Garrett Sloan, CFP®, is motivated by a passion for giving back, especially to those affected by cancer. When Garrett was thirteen, his father passed away from skin cancer. His mother raised Garrett and his two sisters on her own, working to put food on the table and save for their education. “I think about how that affected our lives,” he said, “and want to give back to others in a similar situation.”
Today, Garrett volunteers to provide financial planning and guidance to families affected by cancer through FFP’s Pro Bono for Cancer initiative. Since joining the program in 2018, he has worked with four families in critical need of advice. “The needs of these folks are different from the typical clients that I work with on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “They have been burdened with health issues that have kept them from being able to work and save and pay off debt.”
The first thing Garrett does when meeting with a new client is to “let them talk a lot… and see where it takes them.” During these emotional conversions, clients “express the challenges they are facing, and I learn where their biggest concerns are.” One of Garrett’s clients struggled with the question of whether she should file for bankruptcy after undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “I helped her think through the payments on her debt and explore whether she was in a spot where she should consider it.”
Garrett notes that volunteers “may have to learn about things that they normally don’t deal with, but that they don’t have to be experts.” FFP’s program partners provide support on topics that may be unfamiliar to some financial advisors. In this case, bankruptcy specialists at Consumer Education and Training Services (CENTS), an FFP grantee, offered Garrett and his client insight on the costs and benefits of bankruptcy.
Garrett also helped another client, who recently had a double mastectomy, with debt management as well as with financial planning related to caring for her aging parents. While she wasn’t considering bankruptcy, she did owe $4,000 on a lease she had to break as a result of her cancer diagnosis, a debt that would affect her credit score until repaid. Garrett worked with her to develop a budget, determining how much discretionary income she had to pay toward that lease and ultimately setting her on a path to credit repair. “That’s the most important thing,” he said, “to listen, put together a plan, and get the client started on making the situation better.”
For other financial planners considering volunteering, Garrett emphasizes that “it’s important to get perspective that there are a lot of different walks of life. Financial planners can live in a silo where we can only deal with clients that have x dollars in investable assets… it has been humbling to try and help these clients through difficult situations.”
“That’s the most important thing, to listen, put together a plan, and get the client started on making the situation better.”
- Helped cancer patients explore questions related to bankruptcy, debt, and developing a budget.
- Acted as a trusted confidant, letting clients do the talking and actively listening to their challenges and concerns.
- Linked clients with resources including FFP program partner and bankruptcy specialist, CENTS.