Real Money, Real Experts

Bridging Gaps with Financial Literacy & Youth Initiative Founder Marcy Reyes, AFC®

January 14, 2022 AFCPE® Season 2 Episode 2
Real Money, Real Experts
Bridging Gaps with Financial Literacy & Youth Initiative Founder Marcy Reyes, AFC®
Show Notes Transcript

Kicking off the first episode in our new Career Series, “Real Money, Real Experts” co-hosts Dr. Mary Bell Carlson and Rachael DeLeon speak with Marcy Reyes, AFC® about her career in the nonprofit space.

Marcy is the Founder and CEO of The Financial Literacy Youth (or FLY) Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides culturally responsive financial literacy programming to underserved and underrepresented students; empowering youth with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to end generational poverty. Marcy has made her mark in the field by identifying gaps and working to close them... not to mention she is also the first Latina in her state to be an AFC®.

Listen in as she takes us through her journey of starting a nonprofit while sharing her inspiring advice for everyone interested in working in the nonprofit space. Her enthusiasm and passion for this work are contagious, no matter what area of the field you are in!


Show Notes:

00:42 Marcy’s Introduction
01:39 Marcy’s Intro to the Field of Finance
03:45 Marcy’s Journey to the Nonprofit Space
06:33 Manifesting the FLY Initiative
07:49 The Impact of the AFC® in Her Work
11:21 Marcy’s Advice for Breaking into the Nonprofit Space
14:42 The Best Part of Marcy’s Job Is…         
16:23 What She Would’ve Loved to Know Before Entering the Field
18:49 Potential Expansion of the FLY Initiative
20:30 Marcy’s Final 2 Cents

Show Note Links:
Marcy's LinkedIn Page
FLY Website
Join the Membership community

Speaker 1:

Welcome to real money, real experts, a podcast we're leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money and the real world. I'm your host, Rachel da own interim executive director of the associate for financial counseling and planning education for a F C P E . And

Speaker 2:

I'm your co-host Dr. Mary Bell Carlson, an accredited financial counselor or AFC , and the CEO of Carlson consulting. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topics that personal finance professionals care about helping clients build a and community in your professional

Speaker 1:

Growth. As we mentioned during our YouTube live episode, a few weeks back, we are kicking off 2022 with a special series focused on careers. Each episode over the next few months will focus on the wide variety of career paths for financial counselors, coaches, and educators. We're gonna hear from a variety of AFC professionals, working in all areas of the field, learn more about their work and their career journey. Today. I'm thrilled to welcome Marcy Rees to the show. Marcy is the founder and CEO of the financial literacy youth or fly initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides culturally responsible financial literacy programming to underserved and underrepresented students, empowering youth with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to end generational poverty. Welcome Marcy.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here,

Speaker 2:

Marcy. We're excited to have you, and I'm really excited to do this new series, especially with you focused on nonprofits. So we'd all like to hear your story and tell us a bit about your career journey and how you got into the nonprofit space.

Speaker 3:

You know, no trajectory is a straight line that's , I'll say that out, out front <laugh> . I was actually working as an adjunct professor at Rhode Island , which is my Alma mater for my undergrad, serving as an educator for personal and corporate finance. And one of the classes that changed my structure was personal finance as an undergraduate student. And so I found myself teaching primarily because of the income benefits and the offset to my student loan debt, which was very helpful. But as I advanced my career as an educator, I realized that there was some significant gaps in access to financial literacy resources. And at that point I started kind of a , a two to three year journey of investigating why that was. And what I found was it was a really a lack of resource that was primarily due to funding. And, you know, our inner city, urban core high schools really just didn't have the funding for this type of robust education. And at that point I decided I needed to do something about it. And so what felt right , uh , socially responsible was that as you really look at this issue and you hone in on the key components of why it's happening, it really felt more like it was a social justice issue. And a nonprofit was an opportunity for me to address that social justice issue with programming specifically for, or this demographic.

Speaker 2:

That's quite a journey as a fellow adjunct professor. I think it is neat to see that from a very high level of being able to know. I know for my journey specifically, I , I always felt like I know these things that so much the population doesn't, and I think many of our professionals can relate to that too of we have this unique knowledge, but at the end of the day, it only goes beyond ourselves unless we help others. So I really like how you were able to transform that and really help in a bigger way. How did you get started though, specifically with the nonprofit ? Did your doors open up for you or how did you really get going on the nonprofit side? Call

Speaker 3:

Me whatever you want or <laugh> . But my theory is like, if you're paying attention, opportunity presents itself every day . And if you take advantage of that opportunity, you're able to do amazing and great things. And I had been in my research phase of the resources and availability of financial education in the state of Rhode Island for a couple of years. And I encountered a young woman, we were at a CRM conference and I was particularly interested in the CRM around education and nonprofit work. She approached me and she said, well , you know, what is your interest? Where does it stem from? And I said, well, you know , I'm really interested in starting a nonprofit and her response to that moment. I can help you. I actually have an E that I'm looking to transfer. Would you like to take on, you know, our company's E and repurpose it for the fly initiative? And at that point I was like universes saying, Hey, this is the time. And when you think about the legal structure and requirements around getting an E, sometimes it takes quite a bit of time and resource, whether that's working with an attorney, monetary resource or other, and I was handed that opportunity, right? No barrier to entry. Here you go get started. And I took that as kind of a blatant sign that this was what I needed to do. And so we kicked off, you know, we got a board of directors together, people who were also very much invested in the community, we lived in that were integrated in social justice work, and they realized how important it would be to move this work forward. They helped set the foundation for the organization. I had a significant influence on the strategic plan and how we decided to move forward, but we were evolving the more that we learned, you know, we, we changed, we, we tweaked, we refined until we got to the structure in which we present ourselves today, which is the gold standard of financial literacy education in the state of Rhode Island. There's nothing like us at all.

Speaker 1:

I love that. Marcy, going back, you mentioned that you met this person at a CRM conference. Is that a customer relationship management? Yes. Okay. Just wanted , does define CRM. We use a lot of abbreviations, a lot in this industry, so it is amazing how, if your heart and passion is in that, how just keeping those eyes and ears open, you know, how you can be connected with people that can move something forward, you know, the right place at the right time. I've

Speaker 3:

Heard from a lot of mentors. You know, you want to share enough about your vision, where someone is going to be able to give you those, those resources, those opportunities, right? You just never know who that could be. It could be a casual conversation with someone that, you know, because of your passion then is inclined to, you know, get you connected with someone else. But I think the most important thing is don't stop talking about it, right? I didn't stop talking about fly. Fly was real. To me, it was going to happen in my mind. It had already been created. It was just a matter of time. And so I talked about flies if it existed already, my nonprofit , this, my nonprofit , that. And because it was so real to me, I think it was just a matter of time that it materialized. I just happened to be very fortunate to have, you know, that particular opportunity presented. And I was like, I'm taking it. <laugh> I don't know how to do this yet, but I'm going with this because I have a unique chance to create generational change. And the way that personal finance education has impacted my life to be able to give that to one more person, I have fulfilled like a greater purpose.

Speaker 1:

Marcy, you also have your AFC certification. When did you pursue that? And how does that impact the work you do today? I

Speaker 3:

Love to tell this story, because again, when one door closes, another opens all the cliches, I have all the cliches <laugh> . I was really ingrained in, in the personal finance work. And I realized like, oh, I really wanna do this. I think I wanna do this all the time. And so an opportunity in Boston, I mean , Rhode Island, Boston presented itself, and it was for director , I think of strategy or something like that, or director of programming. And I was like, it was for a nonprofit organization that worked with low income families and helped them with their financial planning and things like that, specifically in the subsidized housing space. And I loved everything about it. I was like, this feels like a social justice mission vision. I can get behind this. I have all of these skills. I had my master's in finance. And when I got to the table, one of the things they asked me was whether I was an AFC and I had never heard of it before. Interesting. I had never heard , yeah. I had never heard of it before. And I said , um, I'm not, but I can achieve my AFC in 12 months guaranteed. Wow. That's a , that is not a deal breaker for me because I'm committed to this work and I'm committed to this opportunity. I love it. So I did not get that opportunity. <laugh> um, I was passed up for that role and that really lit a fire for me. You know, the more I learned about the AFC accreditation, the real , the more I realized how valuable it was. I was like, I don't just want to be able to educate. I want to be a specialist. I wanna able to provide people with information that goes beyond your standard education. I wanna help them with their financial planning. And a lot of people don't need, you know, a CFP, you know, they don't need that level of expertise. They just need someone to help them establish groundwork so they can build well over time . And then eventually they may need a CFP. A lot of people can't afford a CFP and don't even know about AFC credentialing and, and the ability for folks with that credential to help them. So then I started doing more research about how many AFCs are in Rhode Island . And I realized there were two AFCs in Rhode Island , both of which were white and were in an older age range. And I was just like, I'm a Latina, there's no one to speak to this culture. There's no one who speaks to another language. And these are some of the people who are most impacted by systematic racial issues around the structure of finance. Right. And they don't don't have anybody to help. So I was like, I gotta do this now. <laugh> like , there's no going back . I absolutely have to do this. And so I looked into my FC , I signed up and it was within, I think I, I achieved my 12 month goal and I was accredited. And I , it was absolutely a huge achievement for me. And I was very proud of it, but it's really funny how they passed me up for that role. And now I run my own nonprofit as an AFC <laugh> . So I kinda said, you know what? There was a different path planned for me, and I needed to have that experience to drive me in this direction. So I'm very, very appreciative of

Speaker 2:

That. And it led you to a better place, even . That's what I, I love listening to your passion. You can hear it in your voice. You're just someone that does not let a challenge go down and you're willing to not just take it, but you're willing to take it head on . And I think that's awesome. Morris , tell me, you've got a lot of students that you teach and I'm sure you get this question quite often. So many of our listeners are wondering, I don't know someone like Marcy did, but I wanna get into that nonprofit space. What kind of advice would you give someone who wants to work at a nonprofit in financial

Speaker 3:

Counseling? I mean, you don't have to start your own nonprofit like I did, but there's lots of great organizations that are looking for qualified. AFCs right. They need that skillset . You , you could be utilizing so many capacities. I mean, colleges are looking for AFCs and other nonprofit , its that are, you know, servicing low or moderate income families, hospitals. And so if you're looking to get into that nonprofit sector, I would say, you know, do do a little bit of research, but there are tons of opportunities. You know, recently we hired a couple of educators that we are going to credential as AFCs and you know, our, our fly listing was out there. So that was to see , but I would say like don't narrow yourself down to, it has to be a nonprofit that only does financial education work cuz in almost every nonprofit that is serving this demographic, there's a need for this type of skillset . And honestly, I encourage folks that if you see that a nonprofit in your community that does not have this resource make a job description for yourself, go to the nonprofit and say, this is what I can offer. This is why it's important to, you know, your consumer, right? The people that are coming here, here's what , what can do to provide them within a , a additional assistance that could be life changing. So you have lots of nonprofits that are thinking about things like food insecurity and housing, and those are very important and valuable. But if you don't wrap around how to manage your money, you know, some of these folks mean never find a way out of maybe the generational poverty that was impeached on them, that they received, right. That they just were born into it. So I would say if you're thinking about nonprofit space, it's, there are definitely so many facets to opportunities. And I would narrow it down to just looking at organizations that focus on financial education

Speaker 1:

Work, Marcy, that's such a smart comment. And so astute and I , I do think there are so many nonprofits out there, you know, whether they're helping people find jobs or working with people that have food insecurities, I mean really money touches everything. And I know personally, even in our own community, lots of non and profits want to do this work. It it's figuring out how to work that in, you know, and sometimes they're working with volunteers, but you're so smart to say, write that job description. There is funding out there available and starting to educate these different community service organizations and what value financial counseling can bring to the people that you. Yeah , absolutely . What would you say is your favorite part of your job?

Speaker 3:

My favorite part is when we get to the end of programming typically to see the evolution of the student, to see the evolution of the participant, it's what I live for. At the very end. I wait for it to happen. I watch it happen over the course of programming. And then at the end it's like you have a completely different person. So the idea that students are also bringing a lot of these concepts home to their families, it's such a big deal for me as well. So I, I really live for the impact that it makes on the participant. And it's been really encouraging to hear our students verbalize the importance of the education that they received and just how impactful it's been. You know, now I I've made really good decisions about student loans or I've made really good decisions about what type of insurance I need to select during my, you know, my first job when I have benefits presented to me or I helped my, one of my family members pick some investments that they might want to consider because of what I learned in class. And at that point I realized that we are achieving our, our vision. We are achieving our mission. And so it is, it is overwhelming for me. I think in my first class, at the end of the class, I like cried. You know, I was like, thank you so much for letting me do this with you. You know, it was just knowing that even if they took one concept away that improved their financial future, that's the best part. It's, it's so impactful. So impactful.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. You can hear it in your voice. That that's what gets you up and motivated every day is seeing others in the growth that they have. That's awesome. Marcy, tell me what's one thing you wish you knew before going into this field.

Speaker 3:

I will say that there is a constant, I think struggle around prioritizing nonprofit work. When at times it may feel like it is, you know, not the most luxurious space to be in. I didn't really know that right going in and it didn't matter to me either. I was pretty much on a mission. I was gonna do this regardless, but I think I wasn't prepared for the way that other people received the work. And what I mean by that is, you know , um , people in the community and things like that at first, it wasn't really taken that seriously. And I was like, this is important. Why isn't anybody listening to me? Um <laugh> and I think that it was, you know, with persistence resilience and that type of thing that we are where we are today. But if you don't really know that you could easily be discouraged and it's okay that you feel discouraged, but I , I would say, don't let that stop. You don't let it stop you from doing what you were meant to do from pursuing your passion. If that means being part of a nonprofit or creating your own nonprofit , don't let you know the, the perspective or the reactions, the initial reactions of the, your external environment impact what you're doing right. Internally, how you're moving towards that goal. If I would've, even for the slightest moment taken some of the feedback that I got or some of the, you know, reactions and been like , uh , you know, it doesn't seem like it's worth doing this. I wouldn't have been able to impact over 800 students. Right. I wouldn't have been able to roll out programming. I wouldn't have been able to hire educators and do the things that we're doing now because I would've given up. And I, I don't want people to give up here. This is where we really need people the most in the nonprofit space to lend their talents. And so don't give up that could happen. But if I knew I would go in and I would probably have some better night sleeping, knowing that that's what I could have expected anyways. <laugh> good

Speaker 1:

Advice. Yeah . That what an opportunity to, to learn and grow in resiliency. And I think such a valuable lesson for anyone pursuing this work, you have done some amazing work in Rhode Island and you have a vision. And I look at you as someone who really sees the gaps and works to close those. Are there any plans to grow the fly initiative into other states beyond Rhode Island?

Speaker 3:

Fly is super important in Rhode Island, but fly is a standard that can be implemented everywhere. And that's what I would love for us is to have our standard implemented across the world. I would love for us to become kind of the experts, right? The staple for what financial education should look like. And that's not just in our urban inner city core communities. This is what financial education should be like everywhere. It's that we have built a model on research on backings, by Brookings Institute feedback from our community demographic data, culturally responsive educators, curriculum, you know, experiential learning, connecting parents and children to eliminate the taboos around the money talk. And a lot of that just , just be the benchmark. So my vision is that we will continue to expand. We have soar into new states and across the country and Rhode Island is our home right now, but we hope to have others soon.

Speaker 2:

Marcy, it's been such a pleasure to talk with you. And I think you brought so much insight for our listeners in a unique niche. Not a lot of people , uh , know how to get into nonprofits or, or know about it. So thanks for joining us today. At the end of each interview, we like to get the guest 2 cents or biggest takeaways for our listeners. And if you had one piece of advice to offer our financial professionals, what would it be?

Speaker 3:

So I have a model which is, we are not defined by the objects we own. And I feel like there's so much strength in those words, because as we work with clients, helping them are reassuring them that what they own, the car they drive, you know, how big their house is, doesn't define them, but those are opportunities really can motivate people to say, you're right. You know, the idea of tying our net worth to self worth is a , is a really big issue as we are a highly commercialized economy. But what I realize is by building connections with clients and individuals, understanding their backgrounds and helping them understand the importance of you can have those things. And they don't define you as a person right now has been super important in the work that I've done. Especially when I'm talking to young people who are consistently exposed to the idea of material possessions, right? Of consumerism, of being rich, wearing fancy jewelry or expensive sneakers. And that's what success looks like. And I hope in my role that I'm going to be able to shift those paradigms, that these young people are gonna be able to look at me and say, this is what success is, right? Achieving a passion going towards your goals, creating something that outlives you, helping others to be successful. And so I, I use that model , but it is a very deep kind of concept when you break it down. So you are not defined by the objects you own and don't ever give up on your passion or your dreams.

Speaker 1:

Marcy, thanks so much for joining us on the show today and tell our listeners, where can they connect with you?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure and I'd love to connect with people either through our website, they can go to www.fly initiative.org and they can fill out our contact form. You can also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and also in LinkedIn. Um , so look for us there, we would be happy to come connect with educators, community based organizations , uh , schools, and anyone else who kind of wants information about how to get financial education in , in their environment and set that up. And, and anyone looking into, or wants to learn more about getting into the nonprofit field. I would love to connect with them. So please feel free to re Jo those ways .

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Marcy. Well, Rachel, first off for your first podcast, you did great. And I love that we had Marcy as this guest to kick off this career focus series because she is just an incredible human being. You can feel her passion come through the microphone. You know, she just is so excited to talk about this. The other thing that I loved, and I think you've hit on this as well, is that she says, don't ask for a title. Don't go ask for a job, create it. And I just think I've heard a few, especially those in the nonprofit space, they just have this uncanny ability to think outside the box and bring all these skills and passions with them. And so that's what I would say to anyone looking to get into this nonprofit space, follow this idea of go wherever a nonprofit is where you feel like there's a fit and you can bring that and it may not be financial, but then bring the skills you have with you. And the space will open up and the opportunities will be there because she's, she's right. It's needed everywhere you can think of. So don't stop. Uh , a couple of other things that I really loved is she said, we are not defined by what we own. And you really went into this idea of Ty net worth to self worth as a big issue. And helping clients really understand that things don't define you. It reminds me actually of one of my favorite pictures that I have hanging on my wall that says the most important things in life aren't things. And so I, I applaud her. I think she's making generational changes, not just, you know, I know she's close to her students, but I like to look down the road 50 or a hundred years from now. And she's not changing individuals. She's changing families and generations for eon to come . So I applaud her for what she's doing and anyone that wants to get in this space of nonprofit .

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Mary, I can't and agree more. And I think all AFCs the one thing that ties these financial counselors, financial coaches together is that they really have a heart for this work. And, and I heard that in her voice, but I especially see that in the nonprofit space. And I just applaud her for seeing the gaps and, and doing something about, and that takes courage and it takes resiliency. As she discussed, she's really doing great work in the field and creating a model that I think others, hopefully down the road, either she'll grow and, and expand that, or she'll work with others to do that. She seems like a connector and just a really great advocate for this work. Marcy was super open in about connecting with her, whether it's through her website, reaching out to her on her social media platforms. And we'll put that in the show notes, but I just wanna remind everyone too, you know, one of the best parts about a F C P E is our community of members. And as we're going through this podcast, consider becoming a member, joining that community, reaching out to Marcy, sharing it ideas , you know, bridging these gaps happens when we work together. And there are so many ideas and people willing to share their knowledge and their work, their stumbles along the way. And so reaching out to that community is a great place to start.

Speaker 2:

If you enjoy the show today, please share it with a friend. This helps others discover the podcast and become a part of our community.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next time.