Community Outreach Q&A with Jorge R.
A man with a genuine love for the community.
Five years ago, Jorge carried a box of tissues to work every day. It was not for himself but for his clients. Not because they wanted to cry, but because the housing crisis had wronged them to their breaking points. At the time Jorge worked as a housing counselor, helping clients buy and retain their homes even in the face of the financial challenges of the Great Recession. After a good cry, his clients usually saw things differently. Then the conversation about creating a plan to move forward could begin.
The housing crisis has thankfully ended, and now Jorge is taking his expertise outside of the office to reach others in need as a Community Outreach Coordinator.
How long have you been with Consolidated Credit?
This is my eleventh year at Consolidated Credit. I started out as a credit counselor then moved into housing counseling, but now I’m a Community Outreach Coordinator. I conduct workshops with non-profits like Hispanic Unity, Hialeah Housing Authority, Miami Beach Community Development Corporation, United Way, Career Source and Broward Housing Authority.”
What do you like most about your job?
I am a strong believer in teaching others how to fish so they can feed themselves for life. My goal is to empower people to make life-changing financial decisions. I also like the face to face interaction with the community and the ability to touch people’s lives in such a positive way.
What inspired you to become a counselor?
Sixteen years ago I became a single dad so I decided to leave my job at the bank to focus on raising my daughter. I didn’t realize that I was in the wrong field until I took some time away from it. I knew I had found my passion when I started working in the non-profit world.
What financial lessons have you passed on to your daughter?
My daughter helps maintain the household budget. I’m also teaching her to become financially responsible through using what I call the “pay-by- performance” model.
This method is simple. For example, if I promise a $20 allowance at the end of the week, everything must be done, including homework, chores and other tasks. Only then does she receive the money. It’s simple but it helps your children make financial decisions and become financially responsible. It’s also a great way to engage them in financial conversations.
Have you always been so financially savvy?
No. My parents were first generation Hispanic immigrants, who never had a credit card nor believed in them. Financial lessons like how to get through the holidays without a debt hangover are not things I learned from my parents. I had to learn them by educating myself. It was up to me to break the cycle so my daughter who is a third generation Hispanic will be better financially equipped.
What advice do you give to clients who are new immigrants?
Get educated and be aware of financial differences between your home country and the U.S. and the diversity that you find here. The majority of my clients are from South America and the Caribbean. There is a level of trust that is imposed on people who share the same or similar cultures. That works great in their country but now that they are in the U.S. individuals may share cultural backgrounds but not the same cultural values.
Can you elaborate?
The majority of fraudulent cases involving new immigrants to the country are used car deals or car purchasing transactions. A client may hear something in their native language and will be more inclined to sign on the dotted line without reading because a level of trust has been established simply by making them feel more comfortable. They may then go on to sign a contract that states something totally different from what was spoken about in the conversation. Folks have to understand that the job of a sales person is to sell, not to protect the customer’s best interest. New immigrants have to be vigilant.
How can they avoid becoming victimized?
We always tell all our Hispanic clients who live in the United States that contracts are not usually written in Spanish and, in fact, no contract written solely in Spanish is valid. All legal documents are provided in English. As a result, if they are presented with a document in Spanish, they must be aware that it is not a final legal contract that they’re signing. There are numerous organizations, such as legal aid that are more than willing to help Spanish speakers avoid discrepancies and issues that can occur.
What advice do you give to those who feel overburdened by debt?
Look ahead so you make the right decisions for yourself and your family. That’s why self-empowering is so important. Beating yourself up about the past is not the answer. “The future becomes the present and the present is just a moment before it becomes the past.” Educate yourself and move forward.