Real Money, Real Experts

When Emergency Strikes: How to be Financially Prepared

June 23, 2020 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 3
Real Money, Real Experts
When Emergency Strikes: How to be Financially Prepared
Show Notes Transcript

Co-Hosts Rebecca Wiggins and Dr. Mary Bell Carlson interview AFC® Sara Croymans about the essentials of financial emergency preparedness. Sara, who was instrumental in developing AFCPE®'s partnership with FEMA, draws on her experience counseling disaster survivors, gamblers, and military service members and how to provide the best service to these clients. Tune in to the conversation and share your thoughts at AFCPE.org.

*Show Notes*
00:52 About Sara Croymans
01:41 Interview with Sara Croymans
18:44 Your Two Cents

Resource Links:

Disaster toolkit
https://extension.umn.edu/

FEMA Financial First Aid Kit
https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/96123

COVID-19 Financial Professionals Initiative
https://www.afcpe.org/covid19/

AFCPE Award Nomination
https://www.afcpe.org/resource-center/funding-and-recognition/awards/



Intro:

Welcome to Real Money Real Experts, a podcast where leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money in the real world. I'm your host, Rebecca Wiggins, executive director of the association for financial counseling and planning education or AFCPE. And I'm your co-host, Dr. Mary Bell Carlson. I'm an Accredited Financial Counselor® or AFC® and the CEO of Chief Financial Mom. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topics that personal finance professionals care about: helping clients, building community and your professional growth.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

And this is Mary. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.

Rebecca Wiggins:

So we are really excited to have Sara Croymans on the podcast today. Sara is a long time AFCPE® Member. She's also an Accredited Financial Counselor® or AFC®, and she's an Extension educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development. She has a ton of financial counseling experience with disaster survivors, gamblers, and even military service members and their families. Sara has also helped us a lot as we developed our partnership with FEMA, given her focus on financial resiliency and her research in the disaster financial preparedness space. So we thought it would be a great opportunity to have her on the podcast and share some of that expertise with us today.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

That's so true, Rebecca, especially with the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic, I'm really looking forward to getting your perspective, Sara, welcome to the podcast. We're excited to have you as one of the first guests on our show. And first off, we'd like to ask you to tell us a little bit more about how you got into the world of personal finance and a little bit more about your background.

Sara Croymans:

Well, as Rebecca shared, I work with the University of Minnesota (Cooperative) Extension and I grew up with extension being a long time for 4H-member and really value their mission to bring resources out to people across the state. I really found my niche in our Center for Family Development, working with folks to help them make informed decisions and with those critical life skills. And so as Rebecca shared, I do a lot of work with military service members and their families with gamblers. We do a lot of education and financial capability, disaster preparedness and recovery,tenant education looking at family transitions. So we do a lot of different things in Extension, and that makes life interesting.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

It sounds like too. I know that my experience with extension is always reaching out to the community. So really you work for the University of Minnesota, but your outreach is to the entire surrounding community? Tell us more, does it reach the entire state or how do you work?

Sara Croymans:

So I'm a regional extension educator out of our Morris regional office. So, west central Minnesota, if you envision the hump that goes into the Dakotas, I'm out in that part of Minnesota. But our work really is statewide. And so we do a lot of consumer education as well as working with agency staff, frontline staff that are doing financial education with consumers across the state. So helping them, gain access to resources and materials and to help them develop their skills. So they're better equipped to work with clients. So again, we do a lot of partnerships with organizations and agencies across the state. So it's a great, great work that we do.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

And it's pretty comprehensive. It sounds like that you've been able to educate not just local community, but clear across the state. And I would say even further probably with video and some other venues that we have today to use. Tell me a little bit more, cause you've got further education beyond just working with extension. It seems like you've also had some experience with the military and some other things, tell us what you've done there.

Sara Croymans:

Yeah, definitely. I am part of the Military Families Learning Networks, so MFLN and they provide, professional development for military family service providers. And, our Minnesota team provides leadership for the family transitions concentration area. MFLN and also provides education in the areas of personal finance. So Barbara O’Neill and Martie Gillen, who you're familiar with, give leadership to that.There's a military caregiving, a family development, community capacity building, nutrition and wellness. So we all provide education and resources again for those military families service providers, so they're better equipped to work with those service members and families. So MFLN is a great, great program. I encourage folks to check that out and they do offer free continuing education credits. So the personal finance group provides that would really benefit the AFCs, so check that out if you haven't already.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Perfect. Yeah. And we'll include those links in the show notes as well. Now, tell us, you've been not only working with the military, but you also have been working with gambling in your past. Tell us more about that.

Sara Croymans:

Yes. In my part of rural Minnesota, I happen to be close to a residential gambling treatment program. And so my colleague fellow AFC®, Shirley Anderson-Porisch, and I, do financial counseling there with gamblers and family members as part of their residential treatment programs. So we have an opportunity to sit down with those folks and do a budget or spending plan. We definitely look at debt, and help them strategize how to manage that. So, um, gambling is truly an addiction that impacts folks in many different areas of their lives. So it's been a great learning experience to work with the gamblers and the residential treatment program.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

You've really covered a lot of fields in a very short time. That's amazing how much work you've done and we appreciate everything you've given back. Tell me you've been involved with AFCPE for quite a while. Tell us how you've been involved and what your AFC credential has meant to you and your career.

Sara Croymans:

I have been a member for wow, quite a few years. I can't even remember how long, but, it's been quite a while and, and I've served on the newsletter committee and I sit on a committee that helps look at the AFC testing. So looking at the test items, and I think I'm on a couple other committees perhaps as well. So I've enjoyed getting to know people across the nation, through my committee work and my AFC has really served me well. Because of that, I have been able to do the financial counseling, with gamblers as well as with military service members and their families. So it has really opened a lot of doors for me.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Yeah. I think that's one of the things with the AFC® credential and the other credentials that we offer is it really does provide the opportunities available. And you've really taken advantage of a lot of those. One of them that we'd like to know more about is it, you have a lot of experience working with FEMA and disaster relief. Tell us what you've learned from your time serving with those who are going through difficult times.

Sara Croymans:

Definitely. FEMA is a great organization. They reach across the nation and, and a lot of really great resources. If folks haven't seen their EFFAK, their Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, check that out. You can find that on their website , um, many years ago , um, there was a flood in a small town in Southeastern Minnesota. So back in 2007 , um, they, they were hit by heavy rains, resulting in nearly 300 homes being damaged. And this was a little town of about 17, just under 1700 people and overnight , um, you know, the homes were damaged or lost. Almost 80 businesses were, were impacted. And many people found themselves out of work. And through extension, we were able to go to that community a couple of years after the flood and visit with, with , um, a variety of people. We talked with business owners, city officials , um, farmers, a lot of residents, young families, old, older families. And we got to hear a lot about what the disaster experience meant to them. They were able to share some collective wisdom , for others who may end up going through a disaster. And as a result of those interviews at the University of Minnesota extension was able to develop a recovery after disaster, the family, financial toolkit. And then , shortly after that, we developed , some, a video series that goes with that. But because of what we learned there, we have been able to share a lot of information with folks, and agency staff on things to think about related to finances. Um, so people are better prepared to withstand a crisis or a disaster.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

That's fantastic that you've been able to have that focus group and really learn from people that are directly affected and impacted. Was there anything that surprised you during the research?

Sara Croymans:

Wow, that's a really good question. What surprised us? Um, we were maybe not surprised, but we were impressed on how resilient people are, how resilient communities are people come together and they work together. Um, when, they're faced with, with challenges such as a disaster and, you know, hindsight is really clear, right after disaster, people are like, Oh, I wish I really would have had an emergency fund, or I really wish I w ould h ave reviewed my insurance a little closer prior to the disaster. A nd, and so, you know, people are really thinking about those things, following a disaster. And so when we, we translate that into preparedness, we, b ut we can learn from that. Right. And, and we can as financial professionals, help the clients, we work with think about those things ahead of time. So it's not so painful afterwards.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

I love that you used the word resiliency. We talk a lot about that in the military and other populations, tell us what resiliency means and how each of us can become more resilient.

Sara Croymans:

Sure, sure. You know, sometimes we think about resilience as the ability to bounce back. I always think about it as, as being able to bounce forward. Cause it's oftentimes hard to bounce back I'm are after a challenger disaster or crisis our , future probably isn't going to look exactly the same. So there's going to be a new normal there. And so resilience is, is to, to go through that adversity and , and come out okay. On the other end. And, and hopefully , things might be a little bit better, even though they are a little bit different,

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

you know, we're all going through that right now. I think in this current pandemic of figuring out how to become more resilient. And I love that you use the word not bounce back, but really looking forward and what that new life looks like for you. So many of us really take that same idea and expanded in our own lives, as well as personally and professionally to help others. How can we best as service providers provide financial preparation messages to our clients into those that need them?

Sara Croymans:

Oh, good question. You know, I think, u m, financial preparedness i s, is not just a s tepper n eed V entura a program. I think we need to embed that into everything we do with our clients, right? So if we're working on, on b udgeting a re developing a spending plan, do we have a n emergency fund built into that or e ncourage the clients to do that? Are we evaluating insurance? And so really it should be embedded in everything that we do with clients, u m, rather than a separate program. C ause oftentimes people are like, Oh, I'll deal with that. Afterwards, after we get through, p aying off debt after we buy the house, after we do whatever and oftentimes we don't get to that later. So if we can embed the disaster preparedness into all of our activities, the clients will be better off and it prepares everybody for whatever may stand ahead. We can't predict the future. And yet that will help us know how to be prepared for any disaster or any personal crisis that comes up. Sara, I want to go back and reference something that you mentioned earlier. You talked about a recovery after disaster, the family, financial toolkit.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Tell us a little bit more about this and where our listeners can go to find more information.

Sara Croymans:

Definitely the recover after disaster, the family financial toolkit is available on our university of Minnesota extension webpage. So just go to extension.UMN.edu. The easiest thing to do is search disaster toolkit. And I have to mention my colleague and fellow AFC® Phyllis Onstead she's now retired from Extension, but this was really Phyllis's project.And I got to go along for the ride with it. But again, we developed this following our interviews down in Rushford the Southeast Minnesota town after they had their flood, but it is full of strategies and tools given it's a toolkit for folks to use. So it provides some key strategies for financial recovery. So helping people think about how to document information, where do they obtain accurate information. We know in times of crisis and even now with a COVID 19 situation on there's a lot of information out there, not all of it's good. So we want folks to be able to access accurate information there's resources in there about taking care of yourself, helping kids cope. And there's some really nice pieces in there about encouraging people to accept financial help, whether it's just someone sitting down and helping people think about their situation or figuring out where to go for resources, because it's difficult for a lot of people to ask for financial help. So understanding that that it is okay to do that. And then also just thinking about the whole disaster recovery process , um, what our case managers in a recovery system and how do you work with them and, and is there a longterm recovery committee they're available and what kind of financial professionals might I work with? Um, but so we we've got resources in there to help people think about , uh, if they're able to return to their home and what that means financially, if they're not , um, some things to think about related to clean up, if it's a tornado or a flood or, or other natural disasters. Um, one of the units that I really like is called, where am I financially? Sometimes people don't know where they are financially. Right. What , kind of income do they have? What kind of debts do they have? What other kinds of commitments do they have? So helping people figure out where they're at and can they, can they withstand another payment? For example, if there was a tornado and they needed to repair their home, could they withstand another, a second mortgage or a loan to do that? Um, so lots of really great resources in this toolkit .

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

I love the breadth and depth of the resources that you have in that tool kit. It sounds like it's good for both service providers, as well as consumers. And I'm even thinking out loud that many of our service providers could even directly send their clients to the website and get help, or they could go on their own and learn more about it..

Sara Croymans:

Definitely, definitely. And, and I think I mentioned earlier, there is a video series that, that goes, which each of the units and the tool kit. And so, we were trying to meet people where they were at, you know, written toolkits might not be for some folks, but they might be able to sit down and watch a short video to, to access some of the information as well. So those are also available on our university of Minnesota extension website.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Thank you, Sarah. That's, that's really great information for our professionals. I have just one other question for you that I've, I'm kind of curious about actually is how there might be differences or similarities, I guess, to how we would help our clients become financially prepared for something like this COVID-19 crisis. Are there, are there things that are different in terms of how you would advise clients or do you feel like this really falls into line with the stuff that you've prepared already around the family financial toolkit?

Sara Croymans:

You know, for sure there are a lot of similarities and for example, in natural, such as a tornado or a flood and, and pandemics such as COVID-19 right. So a lot of the same strategies or steps we'd encourage folks, you know, make sure you have adequate insurance, make sure you have an emergency fund. Do you keep your debt load low? You know, all of those sorts of things, but obviously, you know, there are some major differences as well, natural disasters maybe unexpected or, maybe we're expecting a, really wet spring and the snowfall, you know, so we're expecting some flooding. So, there are some things there where we could really plan ahead with flood insurance and other things, but oftentimes those natural disasters may come on really quickly. And in those cases, you know, the disaster itself, the tornado comes and leaves, but then there's all of this aftermath and a very long recovery time where folks need to work through all of those major decisions. Of course with natural disasters, there might be major loss or, or damage to property. My house might get flooded or blown away, or a tsunami might come in and do major damage. But on the other side with a pandemic, my home probably isn't going to be damaged. But there may be that income loss, which we might see in a natural disaster as well. It's really longer term, you know, how long have we been in, in the COVID-19 situation, it's going on for a while, and we're not quite sure when that's going to happen, but a lot of those same things, right. How are my finances? Did I have some reserves? And I think we can, if they were predicting it a little bit, but we didn't know how that, that was gonna impact us. I guess the nice thing, and I don't know if this is a nice thing about a pandemic, but a lot of people are experienced in that, right? So people are not alone and we've seen a lot of great resources,and assistance,the economic impact payments, not huge, but, but you know, many folks benefited from those through The Cares Act, which you guys did a couple of great webinars. I loved those. Ryan (Law) did an amazing job on those. You know, so a lot of people are experiencing the same thing. And then there are a lot of resources out there, whereas with natural disasters, there may not be public assistance through FEMA available that's offered , far and few between. So, the pandemic has brought some good resources, not always as much as we would like, but there have been some great things out there. So bottom line, there are some similarities, but definitely some differences as well.

Rebecca Wiggins:

So we are at the, at the end of our interview and with each guest, we like to close out with something called your 2 cents to , to have your biggest takeaway for our listeners. So Sarah, tell us what piece of advice you have for the financial professionals who are listening that are helping others through disasters, and maybe specifically through this COVID-19 disaster right now.

Sara Croymans:

Sure. You know, when I think about disasters, I hope that as financial professionals, we can really help our clients hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. And so, you know, chances are everyone in their lifetime is going to encounter a disaster crisis or two or three, um, of some sort. And so planning and preparing can really help give people the confidence that they need to better position themselves to withstand the situation. So building in that disaster preparedness along the way with everything we do with clients, can be super ben

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Sara, thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing all of your information. There's so much that both service providers, as well as consumers can learn from, and we appreciate everything you're doing and wish you the best to continue on. Well, thank you so much for the opportunity to join you today. AFCPE is really focused on supporting and connecting our professionals and making a lasting impact in our communities this week. We'd like to talk about how our members are impacting their local communities with free counseling services.

Rebecca Wiggins:

As you know, from our last episode, AFCPE® is offering free virtual financial counseling and coaching services, thanks to funding from Wells Fargo Foundation. And we're just really very proud that our professionals are able to provide vital financial counseling and coaching services to people in need and who are struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it's also a really great opportunity for financial professionals to help anyone who has financial questions or is facing credit or debt issues. We know people were struggling long before the pandemic hit. And as Sara shared today, it's really important to make sure that we're prepared and bounce forward for this new normal and for things that will be unexpected to come as well. And as you all know, AFCE professionals aren't just highly trained and unbiased. You understand that money is complex and emotional, and you're really the perfect combination of expertise and empathy, which is something we need now more than ever. So if you're interested in getting involved in this specific initiative, please go to our website AFCPE.org/covid19 . We have a bunch of resources that you can use with your clients. You can also volunteer to help out with the initiative right from that site. And then we also have a communication kit on there. So it would be wonderful if you could help us spread the word so that more clients have access to your expertise and empathy.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

We also wanted to mention that the AFCPE® award nominations are officially open. We want everyone to be able to receive accolades for the hard work that they're doing. Award season is a great time to elevate the innovations and good work that's happening in our field. Please use this time to reach out to a fellow AFCPE member and encourage them to apply or head to afcpe.org, to learn more about how you can apply applications are due by July 13.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Thanks so much for listening today. Please make sure to subscribe to our biweekly podcast available on many of the channels. You get your podcasts from including Google play, Apple podcast and iTunes as always, We want to hear your perspectives. So go to the AFCPE®website and tell us more about your thoughts. You can also follow us at AFCPE® on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and join the conversation. Tell us what you think using hashtag real money, real experts. And we can't wait to hear from you.