Financial Planning: Building Your Financial Future
At a time when the personal debt level and economic inequality are at record highs in our nation’s history, many people are unsure who to turn to and trust for guidance. With intimidating investing terms, hidden fees and product sales—and so many financial professionals out there—it can be very overwhelming to know where to start.
While there are areas of overlap and synergy among financial professionals, there are also important distinctions in the services provided. Financial planners and advisers help clients reach specific longer-term financial goals through the appropriate investment vehicles or products.
Building a Foundation
Meeting with a financial counselor is like laying the foundation of a home structure. Once individuals create a strong foundation of knowledge through counseling and education, they can begin to build a solid financial structure based on their individual dreams, and ultimately work with a financial planner or adviser for wealth planning advice.
Financial counselors are trained to provide financial education that addresses the entire life-cycle of the client through a high-level, tailored approach based on the complex needs of each individual and family. A financial counselor can effectively review financial behaviors and give direction to positively affect lasting financial behavior change.
One trusted resource for interested professionals and the public is the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE). Founded in 1983, AFCPE is a non-profit organization that provides personal financial management education, training and certification of financial counselors, educators and coaches.
AFCPE certifies financial counselors and educators through rigorous certification programs, including the AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor). AFC professionals address a variety of issues, including credit and debt issues, bankruptcy and foreclosure. They also work with clients to develop and implement spending plans, eliminate debt, build savings and create meaningful solutions to maintain financial stability and reach the client’s financial goals. Once clients have healthy financial habits and resources, they can transition to a financial planner or advisor for more complex investment advice.
Building a solid financial foundation is possible, and there are a number of valuable resources available to help you get started. Organizations like CFPB and NEFE both provide consumer-based tools covering financial challenges through all stages of life. Or if you are ready to meet with a financial counselor, AFCPE's search tool can help guide you to an accredited professional in your area. The website also offers a list of virtual counselors covering a range of financial topics and issues.
Personal financial education doesn't have to be intimidating or overwhelming. Look to a financial counselor to help you lay that first brick in your financial foundation.
Rebecca Wiggins is the Executive Director of AFCPE and holds a Masters of Family Financial Planning from Kansas State University. She is deeply committed to AFCPE’s mission to build, support and ensure the integrity of the personal finance profession and improve the economic well-being of individuals and families worldwide. You can search for an AFCPE Certified Professional in your area by using the association’s search tool. Connect with AFCPE on LinkedIn and Facebook.