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Wednesday Welcome: What is Financial Counseling?

This week, we asked Rebecca Wiggins to stop by. She’s the Executive Director of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. I know there is a lot of confusion out there about financial planners, advisors and counselors — when do you need one, how do you find one, which type of financial professional is right for you. Rebecca is here to give us an overview of financial counselors, who can bridge the gap if you need some financial assistance — such as help with debt or budgeting — but you’re not quite ready for an full-fledged investment plan.

Rebecca2At a time when the personal debt level and economic inequality are at record levels 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.

You’ve heard of a financial planner and a financial adviser, but what is a financial counselor? Think of financial counseling as the foundation to a solid home structure. Once individuals gain knowledge and resources through counseling and education, they can begin to build their home based on their individual dreams.  Financial counselors and educators help move individuals and families along a spectrum of knowledge through behavioral adjustments, with the hope of eventually referring them to investment advisers and financial planners like a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) for wealth-planning advice.

One trusted resource that interested professionals and the public can turn to is the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®), where I am the Executive Director.  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 offers two certification programs for individuals: Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) and Certified Housing Counselor® (CHC®). These programs train professionals to guide clients through a holistic counseling framework of life cycle financial education.  This allows the counselor to provide a high-level, tailored approach based on the needs of each individual and family. This way, the counselor can analyze and positively affect lasting financial behavior change among clients.

AFCPE counselors can help their clients through a variety of issues, including credit and debt issues, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. They’re also able to 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.

About Rebecca: 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.

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