FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow Profile - Erin Willis
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"It's wonderful that military spouses have this opportunity available. I feel like I'm helping people. The fellowship training took my skill set and my involvement with the military community to a different level."
When Erin married her husband in 1998, she was no stranger to the lifestyle of a military servicemember. Serving in the Navy for four years herself, she knew the drill.
When Erin left the Navy, she quickly learned the importance of saving money and having a budget, since she could no longer rely on the security of a military paycheck.
"When I got out of the Navy, I really didn't know what I was going to do," said Erin. "At one point, I was working three different jobs just to survive, and taking college classes on the GI Bill. If I had known some of the things that I know now, I would have made some better decisions."
After she received her degree in communications from National University in San Diego, Erin met and married her husband, Commissaryman Master Chief Petty Officer James Willis. The couple now lives in Silverdale, Washington, with their two children.
As a person who always kept fairly busy, Erin looked to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society for things to do when she grew restless at home. She was in the process of applying to be a volunteer when her husband came home with the paperwork for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program. She applied immediately.
"I already was in the process of looking for things to do. I was thinking about getting into teaching, and the program combined that interest with my interest for finances and wanting to help people. It was definitely meant to be," Erin said.
Erin was able to accrue all of her practicum hours with the relief society over a two-year period. She has put in almost 1,500 hours at the relief society since August 2007, where she now works in a paid position as a relief services assistant.
Erin uses her training and draws from her own experiences to give useful advice and provide helpful tools. "I can relate to these kids," she said. "I could have saved more money when I was in the military and getting a regular paycheck. Instead, I bought a new car. I thought I was living large."
Erin also applies what she's learned from the fellowship to her personal life.
"Now I know how to teach my kids," Erin said. "My daughter has a 'save' jar and a 'spend' jar. It's made me proactive in that respect, to apply what I've learned and pass it down to my daughter."
Erin is grateful the fellowship led her to a career path that mixes her passion for helping others with a topic area that interests her.
"It's wonderful that military spouses have this opportunity. I feel like I'm helping people. The fellowship training took my skill set and my involvement with the military community to a different level."
In the future, Erin plans to stay on the path of personal financial counseling. She tries to recruit other spouses into the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program every chance she gets.
"I tell every spouse I talk to about the program and encourage them to apply."