For over 10 years, Rick Fingerman, CFP®, has managed the pro bono financial planning program at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, providing financial coaching to patients who need help navigating the financial complexities and stress that a cancer diagnosis brings. “This is where I get most of my satisfaction,” Rick said. “I know that the families that I help appreciate the hours that I spend helping them.”
Since the program started in 2008, members of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts have helped over 500 patients and families in need, serving on average 50-70 patients a year. The families face a variety of concerns, with the most common questions relating to prioritizing and paying off debt, accessing Social Security disability, and budgeting. Because income often declines with a cancer diagnosis, many families are forced to examine expenses, which increase not only from the cancer treatment, but also from incidentals such as parking/travel to the hospital, take-out meals, and daycare. For some families that Rick has worked with, expenses got so bad that selling their homes was the only option to stay afloat. “There is a whole domino effect that can wreak havoc on a family’s finances.”
Rick lost his father at the age of 19. Before passing, he asked Rick to “take care of his mother.” This sense of responsibility and compassion for others inspires one of Rick’s professional areas of focus, serving women through financial planning, specifically those who are going through a transition like the death of a spouse or a divorce. “It was the way I was raised- you help people out who need help. That is why I got into this business as a financial planner. It is meaningful to me to help people make changes in their lives.”
Rick describes a natural alignment between his day job and helping those at Dana Farber. “These people have real problems. As financial planners, we are in the problem-fixing business,” he said. Rick describes the stress that famililies go through, and how that affects their ability to get things done from a financial perspective. Working with patients at Dana Farber, “I see what people are going through, and it really puts things in perspective… this program has made me more grateful for things in my own life.”
For financial planners interested in doing this type of pro bono work, Rick recommends patience. “Many patients are going through a lot. They may sign up for program and then have a doctor’s appointment the next day which requires them to change their course of treatment, and then may not be available for a while.”
Rick also cautions financial planners about getting too emotionally attached to patients and their families. “We are all compassionate people,” he said. “I always feel like I could be doing more- but sometimes there is not really a perfect answer.” Just listening to patients, acting as a sounding board when times are tough, can make a big difference.
The Foundation for Financial Planning thanks Rick for his counsel and assistance as we developed our Pro Bono for Cancer Campaign and for his ongoing support and insights.
“It was the way I was raised- you help people out who need help. That is why I got into this business as a financial planner. It is meaningful to me to help people make changes in their lives.”
- Managed the pro bono financial planning program at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA for over 10 years
- Helped cancer patients and their families navigate issues ranging from prioritizing and paying off debt to accessing Social Security disability to budgeting, and more
- Acted as a neutral sounding board for patients and their families, listening to them, and providing peace of mind