In mid-July, it was announced that Erin Gore was the winner of America’s Favorite Financial Wellness Instructor. To highlight her great work, and learn more about her genesis to teaching finance, we sat down with her recently to get to know her. Check out the interview below.
Introducing America’s Favorite Financial Wellness Instructor: Erin Gore
Q: We’re thrilled to have you on the platform and wanted to take some time to be able to really tell your story, Erin. Would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself?
I’m originally from Minnesota, but I ended up going to college in Arizona. I graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors’s in marketing and a certificate in international business.
I had worked in retail all of high school and college, so it only made sense to keep working in retail. I ended up going to work for Walgreens and did assistant manager, executive manager, dabbled in the pharmacy relations for a while, then ended up going back to executive assistant manager.
In 2010, I think it was, I met my husband and we were long-distance dating at the time. I was in Arizona and he was in DC. About six months later, we decided that if this is going to work, one of us has to move. So, I moved to DC because there was more opportunity for me there and he works for the federal government which meant there was just no way he was moving. In 2011, we got married. In 2012, I got pregnant, and working retail management during the holidays when you’re pregnant does not work.
I ended up quitting at Walgreens to become a stay-at-home mom through 2017. Once we had our second child, I knew I couldn’t stay home with her (she is a diva who I love to bits) and I knew I didn’t want to go back into retail management. So, I went through a program in Virginia. It’s a very fast nine-month program to get you teaching in high schools called a Career Switcher Program.
I started teaching in the fall of 2018 as an economics and personal finance teacher to mainly juniors and seniors. During my first year of teaching, I also finished my Masters of Education, as well. And I did that until 2020, right before the pandemic hit.
Then, we decided to move back to Arizona. However, moving here during a pandemic was probably not the smartest idea from an educational perspective. I don’t know if you know this, but Arizona ranks 48 out of 50 in education. They don’t have the best education in the country and they’re struggling because they have a lot of charter schools here, so public schools don’t have funding. One of the major public districts took a $10 million hit this year and fired 150 teachers.
Trying to become a teacher during a pandemic in a state that doesn’t really emphasize education wasn’t the brightest idea that I’ve ever had. I decided instead of waiting on my license to transfer and a teaching job to come along, I would just start my own business.
I started Cheers to Financial Freedom in the spring, after getting my family settled here, and it is very much in the infancy stage. I work with clients one-on-one to help them meet their financial goals. I’ve translated what I taught in high schools into Cheers to Financial Freedom to give anyone, whether you’re 13, 35, or 80, the opportunity to learn the financial basics. We learn things like what credit is, what taxes are, and why do you need insurance. I focus on tailoring programs to what people need.
For instance, if they say, “Erin, I don’t know how to balance a checkbook” we focus on banking. I see where we need to touch base so that they feel confident afterward, just like they took a class on it.
Ultimately, I want to teach courses, as well, which is why I tapped into Burnalong because I feel like I’m teaching the course at 5–10-minute intervals. This way people can pick and choose what they want because someone might need help in insurance, but they’ve got banking down.
Q: Do you remember the first time you remember thinking about money?
Yes. My parents divorced when I was 11, so I had a single mom working two jobs to get me through high school. I remember we never bought anything that wasn’t on sale or on clearance. There were no regularly price items in our house for as long as I can remember.
I remember when I was 15, I wanted to get the same clothes my friends were wearing. But that wasn’t an option. My mom said that if I wanted to wear what they wore, I would have to get a job. So I got a job when I turned 16.
Q: What was your very first job?
My very first job was at Target. I ended up working there for seven years both in Minnesota and Arizona.
Q: After a career in retail, you find your way into teaching. What was that transition like being accountable for students?
It came very naturally to me. When you think about what I did at Walgreens, I was actually a teacher at the same time because any time a new employee would come in, I would have to teach them how to do the job. I was teaching real-life experiences which work with economics and personal finance because that class is the most real-life class you’re going to have in high school.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that mandates it, it’s great. The states that don’t mandate it are where we’re struggling right now. And I’m hoping that in the long run, in the next 10 years, I can really help to get economics and personal finance mandated in all schools, not just the states that feel it’s needed.
Q: What is it like teaching children versus adults?
The content is very similar because we’re really looking at the basics. I think with adults, it is a little different because adults have a general understanding of everything first. They understand that credit is there, but they don’t necessarily understand how to get the credit in a way that doesn’t affect them negatively. Adults also have bank accounts, they have credit cards, but they’re finding themselves $18,000, $20,000 in credit card debt. They then realize they don’t know how to get out.
Most high schoolers, however, have no clue. Teenagers can be a blanks slate because they haven’t done anything yet. A lot of them don’t even have checking accounts, yet. This means you can step in and teach them before they make the mistakes, whereas, with adults, you’re teaching them after they’ve made the mistakes.
Q: At Burnalong, we believe in holistic wellness and that you must become well throughout the entire body. One of the common threads is prevention versus intervention. If you’re able to get ahead of it, that is just going to save so much along the way.
I think that’s the big difference between adults and teenagers. As adults, you’re doing interventions; with teenagers, you’re doing the prevention.
Q: What do most people come to you for help with?
As I’m in the infancy stage of the business, I haven’t had a lot yet, but I think credit is the biggest thing. I think that that’s where America struggles.
I’ve been reading that financial literacy is an epidemic in America, right now. America is going through a change right now with the way people look at finances, especially with the pandemic.
Unfortunately, there is going to be a bigger recession. There is going to be a depression. If you just look at economics in a nutshell, we’re ready for depression because economics ebbs and flows. We’ve been flowing for a long time, and we have to just balance out the way we’ve been.
People are starting to realize the economy is changing, the stocks are a little bit more volatile. People are wondering what they need to do to protect themselves.
A lot of people’s problems tie into credit because they’ve gotten themselves so far into credit card debt that they don’t know how to get out. Or, they are wondering, “What do we need to do to take care of our families? What are our options financially?”
Q: What would you tell someone who says I’m really worried about what’s to come, how do I protect myself?
The first thing I would do is I would look at their financial situation and see if they are in credit card debt. I would see what we could do to get them out and assess if they have 6-8 months of savings and emergency savings account, or if they are investing.
I was actually just posting on my Cheers to Financial Freedom Facebook page about Dave Ramsey. He is very old school and he firmly believes you do not invest until you are completely out of debt.
I don’t agree because there are ways you can invest with just a little bit while you’re still working down the debt. Investing now can help you build a financial future, in the long run. And if you ask any millionaire when they were 20 years old and had no money, did they invest? They’re probably going to tell you “Yes.”
It may not be investing $20,000, but if you take $100 or $200 and invest it, that will in turn, give you more money in the long run than if you were just to pay off all that debt and then invest.
Q: What is something people just simply don’t know enough about when it comes to personal finance?
Well, I was there, myself. I was $19,000 in credit card debt at 29. With my car, my student loans and everything else, it was $80,000 in normal debt. And I worked my way out of it. I didn’t take the shortcuts. I didn’t go through bankruptcy or anything like that.
You’ve always got some rotating debt. It’s just a fact of life, nowadays. But it’s how you manage it. Most people will have a car payment or mortgage payment. Technically, you’re in debt when you have a mortgage payment, but how do you manage it?
You have to look at long-term versus short-term debts and how they can build that financial future. I think that’s where a lot of people struggle is how to determine which debts are “good” and which debts are “bad.”
Obviously, credit card debt is bad, whereas a home mortgage is good if you can afford it. I think the other area that a lot of people struggle with is understanding insurance and knowing what types of insurance to have and when to have it.
I use a lot of real-life experiences in my classes. For instance, in Virginia, a couple of years ago, we had a windstorm that knocked out our front porch. We filed a claim with the insurance company, and they ended up paying for repairs—but not to replace the porch, even though the engineer had said the porch was no longer functional.
The lesson here is that you may not get all the money you need to fix something through your insurance company. Additionally, you have to think about the repercussions of using your property insurance, because when we moved to Arizona, several insurance companies wouldn’t insure us because we had that past claim.
You also have to consider that your insurance will go up to where you’re actually paying for it in the long run. This is why I’m here: to provide a 10-minute course so that later, these items can pop up in your mind so you understand what is happening.
This is why I’m here. If I can offer a 10-minute course on insurance and say, hey, this is what happens when you file a claim on your auto insurance, they’re not investing a lot, but it may pop back in their mind later on when they’re like, I hit this guy and now my insurance policy is going up. Well, yeah, that’s going to happen.
Q: What have the trainers in your life meant to you?
I look back at my teachers because that’s what I feel I am. I’m an instructor. I’m a teacher. And I’ve always had a good relationship with teachers and coaches. I’m still friends with them on Facebook!
As I transition out of being in a classroom every day and more working one-on-one, I think about how teachers and coaches will give you the input that you need. I still remember what my teachers taught me back then, what my coaches taught me. It might not be verbatim what they taught me, but it’s that feeling I had when they said it. And 25 years later, I realize that things now make sense; it’s finally coming around that circle.
Q: Who are you looking to reach with virtual wellness programming? Who are you creating those lessons for?
I am creating it for anyone that’s confused about financial literacy. I’m creating lessons for anyone who doesn’t get it or that just needs a refresher course. I’m creating for people who get banking and checking accounts but maybe only check their bank account online vs. balances their checking account.
We all used to have those handy check registers but we don’t anymore. I will fully admit, I do not have a hand check register, rather we use Quicken. I use that to make sure that it’s consolidated to what my bank account says every 2-3 days. I help predict the future by putting in the next years’ worth of transactions to know if we need to pull any funds from savings or if we can add more to our savings.
I think a lot of people don’t do that now; they’re not planning ahead. I’m teaching these skills online so that they can be more cognizant of what they’re doing with their finances.
Q: What attracted you to Burnalong? How did you find out about it? What made you start?
I did a Google search on financial literacy classes, and somehow it came up. I really don’t know how I fell into the lap of Burnalong. I’m a very spiritual person, and I think my spirit pushed me there.
Obviously starting a business, you’re not making any money at the beginning. Therefore, I needed something to supplement the income while I’m building this business; I also substitute-taught to supplement our income.
Though I have a husband that does very well for us, I wanted to bring in money, as well. Nobody wants to be the one that lives off somebody else. Especially being a financial educator, that really doesn’t sit well with me.
Finding Burnalong was serendipitous, kismet, whatever you want to call it. It felt like we could both be assets to each other since I offer classes that really touch on the basics and underlying meanings of personal finance. I focus on how people can get money and then make it work for them.
Q: Anything else you think folks need to know?
I want to be someone’s Google instead of them wasting two hours Googling things to try to figure it out. If you’re trying to do it alone, you might not know the reputable sources to look at whereas I have the education and the experience of teaching finance. I can look at the sources for you and contextualize it. I want to know what people want to understand so that I can provide a video on it.
Want to know more?
Burnalong extends a big congratulations to Erin Gore for winning America’s Favorite Financial Wellness Instructor award this year; we also are very grateful for her time. You can check out her full interview below.