Majel Hein was the first Financial Literacy Counselor to come on board at the Marine Credit Union Foundation to create and manage our Finding HOME program in 2018. However, her expertise has been utilized in many other areas, not only by the Foundation, but by Marine Credit Union members and team members as well. And her passion in her line of work has helped her to change lives for so many of Marine’s members since she arrived.
But how did she get here and become a Financial Literacy Counselor?
Years ago, Majel hit a rough patch, dealing with challenges like not being able to pay her electrical bill, working two jobs, 80 hours per week, just to make ends meet and also a potential eviction. She struggled to get help from financials because of her credit score being under 500. Knowing she needed to change directions, she decided to go back to school at the age of 24. She began taking classes at Western Technical College in La Crosse, WI, to see where the road would take her.
Majel was enrolled in a math class, where she excels naturally, and her professor took interest in Majel’s skills and knew she was capable of more. She recommended that Majel tutor other students, giving her some additional responsibility and allowing her to really focus on school and finding her career path.
While diving into more finance and sales classes at Western and working as a member service representative at a credit union, she came across information about becoming a credit counselor. There was an opening at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of La Crosse for a credit counselor, and after graduation Majel got the job! Majel’s prior experience with some not so great finances, made her a great candidate for the job as she could truly relate to many of the issues her clients were facing. As part of her training, the company paid for her certification, which brought Majel to become a certified credit counselor in 2013!
“I knew it was going to be a job I fell in love with,” said Majel. “I was going to be part of the change. I’m very proud of the work I do every day to help others. It’s a learning process every single day. You’re putting tools in your toolbox for the future that you can pull out and help people move forward financially.”
Through the MCU Foundation’s Finding HOME program, Majel has been able to counsel over 200 families and help them address their path to homeownership. As of March 2021, Finding HOME has11 graduate families that Majel has helped improve their credit, save money, get their budgets in order and ultimately purchase their dream homes. And she’s just getting started. “I remember one participant having this ah-hah moment 6 months into the program and I was so proud,” said Majel.
Not only that but she counsels Marine members who may just need a little help with budgeting and ways to improve their credit. Jon is a member at Marine Credit Union and has been working with Majel to keep his budget on track! Check this out!
To those interested in helping others as a financial literacy counselor, Majel said, “make all the connections that you can and chat with other counselors on LinkedIn. Look into coaching at UW Extension. There’s a movement with financial counseling. The more you can take advantage of the free education and just learn, it will come. You will find it.”
But the daily schedule for a Financial Literacy Counselor? “There is no typical day,” said Majel. “This is not a 9 to 5 job. It defeats the purpose to talk to people about money and ask them to take off work. You are not done at 5 p.m., you are done around 7 p.m.”
In 2016, Majel won the National Foundation of Credit Counseling Counselor of the Year award prior to joining the MCU Foundation.
She was also recently asked to serve an advisory role to the Governor’s Financial Inclusion Committee for the State of Wisconsin, by sitting on their Financial Inclusion Advisory Committee. This committee will:
- Promote the importance of financial literacy, capability and financial inclusion so that all Wisconsinites can access the financial services they need to build economic security and resilience.
- Identify barriers to financial inclusion within the financial and insurance sectors and engage stakeholders in identifying solutions to eliminate systemic racism in these industries and advocate for advancement.
- Explore and identify how systemic racism creates barriers to financial health, wealth, and retirement security for Wisconsinites and support organizations with best practices for creating a new system of financial justice and inclusion.
Majel’s next goal is to become a Certified Financial Therapist. “Everyone thinks about money differently. Why are you making the decisions that you’re making? That’s what I want to help people navigate,” she said.
Majel’s education includes:
- Credit union financial counselor
- Financial education instructor
- Rural development direct-loan packager with certifications in credit, HUD housing counseling, financial education, and student loans.
- Associates in Finance from Western Technical College
- Non-Profit Leadership from Viterbo University
Interested in becoming a financial or credit counselor? Reach out to Majel on LinkedIn!