Attendees at the same professional conference have different take aways depending on their lifestyle, job responsibilities, subject matter knowledge/skill set, and other personal characteristics. We all filter new information through these lenses. When information comes at a “teachable moment,” interest in, and attention to, a presentation dramatically increases.

Below are my ten key take-aways from the 2022 AFCPE Symposium:

AFC Certification Milestone

The AFCPE accredited financial counselor (AFC®) certification began in 1992 and celebrated its 30th anniversary. There are 3,000 AFCs and 1,600 candidates and the AFC® (along with the CFP®) is one of only 10 accredited professional designations in a personal finance space with about 200 certification acronyms. A job analysis is every five years to make sure the AFC® is in synch with the work of real life financial practitioners.

Financial Atomic Habits

Self-improvement is like compound interest…it grows over time.

Never underestimate the power of small, daily improvements and try to get 1% better every day. Goals provide direction and must be achieved to success. Habits, on the other hand, are a skill-base and focus on processes; i.e., systems that move people forward. The four stages of a habit are cue, craving, response, and reward. Habit stacking ties a new habit to an existing one.

Women and Money

The documentary film, Savvy, by director Robin Hauser and her follow-up discussion provided a powerful look at the state of women’s finances. There is disturbing evidence that young women are abdicating financial decisions to others and, when investing, are not necessarily understanding it. Also, women recover more slowly from divorce than men do. Hauser stated that all women need to keep on top of their finances and have a way to earn money.

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Financial Podcasts

A team of Cooperative Extension educators shared their podcasting experiences. Not surprisingly, their listenership metrics improved following podcast promotional efforts. They also recommended using fun and flashy titles to attract listeners. An example given was “I’ve Got the Power” for a podcast about the use of powers of attorney in estate planning. Resources and additional information beyond broadcast content can be shared in podcast show notes.

Social Media Practices

A participant in a networking chat recommended concentrating on three social media platforms and using them well. This includes frequently posting content that is valuable to others. Video presentations can be especially effective in financial education. People want to physically see things being done rather than having an explanation (e.g., budgeting by allocating money to different expense categories). It makes them think “I can do this too.”

Bias and Stereotypes

If you have a brain, you have biases. Nobody escapes them and there can be a fine line between stereotyping and dehumanizing others. It is much easier to reduce stereotypes when you have personal connections with a diverse group of people. Also, if you have a proactive strategy to mitigate biases, you can use your conscious mind to overcome your unconscious mind so you slow down and think about a situation.

National Financial Capability Study

Results of the 2021 NFCS were compared with earlier waves of this triennial study. There was a decrease in financial knowledge, compared to the first (2009) wave, and higher financial knowledge was associated with increased financial capability.

Like earlier NFCS waves, there were disparities among subgroups.

There was also evidence that younger investors were more likely to invest in complex investment products (e.g., options, margin trades, and cryptocurrency) than older investors, but there is a disconnect between their actions and knowledge.

Success Traits

Keynote speaker Ryan Law stated that change is hard because people need to create new pathways in their brain, The place to start is to write down a change you want to make; i.e., begin with the end in mind.

Five steps to be successful are:

  1. Get specific (define what success will look like),
  2. Identify a strong “why” for making a change,
  3. Take tiny steps (so you think “I can do this”),
  4. Use implementation intentions, and
  5. Use support and tracking data.

A good analogy for change is hammering away at a rock. As a result of many incisions over time, it will eventually break.

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Useful Tidbits

Three other content nuggets stood out:

  1. Some students take out loans for more than they need to provide money to give back to their family
  2. For every negative interaction with someone, it takes five positive interactions to counteract it
  3. Change and opportunity both happen in life; it is what people do with both of these challenges that counts

This advice for practitioners also stood out: “meet people (clients) where they are, but don’t leave them there.”

My Most Teachable Moment

The most impactful session for me was “Are Your Clients Leaving Cash on the Table?” about maximizing VA benefit compensation. At the same exact time of the workshop, my husband (who has left a lot on the table) was accessing VA benefits for the first time in the 50 years since his military discharge. After decades of using my work-based benefits, he contacted the VA to get hearing aids. It was very interesting to learn about Veteran Service Officers or VSOs that help VA benefit claimants, disability ratings, and that “many scars from service are not visible.”

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