Earlier in her career, Andrea Finley worked in collections “for the big banks,” as she describes it. But that path didn’t “quite feel right” for her.
“Something kept tugging on my heart,” she says. “I had this moral compass that kept leading me to help people.”
That compass led her to $400 million asset SC Telco Federal Credit Union, Greenville, S.C., where as a collections specialist Finley could help members work through their financial troubles. Going through the CUNA Financial Counseling Certification Program was “transformational” she recalls.
“My manager told me we are not just here to collect the payment. We are here to understand why members got behind and what can we do to help them get in a better situation,” Finley says. “If we can get to the root problem, we’ll make a bigger impact. That was a light bulb moment for me. It was about financial education.”
In 2017, her current role as financial wellness coordinator was created and Finley was charged with starting a financial wellness program at the credit union. Starting a new program is a big endeavor. Finley’s advice for taking on this type of challenge: “Work with what you have.”
This included building on long-term relationships the credit union had already established. She developed a program called Homeward Bound with Habitat for Humanity for families who struggle to meet the qualifying standards. Within the past two years, 14 families have found new homes through the program.
Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County recognized Finley for her efforts with the 2019 Family Ambassador Award.
She also works with the Dream Center, a homeless shelter program in a neighboring county. Finley established a financial education curriculum and teaches a seven-week course at the center. Before coronavirus (COVID-19), she was at the center at least once a week.
“It’s important to be there,” Finley says. “So much of financial education is building trust, especially with adults. By me being there every week, we can have impactful discussions.”
Parents who participate in financial education can earn Dream Dollars, which qualify them to choose holiday presents for their children—a touching moment for Finley.
Finley also worked her way into Greenville schools through Junior Achievement, an organization that teaches entrepreneurship and financial education to youth. The school district needed someone to teach a personal finance course and she fit the bill.
Finley’s willingness to knock on doors and provide assistance any way she can is one of the keys to her success, Finley says. “I haven’t been turned down yet.”