Experts Offer Resources and Guidance for Building Personal Finance Skills

Financial knowledge is a valuable commodity in today’s world, yet too few American adults possess a sound grasp of money management basics. We asked a group of financial professionals what resources or guidance they might provide that could help our country’s citizens gain much-needed financial skill sets. This article summarizes some of their responses.

Jason Gentile, CFP and senior financial planner at investment advisory firm Apella Capital in Glastonbury, Connecticut, blames the lack of personal finance education in the U.S. “Most people go through primary education, and even college, knowing very little about how they can protect their assets and future,” says Gentile. Staging community events is one of his tactics to make a difference. “I make an effort to be an educational resource to my clients, but also to my community,” he says. “We host webinars with our team and bring in guest speakers on subjects such as cybersecurity. We host free community seminars on issues that impact clients such as Social Security.”

Jacob Lumby, M.Sc. of Lumby Marketing and founder of Cashcowcouple.com, claims he often is called upon to help other members of Gen Y secure better financial futures. “I’ve found that providing hardcopies of specific books can encourage growth,” Lumby proposes. “Or even better, preparing a nice PowerPoint presentation and actually sitting down with them to teach them through it. Not talking over their head, or using jargon, but asking them questions and getting them to open up through the process. When they are comfortable, they will ask questions and embrace the learning process.”

Most people wait to seek out education for retirement planning until it’s on the horizon, according to Tony D’Amico, CEO of The Fidato Group in Strongsville, near Cleveland, Ohio. “They often do not seek out this education in their earlier careers, which would truly make retirement planning much easier and manageable,” D’Amico commented. “I have seen some companies that promote financial well-being for their employees. The adoption and participation is not as high as they would like. However, the good news is that some employees do seek out education and implement changes.”

When financial education programs are offered, lack of engagement is another problem, says Richard Barrington, CFA and Senior Financial Analyst for MoneyRates.com. “MoneyRates.com recently conducted a survey which found that over 20% of respondents could not identify what their top investment priority was; over 11% couldn’t even say what their biggest asset class was,” Barrington told us. “These people are effectively investing blindfolded.” So how do financial professionals help remove the blindfold? “One approach is to talk about positive goals rather than focusing on sacrifices,” suggests Barrington. “The message ‘save more’ has as much gut appeal to the average person as the command ‘eat your vegetables’ has to a five-year-old. The fact is, doing the right thing financially has some terrific rewards, such as a relaxing retirement, travel, or owning attractive properties. Always starting with an attractive goal in mind will give the client the motivation to view financial responsibility as a positive step towards something they desire, rather than simply an exercise in self-denial.”

Pamela Capalad, CFP® of Brunch & Budget, also recommends teaching clients to be accountable for their own actions. “Besides expertise, one of the most important things I provide for my clients is accountability,” Capalad says. “A major aspect of gaining financial skills is building good financial habits…often people know what to do once they’re told and the biggest challenge is having a client implement these changes.

“First, you talk to a client and show them what good financial habits look like. Then you help them break down where they are now and where they want to be into smaller, more manageable steps. Finally, you make sure they execute on each small step and help guide them back on track if they make any missteps.”

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