Jets zoomed overhead and the roaring sound of helicopters and machine guns filled the air as Kian Rafia met with a young Marine at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA. Through a program of FFP Grantee Financial Independence Training (FIT), Kian was working on base to provide pro bono one-on-one financial counseling to members of the military.
Kian’s client was earning a solid paycheck, and didn’t have any dependents, but was frustrated that he didn’t have any money in his bank account. “I encouraged him to take his financial statements and put an “E” next to the expenses and an “I” next to the income so he could begin to tally-up and track how his expenses exceeded his income,” said Kian. He also noticed that his client was not saving any money in his Thrift Savings Plan, for which the government matches up to 5% of contributions. Kian explained the time value of money and compound interest, telling this young Marine that he could accumulate money much more quickly if he started saving at an early age. He also added that contributing to the plan would reduce his client’s gross adjusted income, and as a result, his taxes. Kian’s client lit up at this new information. “He saves more, gets a match, gets taxed less… these things matter,” said Kian.
During another meeting at Camp Pendleton, Kian learned that his client, a young Marine, was sending the majority of his limited paycheck home to support his mother, father and brothers. He even recently purchased a used car for his family. “I asked him the last time he bought something for himself,” said Kian. “He responded that it was a month ago- a pair of socks. While I can’t encourage him to cut off his family, I did encourage him, as he builds his career over time, to develop a budget, put a cap on his contributions to his family, and to do things for himself that encourage a healthy mind and a healthy body.”
Kian views his role, both during his day job and in his volunteer work, as not just a financial professional but also as a coach, mentor, and sounding board. “You can be all those things when you do pro bono work,” he said. “My objective is teaching financial life management in addition to planning.” He encourages financial planners to ask questions, continue to dig, and make a personal connection with the clients. “Listen to them, understand their goals and what they are trying to achieve,” he said, “and meet them where they are.”
Kian also encourages others to volunteer. “People who aren’t doing it are missing out on an opportunity to become a better human being,” he said. “Whether they are going through terminal disease, are in the military, or are experiencing a crisis or serious need, people need sound financial advice and they appreciate it deeply.”
“I always had an interest in helping Marines… I appreciate everything that they have done for us. They make sacrifices to protect our freedoms but unfortunately, they often do not benefit from the services that they deserve.”
Encouraged clients to:
- Put money into Thrift Savings Plan which would result in more savings, a match from the government, and lower taxes
- Develop a budget to track income and expenses
- Do things for themselves to ensure healthy mind and a healthy body
Encouraged other financial professionals to:
- Ask questions, listen and make a personal connection with the clients
- Make sure they understand their clients’ goals
- Volunteer to help those unable to access quality financial advice