Samuel pictured at the Tower District in Fresno, CA
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw too many of my community members hosting car washes to raise money after losing someone. I remember feeling it must be tragic to raise money while also grieving a loved one, and I wanted to create more opportunities for folks to have financial security, especially during a crisis.”Samuel Molina
Financial literacy is the knowledge of how to make smart financial decisions. It equips people to take control of their finances, which creates resilience against unpredictable life events, and opens up pathways to economic freedom.
For this blog, we had the opportunity to sit down with Samuel Molina, a financial educator who previously led such programs at Binational of Central California. Currently, Samuel is the CEO and founder of The Academy of Financial Education.
Samuel Molina was born and raised in Fresno and has a deep love for his community. “Growing up in Fresno was a beautiful experience because of the diversity of our residents, local businesses and community leaders,” he says.
Samuel graduated from Central High School, served in the United States Marine Corps for five years, and attended Fresno State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Criminology. After earning his degree, he worked for an organization called Mi Familia Vota as a California State Director, supporting civic engagement and advocacy at the local, state and national level.
“My work with Mi Familia Vota as a California State Director was successful and rewarding in many ways; we registered over 50,000 voters and helped pass legislation at the state level to expand voting rights for previously incarcerated individuals,” says Samuel.
After his civic engagement and public service work with Mi Familia Vota, Samuel became interested in learning more about personal financial planning and began working as a Financial Advisor with Northwestern Mutual. After Samuel’s transition from Northwestern Mutual, he was inspired to return to the nonprofit space and expand financial literacy in the Central Valley.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw too many of my community members hosting car washes to raise money after losing someone. I remember feeling it must be tragic to raise money while also grieving a loved one, and I wanted to create more opportunities for folks to have financial security, especially during a crisis,” he says.
Samuel contacted Binational of Central California and received the green light to start the organization’s Financial Empowerment Program. Since the Financial Empowerment Program launched in November 2022, it has served over 200 people in Fresno and Madera counties and has hosted over 30 financial literacy sessions.
“It is such a unique program because it not only teaches traditional banking, credit, loan and debt solution information but also important financial tools like life insurance, investing, education, retirement, and estate planning,” Samuel says.
As part of the program, participants work with staff to reach specific financial milestones, such as creating a budget or signing up for a service to monitor their credit. Many participants make less than $35,000, receive social security payments, or have been taught to fear credit. However, they are motivated and excited to achieve financial stability for themselves and their families. After completing the program, the participants walk away with tools to build their financial futures.
Samuel is currently the CEO and founder of The Academy of Financial Education, an organization committed to narrowing the wealth gap through activities, coaching, education and instruction. The organization’s programs cover both personal and business financial planning and educates youth and adults.
In the future, Samuel hopes California can pass legislation that enables schools to offer financial literacy in K-12 classrooms. He also wants to see more banks expand their services to communities of color, especially rural communities throughout the Central Valley, in place of predatory cash-checking companies.
“My overall vision is for families to have the resources to withstand a financial setback like a pandemic or an unexpected emergency so that they are no longer as disproportionately impacted. Generational wealth is achieved through financial literacy. I want to equip our communities with the financial tools, resources, and information so they can make smart decisions that will support their economic well-being,” he says.