FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow Profiles
Heather Baker (Keller)
“If you are in a tough financial situation today, it’s important to focus on getting out of it. But, don’t forget to dream and plan for tomorrow.”
Seven years ago, Heather married an active guard and reserve component Army reservist who has been in the military for more than 18 years. The couple came into the marriage with their own financial baggage. He had experienced financial hardships when his first marriage dissolved during a deployment. Outstanding bills and debts left his finances "in tatters." After they married, they decided to take a frank approach to their finances with candid discussions about money and clear spending and budgeting priorities.
While her husband was posted in Butte, Montana, Heather took a civilian volunteer position as a Family Readiness Leader working with reserve service members and their families. She said that the majority of the issues she dealt with were related to finances. Heather read about the FINRA Investor Education Foundation's Military Spouse Fellowship Program in a newsletter. She applied for the fellowship and was accepted to the program.
Around the same time, Heather's husband was deployed to Iraq, bringing a host of new financial issues to the forefront. Heather completed the fellowship while her husband served in Iraq for 16 months.
Looking back, Heather says that the skills she learned in the fellowship program helped her family get their finances in order. Fortunately, they were prepared for her husband's deployment. It can be a very difficult time for reservists like Heather's husband and their families because they do not live on a traditional military installation and do not have access to base financial services.
Heather, however, was able to work with military families while employed at Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Heather started there as a volunteer to fulfill the fellowship's requirement for practicum hours. She was later promoted to branch director and, after completing the fellowship, then to state area director of education. She also was able to use her skills by working with the 652nd Regional Support Group and as a voting member on the Montana State Family Programs Advisory Council in addition to working as a First time Home Buyer Counselor and Grant Administrator with NeighborWorks of Montana.
Today, Heather lives in Northern Virginia and volunteers as a financial counselor. Heather said the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program gave her the opportunity for personal growth, change and the ability to help others.