October 9, 2010

At FPA Denver, ‘Financial Planning Day’ Draws Hundreds Looking for Help

Pro-bono planning a 'positive' start to three-day event

Over 100 Certified Financial Planners descended on the Colorado Convention Center in Denver on Saturday to assist the general public with their financial planning needs. The event, sponsored by the Financial Planning Association, the Foundation for Financial Planning, Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards and the U.S. Conference of Mayors drew over 500 people looking to take advantage of the free financial planning advice.

Advisors consisted of specialists in the areas of tax, divorce, retirement, college funding, mortgages and credit counseling, among others.

“We’ve been able to match members of the public with advisors that can speak to their specific needs,” says Karl Frank, president of A&I Financial Services and director of the Denver chapter of FPA. “All of the financial planning industry will benefit from what these professionals are doing here today.”

Like doctors, lawyers, accountants and others, Frank says it increases the professionalism with which financial advisors are viewed. Actually, he adds, one could argue advisors are more important, because by doing their job, they’ll determine the level of care that clients are able to afford from the other three.

Financial Planning Day was promoted and covered by the local television and radio media, as well as smaller community newspapers and local magazines. The Denver Post featured a full page article just prior to the event. Colorado State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, representatives of the Denver mayor's office and other dignitaries were also in attendance.

“I’m happy to see people are coming in and beginning the process by filling out our budgeting worksheet,” Frank says. “Actually, we had so many people do so that we initially ran out.”

Preparing for the Worst

After filling out the budget sheets, attendees were directed to volunteers who helped them select an advisor.

“I’ve meet with two individuals so far, both of them women,” says Beverly Walters, an advisor with Denver-based Brown and Tedstrom. “The first was a government employee and was reluctant to give specific numbers, but I inferred she was in a good spot and looking to improve on her situation. She asked about long-term care insurance and when she should begin taking Social Security.”

Although the woman “was in a good spot” as far as investable assets and planning for retirement, Walters noted she was not currently working with a financial advisor.

“The second individual was also a government employee, aged 55, who is planning on working for another 10 years,” Walters says. “She has about $150,000 saved. When I asked her about her retirement plan, she laughed and said it was suicide.”

Walters ensured the woman she was not as bad off as she might think, and gave her a number of resources to help.

Advisors were required to take an online “boot camp” as well as attend a morning meeting before the start of the event, meant to prepare them for some of the situations they might encounter.

“The prepared us for the worst,” Walter said. “But so far it’s been individuals with the standard problems; not having saved enough, college expenses, retirement worries, etc.”

One such individual, Tony Porter, is 50 years old, recently divorced and a salesman with and electrical supply wholesaler. The divorce was particularly difficult, forcing him into bankruptcy. He heard about the event that morning on the local news.

“I’m here to get back on track after the divorce,” he explains. “I met with a financial advisor and he then sent me over to the credit counselors, who were a big help. I also attended some of the workshop sessions they have set up. All in all, I’ve spent about 2 ½ hours here and I’ve got some next steps to take.”

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