What do you do as Assistant Director of Financial Empowerment Centers at the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE)?
I oversee the City’s financial counseling and coaching programs, including the Financial Empowerment Centers, OFE’s flagship initiative. The Financial Empowerment Centers are the first municipally sponsored financial counseling program in the country. We provide free, professional financial counseling to help New Yorkers manage their household budget, reduce debt, establish or improve credit, increase savings, and access safe and affordable financial products.
Are you working on any large-scale, ongoing or project/timeline-based initiatives?
I run several financial counseling expansion projects, where we have adapted our financial counseling model to serve specific populations. Currently we have the Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera, where counselors are embedded in the Mexican Consulate to provide services to Mexican immigrants, Residents CAN!, which is a place-based financial coaching program serving residents of NYCHA public housing developments in the Bronx, and Ready to Rent, a financial counseling initiative geared at helping New Yorkers prepare their finances for applying for affordable apartments.
How did you get interested in the field of financial counseling?
My entrance into the field of financial counseling was by chance. After returning to the country from several years of living abroad and trying to figure out my next career move, I began tutoring a couple in Spanish. As it turns out, one of them was the president of a consumer credit counseling agency. He thought I would be a good fit, even though I had no relevant background in finances. That was in 2003, and the rest is history.
What’s your favorite class at the Marxe School? What are you most looking forward to learning in support of your career and MPA?
So far my favorite class has been Communications, with Tiffany Lewis. As a financial counselor, you learn to be very good at one-on-one communication, but not necessarily at communicating to a wider audience. I enjoyed honing those skills in Assistant Professor, Lewis´ course. After moving into management after years of direct service, I am hoping my time at Marxe equips me to be a better manager and more strategic leader as I continue my career in municipal government.
What’s the piece of financial advice you find yourself giving
more often than anything else?
When you´re trying to cut spending, be honest with yourself about your budget. You have to be realistic and leave room for some fun, even if you´re trying to aggressively pay down debt.
And buy renter´s insurance. No matter what.
Watch Jessica on camera discussing how to handle a debt collector for Vice Money.