by Karin Price Mueller
Karin Price Mueller is a 2010 FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award task force member.
What is the Heart of Financial Planning? It's members like Bobbie Munroe, CFP®.
Munroe of Fraser Financial in Atlanta, Georgia, was honored with an FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award in 2007.
What made Munroe stand out among her peers? Her nominating letter, written by Debra Trevathan, CFP®, listed Munroe's accomplishments, including establishing relationships and alliances with community and professional organizations, a host of financial education programs especially for the young, and tireless work with nonprofits. Trevathan wrote:
There may be some who have served the FPA and the community for more years, but none with more passion, dedication, or energy. Indeed, though the accomplishments listed above are significant, it is the passion that she brings to these activities that is most impressive. Her passion creates an aura of excitement that attracts and encourages others to serve to the best of their ability. It is what sets her apart as a particularly effective leader and an ongoing asset of extraordinary value for the FPA. She is the heart of financial planning for her community.
Well said. Our short conversation with Munroe displayed those attributes in spades. We asked Munroe about why the Heart of Financial Planning Award is such a special honor, and about how others can use the annual award as an opportunity to recognize others who are doing exemplary work for the financial planning field and for the general public.
FPA: What does the Heart of Financial Planning Award mean to you personally?
Munroe: I was lucky enough to visit my 95-year-old Aunt Julia over the weekend, and several of my older first cousins were there. We started talking about the fact that service is just part of how we were raised. That's all of us, and I have 35 first cousins on that side of my family alone. Therefore, receiving the Heart of Financial Planning Award was, is, and will remain the high point of my life. My history tells me it is much more important than being the best wealth manager or highest earner among my peers, though I do aspire to at least the first one. The only way most big changes happen is one step at a time.
FPA: Tell us some of the reasons you were nominated and why you were recognized?
Munroe: To be honest, I suspect that my name recognition at FPA didn't hurt. But then, that name recognition is due to the fact that many hours of my volunteer time in the past has been devoted to FPA. But in my heart I have to tell you that I do have a service resume that fits the bill. Although I laughingly said that I wasn't old enough for this kind of honor, for years I have been very active in advocating financial literacy, an effort that I think was at the core of my nomination. I have volunteered at every turn to teach high school and college students about financial literacy.
Additionally, I have taught their teachers as I wanted to close any gaps in their knowledge so they would be more confident with the material. I have worked with Junior Achievement and presented some of their programs. I have developed presentations that are hopefully interesting enough to keep a 17 year old interested for almost an hour.
Finally, I have worked closely with the Georgia Consortium for Personal Financial Literacy. Through this organization, many community players, both for profit and nonprofit, join for the benefit of the community in an effort to spread financial literacy, partnering with each other whenever possible, sharing updates and knowledge that promote our cause.
Indeed, I think one of my biggest talents is networking people together to benefit both. Since receiving the award, I've become a board member for the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) South, I was the project leader for the NAPFA Money Bus Tour stop in Atlanta, and I am chairman of the Atlanta Fiscal Council, one of six national groups formed by the Concord Coalition to make recommendations to Congress for increased financial literacy specifically aimed at the national debt problem with possible solutions. Hey, I'll stick my head in a tiger's mouth. And I still give seminars and workshops regularly.
FPA: Why is it important to nominate people for the award?
Munroe: Typically, those who serve do so for personal reasons, though I do think at times it can be hard to personally understand if the reason I say "yes" is for service reasons or for my ego. It really doesn't matter as long as the service gets done. It's a great way to be selfish. But the biggest reason others should recognize someone is to say, "Yes, we noticed and thank you." That's really all anyone wants, from the garbage man to the convenience store clerk, isn't it? And saying "thank you" will often encourage the person recognized to go out and redouble his or her efforts. Momentum for good deeds spurred by good and vocal thoughts.
FPA: What do you think of the nominating process? Is it hard?
Munroe: The nomination process is extremely simple. The hardest problem for me, and I have nominated someone in the past, was to choose amongst the many people I know who richly deserve this kind of recognition. Perhaps it is true of other fields as well, but I have to say that my financial planning peers seem to be exceptionally interested in giving back to the community, and to each other, in many ways.
FPA: Given that service is so important to you, is there anything else you'd like to add on the topic of giving back? What should those who serve know?
Munroe: Other things? I can't close without telling you about a recent experience. I believe in life planning, which is really dealing with underlying money issues that affect current behavior. With this in mind, last year I went to Healing Money Issues, a 6-day workshop at Onsite, a facility just outside of Nashville. There I learned that my primary money script is "service is good."
Now, how could that possibly be a problem? I promise you, it can. Indeed, over the past decade I have devoted literally thousands of hours, no joke, perhaps 4,000 hours in 10 years, to non-paying community activities, and frankly, my business reflected the fact that so much time was being spent elsewhere. I tell everyone else, "Like the flight attendant says, put the mask on yourself first and then help those around you." Yet it was hard for me to take my own advice.
It was made clear that if I didn't stay in business my ability to help others individually would be seriously compromised. So after the workshop, I actually spent the summer in money coaching (I recommend such services and what is good for the goose is good for the gander) to learn how to say no and put myself first. So I do have plans to cut back in the future, perhaps by letting myself roll off various boards without immediately replacing the position with another that takes at least as much of my time.
Yes, I will still serve, but I will serve myself as well. As the woman who raised me used to say, "Charity begins at home and spreads abroad." If I'm half as smart as I think I am, I can use even more of my volunteer time to encourage others to do theirs, something that would have a much broader reach than anything I alone can do.
The 2010 FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award recipients will be announced in September, and the winners will be honored at FPA Denver 2010 October 9-12.