By Joseph R. Stemmle
December 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the financial planning profession. In December 1969, 13 individuals in the financial services industry gathered in an airport hotel in Chicago and planted the seeds of what has become the financial planning profession.
Pro bono financial planning has always been a hallmark of the financial planning field, but it needs to be ingrained in everything we do. The next generation of financial planners need to embrace the importance and impact of pro bono just as the legal, medical, and dental professions have.
"Nourishing and growing a pro bono tradition for the financial planning profession is an essential part of elevating and enriching the profession while at the same time helping extend critical services to at-risk Americans in need of quality, objective financial guidance," said Kurt Kaczor, pro bono director at the Financial Planning Association (FPA).
The American Bar Association Model Rule 6.1 establishes the professional responsibility to provide pro bono service. More specifically, Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono public legal services per year."
I have seen the medical and dental professions’ commitment to service at work in my home state of Virginia. The Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps (RAM) provided the nation's largest pop-up free clinic where some patients would camp out for three days to make sure they got treated. In 2017, the clinic had over 1,000 volunteers and served 2,300 patients in Wise, Virginia.
Financial planning organizations are leading the way getting professionals to embrace pro bono planning.
In May 2019, former FPA CEO Lauren Schadle, CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller, NAPFA CEO Geoffrey Brown, and Foundation for Financial Planning CEO Jon Dauphiné, met to discuss pro bono in the financial planning profession. Two major themes emerged—a consistent definition of "pro bono" and a focus from all the organizations involved to promote pro bono work among their members.
The consistent definition of planning that emerged from that May 2019 meeting was "free, no-strings-attached financial advice and planning for underserved people provided by or in conjunction with a CFP® professional volunteer."
The underserved populations—including low-income individuals and families, military personnel/veterans, domestic violence survivors; people affected by natural disasters, serious medical crises, bankruptcy, etc.—get advice through one-on-one engagements or interactive group sessions on topics specific to an at-risk audience, with the option for personalized engagement to follow.
The need is now. The time is now for professionals to offer pro bono planning.
Fast forward to May 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world, gripping every headline, overwhelming medical systems, and even bringing some countries to a complete standstill. But light emerges out of the darkness. We have begun to see hope and optimism.
There are stories of incredible feats of perseverance from nurses and doctors, frontline workers at grocery stores, and CDL drivers who are keeping the supply chains moving and even hopeful treatments from the pharmaceutical industry.
In response to the monetary challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FPA created a landing page with about 70 CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional members who are offering pro bono financial guidance during the crisis.
You can help. Here’s how.
Our generation of professionals should aspire to make an impact with pro bono financial planning. We need to continue to elevate ourselves, the profession and the communities around us. If you can, give your time, give your talent, give your treasure—not just during this crisis, but also as the standard in the future. Read on for guidance on how to get started.
To be eligible to provide pro bono financial planning services through FPA programs, members in good standing must complete FPA's Pro Bono Financial Planning Training Course, sign a pro bono letter of engagement that states he/she will take responsibility for services provided in the client engagement, and be a CFP® professional. FPA members interested in volunteering can contact FPA Pro Bono Director, Kurt Kaczor at kkaczor@OneFPA.org.
FPA provides Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance for FPA members while conducting pro bono financial planning. To be eligible, a person must be a current FPA member, qualify to volunteer per the FPA Pro Bono Eligibility Policy, adhere to all Pro Bono policies and guidelines, and work on behalf of an FPA pro bono program.
The Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) and FPA both have a 50-minute online training presented by Capital Group that provides one hour of continuing education (CE) credit by CFP Board. The purpose of the training is to provide baseline knowledge to provide pro bono financial guidance.
In addition to the training, the FFP provides a comprehensive list of resources and documents to use in engagements. The FFP also created a timely Coronavirus & Pro Bono Planning Resource Center to help with guidance on everything from the emergency legislation to government resources and nonprofit financial experts. And most recently announced the launch of the COVID-19 Financial Resilience Fund, which will receive a $500,000 matching commitment from the Charles Schwab Foundation.
As Ryan Frailich, CFP® said, "It's important for young planners to take steps to regularly engage with their community members to understand what is going on in the broader community."
A goal of one to two hours of pro bono service every month can help set a new standard for all financial planners to uphold.
"NexGen planners are already helping shape the future of pro bono financial planning by raising their hand to give back and are making a positive impact by volunteering," added Kaczor.
We need to continue to elevate ourselves, the profession, and the communities around us. If you can, give your time, give your talent, give your treasure—not just during this crisis, but also as the standard in the future.
Joey is a financial advisor with Riverstone Wealth Advisory Group in Midlothian, Va. Joey graduated Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. Joey serves as the President-Elect of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) of Central VA and on the Board of Directors for the Financial Empowerment Board for the City of Richmond Treasurer’s Office. Joey also serves as the Program Director for the VCU CFP Board Registered Financial Planning Program and an adjunct instructor in the Finance Department.
FPA NexGen, a community of the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), aims to provide support and collaboration for those professionals new to the financial planning profession. With more than 2,500 like-minded young professionals, members of FPA NexGen are ready to share their experiences and further the future of the financial planning profession. Learn more about our engaged community and join the conversation on Twitter.
Here are past NexGen columns: