Felix Barraza, CFP® is a financial professional with AIG Retirement Services and in this role has helped many clients plan their financial futures. He has seen firsthand the power of financial planning to enrich lives, so that a child can obtain a top-notch education or a couple can live their retirement dream.
Separate from his work with clients at AIG Retirement Services, Felix also provides pro bono services through his volunteer work with the Financial Planning for Cancer Program. The program, supported by the Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) and its grantee and partner, Family Reach, matches financial planners to at-risk patients facing a serious cancer diagnosis. Planners provide pro bono financial planning education and advice to patients and families, helping them through one of the most challenging periods of their lives. The service is invaluable because one-third of these families will spend down literally all of their savings on care, with the financial stress often leading to worse health outcomes.[i]
Felix lost his own mother to pancreatic cancer in August 2018, and although initially he worried that volunteering for the program could be too emotionally challenging, he found instead that helping cancer patients became ‘a calling.’ He completed his program orientation and onboarding and has gone on to help a number of families.
His pro bono clients have faced various hurdles, but Felix has applied both his financial planning acumen and his dynamism from volunteering as a firefighter in the past, to help them overcome their challenges. His first client was a single mom of a child with serious cancer who was in desperate need of transportation to get the child to medical appointments. Felix helped her develop a budget, determine how she could qualify for a loan, and then bring in some additional resources from FFP’s partner, Family Reach. For a cancer patient with a compromised immune system, reliable and safe transit to treatment can be a life-saver, according to experts, and Felix was glad to be able to assist.
Felix helped another client, an older man with cancer, with estate planning needs to minimize the impact of the probate process on the man’s family. During this volunteer services engagement, he served as an objective sounding board for the client and his caregivers, helping them to think through questions such as whether or not to use money from the man’s 401(k), take out a home equity loan, or sell his house. “Clients going through this are understandably emotional and may be in a ‘treatment fog’ — I see my role as helping them to be rational and objective in order to make better decisions at a very difficult time,” said Felix.
Felix also highlighted the importance of listening to clients and probing on ways in which he can improve their financial well-being. Having a trusted, objective advisor can mean a lot, he said, “even if my guidance can take just a few things off their checklist during treatment, I’m happy to be able to help them.” Felix’s success lies in “wearing that well-rounded hat that brings financial knowledge and guidance while also offering emotional support and an understanding of what folks are going through.”
AIG Retirement Services represents- The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company, VALIC Financial Advisors, Inc., and VALIC Retirement Services Company. Securities offered through VALIC Financial Advisors, Inc., member FINRA, SIPC, and an SEC-registered investment advisor. All companies are members of American International Group, Inc. (AIG).
[i] Gordon LG, Merollini KMD, Lowe A, Chan RJ. A Systematic Review of Financial Toxicity Among Cancer Survivors: We Can’t Pay the Co-Pay. Patient. 2016:1-15; O’Connor JM, Kircher SM, De Souza JA. Financial toxicity in cancer care. Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology. 2016;14(3):101-106.
“Even if my guidance can take just a few things off their checklist during treatment, I’m happy to be able to help them.”