FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow Profile - Shay Cook
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Shay Cook, MS, AFC®
"The Military Spouse Fellowship Program has given me the information I need to provide great service to my clients in the area of financial readiness."
As a lifetime member of the military community, Shay Cook has traveled the world and earned two college degrees. Each day she "pays it forward" at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Work-Life where, as the Chief of the Family Services Division, she oversees several family service programs, such as Personal Financial Management, Child Development Services, Deployment, Ombudsman, Relocation, School Liaison, Special Needs, and Transition for the entire Coast Guard.
Shay, who has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Maryland University College and a master's in psychology from Walden University, began her career in the financial services field after she married her husband Nathaniel, an Air Force computer systems administrator, in 1999.
The couple moved to Germany where she took a job at a credit union. Three years later, Shay and Nathaniel moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where she worked in several positions at a credit union near Offutt Air Force Base, including a stint as an assistant manager and senior financial services officer. In her spare time, she volunteered at homeless shelters where she offered credit report counseling.
"I first became interested in the financial services field while working for the credit union in Nebraska," Shay said. "They offered us a lot of training on credit reports and lending procedures."
In 2005, the couple, with their daughter Alana, moved to Turkey. There, Shay became a community readiness consultant at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. A co-worker noticed that Shay had a knack for financial topics and suggested she apply for the FINRA Investor Education Foundation's Military Spouse Fellowship Program.
Shay, a native of Baltimore, returned to her home state in May 2007, the same month she was accepted to the program. She began volunteering at Fort Meade Army Community Service (ACS) and, in January 2008, began work as a relocation readiness program manager for ACS at Walter Reed.
Less than a year later, she was promoted to supervisor of the Financial Readiness Program and Army Emergency Relief (AER). She organized and taught financial classes, ran credit clinics and worked one-on-one with military servicemembers, their spouses and Department of Defense civilians. Many of her clients were referred by the command, fellow soldiers and local civilian agencies, and all were thankful for the free service, she said.
As the Walter Reed Financial Readiness Program manager she also assisted permanent party military servicemembers and Wounded Warriors who were injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. When working with Wounded Warriors, she focused on how best to allocate the money they received as a result of their injuries and helped those leaving the service prepare for life outside the military.
Helping servicemembers repair their credit is one of Shay's specialties. She has helped financially-troubled servicemembers get out of debt and work to rebuild their credit history. One resource she uses with her clients is the free FICO® score available to servicemembers and their families through SaveAndInvest.org, which allows them to see where their credit score stands.
She also showed servicemembers and civilians how to pull their credit reports and reviewed those reports with them line-by-line. She would then offer tailored solutions for improving a poor credit score.
From March 2010 to the closure of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in September 2011, Shay was the Director of ACS, where she managed several family programs, including Financial Readiness, Relocation and Employment. From there, Shay moved on to the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life as a HQ Family Support Services program manager.
Shay has found that the fellowship has given her the information she needs to provide great service to her clients—and has reinforced her personal financial savvy.
In the very near future Shay plans to open an inner-city community center where she and her husband, who is now medically retired, will help those in greatest need.