Laura Martinez, WCAC Financial Coach
Despite being born in the Dominican Republic, Laura Martinez considers Worcester home. She emigrated to the City with her mom at just nine years of age and hasn’t left. A graduate of South High School and Worcester State University, she recently joined WCAC for a twelve month contract as the agency’s first ever Financial Coach. She is simultaneously pursuing her Master’s degree in Project Management from Georgetown University. “I like to do the work that I do in Worcester,” she says, “I feel a closeness to the community having grown up here – I have a real sensitive spot.”
Prior to launching her own consulting business 4-1/2 years ago, Laura worked in auto financing for many years where she found learning and understanding systems really important, before transitioning to retail banking and gaining that perspective. “I’ve always found it very interesting,” she said. “It’s not anything that’s taught, it’s very much learn as you go.”
Her professional experience led to volunteer opportunities throughout the Worcester community to share her knowledge in providing basic financial literacy instruction first to summer youth employed at the Regional Environmental Council. “I shared lesson plans about opening a checking account and planning for what to do with their earnings, setting up savings accounts, etc.” she recalls. Her first touchpoint with WCAC was in presenting similar financial literacy workshops to youth enrolled in the agency’s Job & Education Center. She found great fulfillment in working with youth who she found to be very honest and transparent in their need for help, and in seeing them share lessons learned with their own families.
“Our money behaviors and how we spend our money directly affects our community,” she says. “Constantly making bad decisions has a broad impact. The student debt crisis, as an example, may be the result of some not fully understanding the financial commitments they are making but it is also a result of inequitable education about financial literacy.”
Now in her role as WCAC’s Financial Coach she wants the public to know that financial literacy is available to everyone. “Whether you’re from a low or high socio-economic situation, everyone can benefit from learning more about financial wellness,” she says.
The most fulfilling aspect of her job is helping people achieve a sense of independence. “Something as seemingly as simple as helping an underbanked individual open a bank account gives them the power of independence. It’s the best feeling to help them move past fearful thoughts and past difficulties to be empowered and independent,” she said.
She noted that unlike financial planning, financial coaching is all about having real conversations. “Going forward my hope is that we can begin to normalize conversations about money without fear, without whispering… let’s talk about it! Let’s create equitable opportunities to navigate systems without worry to meet essential needs,” Laura says. “And get people into situations where they can take resourceful steps to get to where they want to be.”