Paycheck Chronicles

Financial Counselor Fellowship

Does the upcoming spring make you start thinking about a fresh new start?  Are you a financial geek like me?  Do you like helping people?  You might be just the right candidate for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Accredited Financial Counselor® Fellowship.

The Program

Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) is a professional certification program offered by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®). The program requires two courses and two exams. Study is self-directed and is done at your own pace, but the program must be completed within 36 months.

The Military Spouse Fellowship program is a joint venture between AFCPE, the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.  The fellowship covers the course costs for the AFC® training and the first two attempts at both exams. Upon successful completion of the program, and the required practicum, the participant will be awarded the Accredited Financial Counselor® designation from AFCPE®.

From the application announcement:

Many employers such as credit unions, financial aid offices, and community housing agencies need well-trained, ethical and caring financial counselors to meet the increasing demand for financial counseling services.

Military spouses can fill this need while building a rewarding career that is flexible to the demands of the military family lifestyle.


The following individuals are eligible to apply for this program:
  • Current spouses or surviving spouses of a Uniformed Service member; Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (active duty, National Guard and Reserve, or retirees)
The following individuals are not eligible for the fellowship:
  • Current Civil Service employees
  • Current employees of contractors serving the United States government
  • Active duty or Reserve Component members of the Armed Forces
  • Holders of active securities licenses
  • Current National Military Family Association Staff, Volunteers, and Representatives
  • Those already enrolled in the AFCPE® Certification programs
  • Those who previously accepted the fellowship but did not complete the program
Competition for this fellowship is stiff.  I'm not sure what the actual award rate is, but I know they receive boatloads of applications each year.  Just 50 fellowships were awarded for 2012.

My Experience

I have been enrolled in the AFC® program for over two years.  I applied for the fellowship several years in a row, and finally just decided sign up for the program on my own.  It is exactly the training I want.  I have found the course material very useful.  For me, it added more counseling skills to my financial knowledge.  For other people, it might mean adding financial skills to their counseling background or learning a new subject altogether.

My experience has not been without hiccups, however.  For the first two years that I was enrolled, I was at a base that did not offer any test proctoring services.  Numerous emails with AFCPE came to no resolution, as their proctoring guidelines are narrow and inflexible.  I finally gave up as I knew we were PCSing.  At my installation, the eligible proctor can not receive emails from AFCPE (go figure) and I am again stuck.  I am pretty frustrated - I've been ready to take the first test for over two years and I'm still fighting to find a way to take the test.  My time will be up in October and I'm feeling like I'll never have this sorted out by then.  I don't tell you this to make you discouraged, but rather to encourage you to explore these issues before you get started.  As the eligibility guidelines state, if you accept the fellowship but do not complete the program, you are ineligible to apply again.  (Which is only fair, don't you think.)

Do you have more questions?  See the Financial Counselor Fellowship FAQs.

I have looked all over the websites and I can't seem to locate the application deadline.  If you see it, please let me know!

This is a great program that can help military spouses build a career while also helping others.  Win-win-win.  Good luck to all of you who apply.!

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