Meet the Woman Who Wants to Fix People's Money Problems — One Mile at a Time
Marsha Barnes wanted to start her own business, but the certified financial educator just couldn't get excited about the prospect of opening a traditional brick-and-mortar office.
Since food trucks and mobile boutiques were popping up all over her native Charlotte, N.C., she thought, "If it's working for tacos and clothes, why can't the concept also work for delivering financial advice?"
So Barnes decided to give the idea a spin last year, bringing money advice to the masses by cruising around Charlotte in a retrofitted school bus known as The Finance Bar.
Her timing couldn't be better.
According to a survey by The Pew Charitable Trusts, only half of Americans feel their households are financially secure — and 56 percent have worried about money over the past year.
So we caught up with Barnes, 39, to find out how her mobile money advisory really works — and what she’s learned along the road.
How I Got Here
"Although I spent over 12 years working in the finance world, it was actually a personal experience that took my career in this direction. In 2011 I was running a local nonprofit called Financial Empowerment, when both of my parents were laid off from their jobs — within six months of each other.
I couldn’t help but panic. Yet, to my astonishment, my parents treated the whole affair like nothing more than an inconvenience.
They were financial rock stars who had a solid emergency fund in place that safely carried them over the hump.
Watching my parents comfortably navigate such a difficult time only reminded me of just how many people are unprepared to do the same.
I knew I had to do something about it — and, in 2014, The Finance Bar was born!
It’s a half office, half classroom — on wheels. The main way to get on board is to sign up for a small group seminar on everything from how couples can improve their financial compatibility to how to pay down debt faster.
I decked out the interior to be chic and inviting because, let’s face it, personal finance isn’t exactly the sexiest topic. But my reason for going mobile wasn’t just to stand out.
While doing nonprofit work I noticed that some of the people in the Charlotte area who needed financial guidance the most often didn’t have access to transportation.
So I figured that by making my business mobile, I could make it that much easier to help those in need.
A Typical Day Aboard My Bus
My routine is ever changing. From seminars to workshops to high school career days, the bus will get me there!
One day, I may be catching up with college students to teach them about basic budgeting skills. The next, I may be meeting with a local organization or small group of individuals to decipher credit reports or troubleshoot specific financial hurdles.
I also devote time to managing a virtual Members Club, an online community of people across the U.S. who get access to monthly money sessions led by me and other resources.
Why I Love My Job
I honestly get the most joy out of helping everyday people make small adjustments to their money management, which can help render major results and really reduce stress.
I also get a kick out of seeing people’s reaction to the bus. Whenever I drive through Charlotte, it always generates a good amount of buzz!
The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned
What I see again and again among people who are struggling financially is that, nine times out of 10, not making enough money is rarely the problem.
It’s usually the less-than-perfect ways in which we manage our money that leave us feeling financially defeated.
Bringing people to an ‘aha!’ moment — and helping them put better money-management skills into practice — is what I love.”
Photo Credit: The Finance Bar/ Facebook