SNAP Financial Counselor Revolutionizes Program, Adds New Course

“As a young adult, I was the worst public speaker in the world,” laughs SNAP Financial Counselor, Jay MacPherson. “I never would have believed I’d make a big chunk of my living in public speaking.”

Since 2013, Jay has been able to flex his public speaking talents by hosting multiple weekly workshops about credit building, budgeting, and general financial responsibility. In August 2019, Jay added an additional class to his repertoire: “Student Loan Repayment Chutes & Ladders,” designed to get college students or graduates out from under their oppressive student debt.

These financial literacy courses weren’t Jay’s first foray into public speaking, however. He came to SNAP uniquely-equipped to mentor our clients through their hardships into economic stability. Jay received his college degree in Theology, and starting in 1993, he served as a children’s pastor. It was through this experience of training volunteers, teaching kids, emceeing big meetings, and delivering sermons that he was able to find the confidence in public speaking that 690 SNAP clients benefited from in 2018.

While Jay served as a children’s pastor, he also worked with people who were formerly incarcerated to prepare them with skills needed to improve their relationships and better manage their finances.

“Everybody likes money,” Jay said. “Money affects so many areas of life that everybody wants to make their finances more solid.”

In addition to serving as a pastor, Jay also had the opportunity to shore up people’s finances by serving as a marriage and family counselor. As finances were a major piece of marriage trouble in the couples he counseled, Jay had ample opportunity to educate and mediate finances for his clients. After working with his supervisor, Jay developed a 10 hour course titled “Marriage and your Finances.” He also taught economic courses to youth, not only helping them learn how to manage money, but also teaching them the cost of pregnancy, the cost of skipping class, and the cost of doing illicit drugs.

When the federal grant funding this position was pulled during the recession, Jay endured a year of unemployment.

“It was really challenging,” Jay said. “Now I was the one who needed financial help.”

It was then that he reached out to SNAP for energy assistance. For Jay, however, his energy appointment served a dual purpose.

“I saw the job posting for a role as a financial counselor for people who were formerly incarcerated, so I went to my energy appointment in a shirt and tie,” Jay laughed.

Fortunately, his time at SNAP ended better than it began. He received a call about this job the morning after a severe windstorm. A tree knocked down a power line, resulting in a fire and a visit from the fire department. Jay ended up getting this position, which has since expanded to the role he serves in today.

“When I got the call, there was literally a fire burning in my backyard,” Jay recalls. “The only reason I answered is I thought it might be the fire department.”

When Jay started in this role, SNAP had only two financial workshops. In 2018 and the start of 2019, Jay added two additional workshops. In fall of last year, Jay debuted a new brainchild he had researched for the better part of a year: “Student Loan Repayment Chutes & Ladders.”

This loan course intends to unload the burden of student loan debt that mires so many across the country.

“I’ve met with people for seven years,” Jay said, “And so many people were burnt down with student loan debt and didn’t have answers. I didn’t have answers either!”

After Jay tracked down these answers, he felt compelled to build a workshop designed to save upwards of thousands of dollars, as loan recipients learn the pitfalls (chutes) and opportunities (ladders) built into the student loan system.

While this course only made its debut in October, Jay has already helped several clients save money. One client, Esther, took Jay’s course after fleeing domestic violence as a way to improve her financial independence.

“I really value Jay’s teaching style,” Esther said. “I recently gave him a thank you card, just telling him I appreciate what he’s done for me and the whole community, and how much I’ve been blessed because of him.”

Esther’s journey reflects what Jay hoped to get out of this position and this new Student Loan Repayment course.

“I love that this job allows me to help so many people who are motivated and want answers.” The career public speaker adds, “It’s genuinely rewarding.”

Jay has since added evening courses to his workshop line-up, starting Feb. 4.  For a full workshop schedule, visit HERE.