Real Money, Real Experts

Get Involved: America Saves Week + Military Saves Month

February 15, 2021 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 20
Real Money, Real Experts
Get Involved: America Saves Week + Military Saves Month
Show Notes Transcript

It's America Saves Week! Leading up to America Saves Week (February 22nd- 26th) and Military Saves Month (April) Rebecca and Mary meet with Kia Young, Director of Communication for America Saves, and Lila Quintiliani, Senior Program Manager for Military Saves. The two guests share their path to saving and what they've learned along the way.

Lila and Kia also share important resources for financial professionals and their clients. Whether it's getting involved during America Saves Week or Military Saves Month, the resources they share can be applied any time of year and tailored to fit each individual client's needs.

Show Notes:
00:50 Kia and Lila Intro
03:22 About America Saves
05:32 Financial Counselors and America Saves Week
06:41 Military Saves
10:07 Why Automatic Save?
12:02 AFCPE + America/Military Saves
13:17 Town Hall Results 
19:34 Your Two Cents 

Show Note Links:
FINRA Spouse Fellowship:
https://www.afcpe.org/career-and-resource-center/finra-foundation-military-spouse-fellowship/
Military Saves: https://militarysaves.org/
Military Saves Toolkit: https://militarysaves.org/organizations/military-saves-month/military-saves-month-2021-digital-toolkit
American Saves Week Digital Toolkit:
https://americasavesweek.org/america-saves-week-digital-toolkit-2021/
Tips For Spending Your Stimulus Check: https://americasaves.org/blog/1750-4-steps-to-spending-your-stimulus-check-wisely-when-you-don-t-have-an-emergency-fund
Split to save: https://splittosave.org/

Resources:
AFCPE Free Financial Coaching:
https://www.afcpe.org/free-financial-counseling-or-coaching/

AFCPE Membership:
 https://www.afcpe.org/membership/
Find an AFC professional:
https://www.afcpe.org/find-an-afcpe-certified-professional/

Intro:

Welcome to Real Money, Real Experts, a podcast where leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money in the real world. I'm your host, Rebecca Wiggins, executive director of the association for financial counseling and planning education or AFCPE. And I'm your cohost, Dr. Mary Bell Carlson. I'm an Accredited Financial Counselor or AFC® and the CEO of Chief Financial Mom. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topics that personal finance professionals care about helping clients, building community and your professional growth. Welcome everyone to the Real Money, Real Experts podcast. I'm Rebecca and I'm Mary.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Today on the show, we have the pleasure of speaking with Kia Young and Laila Quintiliani. Lila is an active duty army spouse, a veteran, and the Military Saves senior program manager. She also earned her AFC through the military spouse fellowship and is currently pursuing her CHFC designation. Kia is the director of communications for America, saves where she uses her expertise to develop content and communication strategies for service-based organizations and nonprofits . We're going to talk today with both of them about ways that you can get involved with both events and how to help your clients take advantage of their tools and resources, particularly around automatic savings. So welcome to you both to the podcast. We're excited to talk with you.

Kia Young:

Thanks so much for having us. We're excited to chat.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

So Kia before we jump into America SAVES, I'd like to know a little more about your background and what brought you to this arena?

Kia Young:

My background, actually, I am an air force veteran. My husband is in the army and I started a social media agency a while ago, and I actually found America Saves or Military Savess actually through my work with social media and then have been working with them for the last year and a half or more.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Laila, you're an AFC and as I mentioned, one of our military spouse fellows, can you just tell us a little bit more about your background and how you got connected with this field and with AFCPE?

Lila Quintiliani:

I actually, years ago I was reading in a magazine in a doctor's office and I saw a profile of a spouse who had , received this FINRA Foundation Fellowship. And it sounded like something interesting. So I applied for it and I ended up getting it. I didn't even realize how competitive the scholarship was, but that was, Oh my gosh, I guess it's 11 years ago. And the rest is history as they say. So I've been a financial counselor on military installations around the world and also have been fortunate enough to work with military saves twice.

Rebecca Wiggins:

That's awesome. Were you interested in financial counseling before you read that article or was it sort of a new exposure to the field?

Lila Quintiliani:

You know, it was kind of like I had the school of hard knocks. I was interested in financial counseling because of , uh , some financial mistakes that , my husband and I had made as newlyweds. So it , it seemed like, wow, maybe I could learn and help other people and help myself too.

Rebecca Wiggins:

We hear that a lot. That's , that's a great entry point.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

So Kia, let's jump into it. Tell us what America Saves is and why people should participate.

Kia Young:

Oh , I love this. So just to kind of introduce you to America Saves itself. I like to describe us as your savings, accountability partners. So most of our savers find us through the pledge, which is just an interactive tool that they go to at America Saves.org. And in that pledge, they are making a commitment to themselves, really of , um, what they want to save for. So they get to choose a goal. They are deciding how much they want to save and for how long they'll save. And so it's really just helping them to make a plan. So not just saying, I want to say $5,000, but saying, okay, I want to save $5,000, but this is how I'm going to do it. And this is what I'm doing at four. And then after they take that pledge, we get to support them through that goal. So we get to send them really great communications through email, text messages, online events, social media. And that's why we kind of say, it's like your accountability partner. Like when you, when you say you want to go to the gym or often it's more fun when you have someone, a friend going with you, right? So we are that friend for people with their finances and their savings goal. So America saves week is really just a celebration of that. It is a week to really sit down, check in with yourself on your finances. We have a different theme every day of that week. And it's really just an opportunity for you to just take a timeout and look and see if you need to shore up any places in your finances. Kind of get a , what we like to call a clear view of your finances that week.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

So Kia, can anybody signed up anytime throughout the year, or is it just during this week?

Kia Young:

So you can take the pledge anytime throughout the year. And if you are an organization that wants to partner with us and get our digital toolkit, you can sign up to participate in American Saves week . We usually open it up around October, each year to prep for that last week in February, which is always America Saves week .

Rebecca Wiggins:

Awesome. And Kia , I'm interested for the financial counselors and coaches that are listening. What would you say to them about how they should make the most of the week using your resources with their clients and the different audiences that they support?

Kia Young:

I really like the toolkit because there are so many options there and I really like to tell people don't get overwhelmed by it. So pick and choose what makes sense for the people that you're with or the audience or community that you're building. There so much information there , everything from sample press releases to, to ready to use social media, graphics, emails, and newsletters, and then some really great resources. One of our favorite resources that's included this year is our spending and savings tool. Our savers have gone crazy over that. Lila helped us create it , um, to make sure that you really get a good sense of what your income is, what your expenses are, what you want to save. So there's so much information in there. And so my biggest tip on how to make the most of it is to really consider your audience and who you're working with and take what's relevant to them and share it out during the week

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Lila, you are over military saves and you're doing a whole month of focus in April. Tell us more about what military saves is

Lila Quintiliani:

Very much like America saves. Military saves, seeks to encourage service members and military families and veterans to build wealth and reduce debt. We originally the program originated over a decade ago when the department of defense came to America Saves and had us create a more military focused program. We've been around a while. We've had over 360,000 people take the military saves pledge, which is again, very similar to the American saves pledge. And then we have moved to the month of April because that's national financial capability month. And , um, we work with a lot of military installations and military support organizations and banks and credit unions. And they like the option of having a little bit more time to participate in the ways that they want to, because a lot of, because of the military, up tempo a lot of installations. Can't just, you know, pin themselves in to participate in, in one particular week. So we very much like American Saves have. Um , in fact, we just very exciting. We just released our digital toolkit today. So we have a lot of resources , social media, same thing, proclamations press releases that are all ready to go for. Um, all these organizations that want to help support the military community.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

And how have you seen the pledge specifically help people and individuals save more?

Lila Quintiliani:

Well, we periodically do , surveys of our savers. And the last survey we did was in 2019. We're about to, we're going to launch one this summer , in 2021. But , in our last survey, we always ask this, we've been asking it every, every time we do a survey , um, you know, how do you feel it has helped you? And over 80% of our respondents said that they felt that the military saves pledge, help them either remind them or encourage them to build wealth and to save moreD.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Do either of you have a specific story of an individual that was able to save

Lila Quintiliani:

More through this program? Oh my gosh, there's so many, I mean, both American Saves and Military Saves have what we call saver stories. So if you went to the website, you'd be able to see a ton of them. And we feature them quite often. There are a few that are included in the America Saves digital toolkit for 2021. So if you are participating in American Saves week, you will definitely see some of those stories. We've created videos , where some of our savers are sharing their stories in those videos during the week as well. So we contact our savers and ask them quite often, how has the pledge, whether America Saves or Military Saves helped you? And the stories that we get back are just phenomenal. So we'd like to highlight those a lot in , in all of our content .

Rebecca Wiggins:

I'd love to talk with both of you too , a little bit about automatic savings. I know that's something that you've put a lot of emphasis on over the last year or so. And I think I read that before the pandemic. It was something like close to a million people who use direct deposit. We're not saving automatically. So I'm just curious if you could speak a little bit to why you think that is and what you're doing to promote automatic savings and why it's so powerful.

Lila Quintiliani:

I actually think from what I understand closer to like a hundred million people that were using direct deposit and not necessarily saving automatically. We ask these questions in our saver surveys as well. And we get that. They don't think that they have the money to save is one thing. And then they also don't like things happening automatically. It makes them uncomfortable because they don't feel like, you know , they're in control. And I think that, I mean, the way that we can kind of combat that, what I think are misconceptions. Cause there are some , I mean maybe there are people who truly do not have the income to save, but I think that most people think about saving it. Cause I know I did myself the wrong way. They think about they get to the end of the month and then they try to save and they're looking at it backwards. You have to say, you have to set aside something first and then pay everything else, pay yourself first. I mean, it's kind of cliche, but it was exactly that kind of realization that got me personally out of financial difficulties as a young military family. And I think that a lot of people just don't, they don't think of it that way. And then as to the, you know, kind of being scared about something happening automatically, I think that nowadays, even the military is more responsive. Um, you can go into my pay and adjust things a lot easier than you used to be able to do many years ago when you had to kind of go in person to finance and fill out paperwork. I mean, you can go into your banks app and change your, you know, amount that's coming out, et cetera. And I just think that , um, you know, it's sort of just getting people into that mindset, thinking like the saver mindset that Kia likes to talk about a lot. So, so I think that, you know, if we, I, that's why I really think these surveys are useful because they won't , when we can see what our savers are thinking about, then we know how to, how to talk to them.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah. I think that's a great point. And actually it kind of makes me think too about the value between, you know, AFCPEs work with America Saves and Military Saves and this sort of touch point of that , what the counselors and coaches need to be thinking about as well. So the messaging that you're getting from clients is so useful, I think for our professionals to understand, you know, how to help people work through that mindset of either not having enough or that feeling of loss of control, maybe of setting up something that's automatic, when really that gives people more control right over their finances, if they get that set up from the outset. So it just kind of reminded me of the value of this partnership that we all have and that, that important linkage between that professional and the client and understanding mindset. So. I'd love to hear a little bit more, y ou, you know, I think especially because of the pandemic, some things shifted this year in terms of your outreach efforts. And I know you did some really great town halls and w ere able to really reach a lot of people through those. Could you just talk a little bit about what you saw? What were some of the trends, what people were experiencing, and I know Kia, you've talked a little bit before about like sort of three buckets of people, or I think you were talking about that on the summit and that was so enlightening to me. Would you share a little bit more about the town halls and what you kind of learned through that?

Kia Young:

Yeah, so the town halls work kind of like an experiment that we did that went really well , um, in the fall of 2020, just wanting a way to directly reach our savers and being able to give them resources and tools to help them. So we, we hosted three town halls. One was all about simple savings strategies. One was about how to pay off debt. And the last one was saving for major life milestones and were really blown away by what we saw. Our savers are very engaged and interactive. Had a lot of questions. I think out of all, three of those, the most engaged was how do I pay off debt? We had so many questions. We literally had people telling us how much money they had coming in, how much they were in debt, how much they had in savings and saying, what should I do with it? Like my husband wants to do this thing. I want to do this thing. What's the better option. And so it really just showed us the need and how much Americans are craving, you know, simple down to earth, relatable ways to actually get out of debt and get a clear view of their finances so they can feel more confident and financially stable. And in each one of those town halls, we did kind of speak to these three different places that we felt like our savers were in according to the, like the financial crisis from the pandemic. So that first bucket were people who had savings, but we're having to spend it down because of the economic crisis. And we're stressed out because, you know, they've saved all this money and now all of a sudden they see it and they're , they're not sure what to do next. And then there was the group that had lost income, right? They'd lost income. So that first group not necessarily had lost income, but they were just seeing those savings go down. And the second group, they actually had lost their income and were having to kind of prioritize what should they pay off first? And then that third group was actually people who were doing better , um , since the pandemic, those, that own businesses or those freelancers, the gig economy got a huge boost during the pandemic. And now they may be like, Oh my goodness, like, what do I do with this money? And not to mention everyone had gotten a stimulus , um, on top of that, if they were unemployed, they may have been making more on , on unemployment. Um, with that extra income, then they were like in their regular jobs. And so we were very specific and talking to all three of those, because we realized that people were in such different financial situations, there was no one size fits all. So we, it was really important to us to talk to where our savers actually were and give them resources and tools that would help them no matter what their financial situation was.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah. I think you guys have done a tremendous job of putting together those resources. Like one of the things I'm thinking of that got a lot of traction, even as I shared it personally with folks, not just, you know, from AFCPE was your breakdown of what to do with the stimulus checks. And so I would really encourage people to check out the resources that you guys have put together. Cause you've done such a good job of, like you said, distilling, what are the messages that clients really want to hear? And sometimes I think we kind of, we give too much information and really, I think you've done a great job of breaking down those resources and making it as clear as possible

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Kia. You've also really explained, well, why financial counselors and coaches are so important because there isn't a one size fits all and people are craving this information. They need it. And it really puts an emphasis of this is our time to shine. We really are needed right now. Um , maybe more than ever. And we hope to continue that on. Kia you , can you kind of close us out with one of the memorable savings moments that you had from one of your members?

Kia Young:

You asked that question and the first person that comes to mind , um, her name is Kesha and maybe that's because that's my sister's name, but she described her financial situation as undisciplined, unrestricted and impulsive. And I think there are a lot of us that can identify with that. Um, and she actually found American Saves through our local campaigns. So there are different cities and regions across America. Who've kind of created their own little sub saves. So this one in particular was Charlotte saves and she didn't have any savings and really was still living paycheck to paycheck. So being connected to Charlotte say she took the pledge. Last time we talked to Kesha , she was working toward finishing school, paying down debt and started saving just $25 per week in her savings account. And she had actually moved from $25 to $50 per week. And , um, she was just really excited. Her attitude about savings had changed. She was more proud of like when she could hit those savings goal, it gave her an additional boost. And that's one of the things that we'd like to say, like start small and think big. So the idea that you have to have six months of savings and expenses saved up, and we like to tell you start with just $500. If you don't have $500 in that emergency fund. And when you hit that $500, you're going to feel so good. You're going to want to keep going. So you can eventually get to that big goal, but try to break it down into smaller baby steps. So that you're , you have those celebratory milestones along the journey of savings. And so Kesha was one that, that kind of popped up. And again, we have a ton of saver stories on American say's dot org and our military saves.org . So you can kind of, you know, hear from some actual savers who've taken the pledge and how it has helped them become better savers.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Well, and I love too because sometimes even the word 500 seems like a lot to people, but you've really broken it down. And Kesha story specifically where it's 25 bucks, if you could even save 20 to $25 and you know how you do that is up to you. And that's what I love about it. It's nobody telling you how or what you have to cut, but you're learning to do this yourself. And , and Kesha story was a perfect example. She's doubled her savings and just that momentum just keeps going. And once you catch that fire , uh , you keep going. So I think it's a , a wind story for anyone listening to start somewhere. That's the most important thing is just start and start small and yes, big changes will be available down the road.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Okay. So at the end of each interview, we like to get the guests to sense or your biggest takeaways for our listeners. So Lila, why don't you start? And if just share, if you have one piece of advice, what would you share with other financial counselors and coaches?

Lila Quintiliani:

I mean, my own personal savings tip that I have I've used and now is going to come to fruition here in the next few months as I send my oldest child to college, is that if you pay off something, keep making that payment into a savings account, and then you can use that in particular , this was a car. So we paid off our car loan that we had, and we just kept savings into the account. And now I have to send her off to college with some sort of vehicle. So now I'm going to be able to , to buy that vehicle and not have to take out another car loan because I just, I never even noticed it because it was just the same car payment coming out of my savings account each month. So that's a tip I give that I have used myself, you should treat your personal finance situation, kind of like almost like a doctor's visit. Like you should get a checkup every year and it should be like a physical. And I think a lot of people don't realize what financial counselors can do for you. And I think that it's really healthy to go in and just, you know, take the time to take a look at your, at your own financial health and have someone else help you with it. It's not, you're not even, I have someone helped me with my finances every once in a while I go and I have , um, another financial professional look at my finances. Cause sometimes you just can't see yourself. Sometimes you get too close to your own situation and you need to have a professional step in.

Rebecca Wiggins:

That's great. Thank you. What about you Kia ?

Kia Young:

Oh my gosh. So as the only person here, that's not a financial coach or counselor. Um, I think the, the biggest aha moment I have with savings was actually after I was introduced to America SDraves where I learned that the , the idea of savings isn't necessarily connected to your bank account and how much is in your bank account. We came up with this phrase, that savings is a habit, not a destination. And it really changed for me because I always felt like unless I had like $10,000 in my savings account that I wasn't a good saver, but what that helped me see is the act of savings and having that direct deposit and putting something in my savings account meant that I was a saver and , um, to kind of flip that on its head and be like, Oh, okay, well, I actually am a saver. Um, as someone who I would say, you know, up until recently, wasn't that great with money that kind of really helped change everything for me in how I thought about myself and how confident I was in my ability to

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

That's awesome. We've really appreciated both of you coming on board and speaking to us today, would you leave us with more information about how to participate in American saves week and military saves month?

Kia Young:

I'll start with America saves week. So if you want to be a participating organization or AFC with American saves week, please go to America , saves week.org and sign up. You'll get immediate access to the toolkit with all of those resources. And yeah, that's the best way to sign up and get information.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

And how about military saves?

Lila Quintiliani:

Similarly for our military saves, you go to military saves.org and there is a button for organizations and installations to sign up and you can click on that and you'll get, start getting emails and all kinds of communications from us. If you happen to be a military installation and have difficulty in, you know, because that's sometimes there's firewalls that prevent you from accessing it. You can also email us [email protected]

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Thank you both so much for this valuable information, Rebecca, this was really interesting. I've known about America's say's for a long time and military stays . In fact, it was interesting when Leila said that it was over a decade ago because that was about the same time that I was at the Pentagon and we were working with them to get this program started. So it's been great to see how it's changed and improved so much the years. And it's great that it's continuing on. Well after a decade plus a couple of things that really stuck out for me were some of the slogans and taglines that Kia use . She said, savings is a habit and not a destination and start small think big. And it's a commitment to yourself. There were several things that just really stuck out that I thought I could do that. You know, there is the ability to , to really start small if I, even if I don't have a lot or if my clients, I think that's the biggest thing I hear from clients is I just can't do that. I'm so strapped. I've got so much debt and both of them made some great points about how just doing little things can really make some huge changes along the way. It's also helpful to have that accountability partner to have information and not feel like you're doing this on your own, not only for clients, but I feel like also for financial coaches and counselors, that they have a partner in helping other people and in making changes and my special appreciation to those coaches and counselors that have signed up to give of their services and help others in this program, because this is really an important time, like any other to be able to reach out and help and touch people's lives. And they really needed at this time.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah. I loved talking with both of them as well. And as I said, I think they've done such a great job with their communications and the resources that they've put together. Also, their town halls were fabulous and it was amazing how many people they reached, which obviously shows the need that's out there and how much people are craving accessibility to this information. And we talked about this a lot on the podcast with our guests in terms of walking, alongside people, as you said, being the accountability partner, breaking things down so that people feel like this is something that they can do. So I just, I really appreciate the work that they do and also how much they promote the value of AFCPE certification and professionalism. And so we are also going to include a link in the show notes for the free financial counseling and coaching initiative. If you're not already signed up and you want to be part of it, you still can, we're going to be doing this for the better part of this year, but certainly during America's saves week, they're going to be promoting that as well and connecting clients to you. But it's also a great thing to just share out to other people that, that, that the service is still available. It's still free. And it's still with people who are certified and passionate about helping people and B being that accountability partner. So lots of great resources on the America saves website as well that you can use throughout the year with your clients. So we hope you found the episode today really useful in your practice throughout the year. And we really appreciate the partnership that we have with them.

Speaker 4:

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