Why I’m a Financial Literacy Volunteer
Teaching financial literacy continues to be one of the most gratifying activities of my career. Although it requires a portion of my already limited time, the rewards (tangible and intangible) are tremendous. Following are the reasons I think public service via financial education is important to us as individual CPAs as well as to our profession.
The Need is Great
Financial education is not taught in our public schools and our economic/financial environment continues to become increasingly complex. Many people do not have the basic information they need to make financial decisions and they don’t know whom to trust. There are large segments of our population who need the professional, objective advice that CPAs can give, but who cannot afford the fees: teenagers and college students, the elderly and middle/low income adults, to name a few.
CPAs Have Unique Qualifications
CPAs are some of the most trusted advisors in the financial world and can bring a combination of knowledge and objectivity to financial education that is unique. Although there are many ways I could choose to take part in public service, financial literacy takes full advantage of my knowledge and experience and represents the “highest and best use” of the time I have available.
It Strengthens the CPA Profession’s Public Image
Although hard to quantify, I think most would agree that when people see CPAs volunteering to help the general public, their opinion of the profession goes up. Corporations spend millions of dollars each year to strengthen their public image, and it’s one of the AICPA’s top priorities. An improved public image can also help in our legislative efforts as our “political capital” is greater when we have the public’s support and are viewed as the “good guys” in the profession. A strong CPA reputation also benefits each of us individually as more people are inclined to seek out our services.
Personal and Career Development is Bolstered
The old adage, “you don’t really know a subject until you have to teach it to someone else,” has certainly proven true in my case. I have greatly increased my knowledge of personal finance through developing and presenting presentations to other CPAs and the general public. I have also become much more comfortable with public speaking, a skill many CPAs have limited opportunities to develop. Expanding your knowledge and skills can be especially important for younger CPAs who may be in narrowly defined career paths.
Community Visibility and Contacts are Created
Financial literacy activities involve meeting many community leaders (and other CPAs), which can help greatly expand your network. This can be a significant benefit for CPAs who might otherwise struggle to find networking opportunities. I for one can vouch that it has helped me tremendously.
It’s the Right Thing to Do
This is arguably the most important reason to volunteer. Public service is a hallmark of all the great professions, including ours, and is deeply rooted in our culture and traditions. All of us have benefited from help given unselfishly by others, and it’s only natural to want to “give back” some of our time and talent. In the end, we will be judged not for how well we treat those who pay us the most, but how we treat those who pay us the least.
One of the greatest ways to get started volunteering as a CPA is to find out what others are doing. How have you, or CPAs you know, used your expertise in the community? Share your volunteer successes below!
Terry L. Seaton, CPA, PFS, CFP, Owner and President, Seaton Financial Advisors, LLC. Terry has been providing financial planning and investment management services to clients in northeast Florida since 2002. Terry serves on the AICPA’s National Financial Literacy Commission; the Board of Directors of the St. John's River Chapter of the FICPA, and is a past president of that organization; the FICPA's Board of Governors; the Advisory Board for the Bartram Trail High School Academy of Business and Finance; and is Chairman of the FICPA's Financial Literacy Committee.