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Helping New Yorkers "Ace" Personal Finance

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Here's a shocker! According to Pamela Yellen, CEO of Bank on Yourself, whom Michel Martin interviewed recently on NPR's Tell Me More, 41% of adults give themselves a C grade or lower in their knowledge of personal finance. To help New Yorkers ace this subject NYPL runs Financial Literacy Central (FLC) at its business library, SIBL.

The FLC offers periodicals and databases; books (in print as well as electronic and audio format)—including Yellen's best seller—classes; and one-on-one financial coaching. The Financial Planning Association of New York is a key FLC partner, providing certified financial planners who give presentations and private advisory sessions at SIBL. After NYPL's recent blockbuster Financial Empowerment Day, I caught up with Bill Supper,  a FPA-NY director who coordinates its pro bono work at the Library.

 

Bill Supper, FPANY DirectorBill Supper, FPANY Director Bill, here's your chance to give your elevator pitch about your professional association.

The mission of the Financial Planning Association of New York is to foster the highest standards of ethics, knowledge, and skills of its members, and to continually enhance the reputation and integrity of the financial planning process and profession with the general public.

The Certified Financial Planning (CFP) designation represents rigor, I know. Can you flesh what a CPF has to master?

It is very rigorous. I, for example, did a two year certification program at NYU. Courses included investments, retirement planning, insurance, estate planning and taxation. Upon completion of the program I sat for the national test to become a certified financial planner. It is a very challenging two day exam where they test your knowledge of all the different disciplines, including case studies. Typically, fewer than half the people who take the test pass. It's good that the Library has test preparation material that can be downloaded with a borrower's card from home.

The FPA does a tremendous amount of pro bono work. Beyond SIBL, what other audiences does it serve? And at which venues?

The FPA-NY has the largest financial planning pro bono effort in the country. One target audience is the unbanked. We assist this under-served population on everything from budgeting basics to how to open a bank account. We deliver this service directly through our partners and at various schools across the five boroughs.

But at Financial Literacy Central your presentations tackle more than the basics...

You're right. Our programs at SIBL run the gamut from sessions about living on less to seminars by tax and estate planning experts. In fact we have several scheduled at the Library over the next month or so.

Are you seeing patterns in clients' concerns? Or are people's needs all over the place?

We're getting lots of questions about debt consolidation and budgeting. And people approaching retirement want to make sure they are on the right track.

Has advising in a library setting oriented you to the public library in a new way? 

Definitely. The Library is a fantastic resource, befitting a lead partner in McGraw Hill Companies Financial Literacy NOW campaign. And it’s not just books!

Speaking of books. A NYPL colleague's recent blog post listed a selection of personal finance titles available at the library. Emboldens me to ask if you have your own list of must-reads.

I recently re-read The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Arguably the best book on investing. And, for anyone interested in understanding the recent financial collapse I would recommend Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

You, like us librarians, surely know how good it feels to empower people with information.

It has been a privilege to continue the great partnership that the Financial Planning Association has with the Library. I learn something from each interaction and find it especially gratifying when someone says that we have helped them.

If you want to feel really good, look at these shots of the 400+ New Yorkers who flooded SIBL on Financial Empowerment Day.