Tag Archive for Nelson Rutherford

If you build it…will they come?

This is a question we all ask when planning educational events. Though its common knowledge there is a huge need for financial education usually the people who need the information are not going to seek it out. One of the struggles many of our partners who serve adults face is getting people to attend their events. Financial Beginnings is fortunate we don’t need to recruit our audience because our classes are in the in schools or community groups where are audience is already gathered. They are stuck hearing form us if they want to or not.

Last week was Money Smart Week in Oregon. Financial Beginnings and Operation HOPE decided that we wanted to expend our efforts beyond our youth in school programs during Money Smart Week. I have always wanted to have an open forum for adults to be able to ask their questions regarding personal finance. With laws and industry norms changing so frequently in addition to money always being viewed as a taboo subject I thought people have a forum to where they can ask questions would be wonderful. Money Smart Week gave me the push I needed to finally organize one of these forums and we named it Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money. You’d be surprised how long it took us to come up with the name.

At Portland State University we brought together experts within the financial industry including; Jim Hunt from OnPoint Community Credit Union, Michael Parker from the Oregon College Saving Plan, Nelson Rutherford from Alten, Sakai & Co, and Diane Childs and Fernando Velez from the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. The moderator of the panel was Brent Hunsberger, It’s Only Money columnist for the Oregonian Newspaper. Brent’s diverse knowledge in personal finance combined with his reputation in the community really helped to bring exposure and credibility to this event. You would think that with this great group this would have been the hard part of my task, but this was easy.

The hard part was the promotion and getting people to come to the event. I hear it time and time again from event organizers that it is so hard to get people to come. Having the event be free may even make it more difficult in some respects because of the perceived value. If people pay for attendance to an event they may tie a higher value to it and may be more likely to attend.

As of the three days before the event we had less than 10 people registered to attend. My anxiety level was high and I was so worried I was going to waste the panel’s time because nobody would show up. So we marketed it hard. All of the panel members helped to promote the event. Brent wrote about it in the paper and Nick Allard from KGW brought us on the bricks to promote it. We ramped up our social media and contacted all of the business professors at Portland State.

The registrations started flooding in, we maxed out the registration. We even added more seats because our experience has shown that usually only 2/3 of those that register end up attending free events. Our predictions were correct and we ended up with about 2/3 of those who registered attending.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the crowd and their eagerness to hear from the panel. We had several planned questions in case the audience did not have questions right away, but Brent was only able to get one of the planned questions out and the audience took over from there. I saw several individuals in the crowd filling out multiple pages of notes. When time ran out several audience members flocked the panel for additional questions. It was like they were rock stars.

Aspects I see attributing to the success of the event:
• Having Brent Hunsberger of the Oregonian as the moderator added a lot of credibility to the event and his writing about it gave the event more exposure.
• Holding the event at Portland State University also added credibility to the and highlighted the educational component of the event.
• The panel was made up of high level and respected individuals.
• The varied marketing proved to be successful based on a pole of those attending reporting how they heard about the event.

We will definitely hold the event again next year during Money Smart Week. We have created a great foundation for the event and will be able to build upon this more next year.

Panel

Tax Preparation Part I

Last Friday I had my annual tax preparation appointment which meant we had to have all of our tax information gathered before the 2pm Friday appointment.  I have never had such a hard time gathering my taxes before!

I imagine that based on my work in the financial education sector you would expect me to be fully prepared for my taxes.  You might even think I’d do my own.  Well, this year that was far from the truth.  I stopped doing my own taxes several years ago when I decided the hours I spent and the unease of knowing if I was actually doing them correctly was not worth it and sought out a tax professional.  I did what most of us do, asked around and got a referral.  I blindly took the referral and brought him all of my financial information.  I didn’t interview him or even question if he was right for me because I really didn’t know how to figure that out.

I wasn’t highly impressed by my CPA’s abilities since there were a couple of occasions where he made mistakes on my rental homes, but he always fixed the mistakes and it never financial affected me so I kept using him.  I used him until the year of my divorce.  You know how you get the packet from you tax preparer for you to fill out before they complete you taxes?  Well, due to the stress of going through a divorce I decided for the first time in my life to file for an extension.  A few months later when things calmed down I finally got around to opening the tax packet only to find a very sad letter informing me that my CPA had passed away.  Boy did I feel stupid for not opening the packet sooner.  I continued to use someone else at the firm until this year after I got remarried.

My husband utilized a firm down in California to do his taxes and I didn’t really have a connection or was really impressed by the firm doing my taxes so we decided to find a new CPA.  Once again we asked around for a referral and took the recommendation of our financial advisor.  And once again I had no idea what to ask or what would indicate if this person was right for us.  I just handed over the financials, expect that I’ll get my returns and bill in a couple of weeks and then do the same thing again year after year.

It wasn’t until yesterday when I was talking with a supporter of Financial Beginnings, Nelson Rutherford from Alten, Sakai & Co, that I realized I really have been going about this all wrong. He is joining us as our tax and financial planning expert at our panel discussion, Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money, this week and we were discussing some talking points.  He told me how so many consumers wait until the last minute, throw everything together and take it to any CPA that will take them, but they forget one key aspect.  PLANNING!

Now I did not admit to Nelson that I was one of those people and quite honestly always have been.  You might be wondering why I didn’t go to Nelson since I know him and think highly enough to consider him an “expert” for my panel.  I felt like it was mixing business and personal too much.  Though I don’t imagine him seeing my nonprofit salary would scare him away from continuing to be a donor.  I did however refer my grandmother to Nelson.  She too had gone to the same tax preparer for 30 years and every year complained how she made mistakes, but never did anything about it until the tax preparer retired this year.

So I’m taking a new approach for the future!  I’m going to try out this whole planning thing that Nelson was talking about.  More to come on how I’ll go about it.