Savvy Ladies' Story
When Stacy Francis first sat down in her living room 20 years ago with 12 women to discuss personal finance issues, ranging from opening a bank account and getting out of debt to opening a 401K and how to invest, she had no idea what was coming next. “Starting out, all I knew was that I saw a huge gap in the financial advice industry when it came to women and personal finance, not just as a financial services professional but also on a personal level. Growing up, I watched a dear family member suffer in an abusive relationship that she never left simply because she was financially trapped.” Using her own IRA, Stacy embarked on a mission to fill that gap and created a nonprofit called Savvy Ladies.
Today, Savvy Ladies delivers financial education and empowerment to over 6,000 women a year through a variety of channels, including online resources, financial education courses, webinars, blogs, and most prominently, the Savvy Ladies Helpline. Through the Helpline, each month nearly 300 women across the United States engage in one-on-one phone calls with pro bono financial advisors to address their specific financial questions and needs. Stacy shares, “The women are primarily between the ages of 18 and 60, with the highest growing segment being 18 – 28 year olds. Over half are women of color. 70% of the women qualify as low- to- moderate income; in fact, the average income is just under $50,000, which in more urban places, like New York City, will not go far at all. 70% are also single, with the vast majority being single moms.” Making an impact with this diverse demographic has proven to be a huge draw for CFP® professional volunteers.
One CFP® professional volunteer, Jonathan Bird, felt compelled to get involved with Savvy Ladies in 2022 after learning about the organization’s origins. “Hearing Stacy’s story really struck a chord with me. Getting involved with Savvy Ladies and their mission to empower women and enable them to make great financial decisions, was really a no-brainer.” Working with several Savvy Ladies’ pro bono clients over the last year, Jonathan has found that while some women want to address issues like retirement and investing, most are seeking guidance on a few basic issues: debt management (especially among single moms who need advice on how to balance providing for their kids and paying down their debt) and how to create and stick to a budget.
Overall, he has found that the most rewarding experience that he has had is when the women ask him about how to start and build their savings. “I use a free compound interest calculator to input their information. Before I hit calculate, I always ask them what they think their future savings will grow to, and every time, their estimate is one-tenth of what the actual answer is. It’s such a powerful moment for me and the client; it shows them what’s really possible if they consistently follow their budget and save, and the sum is always bigger than they ever imagined.”
Another volunteer, Cherie Stueve, CFP®, was thrilled to find an organization focused on helping women on the Foundation for Financial Planning’s (FFP) ProBonoPlannerMatch.org, a platform that FFP provides for free to nonprofits like Savvy Ladies to help them recruit CFP® professional volunteers. “Savvy Ladies is a great, strong organization with a clear mission, and they use such an empathetic approach to bring qualified financial advice to women who are the main money managers in their households. In my daily work as a Financial Wellness Advisor, I’ve found that women are the ones that tend to self-deprecate first and feel a lack of confidence, but at the same time they are the demographic that come to the sessions the most willing to say, “I’m ready, I want to learn more, I’m open to it.”
Women who have used the Savvy Ladies Helpline are grateful for not only the advice they received from the CFP® professional volunteers, but also the empathy they were met with and the sense of empowerment that they drew from their pro bono sessions.
One woman says, “I went into my meeting with the pro bono financial planner feeling overwhelmed, lost and confused about my situation and choices. My pro bono planner was friendly, approachable, patient, and an expert in her field. She explained things clearly and never made me feel less-than. I got kind, empathetic, and data driven advice, and got help formulating a plan on how to move forward. Now, I feel confident and empowered about my financial situation, and I’m so grateful for my CFP® professional volunteer. I’m already utilizing what she taught me and will use it for the rest of my life.”
Another woman shares, “I am so very grateful to have access to an organization like Savvy Ladies. After one session, I was able to release so much of the stress and anxiety I had been feeling about my current circumstances. My financial planner listened to my concerns, answered my questions, and provided actionable steps for me to take to turn things around. I left the session feeling very confident and empowered!”
Going forward, Stacy hopes to reach even more women and get more CFP® professionals involved as volunteers. “The helpline is a fantastic opportunity for financial advisors to be able to make a difference one-on-one with women in need. What we’re doing is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more we need to be doing.”
Jonathan and Cherie also hope that other CFP® professionals will get involved. Jonathan advises, “Just try it out. You’ll find that you get as much out of it as the people using the service do. As a pro bono advisor, the number one thing that you can do to have a successful pro bono engagement is to really listen, so you can understand where your client is coming from and where their existing financial acumen is. Also, stay focused on the specific reason they’ve come to you – we financial planners can always think of ten more things to tackle, but often these clients come to us and don’t have the capacity to do a whole bunch of things. It’s about fixing what they need right now.” Cherie echoes Jonathan’s sentiments, sharing, “People need to be heard. And I think that’s the first thing we bring to any conversation, especially with women. Someone needs to hear the story. These are people who give everything they’ve got to their job, to caring for parents, to caring for a child, to caring for their home. We get to help them take care of themselves in that moment and help them prioritize something that is important not just for them, but for other people around them.”
“I got kind, empathetic, and data driven advice, and got help formulating a plan on how to move forward. Now, I feel confident and empowered about my financial situation.”
–Savvy Ladies pro bono client
- Women receive one-on-one personalized financial advice and guidance on issues specific to their situation, including retirement, investing, debt management, and budgeting. For many, the knowledge received can have a lifelong impact.
- CFP® professional volunteers provide financial advice and guidance to a demographic underserved by the financial services industry.