Expert Interview with Elaine King Fuentes About Family and Money Matters

Elaine King Fuentes of Family & Money Matters Institute knows that money plays a large role in the happiness of a family. That's not to say that all families need to be wealthy; instead, it means that families need to understand how to make the most out of the money they have.

Here, Fuentes shares some of what makes her a trusted financial expert so that families everywhere can benefit from a healthy relationship with money.

What is the key way in which Family and Money Matters gets families to understand, organize, and manage their money?

We work around the qualitative aspects of money first by helping them understand what motivates them, and then we utilize our 4-step process of planning, saving, investing and sharing. We also work on a 6-month program to transform the 4 strategies into a habit.

What do you feel are three of the biggest ways in which families fail to manage their money?

Lack of communication. It is incredible how as human beings our actions come mostly from love and purity, and some of the time these actions are misunderstood due to unclear objectives and planning. Three things: lack of communication, goals and an action plan.

In your experience, how have your clients been the most surprised by the services you offer? For instance, what small things can most people change to make the biggest difference?

Having a budget and sticking to it. It's incredible what a difference it makes when you share it with a family member.

How do you encourage financial advocacy? What's the importance of that advocacy?

The easiest way of encouraging financial advocacy is by sharing your own experiences; helping your neighbor or your community; taking charge in your local financial stability organization, financial planning organization, and education volunteer opportunities; consider volunteering with this organization or Junior Achievement.

How does financial understanding help families to invest in themselves?

By understanding what motivates you, how you behave in different circumstances and being aware of the core basic planning strategies you invest in growing as an individual, the better understanding and the more contribution you can make towards financial sustainability.

When it comes to saving for college or retirement, what are some things many individuals do not consider?

For both college savings and retirement, there are tax saving vehicles some may not be aware of or others may not take advantage of; but instead wait for the day that there are "savings" to start an account, and that day may not come soon enough. Savings is not a set event; it is series of weekly actions that become habitual. The power of compounding: there are so many advantages of saving a little today than a lot in the future.

How do you incorporate the entire family into your services?

The family is a system that can be powerful together. We work with parents and children 10 and over and do exercises together around the four strategies. We plan together for things they all want, like something in the house or an experience as a family. For younger children, we have a program just for them.

What is the best feedback that you have received from your clients?

"You saved my marriage" is one I will never forget, "The program changed my teenager's spending habits from spending to wanting to save for college with his allowance" is another one that made me smile. And one that warmed my heart was "My life transformed because I now see money in a productive not destructive way"

How did you become interested in this topic?

I think it is in my DNA; my parents were very young when I was born and their parents were too; so money management was an art (skill) in my family. Growing up in Peru when inflation was over a hundred percent, going to school in Mexico during the 80s crisis, starting my career around the 90s crash in NYC, studying in Asia around its own crisis in the late 90s, and surviving the one in the US in 2008 made me realize no one is free from a cycle and we are responsible for our own financial health. Planning does not give you a bulletproof vest, but it gives you a cushion to weather the cycle of the storm.

Please share anything additional that you would like readers to know about your site and services.

Family and Money Matters Institute is a non profit, IRS exempt organization. Our mission is to empower families with financial health. We seek strategic alliances with organizations that can complement our services, and passionate volunteers/interns that would like to join the movement.

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