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FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow Profiles

Katie LeivaKatie Leiva
Columbia, SC

"Every time we moved, I felt like I’d have to go down a rung on the ladder. I struggled to find work that would advance my career. The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship provided me with a valuable, portable credential."

While in graduate school, Katie anticipated a life of academia but when military life took over, her career took many a turn. "Every time we moved, I felt like I'd have to go down a rung on the ladder. I struggled to find work that would advance my career. The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship provided me with a valuable, portable credential." As military life would have it, Katie's career moves have offered a variety of experiences: academic counselor, college instructor and administrator, relocation assistant at an overseas Family Service Center, and dance and yoga instructor.

In early 2007, Katie was working at a Military Saves event at the Pentagon, where she met representatives from FINRA and NMFA who told her about the fellowship. She applied for and received the fellowship later that year. At that time she was the project coordinator for BBB Military Line, a grant-funded program at the Council of Better Business Bureaus that provides consumer education and advocacy for servicemembers and their families. There she developed course curricula and materials on financial education and consumer awareness for teens and adults to be used by BBB trainers at military bases throughout the US. "I thought [the Military Spouse Fellowship Program] would augment my knowledge and give me a leg up in developing new curricula. The certification certainly gives me more credibility."

During the certification process, Katie volunteered at various military financial readiness events and with the Virginia Cooperative Extension. She also served on the Consumer Affairs Commission of Alexandria. These experiences opened her eyes to the vast need for financial literacy education efforts, particularly in the military community. "The fact that financial problems exist within a population that has sacrificed so much for our country is a motivation for me to help them reach their financial goals," Katie said.

In 2008 she accompanied her husband to his pre-retirement class where she met the Director of Education for Navy Mutual Aid Association (NMAA). This led to her next career move, as a consultant/educator for NMAA. Her military spouse experience no longer feels like a hindrance in her career, but rather it is an advantage and an asset. "The Military Spouse Fellowship recognizes our unique situation and turns a challenge into an opportunity." With NMAA, she continues to pursue her passion for education as she develops curricula and gives presentations at various installations across the US.

She is also a Personal Financial Counselor for on-demand counseling services with Zeiders Enterprises, Inc. and Workplace Options Financial Counseling Network. In addition to the AFC designation, Katie has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in sociology from Duke University. She and her husband (USCG, ret.) live in Columbia, SC, where she also teaches yoga on the weekends.