duty, National Guard and Reserve, or retirees). Also the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are included as eligible.
Who is NOT eligible for the fellowship?
The following individuals are not eligible for the fellowship:
- Current paid Federal Employees
- Current paid employees of contractors serving the United States government
- Active duty or Reserve Component members of the Armed Forces
- Holders of active securities licenses
- Current National Military Family Association Staff, Volunteers, and Representatives
- Those already enrolled in an AFCPE® Certification program
- Those who previously accepted the fellowship, but did not complete the program
Further eligibility clarification
- Federal Employees or employees of a federal contractor are not eligible for the Fellowship. For example, anyone who works in a paid capacity at a Fleet and Family Service Center, Army Community Service Center or Air Force Readiness Center, or who works for a government contractor in any capacity, is ineligible for the Fellowship.
- Military spouses who work in an unpaid capacity (volunteer) for those government entities above are eligible.
- Employees of non-federal government entities (state, county, municipalities) are eligible.
- Employees of services’ relief organizations are eligible. These are not government entities, even though they serve the military.
- Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) employees are eligible. These employees could work for:
- The Exchange (formerly AAFES)
- CGX (Navy or Marine Corps or Coast Guard Exchanges)
- MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation)
- Spouses of veterans who are not military retirees are not eligible. If your spouse is not currently serving on Active Duty, in the Guard or Reserve, or retired from Active Duty, Guard, or Reserve service, you are not eligible for the Fellowship.
What is an AFC®?
An AFC® assists individuals and families in the process of financial decision making. AFC professionals agree to maintain the highest ethical standards as outlined in the AFCPE® Code of Ethics.
Through continuing education AFC professionals maintain up-to-date knowledge in the fields of personal finance and financial counseling. After certification, in order to maintain the credential, an AFC must pay an annual fee each year and obtain and report 30 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) every two years. Visit HERE for more information.
Who is paying for this fellowship?
The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial Counselor Program® is made possible through the generosity of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to provide investors with high quality, easily accessible information and tools to better understand the markets and the basic principles of saving and investing.
One of the Foundation’s major initiatives is the development of a financial education program to improve the saving and investing knowledge of military service members. This fellowship program is part of that initiative. For additional information about the FINRA Foundation and its military financial education program, please visit http://www.saveandinvest.org/military
What types of skills does an Accredited Financial Counselor® gain through this program of study?
Accredited Financial Counselors® gain the knowledge and skills to assist individuals and families in the complex process of financial decision-making, including the ability to:
- Educate clients in sound financial principles.
- Assist clients in the process of overcoming their financial indebtedness.
- Help clients identify and modify ineffective money management behaviors.
- Guide clients in developing successful strategies for achieving their financial goals.
- Support clients as they work through their financial challenges and opportunities.
- Help clients develop new perspectives on the dynamics of money in relation to family, friends, and individual self-esteem.
What types of employment opportunities can I expect as an Accredited Financial Counselor®?
The field of financial counseling is growing. Potential employers are located throughout the country, in both small and large communities. According to many job satisfaction studies, financial service providers feel challenged and satisfied by their work. In general, providers believe that they are making a significant contribution to their clients’ economic well-being. Job opportunities can be found in the following:
- Bankruptcy courts
- Banks and savings and loan associations
- College financial aid offices
- Community programs
- Consumer credit counseling services
- Consumer finance companies
- Cooperative Extension services
- Corporate and government employee assistance programs
- Corporate credit departments
- Credit bureaus
- Credit unions
- Divorce mediation firms
- Employee benefits counseling firms
- Family service agencies
- Housing and urban development offices
- Insurance companies
- Loan associations
- Mental health associations
- Ministerial organizations
- Mortgage lenders
- Mutual fund companies
- Social welfare agencies
- Uniformed Services family/community service agencies
Education / Exam FAQs
Will I be required to attend classes?
This is a distance learning program. You receive all of the course materials by mail and you study at your own pace. However, in order to enhance your learning experience, increase the opportunities for success, and encourage completion of the program in a timely fashion, AFCPE® offers an eight-week webinar review session covering the material. Each live session is 90 minutes in length. All study sessions are led by an experienced instructor.
What is the format of the examinations?
The examination includes 165 multiple choice questions and takes approximately three hours to complete. The examination is taken in an AMP professional testing center and you will receive an immediate pass/fail determination. Please note some overseas (OCONUS) testing locations may not be able to provide immediate test results.
What are the requirements to become an Accredited Financial Counselor?
To become accredited you must do the following:
- Earn a passing grade on the examination, (The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Accredited Financial Counselor Fellowship will cover the cost of the study materials, teleconference study sessions and two attempts at the examination).
- Comply with the AFCPE® Code of Ethics.
- Obtain up to 1,000 hours of admissible financial counseling experience (can be acquired through paid employment or through volunteer work). You can gain this experience while studying for the certification.
Is there help available to prepare for the exams?
The program includes a self-directed online course, designed to guide you through the material, providing you with additional tools and resources to develop your skills, test your comprehension, and put your knowledge into practice.
It also provides you with instructor led webinar study sessions with other program participants. Study sessions are repeated at various times in order to accommodate your busy schedule. Once you enroll, you’ll receive a schedule of study session times. While these study sessions are not mandatory, they are strongly encouraged.
How many classes will I be required to take?
The AFC® program is a self-study program. Once you have a full comprehension of the core competencies you will take a comprehensive exam on the subject matter.
How long will it take me to complete the study portion of the program?
This is a self-paced course so completion time depends on the individual. However, you have up to 3 years to complete the program.
How do I schedule the examinations?
Once you are ready to take the examination, please visit www.goAMP.com to locate a testing facility in your area and schedule your exam.
Experience Requirement FAQs
An important component of this fellowship program is to increase the amount of financial education and counseling services available to military members, and to ensure that certificants have a significant amount of financial counseling and/or financial education experience. To that end, all fellowship recipients will be required to complete up to 1,000 experience hours. Because scholarship awardees are spread around the world, specific placement is not provided. Those with previous educational and/or work experience in finance or counseling (or a related field) may be assigned fewer practicum hours than those having no previous experience.
What type of work can earn experience hours?
This program is designed to be flexible for military spouses, so the means to earn experience hours are varied. Activities such as writing articles, attending conferences, or observing counseling sessions can qualify. However, the majority of your hours should be acquired by providing supervised personal financial counseling or education.
How much time is required to complete the experience?
Normally, the program requires a minimum of 1,000 hours of admissible financial counseling experience. However, in order to provide flexibility and to accommodate the challenges of the military family lifestyle, AFCPE® has adapted the experience requirements for the recipients of the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship. Fellowship recipients will be required to fulfill a minimum of 400 hours and no more than 1,000 hours (the experience hour requirement will be determined by AFCPE® based on your previous relevant experience in the field). Fellowship recipients may begin tracking and reporting practicum hours in September of the year your program begins.
Am I required to complete my experience hours at a military installation?
While this program is intended to give back to the military community, we understand that not all applicants live near a military installation. In that situation, we encourage participants to take advantage of virtual opportunities that can serve the military community. Additionally, don’t forget your National Guard or Reserve community, civic organizations and non-profit organizations; they may have opportunities that are closer to where you live. AFCPE® will provide you with a letter of introduction explaining the program and your training to any company or organization you hope to work with to complete your experience requirements.
Maintaining Certification FAQs
Once I become an AFC®, how do I maintain the certification?
You will be required to pay an annual certification fee (currently $55) and obtain 30 hours of Continuing Education every two years. For additional post-certification requirements, visit the Guide to Maintaining Your Certification.
If I receive the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship for the AFC®, will I have a contact at NMFA or Blue Star Families to help me through the process?
No. The National Military Family Association and Blue Star Families will only be involved in selection of the candidates for the grant. Once you receive notification from AFCPE® that you have received the fellowship, you will be provided with a packet of information from AFCPE that outlines the steps you will need to take to become an AFC®. AFCPE will provide you with the name and contact information of the individual you will be able to contact should you have questions or concerns.
How will Fellowship Recipients be selected?
Your application will be reviewed by a team of judges comprised of AFCPE, NMFA, Blue Star Families and FINRA Investor Education Foundation representatives. Selection of grant recipients will be based upon the following criteria:
- Be the current spouse or surviving spouse of a Uniformed Service member; Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (active duty, National Guard and Reserve, or retirees),
- Hold at least a high school diploma or a GED,
- Demonstrate an interest in financial education with some knowledge of military protocol,
- Be a team-player, detail-oriented, and exhibit excellent follow-through skills,
- Have strong interpersonal skills to work effectively with other military spouses, military families, military agencies, local federal government offices, individuals and groups at every level of society,
- Be willing to dedicate the allotted time to complete the program. It is expected that the study component will require as much as six hours of study time each week, for a period of 18 months,
- Be willing to complete 400-1000 practicum hours (to be assigned by AFCPE based on the individual’s previous experience in the field) by assisting as a paid employee or volunteer in financial education or financial counseling positions,
- Individuals holding an active securities license are not eligible to apply.