One criticism often leveled at the financial planning profession is that it expends too much energy trying to work with the folks who need its services the least.

It's a more complicated issue than that, though there is a ring of truth to the charge. The same charge could be made against the financial media.

But if the majority of the financial advisory business serves a fairly small sliver of the population, a growing number of advisors are spending some pro bono time counseling Americans who don't fall into their target client audience. And it can't come a minute too soon.

When one examines virtually every level of American society by wealth, income, age or geography, the Great Recession has spared few of us.  Among the 90% of workers who still have jobs, the psychological fallout has seared many. It seems everyone, even in the ultra-high-net-worth universe, has a friend or relative who has suffered.

For some, the landings have been bumpy. I've heard stories of investment bankers who are now assistant managers in supermarket produce departments and are handling the transition with grace.

But nowhere has the landing been harder than among the poor. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the ranks of the poor increased by 4 million to 43.6 million in 2009.

That's 14.3% of the population, a level not seen since 1994 when the economy was coming out of another recession. Poverty rates, just like unemployment, are lagging indicators.

Probably the most frightening factoid was that one in five children in America now live in poverty. To borrow an overused phrase, that's not acceptable.

The list of culprits to blame is a long one, so pick your poison. Some factors are globalization, technology, the minimum wage, the culture of poverty, and the single-minded obsession this generation of CEOs has with sacrificing everything for the bottom line.

Where you stand depends on where you sit. Personally, I fear that long-term structural unemployment will result in a widening disparity between the skills that employers want and what the labor force has to offer.

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