Focus on Education: A Sound Business Practice that Lets You ‘Give Back’

As experts in financial services, professionals in my line of work possess a wealth of knowledge and information vitally important to hard-working Americans who want to know how best to save for retirement in an ever-changing economic landscape. What’s more, it is knowledge and information not readily available to average consumers – certainly not without cost. Free financial educational services that focus on savings and investment basics are fairly hard to come by, largely because the majority of programs and institutions that should provide them – schools, employers, etc. – simply do not.

I recognized this unfortunate reality in my first years in business when I continually came across people making common financial mistakes and jeopardizing their financial futures simply because they lacked this basic knowledge. It was then that I developed a philosophy of focusing on education first, not just with my existing clients but with the public at large. To this day, I embrace that same philosophy and advocate it as a best practice that allows me to give something back to the community in which I live and work.

A Nationwide Movement
Just recently, my ability to offer and provide free educational services was enhanced significantly when I discovered and became a part of S.A.F.E., the Scranton Academy for Financial Education. This unique nonprofit program is actually comprised of a nationwide network of like-minded financial professionals all dedicated to providing no-cost financial education as a public service.

As a unified, nonprofit entity, S.A.F.E. gives my fellow financial educators and me access to additional training and teaching resources that we didn’t have as individuals, and expands the venue options available to us for holding classes and workshops. It also provides us with a common, recognizable brand that instantly lets people know what we’re about.

The Foundation
S.A.F.E. sponsored programs are available for free to communities, businesses and organizations, and range from guest speaking to in-depth workshops, adult education classes and employee training. Though the focus may vary depending on the audience, over the years I have found there are four main areas that serve to provide the basis of a financial education by which most anyone can benefit:

1.    The Basics of Savings and Investing – It sounds simple enough, yet surveys continue to show time and time again that a majority of Americans are sadly lacking in their understanding of the range of options available to them for saving and growing their hard earned money.

2.    Financial Defense – I’m amazed how many people I come across who aren’t even familiar with this concept. Even if they know a bit about investing and portfolio growth, they’re oblivious to the wealth of economic twists and turns that can sabotage even the best laid financial plans – let alone the fact that there are steps that can be taken to avoid them.

3.    Market History – Too few people understand the relevance of market history to the savings and investment decisions they make today, but it only takes a brief history lesson in order for them to quickly recognize that relevance for themselves.

4.    Purpose-Based Goals – So often, people go into retirement without ever having stepped backed to ask themselves exactly what it is they want from their savings – non-stop growth, income they can’t outlive, an inheritance for loved ones? Challenging them to think about this question provides the cornerstone for their personal financial education.

Again, I believe this is the kind of knowledge and information that everyone should have access to free of charge, particularly in today’s complex and uncertain economic environment. It’s why after more than 25 years in business, I continue to embrace a philosophy that prioritizes education above all else, and why I strongly advocate this best practice as a means of giving back to your community in a way that is extremely valuable – and greatly appreciated!

Jeff Small is president of Arbor Financial Services, a local Financial Planning firm. He has presented over 500 public seminars educating the public on a range of financial issues. For more information, contact him at (321) 795-4799