A Financial Literacy Coach on a Mission to Empower Immigrant Women & Families
Whether we like it or not, we all need money to help us reach our goals. We need to understand how to get it, how to save it, how to invest it, and how to spend it wisely. As entrepreneurs, we often even need to spend money to make money. Not everyone grows up learning financial literacy, and this is especially true for immigrants, people of color and certain minorities, like Latinx people, some of whom consider talking about money to be tacky or even disrespectful.
Maribel Francisco is on a mission to change that. Francisco is the 29-year-old founder of Our Wealth Matters. She’s the daughter of Mexican immigrants from Michoacán, México (home to some of the best avocados in the world, by the way) and a personal finance coach who specializes in helping immigrant families and women understand the American finance system and build wealth.
For more than 10 years, Francisco worked with immigrants in the United States as a certified income tax preparer. For the last four years, she has worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, most recently, managing a multimillion-dollar international business unit. Now, as a bilingual money coach, Francisco combines her knowledge of the U.S. tax system, her international business degree, her background in corporate finance, and her research in personal finance to better serve a wider audience of immigrants.
Francisco set down the path of financial literacy when she had to figure out her own 401(k), but her relationship with money began long before that. Growing up, Francisco’s mom started her own business as an income tax preparer; at 18, Francisco became licensed to do the same. She got her degree and ended up in the entertainment industry as a financial analyst but quickly realized that’s not what brought her joy. Personal finance, however, did.
Savings and Stigmas
Francisco started her company, Our Wealth Matters, with one very clear goal: she wanted to help women and first-generation immigrant Spanish-speaking families avoid the negative experiences she had to go through growing up. After her dad got deported when she was a child, her family lost their main source of income.
“We ended up sleeping in our car for a while,” she said. “The main focus of Our Wealth Matters is to help other people avoid situations like that…Immigrants don’t get a welcome packet or pamphlet. They come here to work and that’s all they care about at first.”
She admitted that part of the reason why she also focuses her business towards young immigrant women is because of her own experience with handling money as a Mexican woman. “We’re taught to not talk about money, to just save it under the mattress and hope for the best.”
I also grew up hearing things like “don’t worry about money, it doesn’t buy happiness,” from my Mexican family, and while the sentiment behind that famous saying might be a nice one, it also prevents people from talking — and learning — about money. Of course money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can definitely provide safety and stability.
“I want to help people like me, who don’t have experience or knowledge, build wealth,” said Francisco. “I want young immigrants to know what to do when they start earning more money than their parents, and what steps to take when there is no financial family knowledge to be passed down on the specifics
of how this country works.”
The United States is a country built by immigrants; one that to this day continues to rely heavily on immigrant labor, but there are still not enough tools to help them settle in and build a decent life there. When asked what tools are available to teach immigrants about finances in the U.S., Francisco said, “There are not a lot of immigrants talking about immigrant issues. Some do but only do it in the down-low.”
Unlike some others who work in personal finance, Francisco is aware of the important role social media plays in her finding new clients. “Social media makes a big part of how I get clients,” she says. “It’s low-cost but high maintenance, though. I find it easier to connect with people over Instagram or Facebook.
They’re already looking for what I’m offering.”
Her brand is so specific, that when you land on her page you know what to expect. It feels a bit more personal and it gives potential clients the chance to “get to know her” before they meet her. It’s a way to market herself without being “on” 24/7. “It takes a lot of time, but we’re on our phones anyway.”
What sets Francisco and Our Wealth Matters aside from others in her same line of work is that she’s not afraid to ask the “hard” questions when it comes to helping and advocating for her clients. Francisco has a huge advantage: “I have the privilege of citizenship. I can ask the hard questions when contacting banks
and financial institutions, so I can ask these hard questions on [clients’] behalf without a problem.”
More Work To Be Done
Francisco says there is still a lot of financial illiteracy, even among those who dedicate their lives to personal finance. “I’ve talked to people who have worked for 30+ years in this industry and some of them had never even heard about ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), so it just shows how
little information is being shared about the topic. People in wealth management don’t know about these things, so it’s all the more important to talk about it and share the information; even the information available online needs to be updated.”
This is why she created a Quora account and spends a good portion of her free time answering or reanswering personal finance questions, however old they may be. “Personal finance isn’t taught in schools, and even when it is, it’s not immigrant-centric so sometimes these forums are all people have.”