Alex Armstrong, CFP® is the founder and chairman of Armstrong, Fleming & Moore, Inc. and has been in the financial planning business for over 40 years. Aside from being one of the most successful women in financial planning, she is also a novelist and mentor. She sits on the board of the Foundation for Financial Planning and is the very first (and highly deserving) recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also joined during our interview by Jon Dauphine, CEO of the Foundation for Financial Planning. 

Lifetime achievements in financial planning + giving back

I was so excited to get not only Alex on this week’s episode, but also Jon. Together, they are such a powerhouse for pro bono planning and I was excited to dig in. Jon explains, during our chat, how the foundation came to create the Lifetime Achievement Award, and why Alex was a natural first recipient. He spoke highly of Alex and her contributions to the foundation — not only personally but also with her firm, Armstrong, Fleming & Moore, Inc. 

Jon provided a bit of a backstory, informing us that the FFP is the “nation’s only charity that is solely devoted to powering pro bono financial planning.” Jon continues on to say that the FFP brings “free services to hundreds of thousands of Americans that had been underserved and normally wouldn’t be able to afford good planning and expert advice.” In other big news, Alex and Jon shared that, for the foundation’s 25th anniversary next year, Charles Schwab is sponsoring a $500,000 match campaign. This foundation is doing such important work, so make sure you to tune in to hear more about it!

 

The impact one person can have

It’s clear that Alex is a passionate fundraiser and a champion of pro bono service. She, as well as her partners at her firm, have donated more than $1 million to the foundation — yes, you read that right! — and Jon recognizes her, not only her monetary donations, but also for the time and attention throughout the process.

When asked what first drew her to the foundation, Alex explained how much she wanted to rewrite the script on financial planning and who could access these life-changing services. One of her favorite things about the foundation when she first started out was how they paired pro bono financial planners with people who needed their advice the most. Alex also shared that she is a supporter of their endowment fund, and that she enjoys knowing that the money is there, producing money and then producing grants. It’s long-lasting.

 

Pro bono and a foundation you can get behind

Having Jon on this interview was wonderful, because he broke down what the foundation truly does, including providing grants to nonprofits who have Certified Financial Planner™ professionals  as volunteers. These volunteers help underserved groups, including domestic violence survivors and veterans. But the foundation doesn’t stop there. They also provide free resources for planners to use with pro bono clients and also provide trainings and engagement so planners and their clients can have a strong connection. One of their strongest initiatives is one that supports cancer patients and their families. 

 

The Pro Bono Cancer Initiative

One of my favorite parts in this discussion was about the FFP’s pro bono cancer initiative. This program is a national program that is also virtual. Alex explained that, because it’s a virtual program, those with cancer can tune in on their own time from the comfort of their own homes.  One of the biggest reasons behind creating this cancer initiative was the sheer number of people connected to the cause. Alex has personal experience losing a loved one due to cancer, as does the chair of the foundation. They felt it was important to give back to a cause that has affected so many.

There is an emotional, physical, and financial toll that cancer takes on a person and their loved ones. This is where the foundation can step in with resources, Alex explained.

 

The foundation’s stories of impact

I asked Alex if she could tell us about any of the families who the foundation has had a positive impact on and she quickly told us about Mike Longo, a cancer survivor who was provided pro bono financial planning services. Mike and his wife had two small children and both worked, although their jobs weren’t high-paying positions. The foundation was able to help them in ways the benefitted from and their story is up on the website to this day. One of the financial planners in Virginia was able to help Mike and his wife get better paying jobs and also get a handle on their bills so they could get back ahead.

It’s stories like this that make Alex’s impact (and the foundation’s!) all the more real, and I’m so glad she shared it with us. 

 

How does the foundation ensure that the planners are fully equipped?

One of the questions that came to mind during the story of the Longos was about making sure financial planners are ready to take on certain clients. The foundation has a great partnership with Family Reach, a long-time financially focused charity in the cancer space. FFP helped Family Reachcreate a digital toolkit with financial materials and an online training course that helps cancer patients manage their finances. Jon also mentioned that they have fully funded a group of volunteers so there are others readily available to answer questions.

On the subject of volunteers, both Alex and Jon agreed: all volunteers are welcome. However, training is critical for Certified Financial Planner™ professionals looking to offer pro bono services, especially in at-risk populations or for those with health conditions. This is a sensitive and personal process, which is why the foundation will give those who want to help an opportunity to volunteer the training they need.Those who are interested in becoming a volunteer pro bono planner can go to the foundation’s website to sign up to volunteer.

 

Closing thoughts and career/life advice from Alex

One thing Alex left us with that really resonated with me: she hadn’t envisioned this when she started out. Her position was to help raise money by doing outreach, something she hadn’t quite done before. After putting in the work,she was then asked to sit on the board and, ultimately, to become chair of the board.

She has now served over 20 years on the board, and she’s made such a massive impact.

Her advice to NexGen planners looking to give back in big ways? Don’t spread yourself too thin and donate to charities you truly believe in. She encourages others to give where they can, to start off by giving a small amount and, over the years raise that amount if you’re able. Nobody starts off donating $1 million!

 

 

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • Who Alex Armstrong And Jon Dauphine are
  • FFP’s Lifetime Achievement Award 
  • The Foundation for Financial Planning’s mission
  • How the FFP supports underserved populations
  • Why Pro bono work is so valuable to the profession
  • The impact that one pro bono planner can have 
  • The FFP’s Cancer Initiative
  • The importance of training when serving pro bono clients
  • How to volunteer for FFP

 

Show Notes:

In this episode of YAFPNW, I talked to Alex and Jon about:

Alex is a powerhouse in the profession, and you’ll definitely want to keep following her. She’s such an inspiration to me (and I hope to you, too!). You can follow her on Linkedin. Jon is also on LinkedIn!

 

Show Transcript

Episode Transcript


Hannah: Well on today’s episode is such a special episode. I am so excited. I have two guests here with me today. I have Alex Armstrong and Jon Dauphiné, and this is such a special episode because yesterday Alex Armstrong, you were awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Foundation for Financial Planning. And so, I have you here today as well as John, who is the president of the Foundation for Financial Planning. So Jon, can you tell me a little bit more about the Foundation, and then why did you pick Alex as your first recipient of the lifetime achievement award?

Jon: Sure, Hannah. So the Foundation for Financial Planning is the nations only charity that is solely devoted to powering pro bono financial planning, bringing free services to hundreds of thousands of Americans that had been underserved and normally wouldn’t be able to afford good planning and expert advice. So, it’s a great mission, and actually next year it’s our 25th anniversary. So we’re very excited about that. And over the course of the history of the Foundation, we have never given a lifetime achievement award until now.

Jon: And we selected Alex Armstrong, because she’s our not so secret weapon. If you want to know the truth. She is a prodigious fundraiser, but she’s more than that. She has been a champion of pro bono service in the profession for 25 years and has been involved with the Foundation from the very beginning. And just the leadership, the tenacity she has demonstrated is extraordinary. Alex is so committed that she and the partners of her firm Armstrong, Fleming, and Moore have given the Foundation more than a million dollars, which is truly extraordinary. They are our most generous supporters and again, not just with dollar resources but with their time, their strategic thinking. Alex is a true thought partner on our board, and is a terrific source of guidance for the team as well.

Hannah: So Alex, my goodness, when your name comes up, I mean you have had such a career even named an icon in financial planning. I mean as a woman you were a pioneer before the pioneers, if you would. And so you have such a long and history career within financial planning, but this has been such a passion of yours. What has it been about the Foundation that’s really drawn you to its mission and its vision?

Alex: Well, it’s always bothered me that financial planning, usually it’s associated with wealthier people and the people that we work with are, for the most part, wealthy. And we know there are a lot of people who need financial advice but can’t afford to pay for it, may not even know they need financial advice, but get into deep debt. And what really appealed to me about the foundation was they were putting pro bono financial planners together with people who needed advice, and we were reaching people that we, our wasn’t reaching on a one to one basis. And so, I thought if we… And the other thing that appealed to me about it is that it’s an endowment fund. So, you give the money and it produces income, and that produces the grants. Now we give some money besides the endowment fund, but what I liked is it was going, it’s really a lasting legacy.

Alex: It’s going to be here after we’re here, rather than giving money to a charity, they spend it and it’s gone, and they might be gone tomorrow. But with an endowment, you’ve got a feeling that there is some certitude about the future.

Hannah: And one of the things that I’m hearing in you saying that I’m also here so often with a lot of the new planners, is this desire to help serve the underserved. And so you’ve really found your Avenue through the foundation to do in that.

Alex: Yes, but you know, somebody asked me last night, well how much volunteering does your group do? And actually we do more things with the food bank or other charities where it’s a day or whatever rather than our volunteering. But, by raising the money, there are two ways you can help the Foundation. One is raising the money so it’s here tomorrow, and continues to help people, but also by motivating young people to give this advice. And quite frankly, for the most part, it’s not sophisticated advice. It’s basic advice. So almost everybody, even if you’re a novice planner, can feel secure that they’re giving advice, that’s good and if it gets beyond them, they can ask somebody else how to solve the problem.

Jon: You know, Hannah, you’re really onto something when you talk about younger planners caring a great deal about pro bono and giving back. We worked with the CFP board to add some questions for the first time to the biannual certificate survey on pro bono, and the findings were really extraordinary. Seven in 10 CFP professionals overall said that they think pro bono is an important part of the profession, and it is especially resonant with younger planners, and female planners. So it really is true that younger planners are looking for employers that have policies that support this type of thing, and themselves want to engage as volunteers and supporters. And we’ve gotten a lot of interest when we go to conferences where there are a lot of younger planners, we get so many folks signing up to volunteer as an example. It’s really been a terrific,

Alex: let me comment on the million dollars our firm gave. We’re not a large firm, we’re only 20 people. There are five partners in the firm, but I personally don’t have any children. And so in a way the foundation gets the money that might’ve gone towards education of children or whatever and the, so a way of my giving back, but the whole firm feels that way. And so, they continue to write checks for the amount, and it’s sort of incremental. You start, and you give a certain amount and then sort of the new thing, well I guess I can give more next time. So it sort of like snowball.

Hannah: One of the things that I, again, in talking to new planners and talking about firms that can attract the best talent, it’s kind of what you’re talking about is this culture of what’s in your firm’s culture? Is your firm about giving back? Like, is that something that’s ingrained, or is it all about the bottom line? And so, I hear you say that and I’m like, Oh my gosh, I know some young planners that would probably like to work at your firm.

Alex: Right. Well, Bill Carter was saying that just yesterday, he was saying that it was very competitive. There’s a new program, Oh, Texas A and M at that he got up and running because he’s an active alumni and he said, Oh, it’s very competitive to hire the people. But he said it was because of our corporate culture of giving back that these two, who he introduced me to are working for them.

Jon: I’m a lawyer by training, and when I was graduated from law school, I looked for a law firm that had policies in place that really supported pro bono service, including having a partner oversee it and having the ability to apply some of your pro bono hours to your billable requirements. Very important for a young lawyer. And, I think the same thing is happening in financial planning. It’s a much younger profession, but you’re starting to see big companies. You’re starting to see independent firms implement policies, join up with financial planning days, and the staff, we actually have a firm we’re doing a pilot with. They are providing about 15 CFP professionals to man a hotline for underserved people who will be able to call and get one on one guidance during a national webinar that we’re doing with AARP. So, it’s very exciting and I think we’ll see more of it over time.

Hannah: The Foundation does so much good work. And I know you’ve alluded to there’s really two ways to support, obviously the giving money and Alex is a very good fundraiser. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but it’s also about donating and getting involved and helping provide that service and donating your time. Jon, can you talk more about what does the Foundation do? How do you actually do this? And then how do planners fit into this?

Jon: Yeah, sure. So we do several things to power pro bono across the country. One is, as Alex mentioned, providing grants to great nonprofits that are building and running programs that involve CFP professionals as volunteers to help underserved groups, domestic violence survivors, veterans, people with serious illness and many others. We also provide free resources to planners so they can use them with pro bono clients, and also training, and engagement. We have a pro bono one oh one online training, folks can get a CE credit if they take that. So that’s another dimension of the work we do. And then, thought leadership and partnering. We worked very closely with our grantee family reach to build our pro bono for cancer initiative from the ground up. And, this is really exciting because it’s a virtual program, it’s a national program. And so we have planners from 42 different States, and we are serving families across the country.

Jon: We’ll have served more than 500 families by the end of this year. And really, it’s such a dark time for them, to be able to rely on a trusted objective advisor is just a gift in this time is what we’re hearing from the patients. And we’re really, really proud of how this is scaling. And again, because it’s virtual, it doesn’t have to be geographically all in one place. And that gives us a lot more flexibility, and that’s the kind of opportunity we think is the wave of the future. So we’re going to be trying to foster more and more of that, and we’re building a digital platform that we are hoping will be a very smooth way for advisors to find volunteer opportunities, either in their community or virtually. So that’s another way we’re working to really bring volunteerism more and more to the fore and make it easier.

Alex: The virtual thing is really important because, particularly with the patients with cancer, they are devastated. And to have to go to an office from nine to five that doesn’t fit into any of their schedules. So this way they can do it on the weekend, they can do it in the evening, they can do it when it’s convenient for them as well as planners. So that’s why it really works.

Jon: Yeah, that’s a great point.

Hannah: So Alex, tell me, I know you’ve been on the board and helping make a lot of these decisions about what to focus on, why cancer, why families who were struggling with cancer?

Alex: Well, we were giving a lot of small grants and they were good grants. We were more reactive than proactive. And the board decided about three years ago that we needed to focus more and then we said, well a disease would be something. And then we decided cancer, because there’s so many different kinds of cancer that you’re… And everybody has some experience with cancer. And then we were, and then John was able to find a group that was already working on this, and saw the need for the financial advice.

Alex: And so we had a partner that we could work with, and then there was an East West… So it fell. And so when you focus, not that we’re ignoring the other stuff, but when you focus it’s easier to fundraise when you have a specific that people can relate to, like cancer. When you’re more, we’re all over the map, it doesn’t appeal as much. But when we could find a project then, and everybody’s had an experience with cancer in their family or friends. And for instance, my siblings died of cancer, the chair of the Foundation’s sister died of cancer. I mean, it is close to home. Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll only do cancer. We do other projects, and we may in future years move more to the military support again, which we did in the past a lot of, because it’s a crying need too. But if you focus then people identify more with it.

Jon: Yeah. And to add to what Alex said, so it’s very relatable. We’ve seen the stresses, right, of folks with cancer financial stresses. But there’s also a really compelling body of research about what’s called the financial toxicity of cancer. And, about one third of folks with a serious cancer diagnosis actually deplete all of their savings. And about a quarter will have to raid their retirement funds. So, the financial fallout can be really ruinous. And, with good financial planning, getting in front of the crisis, and trying to bring resources to people early in the diagnosis, can really have an impact.

Jon: So I think the board, Alex, the board looked at the data, and also because it is so relatable and widespread of a problem, it just, it seemed like a very, very important focus area for us. And what’s so alarming about the financial toxicity of cancer is it also drives worse health outcomes for patients. Patients who are under enormous financial stress are more at risk, health wise, and in fact people with cancer are 2.65 times more likely to have to declare bankruptcy, and people in bankruptcy are 80 percent more likely to die, people with cancer, than people with cancer who are not in bankruptcy. So there’s been really compelling research around this area.

Hannah: Wow, that’s a very sobering statistic.

Jon: It is.

Hannah: Has pro bono always been an important part of your career? How has it helped shape your career?

Alex: I think pro bono… I was raised a Catholic. I went to Catholic girls’ schools all my life through college. And it was inbred into you that it was important to give back. It happened that the first job I had, I worked for a stockbroker brokerage firm, a regional firm, before I got into financial planning. And the woman I worked with was also Catholic it turned out, and she was a big believer in giving back to the community that gives to you.

Alex: So she said it’s not enough to be successful, you have to give back to the community in whatever way. And so she set a good example. So, I also was on the board of Reading is Fundamental, that motivates young children to read, the national board. And so it’s just been sort of part of my operation. I feel very strongly, I’d rather give to something that involves people and helps them, than the arts. I think the arts are very important, and all the rest, but to give to the symphony or the theater doesn’t appeal to me personally. If I can make a difference in one person’s life with the work we’re doing, that’s what I want to do. And that’s just a personal preference.

Hannah: Right, right. Like, we choose, our clients, right? Like, people have different preferences around those things.

Jon: What’s so great about Alex, also, is that she really does view it as a professional responsibility and a really important part of a true profession. And I think that to see a relatively young profession, like financial planning, really embracing this and having it be part of the DNA of the field is really remarkable.

Alex: But see, I think it really dovetails with our profession, rather than, as I said, I started my career in a stock brokerage firm and then it was quite cut and dry was stocks and bonds. You didn’t get involved in anything else. And oh, why is financial planning appealed to me, was you were looking at the total picture and I always said to people, you do a better job for your clients if see if you see the total picture. And to me it just made common sense to do financial planning rather than just investment planning. So, I think it all fits into that, that people who get into financial planning, I think for the most part really want to help people. And so, it takes more time. It takes more effort. But when you can change people’s lives, I mean wealthy people need help too. I mean, they make mistakes also and, if you can help them, then, they may have some extra money to give back to charity. So in a way, it’s sort of a circle

Hannah: I’ve been having quite a few conversations with newer, younger planners about this idea of being a profession, financial planning. One of the tenants of being a profession is that it affects every person’s life, right? Like a doctor health affects every person’s life, a lawyer effects every person’s life. And so this idea of financial planning impacts every person’s life. If we’re going to say financial planning is a profession, then how do we make it available to everybody? And there’s lots of conversations about how… We’ve kind of figured out how to serve the wealthy. You know, if you have over $1 million, kind of got that figured out, but how do you go to the people who don’t have that wealth? And then to the people who are in these really hard situations, and really in these professions there is always a pro bono arm, and it’s always a prevalent element of it. And kind of what you were saying, Jon, to your point of, when you’re looking for jobs as a lawyer, like it’s almost expected that yes, you serve the high net worth, but because you do that, therefore you volunteer in pro bono.

Alex: Yes, that’s very true. And I think that’s something, as I said, [Don Pity 00:17:44], who was one of the founders of the financial planning group, and visualize that early on. And he said if we’re really going to be a profession, we have to have a pro bono component. But then the fact is, is appeals to a lot of people, so it’s sort of, as I said, a circle.

Hannah: You like to help people in financial planning.

Alex: Yeah.

Jon: Yeah.

Alex: That’s very satisfying. I mean I’ve been doing it for 40 years, and the fact is I’ve seen it work out. I’ve seen the person that didn’t have too much starting out, but by doing, by saving, and investing, and not panicking out at the market with our help, they got to retire in comfort and help their children and their grandchildren, and how money really is a tool to achieve their goals.

Alex: So it’s very satisfying. That’s how I’m always surprised they’re not more women in the business because you help people, you use your brain and you make some money. So, and it can be very flexible on hours. Yeah, and it can be very flexible to stay hours. Say if you’ve got the right management.

Hannah: You know, with all the work that you do at the Foundation, are there any stories that you can share about families who’ve been impacted, and how positively impacted they have been through the work of the foundation?

Alex: Huh? Yes. What comes to mind? I actually made a couple of videos on there on our website, but the one, one thing that we do, which is really great, we have three board meetings a year and Jon was arranges to have somebody come in who was working on one of the projects. So at one of ours the Longos came in.

Alex: Now, what was striking was Mike was 29, and they had two small children, and they were both working but not in high paying jobs, and this just threw him for a loop. And, so, they were one of our first couples we worked with and we had Yusef, who was with Yeskie Buie’s firm, in Virginia, working with them and he really helped them in different ways.

Alex: One way was he actually got them into better jobs. He got into well what are you skilled at, whatever, et cetera that got it, handle on the bills. And, they were so grateful, and so enthusiastic, that actually they were on stage at the FBA last year telling their stories, saying we’re willing to tell it to anybody who wants to hear it. And they said it really made a difference. One thing about the volunteer work is you don’t have to do it for the rest of your life. They, he, she, he worked with him for about a year and then he, it wasn’t like he didn’t abandon them and they couldn’t come back to him. But then he went on to his next family. So what it’ll happen is you have a serial thing, so it’s not a lifelong commitment, as far as that goes.

Jon: Yeah. For pro bono, there’s no implementation, and there was no duty to monitor or update a plan over time, typically. So, it’s designed so that it’s a reasonable time commitment for the volunteer, but it still has enormous impact.

Alex: Because what was happening was, the social worker would say, remortgage your home. Well, that’s not the best solution for most people. Social worker didn’t know, but they didn’t have anybody else. I mean the doctor certainly didn’t know, the nurse didn’t know. And so, this is where we could go. It’s just common sense for us. But for the person who’s going through the shock of cancer, they’re not thinking clearly, and they don’t have the knowledge tool.

Jon: Yeah. Yeah. And even I remember in the case of the Longos, one of the things Yusef did is look at the tax issues, and realized that they could have more take home pay every week because they were withholding too much. And so, that helped with cashflow and they had a lot of unforeseen expenses, given Mike’s treatment. And so just things like that, which seemed sort of matter of course for a planner really can have a very immediate impact.

Hannah: You know, I mean hearing you guys share this story, one of my immediate thoughts and one of my immediate reasons I’d be like, Oh I’m so scared I’m not qualified for helping somebody like this. You know, are there social programs or, how do you help make sure that the planers are really equipped? Because I don’t know the social programs that are available. I don’t know if there’s-

Jon: Great question.

Hannah: … It feels like there’s a large space out there that’s not in my repertoire because I, those aren’t the clients that I work with.

Jon: It’s a great question, yeah, and I think you do see nervousness, right? Especially when an advisor has not helped someone with chronic illness before. So one of the things we did is we partnered with Family Reach, and they are a long time charity in the cancer space. So they have oncological social workers on their team, and they also are very knowledgeable about the pharma assistance programs, and about health insurance optimization okay. So, you can pick a health insurance plan that’s going to give you better coverage, right, during your open enrollment, those types of issues. So the planners who volunteer don’t need to know that, but the families do get that as part of the bundled service. We also worked with them to do a training, and we recruited volunteer financial planners who were expert in cancer related issues to provide content, and I want to take a moment and really thank the folks that helped us out.

Jon: It was an ad hoc group, and FPA was a partner in bringing them in. We also created a digital toolkit, as part of the training, that has ancillary materials that planners may need. And lastly, we funded a community of volunteers. So it’s very easy for them to ask questions of each other, and support each other, trade tips. And that is really important because it does add to the support, and it gives sort of a in real time way to solicit feedback. So we’re really interested in making sure the volunteers feel supported, especially when they’re faced with issues that they may not have faced before.

Alex: Well the other thing is the online course that you take, which Kaplan developed for us, and donated it to us. And then American Funds Capital Group funded that too. And so they do have that as the basic, and in fact it’s required that you take that before you can help a family.

Jon: Yeah, that’s an excellent point. So there’s actually two trainings, our pro bono one oh one, that was funded by Capital Group, and then a special cancer training as well. And folks can get a CE credit for each. And, so and again, it’s not a huge time commitment, but we tried to put all the need to know information in those trainings. So I definitely encourage listeners to look at them.

Hannah: So what I’m hearing you guys say is that, if somebody wants to volunteer, you guys are really going to make sure that they have the tools in order to provide the advice that needs to be given.

Alex: We don’t want be in a position of having a volunteer give the wrong advice.

Hannah: Right.

Jon: Right.

Alex: So one of the safeguards, we do require that the person may be a CFP at those points, that they have the background as far as that goes.

Jon: Yeah, and in funding really great nonprofits, they also have staff that know public benefits, that know resources in the communities that lower income people might need to use. So, there’s a really good referral network as well. So, just as an example, if a planner thinks that this individual may have to declare personal bankruptcy, there is typically pro bono bankruptcy attorneys that some of our grantees work with. There’s credit counseling. So there is a support network for the planners that they can access through the grantees that we fund.

Hannah: And really any CFP can do this. Any CFP can be involved. Like this is not a huge commitment. Like you don’t have to go through your firm. I mean maybe-

Alex: Some firms.

Jon: We do.

Hannah: … Maybe some firms you do.

Jon: You should check with your compliance department. But generally, that’s not an issue at all. And we just don’t see that people are stopped from volunteering. And one of the terrific benefits FPA offers its members, is an insurance policy that covers errors and omissions for anyone who’s doing pro bono, any FPA members. So that’s a terrific benefit. And, we encourage folks who think their own policies may not cover them to join FPA for that very reason.

Hannah: Oh, that’s, see I didn’t even know about that benefit.

Jon: I keep telling Lauren, shout it from the rooftops.

Hannah: Right. Oh my goodness.

Alex: But I’ve had planners say to me, I’m worried about ENO. And I said, well, as an FBA member, you have-

Hannah: That’s covered. Yeah. So somebody listening to this podcast, CFP is like, you know why I could really help with this? You know, where would they go to get involved?

Jon: Yeah, sure. Folks can go right to foundation for foundation for financial planning dot org, and sign up to volunteer on our website, and then we will reach out when we see opportunities. We are all so recruiting right now for the pro bono for cancer initiative and folks can sign up on our website for that as well. And again, because that’s virtual people from anywhere can volunteer and be matched with families. And again, it’s a very popular program. We’re getting really good feedback about it.

Hannah: And you can do in the evenings you can do what’s convenient with your schedule, I’m assuming.

Jon: Yes, you would set up, the training is online. Both trainings are online, virtual, take at your convenience, and then the planner is onboarded by our partner Family Reach and then starts receiving referrals. And there’s a really great digital platform where everything is managed, the letter of engagement gets signed there. The planner can file some reports on the engagement back to the nonprofit partner. And so we tried to make it as easy as possible.

Alex: And as I understood there are videos on our website, there’s a lot of more information about other people in, for instance, a video we showed at this conference was the planner was in California and a couple was in Boston, which is an extreme example, but it often happens.

Jon: Yeah, I really encourage listeners to watch the videos. Again, we were talking about stories earlier and there is, as Alex mentioned, such a powerful story about Matt and Yee, a young couple. He was struck with stage four colon cancer in his early forties and his wife was able to access the program and they’ve gotten a lot of assistance from Craig Comb, their planner. It’s a really inspiring story and it’s right there on our website. So, encourage folks to check it out.

Hannah: You know, FPA has their vision statement, you know, to elevate the profession that transforms lives to the power of financial planning. And I know, sometimes, in the day to day grind of working in a firm, and maybe you’re not client facing and, but this just seems like a way that you can really see how financial planning can transform lives of families who really need it, and to be a part of that. I mean that’s something really special.

Jon: It is. And often, as we all know, folks with fewer resources have much less margin for error in their financial lives. So it really makes a difference. It really makes a difference. And even people who don’t have a lot can benefit enormously from good advice and planning.

Hannah: So Alex, you’re the first one of this lifetime achievement award. Are you, I mean I’m assuming you’re going to stay involved with this.

Alex: Oh, of course.

Jon: We won’t let her not.

Hannah: I was going to say this seems like a lifetime achievement. This is a lifetime.

Jon: Well, let me say that I started out being on the, I was recruited to get money from planners and as I said, I’d never raised money before, but I tapped my friends and it seemed to make sense. I didn’t know a lot of people. And then I was asked to go on the board, and I went on the board. And then I became chair of the board. And then they kept that our bylaws say if you’re a head of a committee, then aren’t termed out, what are terms two years or three years?

Jon: Two.

Alex: Two Years. So you can do two years. But after that you’ve got to be the head of the committee or you’re out. And so then they kept… But there was only one committee I could chair, which was a fundraising committee. I have somebody who solicits corporations, and somebody who does individuals, they report to me, but I do it all too, finally gave up.

Alex: They said, we can’t keep inventing stuff for you, so we’re going to make you emeritus board member. And as long as you want to be on the board and as long as you have your mental faculties, pretty much, you can stay on as long as you want to, as long as you want to be involved. So, that’s why I’ve been on the board over 20 years.

Jon: I’m sorry it’s a three year term. I totally spaced. Yeah.

Hannah: For the listener who’s listening to this, and really resonating with caring about pro bono, like you’ve cared in your career, what would be your advice to them? How would you advise the Alex Armstrong however many years ago?

Alex: Well, what somebody told me early on, which I thought was good was pick charities that you care about but don’t spread yourself too thin. In other words, pick one or two charities that resonate with you. And quite frankly, I was also president of the Boy Scouts in Washington, the first and only woman president, and we’re one of the largest councils in the country. But I did it because I liked what they were doing with youth, aside from the problems they have.

Alex: But I did it that way. It, over a period of time, I got three of my best clients. I didn’t do it for that, but they saw that I was on the board. I lent something to the board, I did what I said I was going to do. And I could be relied on. And as a result, one of the biggest one came. He said, “You know, I have a broker at this firm and she doesn’t pay much attention to me. And I just wondered if you could handle my,” but it was because… So it actually can be good for business, but I always say to people, don’t do it for that, do it because you care about what’s happening.

Alex: So I was involved with Reading is Fundamental to, so pick two or three, I’m involved with the boys and girls club of Sarasota in Florida, which, because I care about the youth and making a difference in their lives. So, but don’t do too many, try to focus. And I always say if they ask you to be on the board, they usually want time and money. It used to be time or money, but, or they want you to get money for them or help them get money, which is okay. And whatever they say, you know they say oh, be only a few hours or you only have to give $100. It’s usually, you have to double whatever they tell you. But, I would say focus on it and also do what, be a responsible board member. Don’t just add it for.

Hannah: There’s lots of places that want your dollars, I mean it was at a PAC reception last night, giving similar asks and I was standing next to young planar who, and you know their whole thing was $50 for fiduciary, which is a great cause. A lot of people, especially as they’re starting out maybe don’t have the financial resources, and just have the time. And how would you kind of advise them?

Alex: I would advise young person time, we need volunteers as every charity needs volunteers as well as money. And what I would try, as pshychologists recruits you, if you could give something, if it’s $25 a month, whatever. What we try to do is, we at the foundation try to build the givers of tomorrow. You know, you start out at 25, well 10 years from now, maybe it’s more a hundred, and then as you get more and more successful… But the volunteering is important. I wish I had, had the time to do the volunteering so I had to make a choice for whatever reason I seem to have a talent of raising money, so that’s what I focus on.

Alex: I wish I could do both. And now that I’m getting ready to retire, maybe I can do both.

Hannah: We’re going to wrap up. Is there anything else that you guys want to be sure that we cover?

Alex: Our board has 17 members, and is pretty evenly divided and between corporate representatives and individual planners. And then we try, with the planners, to have them geographically diversified and then of course diversify. And actually, we have a fair percentage of women on our board. In fact, one person who was interviewing with us to be the head of our association said, “Why do you have so many women?” And the executive director at the time said “Because they get the job done.” So, but it really is a good marriage. So we have people from Pershing, from Fidelity, from Schwab, from TD Ameritrade, from Capitol Research on the board, and they give us their perspective as well as participate as partners. And then the planners give their perspective and it’s a good back and forth between the two elements.

Jon: And as I mentioned earlier, we’re really excited because next year is our 25th anniversary, and we have a 25th anniversary partner in the Charles Schwab foundation, and in fact they are sponsoring a $500,000 match campaign. So we’ll be running that all through 2020 and it’s a dollar for dollar match, up to $500,000. So we’re really grateful for that. Schwab’s our biggest corporate supporter, and we’ll be, we’re working hard to continue to bring in resources so we can sustain these pro bono efforts across the country and grow them. We have a really ambitious agenda of growth in the next five years, so.

Alex: So we have about 21 million in the endowment fund, and they get mad at me, but my gold is 50 so I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll live to see it, but I hope I do.

Jon: We’re working on it.

Alex: Because the more money we raise, the more people we can help.

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