Six of the country's leading financial planning groups have joined forces to sponsor the Project for Financial Independence, the nation's first multi-organizational, pro bono financial planning effort. The groundbreaking project, which offers free financial guidance to individuals who cannot afford a financial advisor, or who are facing an immediate or unusual financial need, is being launched this month.
The six organizations collaborating on the project are the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board), Financial Planning Association (FPA™), National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) and Society of Financial Service Professionals (SFSP).
"Together, these organizations represent the core of the financial counseling community," says Nan Mead, director of Communications at NEFE and chair of the Project for Financial Independence task force. "By collaborating, we are able to institute a national network of financial advisors eager to introduce financial planning to individuals who may not have access to it otherwise."
Consumers who may be eligible to receive pro bono assistance under the Project for Financial Independence must meet one of the following criteria:
- Low-income individuals (as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau Web site)
- Enlisted military personnel Those who are facing an immediate financial crisis (for example, a natural disaster, long-term illness, death of a family member, job loss, etc.)
- Those who are struggling with significant indebtedness or recovering from bankruptcy.
In order to reach these individuals, the Project for Financial Independence will begin by working directly with three national charitable organizations, Habitat for Humanity, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Volunteers of America.
As the project grows, more charitable organizations will be invited to participate. Each will identify clients who could benefit from no-cost financial advice and help link them to a local volunteer financial advisor belonging to one of the four membership organizations participating in the project. These include the AICPA, FPA, NAPFA and SFSP.
Although the Project for Financial Independence initially will provide services only through nonprofit organizations, its sponsors eventually plan to work directly with individuals, linking them to volunteer financial advisors by way of a dedicated Web site at www.consultaplanner.org. Currently, the site is available as a resource for financial advisors who have volunteered their services for the Project for Financial Independence and charitable organizations. Members of the public seeking self-help personal finance information also can benefit from the site.
Charitable organizations interested in participating in the effort should contact the National Endowment for Financial Education at (303) 741-6333. Financial advisors seeking to offer pro bono services through the Project for Financial Independence must be members in good standing of the AICPA, FPA, NAPFA or SFSP, abide by the codes of ethics and policies of their membership organizations, and sign an agreement that they will volunteer their time and services at no cost to the client.
Interested advisors should contact the appropriate membership organization at: AICPA (201) 938-3750 or [email protected], FPA (800) 647-6340 or [email protected], NAPFA (800) 366-2732, or SFSP (800) 927-2427 or [email protected]. For more information about the Project for Financial Independence, log on to www.consultaplanner.org.