Association of Military Banks of America

FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship: Empowering Military Spouses to Invest in Themselves

By Amanda Mitchell, AFC® Candidate

Andia Dinesen interviewing speaker, Melissa Bittner, at the 2019 AMBA Annual Workshop

Being a military spouse is hard work. Frequent moves and the unpredictability of the future can make finding and keeping a career difficult. In fact, the unemployment rate of military spouses is nearly three times that of the current national average. Unfortunately, the finality and inflexibility of military life create some daunting hurdles for spouses that, too many times, prevent their careers from progressing or even starting in the first place. But I am here to tell you that even though you may feel all of the doors have been closed on you, there are always open windows if you know how to find them. If you are looking for a meaningful career that has the potential to change other’s lives positively, the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship could be exactly what you are looking for.

What is the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship exactly?

2021 marks the 15th anniversary of the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship. Over the last fifteen years, the FINRA Foundation has helped hundreds of military spouses find purpose and empowerment by encouraging them to invest in themselves by becoming Accredited Financial Counselors (AFC®). The fellowship covers the cost of training and testing and sets you up for success by providing a community of support to help you succeed. I can tell you from first-hand experience the community is the best part. You immediately have a whole crowd of other spouses that came before you at your back, cheering you on and helping to lift you over whatever obstacles you face.

What does an AFC® do?

An AFC® helps to guide individuals and families on their paths to financial freedom. An AFC® educates and helps clients overcome whatever financial obstacles they face and supports them through their journey. For more details about the career, visit the AFCPE’s website here.

Do I need to have a background in finance to apply?

No, you don’t need to have a specific background in finance to receive the fellowship. In fact, FINRA Military Spouse Fellows come from very diverse backgrounds and disciplines. The reasons for being drawn to personal finance are different for everyone.

What can the fellowship do for you?

 To help me capture a broader perspective on the impact the fellowship has on recipients, I had the pleasure of interviewing 2010 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow and current AFC®, Andia Dinesen. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you know that personal finance was something you wanted to pursue?

“I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and was very interested in the connection between counseling and personal finance.  I also wanted to learn more about personal finance for my personal growth.  I had spent many years supporting our base community, other military spouses, and families.  I knew I wanted to continue to do this.  The AFC® provided a great opportunity for me to do this on another level.  Once I started down this path, I knew it was where I was supposed to be.”

How has the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship impacted your life?

“The Fellowship launched my career. Once I delved into the material, I realized I really loved personal finance. I completed my Fellowship hours and took the exams (at that time, there were two) and earned my AFC® in May 2011.  About a month later, we PCSed again to the D.C. area. With my experience, educational background, and the AFC® designation, I was competitive in the military finance arena. The Consumer Federation of America hired me to lead the Military Saves Campaign.  After two years with CFA, I moved to the Association of Military Banks of America.  I have been working for AMBA for almost eight years. AMBA and our member banks serve the military and veteran communities by offering financial education, products, and services tailored to the needs of military families. Currently, I am also pursuing my master’s degree in Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University. The FINRA Foundation Fellowship helped shaped my career, not to mention my personal financial life, in so many ways.”

What impact have you been able to make because of the program?

“I have been blessed to work for two different organizations that recognize the importance of financial readiness for military and veteran communities.  AMBA’s main mission is to support military and veteran communities with financial education and financial products and services through AMBA’s member banks.  AMBA member banks understand the unique financial lives and challenges of military and veteran families, and AMBA works hard as an organization to support our member banks and their customers.”

What do you want future FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellows to know?

  1. I want future Fellows to know that sometimes an AFC does not have a clear career path, like a Financial Planner might, but that the support from FINRA Foundation, AFCPE, and other Fellows is fantastic.  The AFC® designation can bring so many new opportunities to Fellows. The career path has broadened so much in the last ten years since I first earned my AFC®.
    1. FINRA Investor Education Foundation and AFCPE just launched a new program called the Society for FINRA Foundation Fellows, or SF3.  The Society is separated into regions and run by volunteer Ambassadors to help foster collaboration, focus on improving program engagement, and forwarding Fellows’ mission of supporting military members and families.  This new Society will help support Fellows as they start on their journey to become an AFC® and will also foster connection among current Fellows.
    1. The AFC® is a Nationally Accredited Certification; it belongs to the individual and, therefore, does not need to be reissued in each state, making it an excellent option for military spouses.

 As the old proverb goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” There is no telling where your next steps will take you, but I encourage you to make them count. Take a chance and invest in yourself, your community, and your future by applying for the 2021 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship today.

Helpful links:


FINRA Foundation