Davis said she had always wanted to help those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder reach up, but at first she could not figure out how to make a living doing it. She obtained several grants to start mentoring programs and she helped employees of not-for-profits put their own finances in order, so they could, in turn, help their clients. Now she also recruits experienced financial planners to help mentor "newbies" in the profession, many of whom volunteer to provide planning services for those who cannot afford even a few hundred dollars for a financial plan, let alone fees for help with investments.

Another professional, Frank Paré, president of PF Wealth Management Group LLC in Oakland, Calif., took a more traditional financial planning route. A CFP licensee, he began in financial services 20 years ago after working his way through San Francisco State University. He earned his way up through several broker-dealer and investment advisory firms before he decided to start his own business nearly five years ago with no clients and no assets. His average client account is now $300,000 to $500,000, usually belonging to a business executive, a middle manager or a recently retired person.

Paré's first client was his mother, and, somewhat coincidentally, his firm now handles the investments mostly of women. But his other passion is spreading financial education to low-income people. He attended an FPA financial planning seminar for underserved people in Los Angeles and came back to the Bay Area so enthused he insisted on starting the same type of event there. The idea has mushroomed in the last three years. This year, FPA Financial Planning Days will be held in 30 cities between the first of October and the end of the year.

At these events, financial advisors give their time to help with whatever questions the participants bring them. No one is allowed to sell any financial products, use the event as a marketing tool or even give out a business card. For that reason, it is difficult to say how many of the participants follow up on a financial plan or on the advice given, says Dunne, who helps organize the events.

Dunne says the growing need for pro bono and volunteer work among financial planners stems from current economic conditions. "I think there were always advisors who were willing to help, with no particular personal gain involved, but now a lot more need has been generated by the unemployment and real estate problems," Dunne says. "I think it is the times that have brought out these altruistic desires that were always present in a lot of planners. We have the ability to help people. [Paré] even organized an event in Richmond, Calif., a smaller city with a lot of hard economic problems, where you would think a financial planner would be an unknown entity, and he got a huge turnout."

A key factor in making all of these efforts materialize has been getting municipal, state and national officials and like-minded organizations involved. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has joined the FPA, the Foundation for Financial Planning and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards in reaching out to the underserved population.

Davis and others feel lower economic level people need financial planning help more than those at the top of the economic ladder. The Foundation for Financial Planning was organized in part to promote just these kinds of efforts and events.

The Financial Planning Day events are a perfect example of rallying resources to provide free services. "We issued an open invitation for everyone to come," says Marvin W. Tuttle Jr., CEO of the FPA. "Maybe they are dealing with foreclosure or have lost a job or have large credit card debt. Most of the participants will not be the people that planners traditionally serve, but they need a basic financial plan.

"We are incredibly grateful to the mayors who are working with us. The municipal officials realize they have a responsibility to their citizens for their financial well being, as well as the other types of municipal services," Tuttle says.

Paré has now come to be known as one of the CFP Board of Standards Planning Days organizers for the Bay Area with the assistance of Leslie Bigger, FPA East Bay Chapter co-chair for government relations.