Why Professionalism Matters: The Impact of My Financial Fitness Coach® Training with the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®)
Working with credentialed personal finance professionals insures that you are receiving high quality services from people who are committed to their work, ethical conduct and lifelong learning.
I have been working in the field of financial capability for more than twenty years. Over time it has been called asset building, financial literacy and financial education. Semantics aside, this field operates on the premise that if you give hard-working families the tools to attain and maintain their own financial self-sufficiency, society will become a more just and equitable place.
My Early Years in Financial Capability
I came to this field with a master’s degree in Social Work having studied Social and Economic Development at the Brown School at Washington University in St Louis. I studied the theories behind poverty alleviation, the economics of social policy and topics in nonprofit management. Then I entered the real world and the job market. What could I do with this rich education based on thought exercises and abstract concepts?
My first job involved teaching newly-arrived refugees how to start micro-businesses in the United States. I taught my students about cash flows, marketing plans, and tax filing. In two years there were only two successful business starts.
Then I heard the rumor: Kimberly’s small business class was the best English class around that didn’t have a wait list. My students knew what they needed to be more successful in America (practice speaking English!) and they got it from me. As for my ability to foster financial capability or micro-business growth? Not so much.
Honing My Craft in Talking About Money
I went on to create an Individual Development Account (IDA) program, again for refugees. In this program I put together an intensive four-week curriculum on managing your finances in the United States. We talked about ways to save money, how FDIC insurance protects consumers from bank closures, and how building credit could help students get closer to attaining their version of the American dream.
After five years my 350 IDA participants came to classes, saved their money in matched-savings accounts and created a combined $2 million in wealth through investing in homes, post-secondary education, cars to get to their jobs and yes, even a few micro-businesses.
For years I focused on the “how’s” of household money management in the trainings that I created. I taught people how to maintain a budget. I taught people how to identify money to save and invest for the future. I taught people how to protect the assets that they had accumulated. And to make sure that I was solid in the content knowledge that I had amassed over the years I become an Accredited Financial Counselor® with the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).
But something was missing for my clients. Over the years I met hard-working folks who would learn how to manage their finances but nothing would change in their lives. It was frustrating for me and for them. If we are talking about all the ways to improve your financial situation then why aren’t things changing for the better? This stumped me.
Financial Coaching: The Missing Tool in My Toolbox
Then I learned about financial coaching, and specifically the Financial Fitness Coach® training through the AFCPE®. After years of mastering my craft in providing financial education, could learning to provide financial coaching make that much-needed difference? I believe that it has.
My professional training to become a Financial Fitness Coach® required me to get to know my clients on a deeper level. I needed to get to their “why”: Why did they want to become more financial stable? Why did they choose their financial goal in the first place? What was their motivation for change? Professional training in financial coaching provided me with the tools to develop deeper relationships with my clients, to offer them accountability when they needed it, and most importantly to invite them into the driver seat of their own financial journey.
It would have taken me years to teach myself the skills that I developed in the one year that I spent in the Financial Fitness Coach® training. I benefited from a structured course of study taught by an expert Saundra Davis of Sage Financial Solutions and from an engaged peer group that I could bounce ideas off of (and who could hold me accountable when necessary).
To me, professionalism matters. I believe that as financial capability professionals we should be operating out of the same play book. We should be held to a high set of standards in our content knowledge and ethical conduct. And we should pledge to be lifelong learners, always striving to be of better service to our clients. By attaining the Financial Fitness Coach® credential I believe that I am being the best financial capability professional that I can be.