Barbara Martinez, Nonprofit

Barbara L. Martinez, an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a nationally recognized advocate for financial empowerment, has dedicated over 20 years to championing economic equity. Currently leading the Community Partnerships & Asset Building Programs at Heartland Alliance, Barbara specializes in transforming the financial well-being of low-income and marginalized communities in Illinois. Her work, amplified through initiatives like BankOn Illinois and Financial Inclusion for All Illinois, focuses on advocating for equitable financial services and education.

Barbara’s journey, marked by personal challenges from her upbringing in Puerto Rico to navigating a chaotic environment with a mother facing mental health challenges, has been a testament to resilience and adaptability. Overcoming these adversities, including grappling with undiagnosed dyslexia, Barbara’s experiences have deeply ingrained in her a passion for justice and a drive to uplift those facing similar barriers.

Her insights into the financial struggles of low-income populations have been featured in publications like the Urban Institute and The New York Times, and her contributions to the Aspen Institute’s report underline her expertise in financial inclusion. Holding a Master’s in Public Relations from the University of Northern Iowa, Barbara combines her professional insight with a personal commitment to creating a more financially equitable society, inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s ethos: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

Barbara’s career is not just a story of overcoming odds but a narrative of using her experiences and knowledge to light the way for others. Her leadership on the AFCPE Board and her voice in national forums continue to impact financial education and advocacy, driving change for a more inclusive financial future.

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