Teresa McGarry is president of Moneytalk Financial Foundations, a nonprofit organization which provides financial life skill education and practice for youth and adults.
Teresa McGarry: I am happily married to my husband, Michael McGarry, of 20 years. We have 2 wonderful daughters; one a Junior in high school and one in college. I was raised in the Christian church, just as we have raised our daughters. I have an Associates in Applied Science from JCCC; a Bachelors in Computer Information Systems from DeVry; and a Masters in Project Management from Keller Graduate School. I worked for DST Systems Inc for 15 years as a mainframe computer programmer, project leader, and subject matter expert.
Q: Why did you choose your present industry at this time?
It is a calling. I would say the non-profit ministry chose me. I was leading Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, when one of the attendees approached me in Feb 2012 about participating in a prison ministry he wanted to start. That non-profit never came to fruition. But, it was the start of Moneytalk Financial Foundations.
I would say the non-profit ministry chose me.
~ Teresa McGarry
Q: What is the best/worst moment you can remember in your career?
One of the best moments was early on in the life of this non-profit when all of our workshops were in correctional facilities. (We are now fully in the community). When I met these adult inmates at the beginning of our many weeks together, they would be very discouraged, head down, stating how they can't do math, many saying how someone else (sometimes even a parent) still managed their checking account and paid bills for them. By the end of our time together, every one of them were smiling during our workshop, eager to attend that week, empowered, and encouraged. They would say things like "I can do this myself" and "my mother isn't going to manage my checking account anymore". They would be sitting upright, bright eyed, and confident in their ability to take on the financial tasks of having a budget and managing a bank account. It was such an amazing feeling to know that I had a part in helping these individuals be more successful, empowered, and encouraged.
I wouldn't exactly call this a "worst" memory, but definitely a sad and eye opening one. During mock job interviews with a class of students at high risk of dropping out of school, I had asked students about their greatest accomplishments and examples of how they have motivated others.
One student stated his greatest accomplishment was completing 7th grade. I told him that was really good. He gave me one of those "you don't get it" looks, so I asked him what he meant. He said that he was the only person in his family to get past 7th grade. Okay, that just made my head spin. The words made sense, but I wasn't sure I understood. So, I asked him to tell me more. He said that no one - grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or siblings - have made it past the 7th grade. Now I ask you, what importance does this family place on education? How are they going to help this young man with his homework? If he follows in their footsteps, how will he ever have a chance of being able to financially support himself or a family?
Another student told me about a time when he motivated his father to work hard at work. Now, you wouldn't normally think a teenager would need to be encouraging their parent to work hard. When I asked him why and how he encourage his father, he said he was concerned that his mother would be hauled off to jail any minute; and if his dad didn't work hard at work he would lose his job. He didn't want himself and his younger brother to be taken into foster care and separated. Now I wonder how this young man is supposed to focus on his education when he doesn't know if he has a home to go to tonight.
Probably my best memory was in this same group of at-risk students. There was this young lady who hadn't really participated much and was typically angry about issues going on within her family. From listening to her talk with her teacher, it didn't sound like she had many positives in her life. We had just completed our unit on managing a bank account where the students learned about the register, deposits, checks, bank reconciliation, and did a real-life simulation activity. One day soon after, this young lady came bounding into the room with the biggest smile on her face. She just couldn't wait to tell her teacher what had happened. Then, the teacher called to me so the student could share with me also. This young lady was present when someone was struggling to write a check, and she was able to help this other person. This may not sound like much. But for this young lady, it was the first time in her life where she experienced the feeling of being of value as a human being; where she learned what it was like to be able to help someone else, to be the giver and not the receiver. I often think about how what she learned through us made such a bigger impact in her life than just knowing how to write a check. It went so far beyond that simple life-skill for this young lady.
By the end of our time together, every one of them were smiling during our workshop, eager to attend that week, empowered, and encouraged.
~ Teresa McGarry
Q: Who is your role model or hero?
I would have to say I have 3 role models - Tammie Green (Christian Brothers Automotive in Shawnee), Linda Anderson (Helping Hands Cleaning Ministry), and Kiersten Adkins (Pathway to Hope). These three ladies are strong Christian women who run their business or non-profit with Christian wisdom, grace, and kindness; a high level of integrity; and willingness to work collaboratively with other organizations when possible to help their customers.
Q: What is your favorite book?
Right now, I would have to say Boundaries by Henry Cloud & John Townsend. Great Christian book helping me learn how to set biblically appropriate healthy boundaries.
Q: Do you use any specific method or system to run daily operations of your business?
I would say the method we use is to keep God and the mission first when making all decisions within the non-profit. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of the work being done. When we are asked to help out with something that is outside the scope of our mission, we do our best to fulfill any relevant portions and collaborate with others for the rest. We frequently work with other non-profit and for-profit organizations. Together we can do so much more.
A large part of our strategy or method is based on our culture. We encourage collaboration with other organizations; team work across volunteers, board of directors, and our advisory board; integrity is a must; and it is okay if things don't always go as planned. It is okay to try new things and have it not work out as expected. After every significant or new activity, we complete a "hot wash" to evaluate what went well and what we can improve for next time. It is important to have a safe environment where it is okay to try new ideas.
Q: Looking back - if you could advise a younger version of yourself to do something different - what would it be?
Have more confidence in yourself. Have more faith that God will provide. Don't doubt yourself or let distractions slow you down.
Have more confidence in yourself.
~ Teresa McGarry