OAKLAND -- Those most in need of financial advice are often the ones who can least afford it, but on Saturday, the city will bring financial planning to the people here.

Oakland Financial Planning Day is a day-long event backed by nonprofits and elected officials that offers free financial advice to anyone who walks through the door -- no sales pitches, no fine print and no strings attached. Organized by the Financial Planning Association of the East Bay, the event gives the public a chance to meet one-on-one with up to 50 certified financial planners to discuss how to get out of debt, save for college, buy a house, recover from a foreclosure, prepare for retirement or start a business.

The event, which is held in cities in 16 states across the country, debunks the long-held notion that financial planners are only for the wealthy who have estates and inheritances to manage. Improving financial literacy, say local officials and finance experts, will empower low-income families and strengthen Oakland's middle class.

"Financial difficulty and potential family ruin is not that far away for many middle class families," said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), one of several local, state and federal officials backing the program.

This year's effort comes just as the Affordable Care Act goes live, and the new health care law adds another twist in the increasingly complex financial landscape residents must navigate. And the state last month raised the minimum wage to $10 per hour, a move that critics warn will force some businesses to lay off workers and reduce hours.

Oakland Financial Planning Day began in 2007, just as the bottom dropped out of the economy. Many East Bay residents are still recovering from the recession, which wracked Oakland with widespread home foreclosures and depressed property values. Wages remain stagnant in many industries and more family breadwinners are stuck in part-time and low-wage jobs.

"Now that we're at this post-recession economy, it gets better for people in stages, and everyone's at a different level," Deputy Mayor Sandre Swanson said. "There have been so many pensions and 401ks that have gone under. ... and now this is their chance to figure out the road back to financial security."

In a city where 20 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line and more than a quarter are immigrants, Mayor Jean Quan said the need for people to build their own financial safety net has never been greater.

"From the guy who owns the taco truck to the new, young millennials who jump between high tech jobs, there are a lot of people who have to take the time to do their individual planning," Quan said.

Lisa Dickerson points out the events that interested her at the upcoming Financial Planning Day in Oakland on the event’s website on Sept. 30, 2013,
Lisa Dickerson points out the events that interested her at the upcoming Financial Planning Day in Oakland on the event's website on Sept. 30, 2013, at her apartment in Alameda. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

Lisa Dickerson didn't have a plan for her own long-term financial security until last year, when she attended her first Financial Planning Day. She had just helped move her step-mother and father into an assisted living facility that cost $12,000 per month. Dickerson said long-term health care covered half the bill, but the family paid the remaining $6,000.

"Working with my parents, it showed me that I needed to get a plan for me together," said Dickerson, 54, of Alameda. "What's going to happen to me when I get old? Where am I going to live?"

Dickerson got some of those questions answered last year, and plans to attend on Saturday to get guidance on buying her first home and investing. She is also looking for pointers to help her father write his will, and to begin writing her own.

About 300 people attended the event last year, and organizers expect as many as 500 will turn out Saturday. Some may be college students or recent graduates struggling with loans and credit card debt, which impedes their ability to buy a house or car, get married or invest in a business, said Phillip Denny, who manages the Big Ideas at Berkeley annual innovation contest, where University of California students create financial literacy projects to help students and low-income neighborhoods.

"When you have people who are $200,000 in debt coming out of college ... they're just paying off the finance charges, they can't contribute to the economy," Denny said.

Bonta said the planning day is part of a larger effort by lawmakers to make money management education more accessible. Bills introduced in the state legislature in February call for strengthening financial literacy education in middle and high schools and adult education programs.

Money management skills "are not things that are intuitive," Bonta said. "It doesn't just happen because you want it to happen. You have to plan for it."

Contact Heather Somerville at 510-208-6413. Follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.

financial planning day
Saturday, Oct. 5, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
Free and open to the public
Participants can meet one-on-one with certified financial planners to discuss issues such as getting out of debt, retirement planning, investment strategies, income taxes, insurance, mortgages and foreclosures. Workshops will be offered on the Affordable Care Act, credit repair and financial planning basics.
More information at www.FinancialPlanningDays.org