Advisors offering free, no strings attached financial planning to those hit by COVID-19

Posted at 5:18 PM, Jun 03, 2020

Financial advisors around the country are offering pro bono help to those impacted financially by COVID-19, no strings attached.

But despite the historic economic downturn, some advisors say they aren't getting many calls.

"'Financial planning' evokes being wealthy, having stocks and bonds. And that's not necessarily the case," said Kristin Pugh, a senior wealth advisor in Georgia.

She believes some people are deterred from seeking help because they have misconceptions about financial planning. Regardless of income, anyone with bills to pay and money to manage can benefit from this free help, Pugh said.

Also servings as Director of Community Outreach and Pro Bono Planning for the Georgia Financial Planning Association (FPA), Pugh says doing this work is a personal mission for her.

"In short, growing up poor made it so I have a particular, want or need to help the community," said Pugh. "Just a deep empathy for the amount of financial illiteracy that's out there, because of my own experience growing up."

The FPA reached out to chapters across the country to make a list of advisors willing to do to pro bono work during the economic crisis.

The help could range from a few phone calls to a six-month relationship.

Pugh says people facing hardships can advocate for themselves right now. She's advising many clients to try and get their bills lowered or postponed, like your credit cards or cell phone bill.

"It makes sense to call these people and say, 'I don't want to get dinged on my credit score for not making this on time, how can we work on this together'," said Pugh.

One of her clients negotiated with a collection agency, lowering the lump sum payment she owed from $500 to $300.

San Diego resident Susan Capra encourages people to take advantage of this free financial advice. She lost her dream job in the fashion industry during the 2008 recession and had to navigate much of this on her own.

"I learned a lot about calling up the agencies and seeing what they can do. You never know unless you ask. Pick up the phone and ask what are they doing to support the people in your situation," said Capra. "Focus on the biggest bills you have, and figure out how to either reduce those big bills, defer those big bills, get help."

In addition to finding a minimum wage job, Capra reduced unnecessary spending and made only the minimum payments on her credit cards.

Rather than renewing her car lease, she opted to put a little money down on a used car with low payments.

"This is not the first financial crisis we've been through; it's not the last. This is everyone's opportunity to educate yourselves, and there's light at the end of the tunnel."

You can find a certified pro bono financial advisor through FPA or the Foundation for Financial Planning .