United Way Pilots First-In-The-Nation Financial Counselor Certification Training for Non-Profit Financial Coaches in Eastern Massachusetts

BY Brigid Boyd

Apr 20 2023

Managing daily finances, being resilient to unforseen expenses or emergencies, and pursuing opportunities for upward mobility are all critical to the financial wellbeing of households in our region. Financial coaching is a proven strategy to empower individuals and families to increase their income and savings and build credit.

United Way is piloting a first-in-the-nation financial counselor certification training for non-profit financial coaches in Eastern Massachusetts. This instructor-supported training program from the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education® (AFCPE®) prepares financial coaches to a achieve AFC® certification, a nationally recognized credential that demonstrates the highest level of expertise, training, ethics, and experience in financial coaching.

Fifteen financial coaches representing 8 non-profit partner agencies participated in this first-ever instructor-supported AFC® training. The training pilot included 15 90-minute weekly virtual training sessions over four months, with several hours of additional reading. Later this year, participants will take the certification exam; they must also demonstrate 1,000 hours of coaching to earn this highly coveted credential.

To make the opportunity accessible to our partner non-profits, United Way covered the instructor fee and a $14,000 scholarship from AFCPE® covered the costs of participants’ first exam, AFCPE® membership, and study guide materials.

“With this certification opportunity, United Way is investing in our financial coaching network, a critical service for individuals and communities with low-moderate incomes to achieve financial stability and mobility,” said UW Director of Community Impact Christine Niccoli.

“The AFC ® credential gives coaching clients further confirmation of their coach’s financial expertise and credibility,” Niccoli added.

It also provides coaches with a more robust career pathway.

Research shows high attrition among financial coaches in the non-profit world. By offering growth opportunities, like AFC ® certification and professional development, as well as the peer support afforded through the pilot’s training model and UW’s ongoing communities-of-practice, United Way hopes to increase job satisfaction among financial coaches and preserve the invaluable institutional knowledge that experienced financial coaches bring to our community members. Pilot participants collectively serve about 2,000 residents of Eastern Massachusetts, helping people with everything from goal setting, credit building, asset building and home acquisition, to investments, retirement planning, and estate planning.

While many certification training programs use a self-study model, this new pilot incorporates instructor facilitation and peer-to-peer interaction for a more enriching and supportive learning environment.

“[I] learned more, not only from the training, but also from the shared experience of many of the colleagues,” one participant noted in a post-training survey.

Another added, “It gave me a lot of tools and resources that I can use to support my clients' journey.”

That’s what it’s all about.