Fellowship Offers Spouses Portable Skills

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2008 - Frequent military relocations can take a toll on spouses' careers unless they have a portable skill, which is exactly what one foundation has set out to provide them.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation has partnered with the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education to offer military spouses a chance to earn the "accredited financial counselor" credential.

The credential gives spouses the ability to work in financial counseling, nationwide, either on or off military installations, said Gerri Walsh, associate vice president of authority's office of investor education. "It is a well regarded, nationally known credential," she said, "and it could be such a benefit."

The Military Spouse Fellowship Program, as it is known, is open to spouses of active duty servicemembers, reservists or retirees, with a couple of exceptions.

"We have an application that asks you to describe your previous counseling experience and your previous experience in finance," Walsh said. "We do checks to see whether or not people have had run-ins with regulators if they were in the industry before."

Someone who has had problems with a regulator would not be eligible, she said. The same is true of anyone who holds a securities license.

Since the program was launched in 2006, more than 4,800 applications have been fielded for the no-cost, 18-month program. A rigorous selection process, however, has narrowed that field down to just 200 fellows each year.

Representatives from the two partnering organizations, along with those from the National Military Family Association, another partner in the program, carefully review each application. Each applicant is evaluated on several points, including the drive to succeed, Walsh said.

"Then (we consider) how realistic is it that they'll be able to earn the credential?" she said. "We don't want to put people in this situation where they've gotten this fellowship but then they've got no real good way to earn the practicum hours that will allow them to get it."

Time spent working in financial counseling settings equates to practical experience, or the practicum hours to which Walsh referred. Fellows with experience get credit toward this portion of the program. The more experience, the fewer practicum hours are needed.

In fact, of the 2,000 practicum hours required to complete the program, most spouses have some credit and only end up needing to complete another 400 to 800 hours, Walsh said.

"Only single digit percentages ? 6, 7, 8 percent ? are required to go for the full 2,000," she said, adding that experience is not a significant determining factor in the selection process.

So far, 39 fellows in the 2006 class have completed the entire program, including the Web-based seminars and the practicum requirements. That group is scheduled to finish in August, and several more fellows are expected to earn their credential, Walsh said.

National Military Family Association will start accepting applications for the 2008 Military Spouse Fellowship Program in late March with a deadline of late Aril, Walsh said.

The new slate of fellows is scheduled to be announced in late June or early July.

*Related Sites:*
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation  [ ]
National Military Family Association [ ]
 Fellowship Offers Spouses Portable Skills [ ]