Last year, Lisa Dickerson was wrestling with a few tough questions.
Two of her relatives were struggling with medical problems, and she was questioning whether her own insurance was up to snuff. At the same time, she was planning for her retirement, and she was lending a hand as her father drew up his will.
So she stopped by Financial Planning Day at Oakland City Hall. There, she was able to sit down and speak with financial advisors volunteering their services for the day.
“I think it was useful,” said the Alameda resident, noting that she appreciated the chance to speak with someone directly. “I kind of like the idea of the one-on-one.”
This year, Oakland’s Seventh Annual Financial Planning Day will take place at City Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5. The event is a chance for the public to meet with finance pros on an individual basis, with no strings—or sales pitches—attached. It will also feature workshops on specific topics, including the Affordable Care Act, strategies for coping with poor credit, and entrepreneurial tips for women who want to start a business.
The event is sponsored by the East Bay Chapter of the Financial Planning Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, among other organizations. A handful of politicians have endorsed it, including Mayor Jean Quan, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and State Assemblyman Rob Bonta.
“The mayor’s a huge supporter of this,” said Sean Maher, a spokesman for Quan. He called the event a good fit for Oakland, where wealth rubs shoulders with severe poverty. “This is information that’s significant and important to potentially all of those people,” he said.
Financial Planning Days will be held in 31 cities across the nation this year, but it was founded here in Oakland in 2007, by Frank Paré, who owns PF Wealth Management Group on Harrison Street.
He and other organizers said that, at first, they expected the event would attract people with little or no income—folks just scraping to get by—but past sessions have attracted nearly 200 participants from a wide range of backgrounds. Couples have come for advice as they consider having children. Parents have asked for tips on paying their kids’ college tuition. Others have come with questions about buying a home, handling an inheritance, or deciphering employee benefits.
“People like the idea of being in a safe environment where they’re not going to be sold something,” Paré said, adding that the event also offers a chance for participants to shop for an advisor. “It gives them an opportunity to ‘kick the tires’ of a financial professional.”
As for those offering the advice?
Paré says they’re prohibited from handing out business cards unless asked. When it comes to Financial Planning Day, part of Paré’s goal was to provide easy access to services he thinks are too often viewed with distrust.
“There’s a sense of cynicism about what we do,” he said. “I think the people who are in this industry wanted to take the knowledge that they have, and use it for someone who is less fortunate. This knowledge, often times, is much more valuable than writing a check.”