Francisco “Frank” Nunez is a Certified Financial Educator® for the Heartland Institute of Financial Education. He has helped thousands of migrant Latino families achieve success by guiding them in key decisions related to their finances.
His story begins in the mid-’70s when his parents came to the United States and left everything behind in search of new and better opportunities. Although Frank was born in the United States, he learned about the difficulties that migrant families encounter to settle in the country. His father, though a hardworking individual, also was an undocumented worker, and was limited in the type of employment he could find due to this status. He used to tell Frank, “You are going to work for most of your adult life, so you better pick something you love to do.” That stuck with Frank and he understood, at a very young age, the importance of pursuing an education in a subject about which he felt passionate.
His mother was a big influence in his life. With her encouragement, Frank performed well at school. He maintained a high GPA and by the time he graduated from high school, he was interested in accounting and finances.
In 2012, he started working for the Heartland Institute of Financial Education. When Frank joined the organization, it was perceived as operating in a non-traditional manner. The representatives were taking the time to educate people about their financial choices, whereas most other companies used a different approach.
“They would not waste time teaching people about finances because they were operating under the idea that ‘time is money,’” said Frank.
At first, Frank was even hesitant.
“I thought, ‘What can this company possibly teach me that I don’t already know?” However, he kept an open mind, and what he learned was that most people — particularly those who are immigrants or who have lived on their own from a very young age — do not know the basics of handling their finances.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I went to school to study this. This is my background and there are so many things I don’t’ know. I can only imagine the stress that these families go through trying to figure things out.’”
That prompted him to want to learn as much as possible so that he would be better-equipped to help others. “Something as basic as going to the bank to open a checking account, well, nobody explains it to you. Nobody tells you how it works,” Frank said. “They just ask you to sign all kinds of paperwork. Or when you buy a house or a car, it’s the same thing. And you don’t really know what you are signing.”
Furthermore, he explained how many financial firms looked only to help the higher income individuals with investable assets, leaving out a large percentage of the population.
Frank realized how important it was to migrant families in the Hispanic community to achieve basic financial know-how.
“At that point I realized how many people and families had been taken advantage of, whether it was based on language barriers or something else, and I wanted to change that,” he said. “I wanted to bring integrity back to the industry.”
He took it upon himself to change that general approach. He wanted to try to improve people’s lives. Frank’s idea was to promote the concept of “mission before commission” and he credits the approach as a significant contributor to Heartland’s success and growth.
Frank works with a team of independent representatives helping individuals who are often overlooked by other companies. He offers Basic Finance 101 workshops at various nonprofits, churches, and even at his home. Participants can progress into other courses such as investments, how taxes work, how life insurance works, how to plan for retirement, how Interest can work for or against an individual, inflation, and other classes that are topic-specific based on people’s interests.
As the financial adviser to his clients, Frank has helped hundreds of families through his work, and he has made a significant difference in many people’s lives, particularly young couples with children.
“My goal for the community is to get better, so I would tell them to learn as much as possible, but most importantly to apply the knowledge,” Frank said when asked what advice he would give to the Latino community. “People say ‘knowledge is power,’ but, in reality, application is power. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you don’t apply it then it doesn’t do anything.”
He states that for the economy to improve, the government “should also apply the knowledge they have.”
Frank works in the financial services sector in Chicago where he lives in the neighborhood of Pilsen, with his wife and four children. He hopes to continue creating awareness in the community and to help as many individuals as possible going forward.