The Importance of Providing Financial Education

Brian Vieaux, President and COO, FinLocker

Today a little less than one-third of homebuyers are first-timers. Studies continually point out that the average first-time homebuyer truly isn’t emotionally and financially prepared to buy a home and become a homeowner. It’s much more than the mortgage application and approval process.

I was inspired to begin advocating for financial education when I realized that, sadly, my first-time homebuyer-aged kids were not ready. They live in a house that you would assume would have better prepared them, but as a parent, I didn’t have the tools to prepare them. Their formal schooling also didn’t prepare them for what it means to be financially responsible and prepared to buy a home, which leads to a gap in their knowledge base. While technology continues to evolve and it’s drilled into our heads from a marketing perspective that buying a home is as easy as “push button, get mortgage,” what’s still missing in the equation is that it’s one thing to qualify for a mortgage, but it’s another thing to be ready emotionally and financially to own a home. Getting a mortgage is only one component of homeownership. Homebuyers need to be aware of and plan how to afford the other expenses. I knew as an industry, we could do better.

FinLocker is the primary mechanism for this newsletter. We offer a set of digital financial tools for consumers. Still, we firmly believe those tools are most powerful when matched with a local mortgage professional. By arming local mortgage professionals with educational content, they can build and educate their community of future homebuyers by conducting homebuying seminars, educating their audiences on social media, and combining that education with digital financial tools. That’s a win-win for everyone – a winning strategy for loan officers and real estate agents and a winning solution for future homebuyers.


Kristin Messerli, Executive Director, FirstHome IQ

Mid-sophomore year in college, I made the decision most parents fear, and I decided to change my major from personal financial planning to turn my sights toward social work. By the time I was 24, I was making a whopping $28,000 a year, and my partner and I were stressed every month to make ends meet. Financial stress worsened my already negligible mental health, and the debt began to pile up.

I started some side hustles to make extra money, one of which turned into a business that would change my life forever. It wasn’t life changing simply because I could pay my bills, though it gave me financial stability for a decade. It was life changing because making money gave me a sense of ownership and power in my own life. My mental health improved. I left a toxic relationship. I moved to Los Angeles, and I built a life I love.

Financial literacy and homeownership give people much more than education and a home. The business we are in creates the opportunity for individuals to own their future, resulting in stronger communities, more stable families, and healthier individuals.


Sue Buswell, Credit and Score Consultant, #sueknowsthescore

At 18, armed with a diploma, a curious mind and few prospects, I interviewed for the file clerk position at the Credit Bureau of Southern Nevada, and fortunately, they took a chance on me. Thanks to the education I received there, I have owned 11 homes, selling the last 4 by owner. Today I own my home and live debt-free. Over the years, I have helped friends and family understand how to succeed financially, and today I share my knowledge on LinkedIn as #sueknowsthescore.

Organically, by working through every position available until I was managing the Mortgage Division of a TransUnion affiliate, I learned valuable lessons about credit. About what a Credit Bureau does. About the Fair Credit Reporting Act, about managing your money, your credit obligations and FICO scores.

Seeing the need for credit education in the Mortgage Professionals, I worked with, I created and taught CEU classes to Loan Officers. The details of FICO Scores. How to analyze a credit report, and how the credit bureaus differ in their reporting of data from the same creditor.

But this same information needed to get to the consumer. I created a credit consulting program and met with potential homeowners. I spoke at Junior Colleges and assisted my mortgage partners whenever they needed a credit expert.

The need to teach financial literacy has never been greater. Our system of credit dependency in adulthood does not come with a manual. There are no formal classes in high school or college that address credit, scores, or how to become credit-ready for homeownership.

I am so very fortunate that someone took a chance on me more than 30 years ago. It is both my privilege and responsibility to share what I know, to help more generations become credit educated, and, eventually, debt-free homeowners.


Leveraging financial education as a competitive differentiator

Jeff Walker, CEO and Co-Founder, CredEvolv

Most realtors and loan officers understand that financial education is crucial for someone considering home ownership because it empowers them to make informed financial decisions. It is particularly important for consumers who don’t have the credit scores to qualify for a mortgage as this is a significant barrier to home ownership.

According to a 2020 study by the Urban Institute, the primary reasons that consumers do not qualify for a mortgage are 1) a low credit score, 2) insufficient income, and 3) a high debt-to-income ratio. Specifically, the study found that 17.3% of mortgage applications were denied due to a low credit score, while 11.7% were denied due to insufficient income, and 8.9% were denied due to a high debt-to-income ratio.

Consumers who don’t have the credit scores to qualify for a mortgage have several options available to them:

  1. They can obtain a copy of their credit report and check for errors, which can be disputed and corrected.
  2. They can pay down debts and make timely payments to current creditors.
  3. They can explore credit-building options like secured credit cards.

While some consumers successfully resolve credit issues on their own, many can dramatically increase their chances of success by partnering with a HUD-certified housing counselor who can develop a customized success plan to work towards their home ownership goals. These non-profit agencies provide valuable advice on budgeting, credit management, and debt reduction and can compliantly help consumers build their creditworthiness over time. Don’t confuse this with traditional credit repair companies who primarily focus on disputing tradelines without educating consumers.

Lenders and realtors who are educated and informed about financial education add value to their consumers and their business when they help introduce their consumers to the most effective resource.


Why Financial Education is Important in Supporting Homeownership

David Camp, CEO and Founder, HomeScout

As industry professionals, we are keenly aware of what is required to become a homeowner. Many American’s, however, are not educated on or aware of the financial preparation needed to become mortgage ready. Financial literacy and the path to homeownership are not subjects taught in most schools, and for many of us, not something our parents sat us down and taught us.

Personal finance literacy is crucial for anyone who wants to achieve financial stability and security, and homeownership is no exception. A strong foundation of understanding the importance of financial fitness and how to obtain it can help support various life goals, including homeownership.

Consumers with sound learnedness in personal finances are not only better prepared and qualified borrowers, but are also able to make informed decisions about the mortgage process and are more equipped for the financial responsibilities that come with homeownership.

When it comes to the home buying and mortgage process, personal financial literacy includes:

  • Understanding the importance of budgeting
  • Maintaining a healthy credit score
  • Saving for a down payment
  • Understanding mortgage options
  • Planning for homeownership expenses

Weather the lack of personal finance skills is due to the absence of financial education in schools, limited access to financial education, cultural taboos, or the complexity of the financial system, as an industry we have an imperative role to play in helping to improve the financial health and well-being of fellow Americans. Having financial fitness tools and resources available will aid in filling the financial education gap resulting in more mortgage ready borrowers, greater homeownership accessibility, and will help elevate our society as a whole.

Providing the tools and resources to help consumers improve their personal finances and become mortgage ready is a win-win for you and the consumer. Leveraging platforms such as FinLocker and the HomeScout Vida app, that guide both in-market home buyers and future home buyers through financial learnedness and preparation, results in improved mortgage pull through rates for mortgage lenders while helping more Americans achieve their dreams of homeownership.


For Potential Homeowners, Your Credit Score is Critical

Steve Ely, CEO, eCredable

If you’re looking to become a homeowner, improving your credit score is essential. Your credit score will not only determine if you qualify for a mortgage but also the interest rate you’ll receive. Here are a few tips to help improve your credit score:

  1. Check your credit report: Your credit report contains a history of your credit accounts and payment history. Review your report for errors or fraudulent activity and dispute any inaccuracies.
  2. Pay your bills on time: This makes up 35% of your credit score calculation. Late payments can have a significant impact on your credit score. Set up automatic payments or reminders to ensure that you don’t miss a payment.
  3. Reduce your credit utilization: This makes up 30% of your credit score calculation. Your credit utilization is the amount of revolving credit you’re using (credit cards), compared to your combined credit limits on your credit cards. Keep your credit utilization below 30% to help improve your credit score.
  4. Don’t close old credit accounts: Length of credit history makes up 15% of your credit score. Keep your oldest credit accounts open, even if you’re not using them.
  5. Don’t apply for too much credit at once: Each time you apply for credit, it can have a negative impact on your credit score. Only apply for credit when you need it, and don’t apply for multiple types of credit at once.

Improving your credit score takes time, but it’s worth it when you’re ready to buy a home. By following these tips, you can take steps towards improving your credit score and achieving your homeownership goals.


How Do We Bridge the Gap From Knowledge to Action?

Catalina Kaiyoorawongs, CEO and Co-Founder, LoanSense

Homeownership is a culmination of making many good financial decisions that start with knowledge. Knowledge doesn’t always imply action, though. I know I should eat vegetables and workout, but I fall short many days.

How do we bridge the gap from knowledge to action? For me it was the fear of rising rent costs and having no savings for my future children. That drove me crazy after I got turned down for my first home by three different loan officers. Ultimately, I researched how to adjust my student loan payments. I returned to the loan officer after enrolling in a new federal student loan plan and succeeded in closing on a home. I self-educated myself, but today’s borrowers and lenders do not have to stand alone because LoanSense is here.

As a student loan expert, I lend my expertise to the mortgage world and equip mortgage professionals with the insights to reduce overall student loan payments and balance and ultimately boost mortgage purchase power in 21 days. The impact of a person’s student loan systematically delays the average American from buying a home by 3 to 5 years. However, there’s also a psychological delay in one’s mind, especially for the 17 million student loan borrowers in the prime purchase demographic who are renting. I care deeply about the average American because that is me, and like me, borrowers with student debt lack the sherpa, that’s you, to guide them toward the wealth-building opportunity represented by a home.

Sure, building wealth matters, but everything that homeownership represents is much more than knowledge. It’s about driving deep into the emotional resonates for the individual borrower on why homeownership matters to them. The “why” highlights that you care and sets you apart from most in our industry.

Come learn how we can help you grow your business and toolbox to serve more borrowers and originate more loans, even in this market.


Financial Education is a Gateway to Greater Opportunities to Thrive

Rob Chrane, CEO and Co-Founder, Down Payment Resource

Financial education is a gateway to greater opportunities to thrive. It can make or break a person’s ability to own a home, the leading avenue for building wealth in the U.S. Unfortunately, many people sideline themselves from homeownership because of a knowledge gap. They don’t know there are more than 2,300 homeownership assistance programs available to help them affordably finance a home. In fact, all 3,143 U.S. counties have at least one homebuyer assistance program and more than 2,000 counties have 10 or more programs.

Homebuyer assistance programs are one of the best tools housing professionals have to help families overcome common hurdles to homeownership, such as saving up for a down payment and closing costs. I founded Down Payment Resource to help lenders, real estate agents, housing counselors and other housing professionals identify affordable pathways to homeownership and connect homebuyers with the homeownership assistance they need. By illustrating the role homebuyer assistance can play in each homebuyer’s wealth-building journey, housing professionals can grow their business while making a positive impact on the communities they serve.


Financial literacy is a core competency that is often untaught and overlooked

Paul Gigliotti, COO & Executive Board Member, Axis Lending Academy

Financial literacy is a core competency for young individuals that is often untaught and overlooked. Many of us take financial literacy for granted because our parents owned homes and naturally passed down the values of homeownership to us. Those values are the experiences of earning, saving and caring for a home. Financial literacy, as a precursor to homeownership, is a learning opportunity that can be provided through mentorship. For those who understand the values of homeownership, it’s important to consider that others may not have the same instinct or emotion involved.

Financial literacy is often a subject that gets disregarded educationally, even at the collegiate level. Mix this fact with consumerism being the dominant message received at ever-increasing younger ages by all forms of media, television and influencers. Just look at the overwhelming credit card and student loan debt that is currently a huge barrier to homeownership. It’s insane! I say, if you have competent financial literacy, this means you have good advice that must be shared. Paying it forward by not automatically assuming others have the tools and by offering education and mentorship to help empower others to make sound choices is what the value of financial literacy means to me.


Financial education should start on social media

Doug Wilber, CEO, Denim Social

After months of economic headlines and the break-neck pace of rate change, homebuyers are confused and discouraged. Their confidence is dwindling, but financial education can help real estate and mortgage pros create opportunity.

This is a critical time to educate prospects about their loan options and the realities of today’s market. By doing so, mortgage professionals can strengthen relationships and communicate their expertise, creating short and long term ROI.

To be successful with financial education, mortgage and real estate professions need to meet homebuyers where they are – and today that means online. Social media is an essential channel as you seek to create connectivity and trust with prospects.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that social media can help build your brand, but most have only scratched the surface. To truly unleash the potential of social and stay competitive in this market, brands need to empower their individual employees to use social media as a sales and education tool. It’s called social selling and it works.

Financial education opportunities on social media are nearly endless. Social sellers should be on social talking about what’s happening in the market, but they need to remember to use plain, conversational language with the aim to educate their followers. In doing so, they’re not only providing value to followers, but also showing off their expertise.

In practical terms, this could mean posting a current news article on Facebook with their “what it means” POV in the caption. Alternatively, they could share a commentary on a rate change in a quick Instagram video. Regardless of the format, social sellers will have success on social media when they personalize their content and simplify complex concepts for followers.

Check out Denim Social’s newest social media guide for real estate pros.


Become the trusted source of financial education for Gen Z homebuyers

Ally Carty, National Account Executive, ActiveComply and #get2knowgenz

As a recent college graduate, I have realized that financial education is vital to leading a successful adulthood. Since graduating from Florida State University two years ago (Go Noles!), I have moved to Nashville and have made a great group of friends here. When I told my new friends I work in the mortgage industry, most of them responded with, “Oh cool!”….. at first. As we slowly developed better friendships, they finally admitted, “ok, I have no idea what the mortgage industry is.” *gasp*

Through conversations with my friends here in Nashville, my college friend group, and some old high school friends, we all find ourselves asking the same questions when it comes to our finances. It blows my mind how little our generation has learned from our high school/higher education when it comes to buying a home and what qualifies us for a mortgage. My goal within the mortgage space is to help our industry be the financial educators for those questions that often circle “bachelor girls nights” and other Gen-Z get-togethers.

Becoming a trusted source for financial education builds trust within Gen-Z men and women, and ultimately will lead them to turn to you when it comes to big financial decisions, such as buying a home. How do I recommend our industry to build relationships and educate the prospective buyers in my age group? Through social media platforms – social media is a free and fun way to connect with Gen-Z individuals. In my monthly contribution, I will highlight big takeaways or helpful tips to help loan officers better understand Gen-Z homebuyers and how to connect with them.


Do you know what was the number one cause for the mortgage defaults of 2008?

Tino Diaz, Managing Director, America’s Homeowner Alliance

It was a lack of financial literacy! That’s what my economist researcher friends at the Federal Reserve told me they had unearthed back in 2010. That was the stone that caused the ball to start rolling that brought the world’s financial system to its knees, the Great Recession.

It turns out that for lack of financial literacy people took on mortgage loans to purchase their dream home, trusting the professionals they worked with, not really possessing the skills to judge for themselves they were buying a nightmare. The great gate keeper, basic financial literacy, was not present enough to stop the multitude of bad judgement, abuses, and bad products.

Think financial literacy is not important? Think again about 2008. Let’s make sure it’s not repeated. Teach/learn to be financially fit!


Lead the Advice Revolution

Dave Savage, Chief Innovation Officer, TrustEngine

There is an advice revolution going on in the mortgage industry right now. When I started in this business 37 years ago, less than 1% of mortgage professionals delivered advice and education. I believe that by 2025, 50% of loan officers will be mortgage advisors powered by technology.

Mortgage advisors provide personalized advice to homebuyers and manage client relationships for life. They have a competitive advantage in the lending market right now because there are so many homebuyers—especially first time homebuyers—who need help in understanding that a home is not just the biggest liability they’ll ever take on, it’s also the biggest asset, and can be used to generate wealth. And you can use mortgage advice to help Realtors close more deals.

I’ll never forget the time I learned that if I added $100 to my monthly mortgage payment that I could pay my loan off years faster. That seems like an obvious thing, but even today, it’s not common knowledge among first-time homebuyers. This is the benefit of advice.

Here are a few ideas to get you started as a mortgage advisor:

  • Do a RENT VS. OWN ANALYSIS to help renters make the leap from renting to home ownership. Many renters think they can’t afford a home, but owning a home provides tax, equity and investment income benefits they may not be aware of.
  • Do a DEBT CONSOLIDATION ANALYSIS to uncover opportunities for using home equity to help homeowners pay down debt and lower their monthly debt payments.
  • Conduct ANNUAL MORTGAGE REVIEWS for every client. You never know when a client’s home situation has changed. They may want to move up, move down, refi to lower their rates, pay for college, or remodel their existing home, and are often not aware that they have the liquidity to achieve their goals. But you are, so be sure to check in with every customer at least yearly.
  • Educate clients on how their equity can be used to generate additional wealth by pulling money out of their home and investing it in a high-interest account, or buying an investment property.
  • Use a TOTAL COST ANALYSIS (TCA) to show them their options side by side, with no hidden costs or fees.
  • Show Realtors how, with the competitive advantage of a TCA, you can help them win more sales.

Turn to our YouTube channel for additional free advice in helping to become a mortgage advisor. Click here to schedule a demo of the first true borrower intelligence platform. 

Even Though It’s Illusive, Live the Life You Wanna Live

Jeremy Potter, Founder, Nesting

I hear from a lot of real estate agents and mortgage loan officers that their primary motivation is helping people achieve the American Dream through homeownership. It’s an incredible part of what we do. Even more fundamental than the American Dream or wealth creation is that we are helping people live the life they wanna live. It may sound basic or even corny but for many people they want to accomplish a dream or goal and cannot do it alone. As a result, they turn to an expert. Our business is based on trust and certainty. But just as I need experts in other areas of my life, trust and certainty is not absolute. I still want to feel like I am in control.

Outsourcing work that I do not want to do is always an option, of course. Our clients could “outsource” their entire homeownership strategy and mortgage decision-making process to us. The risk is that it is difficult (if not, impossible) for someone to be truly comfortable, confident and certain in a process or decision if they do not understand it. Financial literacy, for me, is critical to truly feel like I am in control of my own life. This does not mean that I do not need any help in areas where I feel well-informed. Whether it’s a doctor providing my healthcare or an accountant advising on tax filings, the magic is when the right expertise is combined with my own knowledge & research to make important decisions. Those are the moments when I feel most confident. Similar to healthcare, financial education is tough because every person presents a different set of factors. People will make the decision to become homeowners at all different moments in their adult life for all kinds of different reasons.

One of the most successful forms of consumer education – driver’s ed – is successful specifically because it aligns all interests at the right time. Student drivers want to earn their driver’s license. Parents want to access the insurance discount. Insurance companies (and, frankly, all of us) want safer driving conditions. Driver’s education is offered in a known place – the local high school – at a time when everyone involved benefits.

We’re not so lucky in our industry. Financial literacy, particularly around homeownership, has no easy alignment. That is why it remains so difficult. One thing I think about a lot as an entrepreneur and industry advocate is how we continue to look for those moments where financial education can be embedded in a way that makes it feel like part of the consumer journey. Or, perhaps, financial tools can be provided to people at the moment they have an incentive to understand it. Not at the moment they need it (that’s too late) but when they have an open mind. Aligning education within the products and platforms we build moves the relationship from the insecurity of “just trust me” to the calm confidence that comes from making a decision together based on right expertise combined with the right knowledge. Trust is then just a natural outcome. Nothing is more powerful than building a community of people who all are living their best life.

Financial Education Can Reduce Poor Financial Decisions

Brian Vieaux, President & COO, FinLocker

It’s one thing to qualify and get approved for a mortgage, where clear guidelines are applied. However, the average first-time home buyer must consider other aspects of homeownership. Homebuyers need to be prepared to maintain their home and know the expenses associated with these expenses. If you’re buying a home that’s dated, you should have an emergency fund with money readily available to replace a hot water heater, air conditioner, or furnace.

Recurring and unforeseen homeownership expenses aren’t part of the mortgage qualification process, so financial education is all-encompassing. It’s more than just talking to a first-time homebuyer about the credit and monetary qualifications for a mortgage. It’s essential to make future homebuyers aware of the total cost of homeownership.

Financial education means something different to every consumer based on where they are in their life and their short-term and long-term goals and objectives. For some people entering homeownership, part of their life goals may include starting a family. There are financial implications to starting a family, raising kids, and saving for their college education if that’s another aspiration. Financial education should cover all the elements that wrap around homeownership and life.

Loan officers, at large, are equipped or skilled to provide financial education and financial literacy. When a loan officer who also subscribes to the importance of providing holistic financial preparation, not just a mortgage, combines their knowledge with financial tools, such as those offered in FinLocker, that combination is a winning solution that will differentiate that loan officer and help them build their business and build trust with consumers.

How I Received 3 Valuable Life Lessons About Credit

Sue Buswell, Credit and Score Consultant, #sueknowsthescore

Lesson #1

It’s 1986, and I am 6 months into my Credit Bureau job. I need to spruce up my work wardrobe, so off to the mall I go.

The clerk offers 10% off if I apply for a store card. In this before FICO age, I was approved based on my job and income – $18k annually.

My first credit card and bill arrived at the same time.

While just $130, it was more than I could afford. So I paid the minimum which started my education on interest charges. Soon the balance exceeded $300 due to shopping and interest. I was officially a consumer, debt ridden and not sure how to manage it.

By this time I had moved into the Reporting Department at the Credit Bureau. Creditors would call in for a report, and I would access TransUnion credit data for that potential borrower and provide the details over the phone.

I knew what all of the data meant – R-1 is a revolving account paid as agreed, High Credit was the amount they charged or the Limit available, their Balance, and the payment history showing on time or delinquent – 2×30 or 1×60.

But I hadn’t put together how MY credit report would look when someone called in on me.

She has one account. Revolving, paid as agreed. Payment is minimum. Limit $350, balance $300.

Four months later, little had changed, with the exception of the balance increasing.

I vowed to get out of this debt and began adding just $5.00 more to the payment. Small steps added up, and soon the bill was paid.

Learning to use but not abuse credit at just 19 years of age was a powerful lesson, one I’d have to repeat over the years as my consumerism grew.


Lesson 2

In 1998 my soon to be husband and I are shopping for our first home. We meet with a trusted Loan Officer who pulls our credit and score, and there is a problem on his report.

A forgotten federal student loan from trade school, more than 10 years ago.

Federal student loan debt falls under the Higher Education Act of 1962, and therefore has an exemption from credit reporting timelines.

Anxious to become homeowners, we had scrimped, saved, and paid down our debt. My first credit card was long gone, and we thought we had good credit. We had just enough funds for our down payment and closing costs, and this new debt threatened our dream.

I had learned the art of negotiating with creditors over the years, and prepared to call the agency with the intention of offering a settlement.

To settle I had to ensure our position of strength. We had requested proof of debt, and obtained the details. Originally the loan was $1800.

We knew that 10 years after the original debt, the collection agency would likely settle for less. We calculated the loss of value, standard fees etc, and offered $1200 but placed a contingency. For the payment, we would require the item be deleted.

They countered only on the amount, and with the payment of $1500 made, we were able to move forward with our first home loan, beginning our journey of wealth creation thru home ownership.


Lesson #3

FICO was introduced to the Mortgage Lending space in 1995, and the underwriting of home loans had to make significant changes.

As a Mortgage Credit reseller, I would constantly field questions about why the borrower who had plenty of savings and a good paying job was being denied because they didn’t have a score.

Or, the borrower had a family medical emergency in recent years, and the medical debt and late payments from that time were rendering them ineligible for their much needed refinance.

The purpose behind adding credit scores was to improve loan processing turn times, and remove any personal prejudices in the lending process.

Concerns of decisions or biases being made based on borrower race, color, national origin, sex and marital status were cited as reasons to use the score. These items and others are ignored by FICO as are address, age, salary, occupation, title and employment history.

As a risk predictor, FICO continues as the mainstay of credit scoring systems. Simply put, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Add in the mathematical analysis necessary to assign consumer pay habits to their score cards and viola, you are now a 3 digit number, determining your ability to borrow.

Credit scoring was here to stay, changing Lenders, Borrowers and the entire Mortgage Industry forever.