Our Females and Finances feature this month is Emily Merk, whose current role at Summit includes the training and development of lenders. Throughout her career, Emily has held many positions with us, from teller to financial advisor to a Project Teen Money coach! Read on to learn how Emily has gotten to where she is today.
What does “Owning It” mean to you?
“Owning it” means a number of things to me! First and foremost, it means you are taking charge of your finances and have a spending plan in mind. You have clear financial goals set, and you don’t spend money without planning ahead. Going out to dinner with the family or attending a girls’ night out? Excellent! You’ve planned for this and know that an occasional increase in spending won’t set you back in your goals. Secondly, “Owning It” means living within your means. It’s OK to splurge now and then as long as you’re not compromising paying bills, saving for goals and putting the splurge onto a high interest rate credit card.
Tell us how you got to where you are today.
Nearly 14 years ago, I walked into my first interview at a credit union during my college years. I LOVED my first position as a teller and I learned so much about finances in those first few years. Since then, I’ve held many roles within the credit union including collections, insurance, financial services advisor, and most recently learning and development specialist. In my current role, I’m in charge of training all lenders at Summit, including new hires and ongoing training for current employees. During my years in the credit union industry, I’ve had the privilege of helping educate thousands of people through community outreach and seminars and assisted in helping hundreds of others in reaching their financial goals. This is what I love about my career! Financial education can really change lives. One of my most proud accomplishments includes being a Project Money coach for two seasons. If you’re not familiar, the program aims to help people reduce debt and increase savings over a seven-month period while working with a Summit financial coach. They compete with other families for a $10,000 grand prize! It’s truly life changing.
What would you say are your most important lessons learned about finances?
My most important lessons learned regarding finances include: You need an emergency savings—at least enough to cover minor emergencies such as a housing repair, medical co-pay/deductible or car insurance deductible. When I was in college, I was able to keep a small amount in savings and after a small fender bender and paying my deductible, it ate up my savings completely. Shortly after, my husband broke the toilet in our bathroom of our first home we purchased while putting in new tile that we had saved a few hundred dollars for. I panicked, having nothing left to fall back on except a high interest rate credit card I didn’t want to be forced to use! I immediately cut back in other areas in order to slowly build a cushion back up. (Another lesson learned: more in savings than what would cover a minor emergency is ideal! I suggest three to six months’ worth of living expenses.) The other lesson I like to share is just getting into the right mindset; you need to believe that a “budget” or spending plan is not depriving yourself. It’s simply living within your means to get ahead and accomplish goals. If you make sound financial choices now, you’ll have more financial freedom in the future.
What’s your favorite current financial education resource?
My favorite financial education resource is truly my peers here at Summit. I am able to keep up with trends and hear what our members’ concerns are through discussion during the training courses I teach as well as getting out into our branches and hearing stories about how Summit staff is truly changing lives! Every peer I speak to has a unique outlook on ways to save money, pay down debt and help achieve financial goals. People often ask how they can be part of something like Summit’s Project Money program, and the answer is simple; we do this every day in our branches! We have staff at every branch who can act as financial coaches and help get our members on track with their financial goals. I use my peers as a resource and think anyone could find value in doing the same!