Chepeni(k)’s Thoughts: A Call to Action

Our industry has a golden opportunity to do something incredibly important for our country.
By None

We have missed the boat for far too many years. It is so obvious and yet…we aren’t doing it. We can teach our children about money and change the fate of our “mostly” financially illiterate country.

The United Kingdom, this past February, announced that personal finance instruction will be mandatory throughout their school system beginning in 2014. This is an important development that largely fell on deaf ears in the U.S., where we cannot seem to get our act together.   According to the Jump$tart Coalition, only 24 states actually require some sort of financial literacy course as part of their curriculum. It is a sad state of affairs.

It is my proposal  that every licensed financial adviser, securities broker, and insurance agent be required to provide at least 10 community service hours each year to teaching others about money.  It is so simple and extremely impactful.

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has approximately 175,000 licensed investment professionals and more than 325,000 insurance focused professionals. That’s 500,000 people…real intellectual capital…that can and should be required to provide such community service as part of their regular CPE credits.

Even our attorney friends recognize the importance of community service work. A majority of the state bar associations across the country require some sort of annual pro bono work to remain in good standing. Additionally, members of the American Bar Association are called to a higher standard as a public citizen and, as such, should participate in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession!

If they can do it…so can we!!   We can improve our profession, the education system, and our children’s understanding of basic financial decisions. Almost every child will be forced to make financial decisions in the future. Why not help them understand those decisions today? 

According to The National Center for Education Statistics, there are more than 50 million children enrolled in U.S. public schools and another five million in private schools, but there are only 3.3 million elementary and secondary public teachers. That’s a ratio of 15 to 1, students over teachers. These students are spread across approximately 100,000 schools around our country. We have 500,000 licensed professionals that can help make a meaningful difference.

I am well aware that many of you, like me, have supported, with your money or your time, various community programs, projects or organizations. I continue to do so, but firmly believe that we must do more.  We can be a collective and organized voice. Our industry, unfortunately, has and continues to receive too much negative press.  Whether it was the 1990’s Enron or Worldcom scandals, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, or even the recent focus on our retirement-centric practices regarding fee disclosure!  This will not only help change the course of our country, it will give us bragging rights about how our industry collectively spends millions of hours in our school systems.  Good press for all of us!

April is National Financial Literacy month…but how many of you actually devote resources to help promote these efforts? There are many organizations that have developed successful programs to advance this cause…Jump$tart Coalition, Junior Achievement and The Boys and Girls Clubs of America.   Imagine if they had 500,000 volunteers to help deploy these wonderful programs…

Thank you.

Jason K. Chepenik, CFP®, AIF®, CkP


Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Inc. an independent, registered broker/dealer. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services provided by Independent Financial Partners