Meet Lauren Bringle, AFC® of Self
Welcome to the 2020 Sponsor Spotlight series! As we prepare for #AFCPE2020, November 16-20, 2020, we are excited to introduce you to our Sponsors, and more specifically, to the incredible people who work for these organizations. Learn more about the organizations and the people you’ll meet in the virtual Exhibit Hall this November.
Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and Content Marketing Manager for Self Financial – a financial technology company with a mission to help all people gain access to credit. Self is a Bronze Sponsor at the 2020 AFCPE Virtual Symposium.
AFCPE: Lauren, tell us a little more about your role at Self.
Lauren: My role is primarily focused on education and awareness through creating content for our blog, emails, social media, speaking engagements, etc. to help people better understand how to establish and maintain their financial health, and how our products could help them achieve their financial goals.
AFCPE: What inspired you to pursue this career and/or what was your journey like to get to there?
Lauren: I’ve taken a bit of a wandering path to get to where I am now. But as Tolkien says, “not all who wander are lost,” and I’m grateful these days for the mistakes and redirections that led me to where I am now. I just kept following my curiosity until it landed me in this position where I feel empowered to make a meaningful impact and empower others to change their lives for the better too.
While I didn’t join the personal finance and financial technology space until early 2019, I’ve always been passionate about saving money and budgeting, often by necessity.
As a millennial who graduated in the heart of the Great Recession, I’ve experienced extreme poverty in my past, at times unsure how I was going to scrape rent together for the next month, volunteering on a farm in exchange for food so I had enough to eat, and on one memorable occasion, biking 14 miles round trip to work when I couldn’t afford to get my car fixed in time, to name a few examples.
I’ve also experienced and witnessed the ways women, in particular, struggle to overcome the challenges facing us when it comes to leading financially healthy lives in safe and supportive environments.
The final straw was when I experienced a life-threatening medical issue without health insurance that left me facing the possibility of financial ruin before the age of 30. I knew I had to make some serious changes, and I set out on a mission to do just that, which ultimately led me to where I am now – helping others improve their financial lives too.
Now I can look back on my hard-earned lessons less through a lens of chaos and more through a lens of purpose.
My life experiences have opened my eyes to exactly how many people are suffering because they don’t know any better when it comes to managing money and planning for life’s emergencies. Whether that’s because their parents didn’t know or because of serious systemic challenges that stand in their way. It’s also opened my eyes to how many ways, despite the challenges I’ve faced, I’ve also been so privileged and blessed.
I now go to work every day to help people avoid the money + life problems I unknowingly stumbled into and bounce back + recover from the financial problems that are not avoidable.
AFCPE: What are you looking forward to most about attending #AFCPE2020?
Lauren: The community at AFCPE is something truly unique and special. I’ve never met a more passionate, mission-driven group of people and feel so honored to be a part of this movement to change our world for the better.
The talks I attended last year opened my eyes to new perspectives and gave me so much hope when I saw how many people are coming up with unique and creative ways to address the financial issues faced by so many.
I’m sad we won’t be able to connect face-to-face this year, but looking forward to the virtual event and what I can already tell will be another eye-opening line-up.
AFCPE: What tool or resource are you most excited to share?
Lauren: While financial counseling and guidance helps, so does having the practical tools needed to build greater financial health. That’s what I love most about Self Financial. We build tools that enable people, especially those who are shut out by other credit products, to gain access to the credit system through our two-step credit-building process. And there’s no hard pull for either product.
First, you sign up for the Credit Builder Account, an account you pay into each month to build payment history with the credit bureaus. Since you don’t get your money until the end, it helps you build a savings habit too. Essentially, it helps you build credit history while you save (minus some interest and fees).
Once you meet certain eligibility requirements (like having $100 or more in your Credit Builder Account and proving on-time payment history) you can use your account savings as a security deposit to gain access to the Self Visa® Credit Card – again, no hard inquiry.
You then have access to two types of credit, an installment loan (the Credit Builder Account) and revolving credit (the secured credit card) and can build payment history with each.
Unlike other secured cards where, even if you have the deposit, they may reject you if you have a history of bankruptcy or foreclosure, our products are designed to give everyone a chance to build their credit responsibly.
In fact, some of our customers have told us that Self’s products were the only credit products they could gain access to when they needed to rebuild their credit. Their other credit applications were all rejected.
AFCPE: What message do you have for attendees?
It sounds cheesy, but remember you’re not alone. I’ve worked in nonprofits before, and some days it feels like the odds are stacked against you – you may be underfunded, under-supported, overworked, and feel like the challenges facing you are so much bigger than you are. (Also true if you’re not in a nonprofit sometimes).
Face those challenges anyway.
It takes bravery to stand up and change the system, and you’re on the front lines doing the meaningful work that changes lives.
Just remember to take care of yourself too, and lean into your support groups, such as the AFCPE and other less formal support when you need it. After all, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Set the example for your clients and get help when you need it. And believe me, at one point or another, we all need it.
Lauren Answers the Friday Five:
- Your Why: If I could boil my life down to a single purpose, it would be to make sure no woman ever has to go through what I went through again. Every woman should have the safety, support and opportunity to thrive in her life, career and finances. Thankfully, I get to put my passion and my purpose to work every day in support of that vision.
- Your favorite quote: It’s hard to choose from so many great ones, but I’m ultimately a fan of the quotes that remind us how precious time is, and to take advantage of each moment life gives us and move forward with hope and purpose, in spite of fear.
Like this one from Anis Mojgani’s poem Shake the Dust: “So when the world knocks at your door, clutch the knob tightly and open on up. And run forward. Run forward as fast and as far as you must. Run into its widespread greeting arms with your hands outstretched before you, fingertips trembling though they may be.”
- Your hero: My heroes are the women I am so blessed every day to call friends. I’ve witnessed them overcome obstacles and traumas, and the fact that they can still get out of bed in the morning (much less thrive during the day) is truly amazing. I’m so fortunate to have so many inspiring women in my life to look up to.
There are two friends in particular who stand out.
The first is my friend Rezeta, who as a young Albanian refugee fled a war-torn country with her family, where they saw unimaginable deprivation, fear and loss. From painful beginnings, she went on to find success as an international actress, model and soon-to-be mom unafraid to continuously start over in a new country, culture, language and social scene. She tackles each new challenge with eternal optimism and faith in the goodness of life and people.
The second is my friend Kendall. She’s experienced traumas, illnesses and setbacks, but no matter what goes on in her life, she always shows up for the people who need her. She’s absolutely dedicated to the cause of building a more equitable world, and transforms her words into meaningful action for social justice.
Bottom line? My heroes are people who keep going long after others would have sat back and let life crush them. They’re the people who fight with the hope of building a better world – both for themselves and others.
- Your favorite resource: As far as financial resources go, resources from the CFPB, the AFCPE (of course!) and the Self blog are my go-tos. I’m definitely biased on that last one, but we invest heavily in creating quality content that’s specifically for people who have bad credit or are just getting started with their financial health and financial literacy journey.
I also love the Women’s Personal Finance (Women On FIRE) group on Facebook, which is, to me, the perfect blend of financially savvy ladies who help each other out and support one another on their life journeys.
- Your best advice:
- For someone starting the journey to financial well-being:
- Start where you can with what you have and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. More practically, don’t just save money now to buy something later, save money for emergencies too. Start saving this emergency fund as soon as you can.
- Work on building your credit before you need it. If you wait until you need to borrow money, it’s usually too late. Tools like Self could help you build your credit while you put some money away. With any tool, though, do your research so you understand it fully before signing any paperwork, and make sure it’s the right fit for you first.
- For a new professional: In many cases, your salary isn’t the only way to benefit financially from your job. Research and understand your full employee benefits and take advantage of them! If you get a 401k match or have a HSA, understand what they mean and how to make them work for you. Otherwise, you could be leaving money on the table that could have negative financial consequences down the road.
- For someone starting the journey to financial well-being:
Are you attending #AFCPE2020? Be sure to stop by the virtual Exhibit Hall on November 16 & 18 to say hello to Lauren and learn more about the ways Self can support you and those you serve. Plus, we love their mission: Technology + Honesty + You.
Not registered for #AFCPE2020? There’s still time. Visit https://www.afcpe.org/symposium/
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