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I've helped a few people in my family get their finances in order, just with very basic tips and with money-saving tips I've gleaned from personal experience. I think I've made a significant difference.

But I found myself wondering: is there a charity organization (or maybe a career) where I can help others do this? I'm not interested in conventional financial planning, which seems to be mostly about investment, but rather just helping people create a workable monthly budget, pay down their debt and start putting money aside for the future.

Is there a name for this kind of advisor? Are there organizations where I can help people plan out their budgets? If so, are there licenses you need (in the US)?

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This is a good forum to help others! :) You could also blog about your experiences. I do not know if there are other organizations that make freelancing more formal, but certainly keen to know. –  MoneyCone Oct 25 '11 at 16:06
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A recent issue of an airline magazine (the kind found in the seat back pocket on each flight) had an article about daily money managers. This might suggest some possibilities. –  Dilip Sarwate Feb 21 '13 at 3:38
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Dave Ramsey calls these Financial Coaches and sells a training program. –  C. Ross Feb 21 '13 at 15:58
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7 Answers 7

In the UK there is a non-profit called the Citizen's Advice Bureau which provides free advice to people on a wide range of subjects, but including debt and budgeting. Consumer Credit Counselling Service provides explicit help but again, in the UK. A search for "volunteer debt counsellor" reveals a whole host of organizations that do that, but almost all based in the UK or Canada or Australia. The US seems not to be well provided with such organizations.

This page advises people to volunteer as a debt counsellor, but gives no specifics of organizations, just "Volunteer at local county community centers, churches and agencies. Your local faith-based organization might be a good place to start, even if you are not a member.

Regrettably a search for "free debt counselling" produced a similar list of non-profits in UK and Canada, but mainly companies peddling consolidation loans in the US.

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I am a Certified Financial Planner and provide tactical advice on everything from budgeting to saving for retirement. You do not have to have any series exams or a CFP to do this work, although it helps give you credibility. As long as you DO NOT provide investment advice, you likely do not need to register as an investment advisor or need any certification.

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At what point is the line crossed where some certification is required to be 'legal'? Is it when you recommend specific stocks, funds, or other securities? –  Eric Oct 31 '11 at 13:41
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If you personally make any money from it then you need a Series 65, or a Series 63 license. It is a private industry/SEC regulation. The license itself basically spells out your duties and ethical standards for you.

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Don't those both relate to securities trading? I'm talking about giving strictly budgeting and debt advice. –  bill Oct 25 '11 at 17:27
    
Okay, go to the bank, talk to the financial planner and ask them what licenses they have. A Series 7 gives you the most flexibility in financial practices, but the other licenses give you more specific tailored things. One day you will teaching people how to pay off credit cards, the next day you will be teaching about 401k's, the next day you will be teaching about how to balance the holdings in 401ks, and suddenly you are talking securities. –  CQM Oct 25 '11 at 17:32
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You know there is a small group of individuals who focus on strictly planning without implementation. They are not securities licensed (no 7,6,66,63 license) so they cannot sell or discuss securities, but they do put together financial plans to help individuals recover from debt and rework spending/saving strategies. They also usually work hand in hand with a CFP or ChFc to do the implementation process. The hard part is making money at it. Financial Planners make most of their income on high net worth clients. You would be targeting low income or troubles income clients that would have a hard time paying money for the service. I am not saying it cannot be done, you just have your work cut out for you. But it is a noble career and you would be helping idividuals have a better life. That speaks volumes!

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I think it's great that you want to contribute.

Course Instructor

You may want to take a look at becoming an instructor for a course like Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. These are commonly offered through churches and other community venues for a fee.

This may be a good fit if you want to focus on basic financial literacy, setting up and sticking to a budget, and getting their financial "house" in order. It may not be a good fit if you don't want to teach an existing curriculum, or if you find the tenets of the course too unpalatable. A significant number of the people in Dave's audience are close to or in the middle of a financial meltdown, and so his advice includes controversial ideas such as avoiding credit altogether, often because that's how they got into their current mess.

Counselor

If you want to run your own show, I know of several people who have built their own practice that is run along the lines of a counselor charging hourly rates, and they work with couples who are having money problems. Building a reputation and a network of referring counselors and professionals is key here, and definitely seems like it would require a full-time commitment.

I would avoid "credit counseling" and the like. Most of these organizations are focused on restructuring credit card debt, not spending signficant time on behavioral change.

You don't need a series 7, 63, 65 etc. or even a CFA. I've previously acquired a number of these and can confirm that they are investment credentials that are intended to help you get a job and/or get more business as a broker or conventional financial planner, i.e. salesperson of securities. The licensure process is necessary to protect consumers from advice that serves the investment sales force but is bad for the consumer, and because you must be licensed to provide investment advice. There is a class of fee-only financial planners, but they primarily deal with complex issues that allow them to make money, and often give away basic personal finance advice for free in the form of articles, podcasts, etc.

Charity

For part-time or free work, in my area there are also several charity organizations that help people do their taxes and provide basic budgeting and personal finance instruction, but this is very localized and may vary quite a bit depending on where you live. However, if there are none near you, you can always start one!

Journalism

If you have an interest in writing, there are also people who work as journalists and write columns, books, or newsletters, and it is much easier now to publish and build a network online, either on your own, through a blog or contributing to a website.

Speaker at Community events

There are also many opportunities to speak to a specific community such as a church or social organization. For example, where I live there are local organizations for Spanish speaking, Polish speaking, elderly, young professional, young mother and retiree groups for example, all of who might be interested in your advice on issues that specifically address their needs.

Good luck!

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You need a license/registration to be a "conventional" financial planner.

But as long as your work is limited to budgets, and cash flow analysis, it may be more like accounting. In your shoes, I would consult the local CPA association about what you need (if anything) to do what you're doing.

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This is along the lines of what I was looking for:

http://www.aadmm.com

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