Marcy Reyes, AFC® is a social entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of The Financial Literacy Youth (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 is also an adjunct faculty member in Rhode Island College’s School of Business, was the former Assistant Vice President of Consumer Credit for Santander Bank, N.A., and is the current Director of the Individual Segment at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI).
AFCPE: What are some unique financial barriers faced by the Latinx community that you want financial professionals to know about?
Marcy: As a Puerto Rican woman born into a family with little resources or support networks, and over 20 years of accumulated experience in the areas of finance, education, and healthcare, I find myself uniquely suited to understand the challenges of the community I serve.
Barriers to financial inclusion such as a lack of financial literacy, limited English proficiency, a lack of culturally relevant services available, costly accounts, credit challenges, prohibitive identification requirements, scarcity of bank branches in low-income communities of color, all present a unique challenge.
It is important to keep in mind that there are varying levels for acculturation within these communities and cultural nuances play a pivotal role in how Hispanics and Latinos navigate the personal finance terrain.
One of my favorite exercises to walk through with a client or my students is creating their representational map. The beginning of an effective, professional counseling relationship is the recognition that the client’s map of the world is potentially different from yours. An important first strategy in financial counseling is for you to understand the client’s map of the world and how it is similar to and dissimilar from yours. Clients’ maps affect how they make decisions; how they use money; how willing or capable they are to take risks; and how they view their personal, business, or financial goals.
AFCPE: Tell us about the FLY Initiative and the work you are doing to empower our youth.
Marcy: FLY programming has been equipping the next generation with top-flight financial knowledge, skills, and resources to secure financial stability since 2018.
- Third academic year in operation
- Over 700 students served to date
- Accredited Educators
- 78% of students banked and/or actively investing at the conclusion of programming
- 5-star student satisfaction rating
- 20+ Local and National partnerships (ex. CFA Society, YIS, NGPF, Fidelity, Webster Bank, AAA Northeast, AFCPE, Year Up, NeighborWorks, Next Gen Personal Financial)
The FLY Initiative is not like other financial literacy programs. FLY addresses the issues of disparities in financial literacy resources, cultural inequities, and family engagement challenges through a culturally responsive financial literacy program that is well suited for traditional, nontraditional, and virtual classroom settings. FLY serves as an advocate for funding and legislative policies that support financial literacy high school course requirements to address additional systemic barriers related to wealth creation. Grounded in the value of experiential learning, the program features a holistic, multigenerational approach to financial wellness and understanding of financial literacy concepts.
FLY’s real-life-in-real-time approach uses milestone projects that cover 10 key financial literacy topics, allowing students to implement the knowledge they have learned through real world experiences. Within 10 modules, students meet with financial planners, outline a career plan, complete tax forms, learn banking, track credit, identify and analyze investment types and insurance options, set budget goals, and encourage a parent/guardian to accompany them to a community bank where they open a FLY savings account and to the RI Student Loan Association to discuss options for financing college. High school students participate in the Stock Pitch RI competition presented by FLY in partnership with local CFA and Young Investors societies.
FLY’s pedagogy aligns with the Brookings economic studies research on financial literacy. FLY’s approach acknowledges the importance and value of programming that delves into behavior as well as knowledge and skill. Knowledge and skill will not translate into successful and positive outcomes without the opportunity to engage in healthy financial behaviors, to discuss poor financial decision-making, and to access financial resources, financial markets, and products, and to engage with financial institutions. Bridging financial knowledge and skill with healthy behavior and experiential opportunity is FLY’s benchmark. FLY’s attention to experiential learning yields opportunity. Opportunity is crucial to financial well-being. FLY’s 10-module flight path uniquely blends knowledge, skill, hands-on experience, healthy behavioral models, and engagement opportunities to navigate program participants to financial well-being.
AFCPE: You have recently earned your AFC®. How did you learn about the certification and why did you decide to pursue the AFC®?
Marcy: Ironic as it may be, I learned about the AFCPE® organization and the opportunity to acquire my AFC accreditation after being turned down for an opportunity with an organization that specialized in providing financial coaching and savings programs for families with low incomes. I was bummed, but when one door closes, another opens. Now I am the CEO of my own non-profit, and the only Latina AFC® in the state of Rhode Island!
AFCPE: What advice would you give someone from the Latinx community who is thinking about working in personal finance and/or earning their AFC®?
Marcy: Personal finance educators are pivotal in shifting paradigms in the BIPOC community. Addressing inequities in access to financial resources, tools, and knowledge is a social justice movement and representation matters. Achieving the AFC® accreditation gives leaders the skills needed to effectively help individuals manage a complex financial system with confidence and ease.
So… What are you waiting for?
AFCPE: Do you have any resources & tools that you would like to share with the larger AFCPE® community and public?
Below is a wide range of some of my favorite resources and tools that I leverage on a regular basis – many of which are FREE!
- NerdWallet.com – Make all the right money moves. Need objective advice, expert info and helpful tools to answer your money questions? Turn to the Nerds.
- CNBC’s Money 101 – Your path to financial freedom, simplified. Sign-up for the 8-week learning course to financial literacy. Plus get tips on managing your money during times of crisis, delivered to your inbox.
- NGPF – Everything you need for your personal finance class – absolutely FREE.
- mint.com – Reach your goals with personalized insights, custom budgets, spend tracking, and subscription monitoring—all for free.
- Peak Money – Peak is a digital savings account that helps you save more and become more confident with your money. 100% free with a 0.5% annual return!
- Stockpile – Investing made simple. A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with the Stock Market
- Money Habitudes – Used by financial professionals, coaches, therapists, educators and more to engage people in a topic that is often difficult to discuss, leading to more relevant, effective and individualized strategies.
- Klontz Money Script Assessment – Take the Money Script Assessment to learn more about your relationship with money
- Naviance Career Readiness – Provide students with exploration and planning tools to connect interests and strengths to career paths. Features within Naviance help students match potential career paths to their strengths and interests, learn about career requirements and wages, and prepare a resume.
AFCPE: What is the best way to connect with you (social links, etc.)?
Marcy: The best way to connect with me is by email at email@example.com, through our contact form on The FLY Initiative website, or by phone at 401-526-4735.
You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook.
Marcy Answers the Friday 5:
My Why: To provide others with the opportunities I have been provided
My Favorite Quote: “We are not defined by the objects we own” – Marcy Reyes
My Hero: All the trailblazing women who came before me
My Favorite Resource: I would say NerdWallet.com but there are so many!
My Best Advice:
- For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: You got this! Don’t give up and be consistent. Results may not come overnight, but when they do, you will be glad you stayed the course. Remember, there is no substitute for hard work!
- For a new professional: Ask lots of questions. You aren’t supposed to know it all and finding a great mentor that can help guide you will be a game changer over the course of your career.
Thanks for sharing this incredible story.