When Eva Torres is asked where she is from, it is clear that she is a Michigander. She loves Detroit and working with Latinos in Pontiac. She is dedicated to her work.
Her story is a long one that is not uncommon. She was born in Puerto Rico and migrated with her parents to Michigan as a child. After some time in Texas, she returned with her parents in high school and graduated from Western International High School in Detroit. So, she was raised in Puerto Rico, Texas, and Michigan, and is deeply-rooted in Southwest Detroit. When asked why she stayed in Michigan, Eva says that Michigan felt like home, that she loves the diverse people she works with, and that her work is critical in Oakland County.
Eva graduated from Siena Heights University in southeast Michigan with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, and began her financial literacy career as a financial coach at SER Metro. When she took this position she was in the middle of overcoming her own seemingly insurmountable financial challenges. Part of the application process required her to teach a workshop to the hiring committee. Eva knew the content but had not presented in a classroom setting, and she was determined to ace the presentation and get the job. Necessity is the mother of invention – or self-reinvention – in Eva’s case.
Unable to find work in the few years prior, she had lost her house, and remembers that she and her daughters struggled to even have enough food. When she looks back at those times, she is reminded that even good people can experience hard times. In her case, the lack of a job put her life into a downward spiral. This experience is also what makes Eva so passionate about her work in Oakland County.
Eva works at Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) and spends two days a week at the Oakland County Treasurer’s Office and receives client referrals for Financial Literacy coaching. She helps clients set up savings accounts or develop debt repayment goals and coaches them until they reach these goals. Her work can often add up to 100 points on a credit score. The difference between good and great credit can be the difference of $100,000 on a mortgage.
“This is important work in the Latino community because there are still many families that are unbanked. They don’t have access to credit, so they are not building up their credit history. Therefore, when they really need credit for a medical or transportation emergency, it is often too late. This lack of access to credit puts these minority communities at risk of resorting to predatory lenders for help, which sets families back and can often lead to a bigger financial disaster.” Eva is on a mission to help people get good information and skills to build up the resilience of their families and in turn, the Latino community.
Raquel Garcia Andersen: Eva, what is a typical day for you at the Oakland County Treasurer’s office?
Eva Torres: My normal day at Oakland County can be as busy as seeing a homeowner every hour. There are scheduled homeowner “show cause” hearings held daily with several county treasurer employees. When a homeowner shows signs that they may not be able to meet their requested monthly payment plan [for property taxes] or are in need of financial counseling, I become a part of the show cause hearing. I provide one-on-one on-site coaching then or schedule a future appointment in the future. There are times where a homeowner will not be granted a payment plan unless they meet with me first. If this is the case, I will recommend a monthly payment amount that I feel the homeowner can meet with little to no chance of default, thus saving them from foreclosure.
Although I have not met with a lot of Hispanic homeowners or clients this past year, I did translate a complete series of workshops and financial information into Spanish. I have this information available for distribution and ready for presentation.
Raquel Garcia Andersen: What surprises you about your job?
Eva Torres: What most surprises me about my job is that there are still a lot of myths people believe when it comes to credit building, savings options, and the lack of knowing where to receive resources.
Raquel Garcia Andersen: What is the most important tip that you can give a client?
Eva Torres: The most important tip I give to just about every client is to not give up on their desire to succeed. With determination, anything can be accomplished, and meeting with myself or any financial coach is the very first step to becoming financially stable. It does not happen overnight, but it can and will happen if we work together.
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