Do you qualify for free financial planning?
In a recent issue of InvestmentNews, there was an advertisement placed by the Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP). The ad was a solicitation for tax-deductible gifts and for financial planner volunteers. The ad also indicated that FFP has helped over 500,000 people in crisis who needed access to free financial planning.
I wanted to find out more about this service because I believe that many individuals and families who can’t afford to hire certified financial planners (CFPs) do have such a need. The ad indicated that 1 in 3 cancer patients deplete their savings; over 92% of military veterans live in debt; and millions of Americans need but can’t access quality, ethical financial advice. Correspondence I receive from readers demonstrates this need.
Accordingly, I contacted the FFP in order to learn more about their services. I learned a great deal. Based on my initial contact with a representative of FFP, I was referred to a representative of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) — an organization of certified financial planners, whose members provide pro bono services to underserved individuals/families.
I was referred to Kristin Pugh, a certified financial planner who is a member of the FPA and chairs the National FPA Pro Bono Advisory Committee. Pugh also has extensive experience providing pro bono services locally to those in need through her home chapter, the FPA of Georgia, and provided me with valuable input.
She indicated that individuals who need financial planning services but can’t afford them should contact the local chapter of FPA, and determine if there are pro bono financial planners available in their geographic area.
Who qualifies for help?
Pugh indicated that there are not specific limitations such as a minimum level of assets or income to be considered, but that the FPA pro bono volunteers reserve services for those considered underserved or part of an “at risk” community.
Such communities can include military personnel, veterans, those with disabilities, individuals and families with limited income/assets, and individuals in bankruptcy.
Pugh pointed out that her chapter has developed a close working relationship with local nonprofit groups to reach out to the underserved. Periodically, the members of the nonprofit groups work with FPA planners to sponsor educational workshops available to the general public.
FPA planners deliver presentations and workshops based on the topic recommended by the nonprofit. Provided that the individuals attending meet the definition of “underserved,” they are welcome to reach out and contact a FPA CFP to establish a one-on-one engagement.
Pugh told me that workshops provide a great way to expose people to a specific area of planning; attendees can then meet with a planner to discuss their specific situation.
How much help is provided?
There is no predetermined schedule. In some situations, one meeting is sufficient, while in other cases multiple meetings are arranged. Pugh said that she has maintained contact with some individuals with complex issues for as long as six months.
She told me that partnering with a nonprofit is not required to sponsor a workshop to establish one-on-one services. Nonprofits can establish one-on-one relationships directly with a FPA CFP.
For example, Pugh described her chapter’s relationship with a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to individuals in the Atlanta area. By forming this relationship, the FPA chapter can pair CFPs with their legal clients and offer one-on-one financial planning sessions.
The bottom line is that if you need financial planning assistance but cannot afford to hire a certified financial planner, help may be available. Contact your local FPA chapter to determine if there are pro bono CFPs in your area and whether you would qualify for these services.
Contact the Financial Planning Association’s National Capital Area chapter at (703) 620-1712.
© 2022 Elliot Raphaelson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.