From the October 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Financial planning for clients in crisis

Financial planning isn't the first thing people think about after a terror attack, a natural disaster or in wartime. But after taking care of basic needs for security, shelter, food and medical care, people soon realize they have to make crucial financial decisions at the worst possible time.

Millions of people who need sound financial advice cannot afford it -- and may not know where to go even if they could pay. Those are the people helped by the Foundation for Financial Planning and the thousands of planners it supports in pro-bono activities.

The foundation's goal is to help people take control of their financial lives by connecting the financial planning community with people in need, and supporting pro-bono advice and outreach activities that allow planners to reach people they otherwise would not see in their individual practices.

Since 1998, the foundation has granted more than $2 million to support programs that have helped tens of thousands of people across the nation. It is currently trying to build its permanent endowment from the current $12 million to $20 million, so it can meet its goal of $1.2 million each year in grants from endowment income.

The foundation's mission came into sharp focus after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when it helped hundreds of financial planners who stepped forward to assist victims and their families. Six years later, the foundation is still providing grant money to support long-term planning assistance for the 10,000 police officers, firefighters and other rescue workers affected by the dust cloud -- some of them unable to work since the attacks.

Clifford Benfield, CFP, a senior vice president at Wachovia Securities and one of the planners working pro-bono with 9/11 victims and their families, described the feeling of helping a man who watched as a plane flew into his wife's floor in the World Trade Center.

"For him to suddenly have to make financial decisions and deal with issues beyond his grief was almost more than you could ask anybody to do," Benfield says. "To be able to help him, and to be able to see the relief in his eyes when you advised him on what he should do - the step-by-step process he should follow - that was a very rewarding experience for me and I think it really helped him."

The foundation also backed the more than 900 planners who rushed to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, including the establishment and funding of a financial advice storefront in Baton Rouge. It also helped Gulf Coast planners rebuild their businesses that were destroyed by the storm.

The foundation is currently supporting planners working with military families and wounded warriors returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. While the planners donate their time, the foundation provides money for materials and other support, including guides to the sometimes complex world of military pay and benefits.

Most of the foundation's work is in important programs that don't often make headlines, such as financial literacy classes, community outreach in disadvantaged areas and advice for victims of domestic violence. There are currently $2.5 million in requests pending for programs all around the country.

Most financial planners entered the business at least in part because they believe success lies in helping other people succeed. The Foundation for Financial Planning tries to be a catalyst for change in communities by encouraging planners to make a difference through donations or volunteering.

More information about the Foundation for Financial Planning, including how to donate time or money, or to apply for a grant, is available at

* This article was co-authored by James Peniston

(See complete coverage of 9/11: Ten Years After on AdvisorOne.)

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