Long Story $hort: Season 3, Episode 12

Season 3 Wrap Up with MMI Staff

Join us as we wrap up season three of the podcast with MMI staff Maura Attardi, the Director of Financial Wellness; Tara Alderete, the Director of Enterprise Learning; and Amy Lins, the Vice President of Customer Success.

Adam and the team from MMI discuss the broad range of MMI clients, the services MMI offers, budgeting trends made popular by social media, and common scams with the financial industry.

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Show Notes

  • Guest: Amy Lins, Tara Alderete, and Maura Attardi
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: April 9, 2024


4:06 | The MMI team talk about what drew them to financial education and working for a nonprofit like MMI.

9:15 | Amy and team talk about the very wide range of clients MMI serves through educational programs and services.

12:32 | Tara talks about common trends among the consumers that MMI serves.

14:25 | Amy talks about how old trends are revived under new names in this social media era.

17:05 | The MMI provides an overview of the kinds of services MMI provides and who can benefit most.

Episode Transcript

Adam Walker: Debt. We've all heard of it. Most of us have it. Debt is an almost unavoidable reality of life. But what happens when it starts consuming life? The experts at Money Management International believe that financial challenges aren't meant to be faced alone. On this podcast, we hear stories of peoples whose lives have been changed by MMI's role as their toughest coach and loudest cheerleader.

Their stories are unique, personal, and inspiring. So stay tuned, because we're sharing each guest's Long Story Short.

Hello and welcome to Long Story Short. For this last episode of the season, we're going to do something special. We're going to bring on some of the MMI education team, Amy Lins, who you've met before, Maura Attardi, and Tara Alderete. And Tara is going to be shifting into my position as a primary host of this show starting next season.

So I'm really excited to get to talk to her. But you're also going to hear from Maura and from Amy and other members of the team along next season as well. So let's go ahead and get started. Why don't each of you introduce yourself and just tell us a little bit about what you do.

Maura Attardi: Hi, everybody. I'm Maura Attardi.

I'm the Director of Financial Wellness with MMI. I've been with the organization now going on my 17th year. I can't believe it's been that long. And in my role, I've been with the education department my entire career with MMI. And so in my role, essentially I am responsible for financial wellness programs with organizations, employees.

And I also have a little niche area where I work with our professional athlete program. And so I provide financial education to our professional athlete.

Adam Walker: Tara, what about you?

Tara Alderete: Okay. Hi everybody. My name is Tara Alderete. It's nice to be with you today. I am the Director of Enterprise Learning at MMI. I've been with the organization through mergers for about 13 years, loving every second of it.

And so I manage our education programs for in person and online. I work a lot with military folks, help more out with athletes sometimes, and then also general audiences.

Adam Walker: And Amy, how about you?

Amy Lins: Yeah, thanks for having us today, Adam. I'm Amy Lins. I've been with MMI going on 22 years. So I've been here a long time and I've been in some different roles.

I'm always focused on education in different ways, so I manage our training team and the overall education group, Tara, Maura, and some others that are in our group, along with a few other areas internally. And I actually started out as a high school teacher. Been in education in some way, my entire career, and I'm really happy to be able to take all of the different things I've done and then, really use them to help consumers. I do a lot. The only education I think I do on a routine basis is some of the student loan workshops. And we talked about student loans in the podcast a few months ago. That's one of the areas I specialize in. And that area, I have a real passion around that and helping people with student loans.

Adam Walker: All right. So you're all financial educators. You've all apparently been at this for a minute, which is fantastic! So I'm curious about why, like what motivated you to get into this line of work and what continues to motivate you every day as you get up to do this role?

Maura Attardi: I think for, similar to what Amy was talking about, I started my career in education as well. And then I moved into the nonprofit sector, where I took on a role as, I worked for a for profit that kind of takes over nonprofit organizations that are struggling financially. And in my role there, I actually had the position where I was a home based coordinator, which in essence, we provided comprehensive literacy programs to young students, but we also provided, programs for the parents, parenting programs. And every time I would be in there working with these parents, I would find that a lot of the issues that the parents were having were financially related, right? Were money related.

And so we spent a lot of time talking about things like budgeting or credit or where they can get these information and these services to improve their lives. And once I started doing that, and saw that there was this common trend or need for this kind of information, I started looking around for organizations that provided it.

And the one that I found at the time was MMI and it was just such a powerful mission driven organization that I wanted to be a part of it. And so I started in the education department there.

Adam Walker: Okay, great. Tara, how about you?

Tara Alderete: So I started, you know, I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And so I started my career, I was a corporate trainer at Citibank. And I remember one of the first things we did was look at a credit card statement and all the fine print. And I was like, What the heck? And so then I spent probably 10, 15 years doing corporate training City and Chase, big financial institutions.

And then the opportunity came up to do external education for our nonprofit here. And I just remember feeling, Oh, my goodness. I'm going to use my powers for good, not evil. And I'm going to help people and teach them what I learned about the fine print of this credit card statement and how it can impact your life and all these different things.

And so that's how I am here in the career. And I love it because like Maura said, we meet people every day all the time that are in different situations, but one common theme seems to be, I have no idea where to start. Something happened and I don't know what to do next.

So being able to help people and really see that light in their eyes like, Oh my gosh, this made a lot of sense. Now I'm positioned to handle my finances. It's a big deal and I love it. So that's how I got here.

Adam Walker: That's fantastic. How about you, Amy?

Amy Lins: So I'm a blend of Maura and Tara. I did know what I wanted to be when I grew up, which was a teacher.

Until I actually was a teacher and I taught high school math for about three years, and then I moved into the corporate world. And during that three years, one of the classes I taught was actually consumer economics within the math department. That was a math class, consumer economics, consumer math.

And we did a very similar thing, Tara. I got credit card statements and credit card applications and we read all the fine print. And the kids were like, What the heck? This is crazy! I could be paying off that TV. I want to buy for 10 years. And so same thing, right? That's where I got the bug really to be teaching people, not just algebra and geometry, but things that were going to impact their lives in other ways.

And the consumer economics class was wonderful. Once I left teaching, I went into corporate America. I did that for 12 years. I worked in IT, still within the training group. I did field training for a fortune 500 and I was involved in a lot of IT projects. And then I made the move to MMI almost 22 years ago now.

And when I saw this, I was looking, our company actually got bought out and was closing down. And so that's why I was looking for another job. And I saw this job and was like, This is the perfect thing, right? This is so awesome. I get to do this for a living. Eventhough I wasn't in education at first, I was over some of our operations teams that take consumer calls and help them. It was still helping people. And that's I think the thread that runs through all of us is our desire to help people make their lives better. And it's amazing. I wouldn't want to do anything else.

Adam Walker: And I really admire that about what all of you do, is you are making lives better, which is pretty profound. So who do you typically work with? You're in the financial education group. Who do you normally work with for that?

Amy Lins: I'll go. Who do we not work with? We work with anyone who comes through the doors and that happens in a lot of ways. We work with a lot of community partners that bring our financial education workshops to their constituents.

We do some workshops for the public that are on our website and are available for anyone to attend. And then we also have grants where we work with funders who have programs that they want to bring us into. So we really work with a lot of groups. And I'm going to let Tara and Maura talk about some of the groups that they specifically work with and that some of our team members that aren't here today work with. But we're going to help anyone from someone who's just starting out to someone who's close to being ready to retire. We have a whole catalog of courses that we teach that pretty much touch everyone in their life cycle. We work with adults though, I guess I have to say we don't do K-12 Financial literacy right now, we focus on adults. And so that's really the only thing we don't do.

Maura Attardi: I always joke that I'll talk to anybody who will listen to me. So that's pretty much, like Amy said, anybody, I had mentioned in the intro for at least for me, my area of focus with the organization is our professional athletes.

And so what I love about that in working with them is that it's proof that it doesn't matter what your income is. This information is so valuable to people because unfortunately, they're not getting it. I think there's only what, 23 states that mandate financial education in high school at this point.

And so to Amy's, when Amy was talking about being a teacher and teaching that consumer economics, she was probably, you were probably a rare teacher or the school that you were teaching at was obviously doing a great job providing that information to students because it's not readily available.

I work primarily with our professional athletes at the NFL, Major League Soccer, the National Hockey League Players Association, the WWE. But I also provide employee financial wellness to a lot of hospital groups that we work with or credit unions. And like I said, just anybody who will listen, anybody who's ready to absorb this information. It doesn't matter your income level, how much money you're making, how much of a foundation you already have. the information is there and I'm happy to provide it.

Adam Walker: I love that. That's quite the spectrum of people that are able to be served and supported. So I really like that. So are there any trends that you're seeing right now in financial education that you'd like to share with the group? Tara, you didn't get a chance last time. Do you have any trends you want to talk about or anybody else?

Tara Alderete: I would say that across the board, we work with all different kinds of people, all different income levels, all different situations. One of the things that I see and I'm seeing more and more is people just struggling. One, to make ends meet and I think because of that they have this overwhelming debt in this sense of there's nothing I can do to pull myself out. So a lot of times I will meet people, I work a lot with military folks, like I said earlier. And a lot of times I'll meet people and they're like, I just don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. And so I think that's what we're seeing more and more today. But it's awesome because once we say, Let me tell you what I think we can do. And it's like, Really? We can do that? We can do that. You know what I mean? And it's amazing. But that's the biggest thing that I'm seeing right now is just trying to eke out an existence and figure out how to do that and still be successful.

Maura Attardi: And I think, Adam, to Tara's point, what is interesting is, or at least what I'm seeing, is that people are more willing to seek out resources and help. Where in the past, there was this stigma about not understanding your finances. You wouldn't come out and say that, right? And so now I feel and it's probably a lot to do with social media, right? A lot of people are willing to say, Wait, I don't have this information. Where can I get it? How can I improve my finances? What can I do? What are the resources available to me to pull me out of this hole that I'm in?

Amy Lins: And I'd like to add to that. Actually, I'm going to follow right on to that because you're right about social media and the trends. One of the things that I see is that what's old is new. What's new is old. So the social media, the newer, the younger generations or a TikTok users or whatever, have all these different trending hashtags like, loud budgeting and cash stuffing, and FOMO budgeting or whatever. That's not new, right? It's a new name. Cash stuffing is the same as envelope method of budgeting. FOMO living is the same as keeping up with the Joneses. That's what we would call it, right? And loud budgeting is removing the stigma from talking about your debt and from reaching out for help.

So all of these trends are, they're good and they've got fresh names. But it really comes back to the basics of budgeting and managing your money. And whatever we call it today, we want to instill those good habits. And while we're on the TikTok, while I mentioned TikTok or social media in general, I don't want to throw any shade on TikTok because it's a great platform.

But I mentioned this in the student loan podcast we did. There are millions of videos out there on financial education, and they want you to buy their course and take their course and they can help you with your credit. That is a trend that I think people need to be aware of because scams are not new, but they've taken on new faces and there are a lot of bad actors out there.

And so getting your financial literacy information from respected and vetted sources is important because 95 percent of the people out there making TikToks are not experts in finance. They're looking to make a quick buck from the people that are desperate for help. So I'm going to mention that as a trend, because I think it's important.

Adam Walker: Yeah, that's good. To your point, right? It's best to get expert advice from proven experts with a track record in the industry and MMI, and everybody on this call, with the exception of myself, certainly has that. I really appreciate the value all of you bring to the table. So I wonder as we wrap up, could you talk a little bit about the services that MMI provides that can help people that do want to learn more about managing their finances?

Tara Alderete: So I really feel like MMI does a fantastic job of providing services that anybody needs, that everybody needs. One of the most basic things we do where everybody should start is that debt and budget counseling session. So working with a counselor to just take a look at your finances. What is your budget look like? What is your credit look like? What are your obstacles? How can we overcome them? And like I said earlier, if folks are facing debt, the realization that we can work with creditors and make a plan to lower rates and really and truly get you paid off in less than five years is amazing.

But no matter what anybody is facing, whether they're trying to buy a home, keep a home, pay off their student loans, whatever. I feel like we've got a program to help them, and if we don't, we can point them in the right direction. So it's just a great place to start.

Amy Lins: Yeah, and I think if you're, not everyone is in debt, not everyone maybe has a mortgage problem or whatnot. So there are, programs like our debt and budget counseling and our housing, what we call housing instability, people facing a delinquent mortgage or delinquent rent or eviction, those kinds of things. So those are more crisis type services, but they're not our only services. And we do have housing services for those who are looking to purchase a home. I have a whole suite of pre purchase counseling and education because some programs to qualify for down payment assistance require a certificate to go through a workshop or to go through an online course or to go through counseling.

We work with seniors on reverse mortgages. And then of course, student loans, looking to help student loan repayment, and bankruptcy is another one of our crisis service and also our disaster recovery counseling. so we have a lot of crisis services, but not everything is a crisis service. And I would say our financial education falls into that as well, because you can go out on our website and you can find workshops to attend publicly. Partners or people who want to bring employers or others who want to bring financial education to their constituents can reach out to us through our website. And we can work with them on providing those kinds of services.

So it's not all crisis, but for those who are in crisis, or, I don't want to use the word crisis, maybe have debt concerns, or feeling the pressure or getting the phone calls, maybe struggle to make the minimum payments or have had a life change, a divorce, a loss of their job.

We see a lot of that, but then we also see people who are just wanting to start saving for retirement. And then, so they want to learn more about those things they didn't learn in school, or they didn't learn from their parents because here in America, we don't talk about money at home.

Just it's very hush hush. We want to change that. So we have one of my favorite classes that we teach is, we do it a lot in February around Valentine's day is couples and money. So we have classes on communicating about money and it's those kinds of things as well. I'm going to zip it now and let Maura talk.

Maura Attardi: No, I think Tara and Amy covered it. What I love is that we have a resource to meet anybody or any consumer where they are, whether you just want to continue your education. Maybe you're great at budgeting already, but maybe you just want a couple of tips, or you want to know the trends that are going on.

Our blog, our podcasts, our webinars that we provide, they're really designed to meet people where they are. And like Amy said, not everybody is in that crisis moment. And so that's what I love about MMI is like, we really have the resource to meet somebody from a holistic standpoint, right?

Amy Lins: And we're always adding new content to our education portfolio. Last year we just built a five part small business academy to help small business owners who want to learn more about separating their finances from their personal to their business. And want to be more skilled in managing their business finances. And so we're always looking at what's out there on the landscape and how can we add value? And so we create a lot of new courses every year.

Maura Attardi: And I think our team is really great and cognizant that not everybody learns the same way, right? Attending a webinar might be great for somebody or taking a module on our personalized learning platform might be a better way for you to educate yourself or attending a live workshop. So I think that's another, it's not just, for us, it's not checking a box. We really take the time to look at how the consumer needs to absorb the information and what kind of information they need to absorb.

Adam Walker: I love that. I love that. And listeners, if you're not actively following MMI across social channels and in every other place, make sure you do, because there is a lot of really really great, valuable, helpful content that this team and other MMI teams create. I'm so impressed by the work that all of you do, by your commitment to it and just really appreciate what you bring to the table into this discussion. Thank each of you for being on the show today.

Tara Alderete: Thanks Adam.

Amy Lins: Thank you for having us.

Maura Attardi: Thanks so much.

Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to this episode of Long Story Short brought to you by Money Management International. To learn more about how MMI helps people from all walks of life get unstuck and out of the vicious cycle of debt through personalized solutions that inspire hope. Visit MoneyManagement.org. This episode was produced by Edgewise Media, script writing and production by Amy Scott, editing by Neil Geid, and show hosting by me, Adam Walker.

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