Cathie Anderson

Need money advice? Financial planners to answer questions at free event

Tina Florence, certified financial planner
Tina Florence, certified financial planner Courtesy of Tina Florence

Financial advisers don’t typically boast about how they walked out of an event without landing any new business, but certified financial planner Tina Florence does just that when talking about the Greater Sacramento Financial Planning Day.

Florence has volunteered at the annual event for the last four years, providing advice at no cost to area residents who have questions about their investments, debt management, insurance or other financial matters. Besides the personal consultation offered by Florence and about 30 other certified planners, there are workshops on many money issues.

“We’re not giving out business cards,” said Florence, a founding partner in Folsom’s Lane Florence financial advisory practice. “We’re not selling anything. We all know the name of the game … I have opened no accounts from that event at all.”

People come to the event because they know they won’t encounter high-pressure sales tactics, Florence said. This year’s event will be Oct. 10 at the West Sacramento City Hall, 1110 W. Capitol Ave. Each year, the event attracts bigger and bigger crowds.

“When we first started our Financial Planning Days, we were still trying to clear out the backlog of people who had been swept up in the mortgage downturn,” Florence said. “It was a very challenging time for people emotionally as well as financially. They didn’t know what to do, where to go.”

Florence was actually relieved in 2011 when the national Financial Planning Association started planning these events nationwide because she’d had clients in desperate situations who had sought her counsel. It wasn’t just the loss of jobs and the loss of homes, Florence said, it was also the loss of health insurance that was needed for a child or another family member. This was before Covered California, she said, and other programs.

By 2013 and 2014, Florence said, the economic crisis had eased and people had more typical questions about 401(k) accounts or retirement. She also said that the event has become a safe place for people to ask basic questions without feeling embarrassed. She’s gotten questions like: “What’s a mutual fund? What does ‘rolling over a 401(k)’ mean?”

A mutual fund holds stock from a variety of companies and typically is managed by a financial expert who decides what to buy or trade. When advertisements talk about rolling over your 401(k), they are suggesting that investors roll their 401(k) investments into an Individual Retirement Account with access to a greater variety of stocks and mutual funds.

These concepts are not basic for many people, Florence said, and it reinforced the need for the financial education provided at the event.

“When I got those questions,” Florence said, “I thought, ‘How confusing and frustrating that would be not to even know the language.’ It’s one thing to understand what they’re talking about and just put it off, but to not even understand what people are saying.”

Planners show up as early as 7 or 7:30 a.m. for an event that starts at 9 a.m., Florence said, and there are always people waiting in line when they get there. Attendees can find their local event and register for it at www.financialplanningdays.org.

Florence said she sees about 30 people at each event, and at least two of them are usually self-made millionaires. As the book “The Millionaire Next Door” has documented, the majority of self-made millionaires are a frugal lot. And, what’s not to like about free? They often bring in complex estate planning questions, Florence said, but she tells them to pay an attorney. Otherwise, she said, their families could suffer after they have departed.

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