By Ms. Mary Ann Davis (IMCOM)March 24, 2017
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Finding employment as a military spouse can be tough because of constant relocations and the lack of transferrable skills, but thanks to the FINRA Foundation, spouses have an opportunity to earn a free financial counselor accreditation to help them find employment at any military installation or in the civilian sector.
The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program offers military spouses transferable job skills as accredited financial counselors. Spouses with this certification can find employment as on-base personal financial managers, financial educators and coaches, mortgage counselors and credit and debt counselors.
Megan Nunez received her Accredited Financial Counselor certificate in February 2016 and has worked as a personal financial counselor for a military contractor in Baumholder since last October.
"I heard about the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship Program via social media," Nunez said. "A fellow military spouse posted a photo of her accreditation certificate, and I asked her what the Accredited Financial Counselor designation was. She explained about the AFC designation and told me about her experience as a FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship recipient. Because of my background in finance, I thought this would be a great opportunity to expand my education and improve my employability, so I applied and was accepted into the program."
As a military wife and mother of two, Nunez said she didn't find it too difficult to complete the program and take care of her family.
"The beauty of the program is that it is highly flexible and portable. When I was accepted as a military spouse fellow, our youngest daughter was 17 months old and our oldest was seven. With an active-duty spouse and two small children, the program was challenging, but not impossible to complete. Our family values education and professional growth, and luckily I have an extremely supportive husband who was willing to take on some extra responsibility so that I had time to study."
For Nakia Evans, finding a job that was fulfilling was important.
"I was in the banking industry for over seven years as a loan representative, so I was very into finance at the time but wasn't sure if this was necessarily the career path I wanted to take," said Evans, a personal financial counselor for a military contractor in Kaiserslautern for three years. "I wanted to do a job that was more fulfilling than filling out numbers and approving and rejecting loan applicants."
She found out about the program from a friend who saw a promotional ad and knew Evans was looking for a new career path.
"I applied that evening and contacted the Financial Readiness Program manager at Fort Lewis, Wash., and he hired me to come into his department to help and earn my financial counseling hours," she said.
Less than a year later, Evans completed the required 1,000 financial counseling hours and another year later she completed her exams.
"It was a self-study program with many educational tools like webinars and study groups via chat room to help assist you along the way," said the military spouse of 13 years and mother of two. "My husband was a big support system for me, helping me study long hours and allowing me to have some quiet time to complete my work. I can usually multitask very well, but with the help of my family it was much easier."
When her family moves back to the United States, Nunez said many career paths will be opened up for her.
"Financial counselors are employed by the Department of Defense, government contractors, various non-profit organizations, banking institutions, health services and universities," she said. "I absolutely believe I can continue my career with the AFC designation."
Evans offered this advice for spouses looking for careers in the finance world.
"It a fantastic opportunity to expand your skills, increase your knowledge with good pay, and you are able to help those who need it most and make a difference," she said. "Spouses that are looking for a change and are great with people and teaching, this is a great opportunity for them. You don't have to be a math wiz to do this, but rather know about finances and know how to talk to people on a more personal level."
The FINRA Foundation is now accepting applications for 2017 Military Spouse Fellowships. All applications are due by April 21 at midnight EST. The program helps military spouses foster their own careers and maintain financial readiness in military communities, and the fellowship covers the costs associated with completing training and testing for certification as an Accredited Financial Counselor. For more information or to apply, visit http://www.militaryspouseafcpe.org.