The turmoil caused by a crisis, including natural disasters, man-made ones or a financial crisis, can impact hundreds of thousands if not millions of households. During these events, there are ways to get free help with your finances. Non-profits, corporations, charities, advisors, and others can help you with financial literacy needs, including investments, budgeting, debts, and more.
Events, including the coronavirus, 9/11, the great recessions and others have brought many sectors of the American economy to a standstill. There are lasting effects which will be impacting millions of people for an extended period. Businesses have shuttered, people have been furloughed from their jobs and many workers face uncertainty about whether they will be able to return to their jobs once the crisis has passed. In these uncertain times, obtaining practical financial advice is more important than ever. Fortunately, financial planning professionals are stepping up to provide that guidance free-of-charge.
Financial planners, either through member associations or by individual effort, have been providing free services on a pro bono basis for some time. Professional leaders of the financial literacy industry generally believe they have a responsibility to assist underserved as well as struggling communities similar to efforts commonly made by lawyers, dentists and doctors. Particularly when a crisis emerges potentially affecting the ability to pay bills and rent, buy sufficient food and protect homes from foreclosure, financial planners have rallied to provide helpful advice on a free pro bono basis.
While the coronavirus is the latest crisis to mobilize the financial planning community, similar efforts were launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2019 government shutdown. As with the virus pandemic, specific industries experienced substantial declines in business and an enormous segment of the population either faced employment layoffs or delayed income.
Here are a variety of resources that provide free information and guidance if you are faced with making limited income stretch to cover your bills in this difficult time.
Where to get free financial advice
There are several national non-profits to turn to for advice. They are either for-profit companies that provide free resources during a crisis or non-profits/charities. Many also help clients develop their financial literacy skills year round.
Foundation for Financial Planning (fundationforfinancialplanning.org) – The Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) is the country’s only 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity. The national organization is dedicated solely to delivering pro bono financial planning as well as financial literacy services. There is assistance for people of all income levels, races, ethnicity, and ages. The FFP was created 25 years ago by a group of financial planners who wanted to give back to the community while advancing their profession at the same time.
Their main goal is to match a volunteer financial planner to people in crisis or need. The FFP raised money and created an endowment fund that began providing grants in 1998 to worthy pro bono financial planning programs. Following the 9/11 attacks, the FFP expanded its effort and provided free financial literacy as well as planning to first responders and victims’ families.
Today, FFP members are committed to providing free financial advice and planning for low-income individuals and families, military members, veterans, domestic violence survivors and people impacted by natural disasters medical crises and bankruptcy. Whether a hurricane, flood, tornado, pandemic, or some other even, free advice is given.
FFP’s philosophy is that everyone can benefit from financial planning and quality financial literacy – advice. They stress given assistance both year round as well as during the event itself as well.
The grants FFP provides allow volunteer financial planners as well as advocates to work one-on-one with an individual and tailor advice to that person’s specific circumstances. To meet the challenge of working with limited resources, advisors can help people to develop a roadmap to move forward with steps that will improve their financial lives.
The FFP website includes a page dedicated to providing information and resources that may be helpful for dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus including links to a few financial organizations offering pro bono services. The website is also updates with information and programs for any disaster as well. The phone number is (202) 864-5183.
Financial Planning Association (onefpa.org) – According to the Financial Planning Association’s (FPA) website, the FPA is the “principal membership organization for certified financial planner professionals, educators, advisors, financial services providers and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession.” The primary aim of FPA is to elevate the profession and transform lives through the power of financial literacy workshops as well as general planning.
Members of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) initiated a commitment to provide pro bono services following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The FPA has many local chapters across the country, and members are providing free financial planning guidance with no strings attached. They give advice on living with a reduced income or unemployment, provide details on government bailouts or stimulus, give debt reduction or bankruptcy advice and many other forms of assistance.
Since the COVID-19 coronavirus began spreading, the FPA has ramped up pro bono efforts to reach those who would not typically consider requesting the help of a financial planning professional. There is help for blue collar workers, freelancers or gig workers, and anyone on need.
The volunteers delivering assistance are certified financial planners who have completed a training course to provide pro bono service. Their website includes a list of links to 86 local chapters and other resources. The list is expected to grow as more members step up to volunteer their service. Phone – 800.322.4237.
XY Planning Network (xyplanningnetwork.com) – Members of the XY Planning Network (XYPN) focus on providing financial services to Generation X and Generation Y as well as millennial clients. Advice is usually provided on a fee-only basis meaning there are no commissions or referral fees. However, a crisis event, many network members are providing their services at no cost. They tend to give free personal financial literacy help during pandemics, hurricanes, earthquakes, sudden recessions, and other events.
XY planners typically advise on a wide variety of topics ranging from investments and retirement planning to stock investing, real estate analysis, budgeting, small businesses and insurance planning. In this time of financial uncertainty, the advice their planners can provide on cash flow, budgeting and debt management may prove the most beneficial. Much of their service is provided virtually via the internet or over the phone, thus allowing the network to connect people with the best advisor who can address each person’s unique needs.
In most cases, hundreds of XYPN advisors sign up to serve. A popup will appear when you visit the Network website advising that members are providing free service. If the popup fails to appear, just search for an advisor using the term (coronavirus) as the keyword.
Savvy Ladies (savvyladies.org) – Empowering women to achieve financial independence is a goal of Savvy Ladies, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women including single mothers. They also operate a free hotline that gives advice and information on how to get assistance. It was created by Stacy Francis who saw her grandmother forced to remain in an abusive relationship because her grandmother lacked the financial literacy knowledge as well as resources to escape her situation. Stacy had a desire to change the way women thought about money and began teaching workshops in her apartment.
Today, Savvy Ladies offers a free financial Helpline through which a confidential call can be arranged to speak with advisors or other professionals on a wide range of personal finance topics. You can complete a request form online or contact the organization by phone.
Savvy Ladies also sponsors seminars and webinars to provide women with knowledge and a greater ability to achieve financial independence and make well-informed financial decisions. Whether investing, getting loans or grants to run a business, or dealing with a crisis, help is offered. The website offers numerous helpful blogs with practical advice for women. Their volunteers share wisdom on a variety of topics from how to make a budget and tips for single women when buying a home to creating retirement savings plans. The free toll free help line is at 855-752-3437. Or find other free financial literacy resources for women.
SmartPath Advisors (smartpathadvisors.co) – SmartPath is a group of financial “coaches” who offer advice and planning on a wide range of topics from budgeting to repaying student loans. Although the services usually come with a small charge, their website offers a page of free webinars some of which are replays and some that are upcoming and for which you can register. Topics include “How to Avoid (and payback) Coronavirus Related Debt”, “What’s Your Next Financial Move?”, and “COVID-19: Government and Corporate Programs That Can Help Your Wallet.” They also offer assistance programs during other disasters. There are also sections with valuable links on financial resiliency and dealing with the stock market in turbulent times. Dial (678) 201-0795.
GreenPath, Inc. (greenpath.com) – GreenPath is a non-profit financial wellness organization founded in 1961 with a mission to empower people to lead financially healthy lives. It offers free credit counseling and debt management solutions personally tailored to meet each person’s situation. Counseling is done online, via webinars, chats, or over the phone. They also offer year-round financial literacy advice free of charge for the low income or families in an emergency.
They have a dedicated disaster event page with links to relevant information ranging from advice about avoiding scams to how to protect yourself financially from the impact of the event. There is also free advice on pandemics, like Coronavirus, earthquakes, fires, and other emergency situations. Dial 800-550-1961 to reach Greenpath and their crisis team. Or locate other ways to get help from non-profit credit counseling organizations.
Other financial resources during a crisis
There are a variety of other sources where free financial advice can be found. Support is available year round with additional programs rolled out during a national crisis. The non-profits as well as government all provide assistance.
- The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s website includes an extensive question and answer section on common financial issues as well as scam prevention tips.
- Investor.gov offers a page of free financial tools.
- MagnifyMoney.com offers free advice on a wide range of topics from choosing balance transfer credit cards and dealing with collection agencies to finding the best student loan refinance options. The site also has links to a useful selection of budgeting apps.
Sadly, when a disaster hits like 9/11, the great recession, or coronavirus, a substantial amount of time may be required before people can return to their jobs, income and life can return to normal. Having to make do with less income may be the requirement for an extended period. Sacrifices and tough decisions may be demanded of many.
When a crisis hits, there are ways to get assistance with finances. There are free personal finance workshops or literacy programs from non-profits or advisors, government programs, and other resources. The offer of free counseling and assistance from the financial planning community is one more example of how Americans across the country are uniting to help everyone get through this crisis.
By Jon McNamara