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Remembering 9/11: How Pro Bono Financial Planning Transforms Lives

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Nineteen years ago today, Americans lived in fear as an unknown enemy attacked our nation. The events of 9/11 were an unfortunate tragedy that reverberated throughout society in the months and years since. Many heroes of that day left behind spouses and children, resulting in devastating grief, confusion, and tough decisions that had to be made in difficult times.

Just as those on the front lines, including firefighters, police officers, and those in the medical profession responded to the call for help, it was our time as financial planners — and as a profession — to answer the call from those coping with the financial fallout from this catastrophic event.

Just as professionals rallied to provide support to those impacted physically and mentally, financial planners heeded the call to provide financial planning support that was also essential to help many families recover.

The Financial Planning Association, FPA chapters, the Foundation for Financial Planning, and community organizations banded together to provide pro bono financial planning advice to help surviving families overcome financial strain and fulfill basic needs. Volunteers from all over the country graciously provided one-on-one, pro bono financial planning guidance to help victims and their families.

As we look back, this was a defining moment for the financial planning profession. It was a moment in time when financial planning became more than just a product or service. Financial planning now served a higher purpose and became a powerful, essential tool in transforming lives and serving society.

Pro Bono Financial Planning Today

Decades later, we’re proud to say those in the financial planning community are continuing to elevate our profession by raising their hands to change the tomorrows of underserved and at-risk populations. They are working in partnership with their local FPA chapters and partner organizations like the Foundation for Financial Planning, Family Reach and Homes for Our Troops to make pro bono financial planning a cornerstone in our profession’s foundation.

Through the FPA Pro Bono Program, low-income individuals and families, military personnel and veterans, domestic violence survivors, people affected by natural disasters, severe medical crises, bankruptcies, and others can tap into financial planners’ expertise to realize their potential and build better lives for themselves. With each passing day, we see more and more members sign up to take the FPA Pro Bono Financial Planning Training to join the effort to help those in underserved communities.

The impact has been profound. In 2019, FPA members and chapters dedicated 18,430 hours of pro bono financial planning that impacted nearly 19,000 individuals’ lives. And this year, many FPA members have volunteered to provide pro bono planning to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and families battling cancer, and severely injured post-9/11 veterans.

While pro bono planning is central to the FPA experience for many members, it is an effort that is powered by FPA chapters and thousands of volunteers across the country. As we seek to move the profession forward, we do so together with a shared commitment to increasing access to financial planning services for underserved communities.

The volunteer leaders who power our chapters managing local pro bono programs are leading the profession. This year, FPA and the Foundation for Financial Planning are delighted to celebrate the FPA of Metro New York’s commitment to delivering pro bono financial planning by presenting them the 2020 Power of Financial Planning Award at the FPA Digital Annual Conference Sept. 30 – Oct. 2.

A hallmark of any recognized and respected profession, pro bono work allows professionals to develop meaningful connections with those in their local communities, and in our case, demonstrate the critical role financial planners play in improving lives, communities, and the world. Their efforts over the years have been critical to spreading hope and optimism throughout underserved communities.

We’ve made great strides, but we need to do more.

In these unpredictable times, thousands of individuals need our help. We must rise to the occasion to serve others and make our mark in the profession. That’s why we call on those in the financial planning community to volunteer. Whether it’s a few hours a week, a month, or year, any time you commit helps elevate the profession and help you better serve your clients.

The benefits and possibilities of helping others discover the value of financial planning are endless for them and you. As FPA member Rebecca L. Eckert recounts, “I love pro bono financial planning! Relieving stress and fear around their finances, during a difficult time, warms my soul and reminds me of why I do what I do.”

In honor of our heroes, help us pave the way to a better tomorrow. Become a pro bono volunteer today to transform lives and elevate your profession.

Martin C. Seay, Ph.D., CFP, is the 2020 president of the Financial Planning Association and is chair of the Personal Financial Planning Program at Kansas State University.

Kristin M. Pugh, CFP, is the 2020 Chair of the FPA Pro Bono Advisory Committee and is a senior wealth advisor at TrueWealth LLC