At one point or another, most of us have struggled with our finances. Whether it’s how to get out from under the burden of debt, how to save for retirement when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, how to afford to buy your first home or, simply, how to create an effective spending plan to allow you to reach your own unique goals, we need to rely on a trained financial professional at different points throughout our lives.
But how can you be sure you are getting the highest level of knowledge, skill and integrity from the person giving you the advice? The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) exists for that very purpose.
RewardExpert recently had the pleasure of speaking with Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director for the Association, about what they are doing to help all of Americans.
A Foundation of Excellence
Formed in 1983, the AFCPE is currently celebrating its 35th year of helping people ensure that the trained professionals that they get their financial advice from are properly skilled and educated themselves.
“The AFCPE is a non-profit, professional organization dedicated to ensuring the highest level of knowledge, skill and integrity of the personal finance profession by certifying, connecting and supporting diverse and capable professionals who serve communities worldwide,” explained Wiggins. “It is our fundamental belief that all people, regardless of income or background, deserve access to professionals who uphold the highest standards.”
Their vision is simple: A future where all people—regardless of income or background—are empowered to achieve lasting financial well-being through the highest standards of financial counseling, coaching, and education.
High Standards For All
AFCPE is achieving their mission through rigorous, standardized professional training and certification.
“AFCPE brings together a diverse and inclusive network of professionals working in all areas of the personal finance field, who believe that all people should have the opportunity to work with a trusted professional who upholds the highest standards,” said Wiggins.
“We believe that setting and upholding these standards is not only the best thing to do but the right thing to do. It’s right to demand rigor and excellence for all people, not just those with wealth or assets to manage. It is right to have a strong commitment to a higher level of knowledge because each person is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
Keeping Up With the Changing of Times
The financial counseling profession has undoubtedly changed quite a bit over the last few years. With that, the Association has consistently risen to the challenge of keeping industry professionals at their highest level. This is important since they are essentially teaching the teachers or training the trainers—supporting the people who are on the front lines counseling, coaching and educating consumers.
“The need for financial counseling, coaching and education is greater than ever,” shared Wiggins. “In most states, financial education is not part of a student’s K-12 curriculum, so individuals enter adulthood with the only exposure to money being the money habits, or scripts, that they learned from their parents or friends. Couple this with the rising amount of personal finance information available online, the increase in financial service options and the daily innovation of financial technology, and it’s often difficult to know where to begin and whom to trust.”
“With the ever-evolving environment of technology; it is critical to integrate high tech with the high touch of highly trained, experienced and ethical financial professionals. With emerging knowledge and best practices constantly changing, it important that our financial professionals uphold the highest standards. That they obtain and maintain a reputable certification that requires rigorous education and examination, field experience, an ongoing commitment to continuing education, and abidance by a high code of ethics. “
“AFCPE believes in the power of building a more integrated and inclusive continuum of care. We have a diverse and inclusive network of professionals from across various financial sectors who learn from one another and share best practices to help ensure that individuals and families can navigate the “alphabet soup” of professional designations and have access to the highest standard of financial advice, at any stage of life.”
“An effective continuum of care ensures that an individual who meets with an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) to overcome an immediate money crisis or to establish sustainable healthy financial behaviors would then be referred to a trusted financial planner, like a CFP for investment advice to build wealth.”
Making the Educated Choice
When you are in need of any financial advice, it is critical that you get that information from an individual who has the knowledge and education to guide you in the right direction properly. That is why it is always a great idea to look for the AFC or FFC (Financial Fitness Coach—a partnership with Sage Financial Solutions) designation.
“Make sure that the professional you are meeting with has the education, experience and highest ethical standards to help you through your specific financial challenges and opportunities,” explained Wiggins. “An AFC professional can address your immediate money challenges, create a plan to achieve your unique goals and build a sustainable foundation for long-term financial well-being.”
To learn more, visit afcpe.org today.