Paul Austin, CFP®, was looking for a way to give back. He wanted to reach people who could benefit from meeting with a financial advisor, but whose assets typically wouldn’t qualify them for traditional financial planning. When he came across an article about the Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) in the Journal of Financial Planning, he knew that this could be the opportunity to help the underserved that he was looking for.
Today, Paul volunteers with the CASH Campaign of MD, an FFP grantee, to provide financial planning advice to low-to-moderate income families in Baltimore and across Maryland. Recently, he began working with Nancy, a CASH Campaign of MD client who sought to secure a more stable financial future given the economic challenges brought about by COVID-19. Nancy “really feared the future,” said Paul. “I helped her to really focus on what we can control… to understand that she didn’t have to fear an uncertain future, but she could shape it.”
First, Paul developed an understanding of Nancy’s personal and financial circumstances. He learned that she had recently gone through a divorce and was trying to sell her home, which unfortunately was made more difficult by COVID-19. Paul also learned that growing up, Nancy’s family didn’t place a high priority on savings, and she wanted to provide a better example for her kids. While Nancy was still employed during the pandemic and able to work from home, her side business that provided supplemental income was affected, and with school closures and three kids, she had additional childcare responsibilities. She sought guidance and advice because “she wanted her next moves to be her best moves.”
As a next step, Paul helped her identify and select goals. At the beginning of their sessions, Nancy didn’t have any cash reserves or savings, so that was a top priority. Paul helped Nancy rethink how to budget, and worked with her to develop an appropriate savings goal according to her lifestyle and expenses. They also explored the benefits of planning for her family’s long-term financial future, both in regard to retirement savings and her children’s future education.
In the second month of working together, Nancy reached her monthly savings goal, which she then put into a high yield savings account. According to Paul, “meeting this goal was not only exciting for Nancy but also gave her a sense of stability and empowerment… It was a transformative experience for her knowing that she had a plan in place… rather than having to just focus on every nickel that was spent,” said Paul. “Savings gives her additional flexibility that she never had before”. She has since continued to save and at their most recent meeting, Nancy was thrilled to share that she now has more money in savings than she’s had in her entire life.
Paul and Nancy continue to meet once a month, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, their sessions are virtual. They have been using Zoom video calls, which allows Paul to witness the excitement and the smiles when Nancy reaches and exceeds her goals, and Paul finds it to be a great experience. Seeing firsthand the impact of the pro bono sessions reinforces how he feels about the cause, especially given the current economic climate.
“This is a really good cause,” said Paul. “The ripple effects of having economic insecurity touches so many issues. Helping people increase their economic empowerment, and increase stability improves quality of life and the opportunities they have.”
“I helped her to really focus on what we can control… to understand that she didn’t have to fear an uncertain future, but she could shape it.”
Helped client to…
- Develop and implement a plan of action, resulting in flexibility and stability even as she faced financial challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic (loss of income from a side job, added childcare expenses).
- Set and achieve a savings goal to establish an emergency fund, which she placed in a high-interest savings account.
- Start planning for her family’s long-term financial future, including retirement savings and higher education planning.