When Yusuf Abugideiri, a senior financial planner for RIA Yeske Buie of Vienna, Virginia, got a call from boss Dave Yeske about helping a young family whose main breadwinner had been diagnosed with cancer, he jumped at the chance.
“It’s incredibly important work and a way to give back to people who really need help,” he said. “When they presented it to me, I couldn’t say anything but ‘yes.’”
Abugideiri got together with Mike and Leslie Longo in October during the annual Financial Planning Association meeting in Chicago, although he had been helping them get their financial matters in order for some time.
This pro bono work is part of larger outreach program organized by the Foundation for Financial Planning in partnership with the FPA. Families dealing with cancer are just one group supported by the FFP and its partners, who also work to help military families in need and those in underserved communities who require financial-planning aid but can’t afford it.
“The FPA has a long history through chapters and members providing pro bono services to the public,” said FPA Executive Director Lauren Schadle. “Our pro bono work really coalesced after 9/11 … especially with the New York chapter, which got very active and heavily involved in helping survivors and survivor families with pro bono services.”
By encouraging members to do pro bono work, “it really speaks to our primary aim of raising the profession,” Schadle explained.
In 2017, the FPA had 1,500 pro bono volunteers. “That was for 17,000 people who received services through workshops and one-on-one sessions,” explained Kurt Kaczor, FPA pro bono director. “That equates to 14,000 volunteer hours per year.” Of the 86 FPA chapters nationwide, 75 do pro bono work, he adds.
Before jumping into this cause, advisors must take a training course about working with at-risk populations. The FFP, FPA and Kaplan Professional designed this free program, which is underwritten by the Capital Group.
FFP CEO Jon Dauphiné, who announced the course’s launch in September, said many advisors remain “concerned that they aren’t equipped to help pro bono clients — that the skills they use in regular practice advising more affluent clients won’t be relevant to helping underserved people.”
Pro bono work is in high demand, especially by those with cancer and struggling with special financial needs, according to the FFP. For example, research has found that 37% of such individuals cut back on groceries, 36% deplete their savings and 24% borrow against their retirement.
Though 86% of cancer survivors with serious financial burdens had health insurance, cancer patients are 2.65 times more likely to go bankrupt than people without cancer. Plus, those in bankruptcy are 80% more likely to die sooner than cancer patients not in bankruptcy.
As soon as Abugideiri was matched with the Longos, he began the intake process — gathering financial statements, bank records, employee benefits, etc., “just to ensure we had as comprehensive perspective on their financial situation as possible.”
He spoke with the Longos by phone, “first getting to know them as people” and then learning more about their specific challenges. Over the next few months, he worked with them to find ways to ameliorate their situation.
His work focused on cash flow, the advisor says, and he recommended ways they could take better control of their budget. He also looked at their financial situation from an insurance and tax standpoint, “just to make sure [we saw] any risks they [might] face or any opportunity to improve cash flow or reduce tax liability.”
Abugideiri, who joined Yeske Buie nine years ago, says he continues to work with the Longos and very much wants to support more families with pro bono assistance.
“It’s really an honor to serve in that capacity,” he said. “We have a practical skill set, and it’s one that allows people to take control over one of the most significant parts of their lives, which is their finances. When someone is in crisis, if you can create relief in that space, that’s fulfilling and a reward on its own.”