[This post is brought to you by Alecia D. Blair, M.S., AFC®.
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About six months after having my second child I found myself eager to return to work. It was summer in beautiful Upstate New York. Fort Drum, N.Y., to be exact. I’d had a successful career in marketing and communications for nearly a decade, which is no small feat, as I followed around my active-duty Army husband. (You military spouses know what I’m talking about.)
But with two little ones at home and a husband with an unpredictable work schedule (hello, repeat deployments and TDY), I was hesitant to work outside of our home. I needed balance. My family needed balance. I needed to telecommute, so I could manage the household headquarters.
Well, luck struck, and I found a remote opportunity working on a public awareness campaign that encourages service members to save. And, as it turned out, I was pretty good at communicating about personal finance and the importance of saving. Heck, I was pretty good with managing my own family’s crazy, busy military life finances. In fact, I really liked it, and I decided I wanted to learn more. But how?
Fast forward six more months to February 2015. I began hearing about the AFC® FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship through my work. With a permanent change of station (PCS) move to the middle of the country staring me in the face, I decided to throw caution to the wind and apply. Only 50 military spouses would receive the fellowship to pursue their AFC® certifications for FREE. What an awesome opportunity!
I was very surprised to learn later that summer (and now in Missouri) that I had received the FINRA Foundation Fellowship, which would pay for the text books, a self-study webinar series, national AFC® certification exam and resource support provided by AFCPE. Amazing.
Six short months later, it was time to PCS again (yes, twice in one year), and I found myself at Fort Riley, Kan. Here I completed my self-study, passed the exam and dove head first into completing the 700 hours of practicum time I needed to fulfill certification requirements. Fort Riley’s Financial Readiness Program welcomed the volunteer financial counseling I provided.
Working alongside mentor personal financial counselors, I helped service members and their families work their way through tough financial situations. While most of my volunteer work revolved around getting service members back to basics with their budgets, it also meant I listened, really listened, to some tough, deeply personal experiences.
Some of these experiences included young military families who were overextended and didn’t know how to pay their utilities; service members who hadn’t sold homes at previous duty stations and where facing foreclosure; and security clearances threatened due to bad credit histories. I saw it all. And I worked really hard to listen…without judgement.
It was exhausting work, especially while working and solo parenting when my husband deployed for the fourth time, but it was extremely rewarding. It was work that made a difference. It was work that mattered.
To fulfill practicum hours faster, I also volunteered my Wednesday evenings providing phone bankruptcy counseling. And when we moved to Fort Bliss, TX (ahem, for the third time in three years), I again quickly took up volunteering at the Financial Readiness Program, working alongside financial counselors as they educated eligible service members on the nuances of the new Blended Retirement System.
Three moves and one deployment later, I completed my practicum hours and all of the requirements to earn my AFC® certification. It took three years, but it was worth it as a promotion and then new job opportunities awaited. But for me, the AFC® certification also meant a chance to marry two of my own professional interests—communications and personal finance. The possibilities are endless.
If you’re a military spouse looking for a chance to build your personal financial acumen and find a meaningful, movable career that gives back to the community you love, consider applying for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship. Fate may find you like it found me.
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