Real Money, Real Experts

Exploring Transitions - A look at AFCPE® through the years and Changing Careers with Barbara O'Neill, AFC®

July 20, 2021 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 31
Real Money, Real Experts
Exploring Transitions - A look at AFCPE® through the years and Changing Careers with Barbara O'Neill, AFC®
Show Notes Transcript

This week on Real Money, Real Experts, hosts Rebecca Wiggins and Dr. Mary Bell Carlson walk down memory lane with Dr. Barbara O'Neill, owner/CEO of Money Talk and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University. A long time member of AFCPE®, Dr. O'Neill talks to us about her favorite AFCPE moments and the growth of the organization through the years. 

Just as AFCPE has transitioned over the years, so has her professional career. Come learn about her exciting journey from Academia to Entrepreneurship and hear how she uses social media, professional connections and life lessons to build a successful private practice. 

 
 Show Notes:

00:52 Barb Intro

02:04 Barb’s intro to the Field of Finance

04:08 Stroll Down Memory Lane: AFCPE® in the early years

08:09 Tips for your first AFCPE® Symposium

09:17 Barb’s transition from Academia to Entrepreneurship

12:39 Filling in the Cracks: Managing your Time as a Private Practitioner

14:17 The Mary O’Neill Mini Grant: Origins and Impact in the Field

18:26 Using Social Media to Build your Brand

21:53 Barb’s Two Cents


 Show Note links:

Contact Barb!
Twitter: @moneytalk1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbaraoneillmoneytalk/
Small Steps Blog: https://moneytalk1.blogspot.com/2021/06/the-value-of-simple-process-steps.html
Money Talk Website: https://www.moneytalkbmo.com/
Money Talk Blog: https://moneytalk1.blogspot.com/

Resources
Rutgers Cooperative Extension Personal Finance Website: https://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/
Amazon Website for Flipping a Switch Book:  https://www.amazon.com/Flipping-Switch-Happiness-Financial-Security/dp/1620236869
Military Families Learning Network Personal Finance Website: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/personal-finance/
Mary O’Neill Mini Grant: https://www.afcpe.org/career-and-resource-center/grants/
Mary O’Neill Mini Grant Recipients: https:/www.afcpe.org/career-and-resource-center/mini-grant-recipients/

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 cohost, 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 the personal finance professionals care about: helping clients, building community and your professional growth. Welcome everyone to the Real Money, Real Experts podcast. I'm Rebecca. This is Mary. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Today on the show we are talking with Barb O’Neill. Dr. O’Neill holds her CFP®, and AFC designations. She is the owner/CEO of Money Talk: Financial Planning Seminars and Publications where she writes, speaks, and reviews content about personal finance. Dr. O’Neill is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, after 41 years of service as a Rutgers Cooperative Extension educator and personal finance specialist. She has written over 160 articles for academic publications and received over 35 national awards and over $1.2 million in grants to support her financial education programs and research. Dr. O’Neill is also past President of AFCPE, a recipient of the AFCPE Distinguished Fellow Award, and a Next Gen Personal Finance fellow. She tweets personal finance information @moneytalk1, writes weekly posts for her Money Talk blog, and is the author of Flipping a Switch, a book about 35 later life transitions, which was published in 2020. Barb, we're so excited to talk with you today. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

I'm very happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Barb, you've got such a storied history with AFCPE® and quite honestly, just the profession of financial counseling in general. Can you tell us how you got started in this field?

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

Well, I started with a Bachelor's degree in what was then called Home Economics and is now called Family and Consumer Sciences. And I was kind of a generalist. So I took courses in nutrition and personal finance, clothing and textiles, just kind of a wide gamut of topics that are under that umbrella of home economics. And I became a county agent. I taught home economics for two years in high school and then went back to Cornell, got my Master's degree and started work at Rutgers. And then over time we started to kind of specialize in different topics. And I guess I was on the tenure clock and I had seven years to prove myself or was going to lose my job at Rutgers. So I decided to go for the CFP® designation. So I told all the people at Rutgers, it was for professional development, but what it really was, was a plan B career if I needed it. But fortunately I did get tenure. So then once I had the CFP® and kind of the, you know, the credibility that you get when you have that credential, cause I was still pretty young. I was like early thirties then. It gave you the credibility to be able to teach personal finance and to get information across to people. And so I just gradually specialized over the years and then eventually got my PhD in Family Financial Management, became a state specialist.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Awesome. And Barb, at what point in there did you get your AFC®? And I know you've been a member of AFCPE® for a very long time. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

Yea, I'm thinking early nineties, I got the AFC® and the CHC credentials from the AFCPE® and again, it was just part of that process of becoming more specialized and doing more programs in personal finance and just wanting to have additional credentials and knowledge to do that work.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Awesome. And can you share a little bit about your memories, I guess as a , you've been a member I think for 35 years of the organization. So I'm sure you have lots of stories and memories that you can share, but I'd love to hear a little bit of your perspective of how the organization has grown and changed and what you've seen over the years.

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

Okay. Well, I joined in 1986, so I think AFCPE® was three years old at that time. So you were like a toddler organization. And the first meeting that I attended was in 1989 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. And at that time, I think there were all of about 35 people that were at the conference and it was kind of tagged on to a larger conference that Rosella Bannister had been running in her state for people in Michigan. And I got there and within two hours of getting to the hotel, I got a call from somebody at the conference asking me if I would be the keynote speaker because the keynote speaker bailed. And they wanted me to change my workshop topic to a keynote. Now there were only like maybe 35 people at this conference, so you weren't speaking like to a big crowd or anything. But I said, yes, and it was the best thing for me because I didn't know anybody there. But then once I had presented to the entire group, they all know me. And so people say , oh, we're going to the bar. We're going to have drinks, you know, join us. And , and it was just a wonderful first timer experience. I, I hope that everybody that goes to AFCPE® for the first time has as warm and welcoming experience as I did cause it really kind of bonded me to the organization. So that was one year that I remember 1989. 1992 I remember as being an explosion year. All of a sudden, instead of having like 35 people, there were over a hundred and much more diverse than it was early on when it was primarily people based at universities. You know, at this meeting, there were county extension educators. There were military people. Templeton had been bringing a lot of the military people and there was just this huge explosion in the number of people at the conference that was pretty memorable. And then I'll always remember 2003 because that's the year that I was AFCPE® President. And I actually have all the records from that time. And I was looking through them the other night. Some of the things that the organization was dealing with in 2003 were an expansion of the certification programs. We were looking into Errors and Omissions Insurance for the practitioners in the organization. And we were celebrating the 20th anniversary of AFCPE®. And some people might not remember this. I didn't even really remember it, that we had the first mini grants in 2003. We called it Project 2020. And we took donations from the members and we had enough money that we gave a $2,000 mini grant to a group of extension educators who did a program called Legally Secure Your Financial Future. So that kind of planted the seeds for what later became the, you know, Mary O’Neill Mini Grant that we have to this day. So , that's kind of exciting. And so now I just see AFCPE® as kind of almost turning 40 and , there's going to be, you know, kind of middle age and you're much more mature of an organization. There's much more of an external focus than there ever was before. Cause you know, when you're just starting an organization, you're focused on survival, but AFCPE® is well past that now and is, you know, a major player in the space and has both internal and external things that they're working on, which is what an organization that's maturing should do.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Well, Barb that's in large part to your visionary leadership all those years ago. So we really appreciate that , that you've stuck with us. I would love to know, you know, since you've been, you were talking about the conferences from 35 people to a hundred last year, we had 1200 in attendance at our virtual event. What would you recommend to individuals who have never attended the symposium? And that may be their entry point to AFCPE®.

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

I think I would follow AFCPE® on social media because there's a lot of buildup to a Symposium as far as, you know, people posting things. And obviously you want to get all the information about the Symposium that you can pull from the website; the agenda, and picking out the things that are most of interest to you. That's always important when you go to any conference. And hopefully have a buddy or two. I mean, I , I think you , you know, go into any conference if you know, some people who are going, that always makes it a little bit more enjoyable because you have people to socialize with. And so kind of lining that up, I think would be helpful for people.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Barb, you've spent a majority of your life in academia, but, you've recently written a book called Flipping a Switch, talking about the many transitions you've experienced in later life. And one of them is into entrepreneurship. Can you tell us a little bit more about going from academia into entrepreneurship?

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

Yeah. Well, Mary, it's interesting that you say that because it really wasn't that big of a shift because I think for many of us in the financial counseling and education space, if we work for an employer, we're almost like intrepreneurs. So we have a lot of entrepreneurial instincts. I mean, we obviously work for an organization that's paying as a paycheck, but we have a lot of things that are kind of entrepreneurial in nature that we did. So for 40 years I did that at Rutgers. I , you know, I managed programs. I managed people, I secured grants to and funding for my projects, manage my time. And I made a lot of contacts with people. Most of my clients today, are people that I've known over the years. So you can lay a lot of groundwork if you're very productive as an employee, whether you're in the military, or cooperative extension, research. And then you just leverage everything that you've done in your prior life. All those skills that you developed, all those contexts that you made, they don't go away just when you leave a job, you know, you, you leverage them and, you know, benefit from them. And that's exactly what I've done over the years. It also helps if you can leave a job and go into entrepreneurship with some projects. So that was something I was pretty careful about. I decided to make my book one of those projects so that I could be going into entrepreneurship saying I'm a recent book author. I had a project actually with AFCPE® to work on some modules for the Military Essentials. So I had that all lined up before I left Rutgers. And then I've been involved with the Military Families Learning Network now for 10 years. And so what we did with that is just switch it over from a subcontract that Rutgers had with University of Florida to pay for my time. You know, they kind of bought out a piece of my time and fringe and benefits and that kind of thing. And, and now they just pay me as a contractor. And so I'm doing kind of the same work, but just in a different way. So it helps if you can have a lot of things lined up before you transition to entrepreneurship. So it makes it kind of a smooth transition.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Absolutely. And I followed a similar path as well, Barb, when I quit my full-time employment, making sure that I had a few contracts that were available for me to jump on. And so I would recommend that to anybody. And I think the other part too, and you talk about this a little bit in your book, the flexibility, right? Like being able to have transitions and especially as an entrepreneur, you can't, it's not a linear path. It's not a straight path. Academia is probably a little more straight than entrepreneurship, but talk to us a little bit more about that , of what it's like owning your own business and having to be flexible.

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

Kind of goes back to not a whole lot different from extension. I used to juggle projects all the time. You know, I had grant projects and, you know, reports that you had to do and everything, and it's kind of juggling now. I've kind of come up with some things that I I've thought about. And I, I've kind of blogged about a couple of these , strategies that I've used. And there have been a couple of times where there's been a little bit of a wall between projects because some of the projects that I've done recently have had funders that have to sign off. So the client isn't necessarily the last word, it's the funder and we're kind of waiting for the funder to give the approval. So some things are kind of hanging in limbo and that used to always be the case when I was an extension agent to you , you get some part of a project on like maybe a jointly co-authored journal article, and then you're waiting on the other authors or you're waiting on the reviewers or something like that. So I've kind of learned over the last 18 months or so that I've been doing this full time is to kind of fill in the cracks. So when I have a day where I don't have something I have to do for a client, I might binge write a couple of blog posts and then I have those ready. So then I don't have to take time when I am working for a client to get my weekly blog posts done cause it's already been written. So just kind of know those little time management things have been really important and, you know, just having templates for everything, invoices and memorandums of understanding, you know, like contracts with clients. I've done that enough now that I can just kind of whip out a template and make that a whole lot faster.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Barb, you talked a little bit before about the Mary O’Neill Mini Grant. Would you tell us a little bit more about how that got started? And then if you have any examples of what's been done using those funds and how that's made an impact in the field?

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

We've actually had 10 projects that have been funded. My mother passed away in 2010 and I believe that the first mini grant was in 2011. And so there've been 10 of them. And it's been $2,500, but starting this year, it will be $3,000 [Correction: $3,500] because you know, got adjusted a little bit for inflation after 10 years. And it does require the recipient to match the mini grant amount, but it can be done with time, you know, the , the salary of people that might be involved on the project, for example, and some of the projects have been really great. I remember the first one was group of extension educators in Colorado, where they were doing this Small Steps to Health and Wealth program. And they created like a little tracker form and then they had wrapped around a program around it and they were doing all sorts of outreach about health and wealth in there. I also remember the , the [Money] Dawgs in Georgia, you know, they , it was a group that worked with students and , with young kids too , that I think they had a project with the college students were kind of mentoring young students. And then just this past weekend. And I know you've seen that Rebecca cause you liked it on Facebook is Chris Sneed at University of Tennessee Extension did a project with little ones. I mean the second graders and, and taught them very basic personal finance stuff, like the denominations of coins and all those kids sent me cards over the weekend. And I got the cutest set of cards from the kids that were in the project and some of them were so cool you know. They kind of showed what they learned, you know, like a dime equals 10 pennies and a dollar equals four quarters, very cute. And then one of them drew me all a hundred dollar bills and , and hope that I would enjoy the money. Somebody else said, I love you. You know what I mean? It was just funny to get this home, stack of cards, you know, with coloring and everything. It very cool. So of course I put that out on social media just to say that financial education can start at any age and here's proof. So the projects have been amazing that have been taken place over the years. And what really struck me is that the mini grant is really just a catalyst. Because I've gone to all of those presentations that have been done, by every one of those recipients. And they have put in much more than the mini grant in match. In many cases, they've pulled in their Communications offices for the universities and they, you know, IT people and they've just put a lot of institutional resources into the projects. And I would venture to say, you know, all those projects together have had to reach like thousands of people, you know, cause some of them were media projects and everything. So yeah, the outreach has been great. And again, it's just helping real people with their finances.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Well, that's what I love about the award because it really is meant for innovative financial education projects. And we're going to actually put the link to some of the mini grant recipients in the show notes, because I think it's really interesting to look at all the different topics. And as you said, even different age groups that have been impacted by these funds, but it's really incredible just to see the impact that people are making. And we're so grateful to your generosity to make that happen.

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

Yeah. I, you know, my mom was a financially capable woman and you know, I just think it's a , it's a good way to honor, you know, what she taught me about personal finance and just kind of pay it forward.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

So, Barb, Speaking of outreach, you're an avid user of social media, Twitter in particular. What would you recommend to other financial professionals who are looking to build their brand in this social media space?

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

I think you have to have valuable content to share. So just decide what it is. I mean, when I first started with Twitter and in 2009, it was a lot of extension publications and probably in the beginning, I kind of made the mistake of kind of being one way. And I quickly learned that social media is a two way street that it's not just pushing out information. It's about communicating with people. It's about engagement and there's lots of different ways to engage with people. You can like them, you can share their stuff, you can send direct messages and it's really all of that engagement that you get the benefit from social media. LinkedIn, the same way. I can say from personal experience, I did very little with LinkedIn when I worked at Rutgers. Because A, I love my job and I really wasn't looking for a new job and B, I really couldn't be soliciting business cause we had different conflict of interest rules that I had to not run a foul of. So I had a LinkedIn account, but I , I never did very much with it. Just for those reasons. And then January 1st, 2020, I'm a free agent. On January 1st. I changed all my social media profiles. You know, got rid of the Rutgers, you know, mentioned it as Emeritus distinguished professor. Went to my new title, you know , which I actually had had the Money Talk business for 28 years, but it had been kind of semi underground and not full time . So I changed all the social media. And then I started to engage with LinkedIn, you know, just posting blog posts and links to my blog posts and occasional other resources. And boy did it explode. I mean, all of a sudden they started getting these, you know, messages that, you know, we're watching you, people are watching you and you're getting noticed. And of course they want to upgrade you the premium LinkedIn. That's why they're sending the messages. But still it got me thinking that wow, you know, and all of a sudden I start getting lots of requests for connections. And so just taking the time to, to post, I just had a blog post on using LinkedIn. And I did some research on that and they suggested at least three times a week posting something on LinkedIn. Something of value, something that will help other people, whether it's an article that you wrote or an article that you're sharing or an infographic or whatever it is. And of course it's business oriented. It's not like Facebook where you're going to be posting your vacation pictures or something. Just that engagement and paying some attention to it, I think can make a real difference. And of course you can use tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck. I use them both cause now Hootsuite only limits you to five tweets a day for free. So I supplement with TweetDeck. And, you know , get your information out and just engage with people, you know, like and share them and they will start to like, and share your stuff. And then it becomes kind of a , you know , virtuous circle, if you will, of people who were supporting each other in the financial education and counseling space.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Awesome. Thank you, Barb. Okay. So at the end of each interview, we'd like to get the guests two cents or your biggest takeaways for our listeners. If you had just one piece of advice to offer our financial professionals, what would it be?

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

I would say break down any recommendations or tasks that you have for clients or students into small, actionable habits or p rocess steps. I'm posting a blog post out this afternoon that w ill talk about a recent experience that I had when I was very frustrated. I had to put together a recorded ignite presentation for a conference and I asked how to do it. And I was sent a whole bunch of links. And it was just very frustrating and I almost decided to disband the whole thing, but I didn't, I persisted and I got it done and it came out pretty good actually. But the point is, if you just send people to links, yo u k n ow, people wi ll g et frustrated. Sometimes as professionals we don't know what people don't know. And it's not like people are stupid or anything. It's just, they haven't learned certain resources or concepts or terms in p ersonal finance. So to the extent that you can break a process down into steps for people, make it, you know, do this, do this, do this. Walk them from start to finish. I think that will make a big difference in on how receptive people are to taking the advice that we give them to improve their finances. And then the other thing I would recommend, ca use I 'll give th e s econd one is just learn something new every day about personal finance, whether it's listening to a webinar or a p o dcast l ike this one or reading Wall Street Journal or whatever, just try to make a point to learn something new every day. That will be a big benefit in the work that we do as well.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

You so much for your advice Barb and really for your experience over time that you have shared so much over the years and we appreciate your longevity with the Association and all that you've given. Thanks for joining us today on the show. And please tell our listeners where they can connect with you.

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

Okay. Well, there's couple of ways you can connect with me through my blog. And I actually have a , a personal website. I still have the personal finance website at Rutgers as well. If you want to order my book, there's just Google Flipping a Switch on Amazon and that should pop right up and you can get that. And then another site that I use quite a bit in my work is the Military Families Learning Network, personal finance websites. So that'll be in the show notes as well.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Thank you so much.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Barb O’Neill:

You're quite welcome.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Rebecca, Barb is such a pillar in this industry. She is one of the first individuals that I remember meeting at my first AFCPE® Symposium. And I see her there every year. She comes back again and again, and just is a wealth of knowledge. You can tell from her experience, what she writes and just talking to her that she has just a wealth of wisdom. And like so many of us, we just want to share it with so many others and help people better their lives.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah. She is an incredible leader and it was interesting having her walk back through her 35 years as a member. You know, it's, we're really fortunate to have her perspective and that longevity with the organization. And it's really great to look back and see how far we've come, you know, through those eyes. So starting out at the very first conference with 35 people and how it's grown to where it is today, how diverse the profession has become across different sectors and different professionals. I think that's really cool too. And I just, one thing I really admire about Barb is that she's always evolving. You know, when you think about how she just took on social media and ran with it and became such a leader in social media really, at a time when that could have been something that she just said, you know, not for me, this is, you know, for someone else, she really took that and ran with it. Or her career change and how she says, you know, I'm not retired, she's moving into another phase and, and still having impact. And I just really love and admire that. I, I hope that's something I continue to do as well. And then I loved her 2 cents. You know, I think sometimes in life we forget sometimes that other people aren't coming at things from the same vantage point or it's so common knowledge to us about some of these topics that we forget to break it down for someone else. So I thought that was really good advice as well, but also I just love that she's continuing to be so generous with the Mary O’Neill Mini Grant in a way to, to recognize her mother in that way and, and continue the impact. So, yeah, she's just she's, as you said, a pillar in the industry, and it's always great to get her perspective and vision for the field.

Outro:

If you enjoyed the show today, please give us a rating and review and be sure to share it with a friend. Real Money Real Experts is available wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you are interested in applying for the Mary O’Neill Mini Grant, applications are open! This grant is awarded each year for the development and implementation of an innovative, high-impact financial education project. For more information and to apply, please go to the Career and Resource Center on afcpe.org.