October 07, 2009
By Janet Farley
Are you tired of the same old job?
Do you wish you had a same old job to be tired of in the first place?
Would you like a portable career that allows you to help other military families?
Have you considered a career in the financial services industry?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then it’s time to stop wishing and start planning to apply for the 2010 Military Spouse Accredited Financial Counselor® Fellowship Program.
Generously funded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation and administered by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®) and the National Military Family Association (NMFA), the fellowship offers selected military spouses an opportunity to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) credential and provide financial counseling and education within the military community.
The fellowship itself provides a grant covering the costs associated with earning the credential. Specifically, the program enrollment fee, required study materials, webinar study sessions and examination fees for up to a $1,100 value are covered.
This distance-based program is self-paced and recipients have up to three years to complete the program requirements and earn the credential.
“To date, nearly 600 military spouses have earned the AFC® credential through the Military Spouse Fellowship Program. In turn, they have volunteered over 140,000 hours of their time, giving back their knowledge and expertise to the military community,” said John Gannon, President of FINRA.
“Military families sacrifice so much. What little we can do to help those who serve our country makes all of us here at FINRA proud,” said George Smaragdis, FINRA’s Associate Director of Media Relations.
The fellowship, now in its fourth year, has clearly been a win-win for career-minded spouses and the military community in general.
Just ask Lisa Wright and Andi Wren, two military spouses who were awarded the fellowship in 2007. Both have since earned their AFC® credential and are nicely established in their new careers.
“By successfully completing this program I have not only been able to help other military families improve their financial readiness but my own family has benefited in the process as well,” said Wright who currently works as an on-call financial counselor to military families in Texas.
Wright noted that families can and do find themselves having financial problems for any number of reasons.
“The clients I’ve seen are not financially irresponsible. They find themselves struggling because a spouse is deployed or they are trying to help out another family member. They want to get their financial lives in order and they are motivated to do it,” said Wright.
“When they leave my office, they walk out with a plan they can implement. They are not caught up in the cycle of simply being referred to other service providers,” said Wright.
Wright’s dedicated passion for assisting military families in her new career is shared by another fellowship recipient, Andi Wren, who now works as the Military Spouse Program Coordinator for MHN Government Services.
In her current position, Wren helps other fellowship recipients find opportunities allowing them to complete the practicum requirements for the credential itself.
“MHN assists military spouses who are working towards their designation to become financial counselors. Since the [FINRA] fellowship focuses on the military spouses earning their practicum hours with service members and their families, we [MHN Government Services] focus on them working on installations,” said Wren.
Wren notes that MHN helps spouses who are fellowship recipients as well as those who are obtaining the credential on their own.
Do You Really Stand a Chance of Getting It?
Up to 200 spouses are selected for the fellowship and with each passing year, far more than that apply. Given the fellowships growing popularity, do you really stand a chance at receiving it in the first place?
“The answer is always ‘no’ unless you try,” said Kelly Hruska, Deputy Director, Government Relations for the NMFA adding some good advice with that encouragement.
“Before spouses apply for the fellowship, they need to think about their career goals and what it is they want to do professionally. They should also make sure they are eligible to apply in the first place,” said Hruska.
“Talk to the people [who work in the field already] on the military installation to see if what they do every day is something you are interested in. Volunteer and begin learning about financial readiness,” said Wren.
Wren also suggests applicants’ research the types of companies and programs that hire financial counselors.
Details You Need to Know
To be eligible for the fellowship, you must be a current or surviving spouses of a U.S. service member who is on active duty, in the National Guard or Reserves or retired from the military and have at least a high school diploma or a GED.
You must demonstrate an interest in financial education and have some knowledge of military protocol.
Other fellowship requirements include the ability to be a team player and to be detail-oriented. You must also have follow-through skills and be willing to dedicate the allotted time to complete the program.
Finally, you must also be willing to complete 400-2000 practicum hours by assisting as either paid employee or as a volunteer in financial education or financial counseling positions.
Preference is given to spouses having some college or who already hold an academic degree with a major in business, finance, accounting, social sciences or a related field of study.
Additionally, spouses who currently volunteer within their communities or who work in personal finance, banks, credit unions or counseling also are given preference.
“It’s also a good idea to check out the list of ineligibles before spouses apply,” warns Hruska adding that 2008 was the first year the fellowship added the list of those who may not receive the grant. The list is subject to change on a year-to-year basis.
Currently, you may not receive the fellowship if you are a current civil service employee, a defense contractor or an active duty or reserve component service member.
Also, if you hold an active securities license you are likewise ineligible.
Before applying on-line at NMFA for the fellowship, Hruska suggests you first print out the application and create a rough draft.
“Give some thought to your answers before actually applying online, ” said Hruska adding that the computer may time you out if you take too long to complete the online application.
“If you’re looking for a good career, go for it! This is a great pathway to getting one,” said Wright.
“Look for the 2010 Military Spouse Fellowship application and program to be begin being publicized on the NMFA website around the end of February or March 2010,” said Hruska.
Wren suggests you start planning now, however.
“Continue your research into the field, ask questions and learn all you can before you apply for the fellowship,” said Wren.
Now that is sound advice you can bank on.
Author of The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide, 2nd Edition (Jist Inc, October 2009) and The Military Spouse's Complete Guide to Career Success (Impact Publications, Jan 2008).