Monthly Archives: June 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Jackie Rivas

Our volunteers rock. Want proof? Meet Jackie Rivas.

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jackie Rivas

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jackie Rivas

Name: Jackie Rivas
Lives: Arlington
Works: Staff Accountant at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission
Master Financial Education Volunteer Since: 2011

Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: I like to run on the bike path and ride bicycles.

I like to go to the movies. The Mexican movie “Paradise” was very cute. It is about an overweight couple. She stumbles on a diet center, and she gets her husband on a diet too. He starts to lose weight and she doesn’t. It was a nice insight into normal people.

Q: What is your favorite thing to save for?
A: My favorite thing to save for is to travel. My last exotic trip was Cambodia. I went to the Temple of Angkor Wat and took a cooking class in Siem Reap.

In Phnom Penh we spent a day at a bear rescue center. There is a popular dish called bear paw soup. This place will buy bears from restaurants to save them.

We also went to an elephant rescue center. If you go to Asia, do not ride elephants. It’s really hard on the elephant. It hurts their backs.

Q: Which do you enjoy most about being a Master Financial Education Volunteer?
A: Learning from the participants. I taught at Greenbrier Learning Center, and there was a woman who has implemented all the strategies we’ve been teaching.

She qualifies for food from Arlington Food Assistance Center, but she is determined to save $200 a month. I work with people who don’t save that much who make a lot more than she does.

When she doesn’t reach her goal, she looks for things she can cut. If she needs to cut cable, Internet or Starbucks, she does. This is someone who is highly motivated. It is amazing what people can do with limited resources.

Q: What else have you learned from teaching classes?
A: Some people have had bad experiences with banks in other countries. You need to talk about how banking in the U.S. is different from what they may have experienced elsewhere. U.S. banking is insured by the federal government. There are rules and regulations that protect the depositor.

It’s fairly prevalent in Mexico and Central America countries that if people don’t have access to banks and borrowing, they get a group and they all put money into a pot and lend it to someone.

They take turns borrowing the money and paying it back. It requires a lot of trust.  I’ve found it very educational to work with these people and learn about their creative ways to meet their needs.

Five Recent Immigrants Complete Money Smarts Pay Program

Buchanan Gardens residents Marilu, Corina, Freddy, Glenda, and Jenny display their graduation certificates from the Money Smarts Pay program.

Buchanan Gardens residents Marilu, Corina, Freddy, Glenda, and Jenny display their graduation certificates from the Money Smarts Pay program.

On June 9 five residents of Buchanan Gardens Apartments in Arlington celebrated their completion of the three-month Money Smarts Pay program. All five are native Spanish speakers and are recent immigrants from countries like Guatemala and Bolivia.

Money Smarts Pay is a three-month intensive money management program in which participants attend classes, meet one-on-one with financial coaches, and work on a set of specific action steps to improve their financial well-being. Actions include things like setting short and long-term goals, accessing their credit reports, tracking their spending, establishing a budget, and saving money from their paychecks.

Money Smarts Pay (MSP) was started in August 2014 in cooperation with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and with financial support from the Arlington County Affordable Housing investment Fund. Thus far we have led five MSP programs in English and two in Spanish, with another six planned for fiscal year 2016.

We were prompted to create this hybrid approach to financial education through a desire to achieve lasting results for participants. We felt that an approach that combined coaching with classes could do this better than either service alone. We are encouraged to say that this new model is starting to bear fruit. The first cohort of participants completed their course in November 2014 and we conducted follow-up evaluations with them in May.

  • One client has saved $3,000 toward a home purchase, contributes $50/month into a 401(k) and had $1,400 in it as of June 1, paid off $1,500 on a credit card bill, and has savings accounts for her children.
  • Another client saved $500 during the course of Money Smarts Pay and has now saved more than $3,000. She will use some of the savings to take her two sons on vacation to Florida this summer.

The most recent group of MSP graduates say that the program helped them be more conscious of how they spend their money, better determine the difference between needs and wants, and helped them commit to specific savings goals. We look forward to continuing the Money Smarts Program and to empowering local low-income residents to take charge of their financial futures.

Many thanks to the Master Financial Education Volunteers who helped with the most recent MSP courses in English and Spanish: Eileen Alicea, Carlos Cueto-Diaz, Ben DuPuis, Starlett Henderson, Katrin Kark, Desiree Kaul, Vanessa Louchart, Courtney Mallow, Jose Olivas, Meggan Orenstein, Phoebe Wilson, and Paul Zee-Cheng.