Tag Archives: Financial counseling

Volunteer Spotlight: Jen Lanouette

Our volunteers rock. Want proof? Meet Jen Lanouette

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jen Lanouette

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jen Lanouette

Name: Jen Lanouette
Lives: Arlington
Works: Social Work Student at Catholic University
Master Financial Education Volunteer Since: May 2013.

Jen Lanouette has been coaching clients since she became a Master Financial Education Volunteer. She enjoyed one-on-one coaching so much, it helped spark a career change.

Q: What are you studying in grad school?
Social work. The Master Financial Education Volunteer program — working with clients one-on-one — is one of the things that prompted me to make a career change.

Q: What advice do you have for your financial coaches who are meeting with a new client for the first time?
A: Really listen to your client and what they see as their problem and challenges. Go at the pace they set. As volunteers, we are armed with a lot of information. But it is important to respect where your client is in the process.

Also, don’t be afraid to do additional research. Spend additional time gathering more information about challenges your client is facing. It’s important to keep learning about things that are specific to your client.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to save for?
A: I like to save for long-term priorities, like my daughter’s education and my family’s retirement. Savings to travel is another thing we prioritize. We are Outer Banks fans, so we try to save for a beach vacation.

Q: What’s your favorite money motto?
A: If you stick your head under the covers, it is not going to go away. When people don’t like financial stuff, there is a tendency to avoid it. The only way to deal with it is to dig in and start dealing with it.

Q: What do you do for fun?
I really enjoy cooking. It’s probably my favorite hobby. And reading.

Q: What was the last book you couldn’t put down?
A: The Working Poor: Invisible in America and Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. – How the Working Poor Became Big Business. Broke, USA is an analysis of payday loans, check cashing and rent-to-own businesses. It was really fascinating how predatory financial practices can be. The book profiled a lot of aggressive mortgage policies. For example, offering low income people mortgages and charging between 10 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent of the loan in upfront fees.

To nominate a Master Financial Education Volunteer for the spotlight, please email Megan Kuhn at Megan.Kuhn@vt.edu.

Volunteer Spotlight: Star Henderson

Our volunteers rock. Want proof? Meet Star Henderson

Name: Star Henderson
Lives: Falls Church, Va.
Works: Accredited Financial Counselor candidate and aFINRA Investor Education Foundation Military Spouse Fellow
Master Financial Education Volunteer Since: September 2014

Master Financial Education Volunteer Star Henderson

Master Financial Education Volunteer Star Henderson

Star Henderson provided invaluable behind-the-scenes help for our Northern Virginia Saves campaign. She created colorful graphics and scheduled 40 plus social media posts on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. She represented us in a Twitter chat with Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and The Centsables. The chat covered how to teach children about savings. This is just her behind-the-scenes volunteering! Henderson coaches clients, leads credit counseling and teaches classes.

Q: What would other volunteers be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a very introverted person who has to force myself to get out and to teach.

Q: What do you like to do fun?
A: Ride motorcycles with my husband and hang out with my kids.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a financial coach?
A: Not doing something for the client and making sure the skills you’re teaching are sticking with the client. Sometimes we want to fix people, but we need to empower people to do it on their own.

Q: How did you handle pressure to do work for the client?
A: I’ve had clients who didn’t have a checkbook register. We were trying to balance their checkbook against their bank statements. I literally had to make sure I wasn’t writing down information for them. It would have taken me 5 minutes to write it in their register, but that wouldn’t have taught them anything.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a financial coach?
A: Making our clients believe they can manage their finances. The clients I have, their husbands always plan finances. The success story is that I’ve turned the women’s thinking around, and they are trying because they believe they can manage their finances.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you’d know when you first started volunteering?
A: There’s a wealth of knowledge throughout the volunteers. They are all very eager to help. Ask other volunteers about their experiences and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

To nominate a Master Financial Education Volunteer for the spotlight, please email Megan Kuhn at Megan.Kuhn@vt.edu.

New Volunteers, Round 2

bean game team 1

We trained 34 new volunteers to serve as financial coaches in early September. Our regular fall training followed our expedited training for financial professionals in August. Eight financial professionals joined our ranks last month.

This brings us to a record 42 new volunteers! Volunteers make our programs possible, so the turnout makes my heart sing.

E and J

A very big thank you to our friends and partners who spread the word about our recruitment drive. An especially big thanks goes to Community Tax Aid‘s Teresa Hinze who sent an email blast to her volunteers. Community Tax Aid was our top source of volunteers — 13. Our second biggest source of volunteers was the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants, with 6 volunteers. Thanks to David Bass for including our recruitment drive in his group’s message board.

We also owe thanks to: DC-Hispanic Employee Network, the Hispanic Committee of Northern Virginia Family Service, Volunteer Arlington, The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors DC study group, Arlington Neighborhood College, Leadership Arlington, Care 4 Your Future and Georgetown University Center for Continuing & Professional Education Certificate in Financial Planning. Say that five times fast.

Our next training for Master Financial Education Volunteers is April 18 & 25, 2015. Both sessions are mandatory. To register, please contact me at Megan.Kuhn@vt.edu or call 703-228-6421.

R M and E

New Volunteers, Round 1


Eight people joined the ranks of our Master Financial Education Volunteers on August 16th. The newbies include an affordable housing developer who speaks both Arabic and Vietnamese, two Spanish speakers and a mix of young professionals and retirees.

While their motivation for volunteering varied, these individuals had one factor in common: prior professional or volunteer experience in financial counseling and or money management instruction. For the first time, we offered an expedited volunteer training for finance-minded professionals.

jay. dinan and jose

Please welcome: Tom Hoopengardner, Donna Di Felice, Eric Miller, José Olivas, Diana Yacob, Katrin Kark, Jay Dowling and Thu Nguyen.

Thu and Katrin

Of course we don’t require prior financial experience to volunteer with Extension. Our regular, 2-day volunteer training is slated for Sept. 6 and Sept. 13.

Donna, Tom and Eric

Upping Our Financial IQs


Do money smarts really pay? We think so, and plan to prove it through an exciting new program.

We are combining classroom instruction with one-on-one coaching to better help people establish positive financial habits through a program we’re calling Money Smarts Pay.

In 3 months, Money Smarts Pay participants will tackle:

  • Goal setting & budgeting in class 1
  • Credit & debt management in class 2
  • Strategies for saving & choosing financial services in class 3.

Robert and Femia

During the weeks between classes, participants meet with the same financial coach for in-person cheerleading and over the phone check-ins. We hope this extra encouragement will help people make the lasting changes they learned about in class.

We inaugurated Money Smarts Pay last week at Arlington Mill Residences, the first of six places where the program will be introduced. Arlington Mill Residences is a rental complex owned by our Money Smarts Pay partner, the nonprofit affordable housing developer Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). APAH serves individuals and families earning between $20,000 and $60,000 per year.

Jay and Joan

Money Smarts Pay at Arlington Mill is being taught in English, and an English session will be offered at Buchanan Gardens starting in November 2014. Money Smarts Pay will be offered in Spanish at Columbia Grove starting in September 2014.

The materials we are using for Money Smarts Pay is a mix of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new Your Money, Your Goals toolkit and the FDIC’s Money Smart for Adults curriculum.

Our 2-year partnership with APAH is possible through a generous grant from the Arlington Community Development Fund, which awarded the program a total of $27,000.

A very big thank you to our Master Financial Education Volunteers who are making the Arlington Mill series possible: Femeia Adamson, Roger Brown, Shauna Dyson, Nichole Hyter, Desiree Kaul and Joan Smith. Another thank you goes to APAH’s Arlington Mill staffer Carla Marin for the heavy lifting on-site, including classroom setup.

If you would like to coach a participant or teach a class in an upcoming series, please send an email to Megan.Kuhn@vt.edu.


Volunteer Spotlight: Marie Baumann

Each month Extension’s financial education program is profiling an outstanding volunteer. To nominate someone, please email Megan Kuhn at Megan.Kuhn@vt.edu.

Name: Marie Baumann
Lives: Arlington
Works: Retired nonprofit administrator

Marie Baumann has served as a Master Financial Education Volunteer since 1992, making her our longest-serving volunteer. She recently provided one-on-one financial counseling for two individuals.

Q. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A. I’m an artist. Finance and art is an odd combination. A lot of people think the two skill sets are totally different, which they are. But I do both

Q: What kind of art?
A: Watercolor painting mostly.

Q: Who is your favorite painter?
A: Right now, Andrew Wyeth. I just saw an exhibit by him at the National Gallery, and I loved it. He used very little color. A lot of it was black, white and gray. He did a lot of landscapes, scenes, buildings, interiors. He used a very spare palette and spare details.

Marie Baumann is our longest-serving Master Financial Education Volunteer. She has volunteered with Extension since 1992.

Marie Baumann is our longest-serving Master Financial Education Volunteer. She has been volunteering with Extension since 1992.

Q. How did you become interested in financial literacy?
A: I became interested at first for my own financial planning and education to better manage my own finances. I was not taught financial literacy, and I don’t think people these days are adequately taught either. So, I wanted to try to help somebody who has not been taught.

Q. After 22 years of volunteering in financial education, what observations can you share?
A. People never cease to surprise me with the range of financial illiteracy and financial problems.

Financial problems seem to go hand in hand with other problems such as emotional, legal and personal relationships. Often when you address the financial side of it, you’re not treating the whole person. You can’t. I usually say, “I’ve done what I can for you. You need to seek legal help or therapy.”

The rare client I have that is motivated and makes real changes in his or her life, that’s what keeps me motivated.

Q: What client success are you most proud?
A: The most interesting client I had. I worked with her for at least four years off and on. Her husband died at an early age and left her a lot of money. We worked through how she would invest the money and provide for herself and her child.

Q: What challenges have you had with clients?
A: People don’t follow through. One person couldn’t keep appointments, and she would not always reschedule. I would show up and sometimes she wasn’t there. I had to drop her. That was disappointing because she really needed help.

Q. We have training sessions for new volunteers in September. What advice do you have for the newbies?
A. A lot of them are tentative and unsure of themselves. You undoubtedly know more than your client does, so don’t be afraid. If you don’t know, say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

Excited for tax season?

Generally when tax season rolls around, there’s a sense of gloom in the air.  “Have you filed your taxes yet?” becomes the ever-popular question, and it pervades our everyday lives until we’ve finally sent them off.  As long as you’re armed with the proper information, there’s no need to dread these first few months.

If you are a low-income earner, you may be eligible for free tax preparation.  The IRS sponsors numerous Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites, including two in the Arlington/Alexandria area.  Visit http://dceitc.org/how_to_file.html for more information.  You may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the biggest government benefits provided to low-income persons to alleviate poverty.  If you do receive a refund, try to save as much as possible.

Tips for all filers:

  • Be prepared for direct deposit.  If you receive a refund, the fastest and best way to process it is by having it directly deposited into your bank account.  Bring your checkbook and/or your bank routing and account number to provide to your preparer.
  • What if you owe money?  If you owe taxes, your best course of action is to file your return no matter what, then pay what you can by the deadline (federal deadline is April 15, 2013).  If you cannot pay the balance, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to set up a payment plan.  The IRS can be very accommodating, as long as you keep the lines of communication open.
  • If you have either a big refund or a large amount due, consider changing your withholding in your current paycheck.  Go to http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator to determine the appropriate amount to withhold each paycheck, then complete a W-4 and forward it to your HR Department.

Are you planning to visit a paid tax preparer?

  • Shop around.  Ask friends and family for recommendations, but be careful to check other references.  There are plenty of scammers in the tax preparation business who would love nothing more than to take your money and run.  Look for a permanent office and check the BBB website for any previous complaints.  Keep in mind that even if the BBB has no complaints listed, it isn’t a guarantee that the company is reputable.  The preparer should be thorough and record all information in accordance with tax laws.  Just because you made income in cash, doesn’t mean you don’t have to report it to the IRS.  The tax preparer should ensure all income is reported accurately.
  • Ask about fees at the beginning.  The tax preparer should not base his/her cut on your refund amount, and it’s possible he/she will charge more for additional forms prepared (such as Schedule C).
  • Avoid refund anticipation loans (RALs).  This is a very expensive way to receive your refund early.  You can be charged a very large fee, and it isn’t much of a benefit since refunds are usually sent within a few weeks.
  • Before you sign the returns, make sure all information appears accurate and complete.  The preparer’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) or SSN should be listed on the return.  Have the preparer answer any questions you have to your satisfaction.  After signing, keep a copy of your return for your own files.
  • It is ultimately your responsibility to file an accurate tax return.  If the IRS finds an error in your return, you will be the first person it contacts, not the preparer.

For other tax assistance, contact Community Tax Aid.

Cooperative Extension will be providing financial counseling at both Arlington and Alexandria VITA sites, on Tuesday & Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings during the tax season.  Even if you are not intending to file with these preparers, you are welcome to sit down with us to discuss your financial concerns.  Please visit our calendar for dates, times, and locations.