Get to Know Homewise's Ken Brown
How long have you worked at Homewise?
October will be eight years. And for me, it’s not a feeling of “at”, more like with Homewise. Unlike all my past jobs, I don’t feel like I’m “just here for the paycheck”. It’s more than that. We all work as a Team toward a bigger goal (supporting individuals and families to achieve homeownership) and that feels pretty good when you leave at the end of the day.
What was your first position at Homewise, and how long did you have that role?
I started as a Home Purchase Advisor/Outreach Coordinator – and let’s be clear here, I didn’t have a clue what either of those titles meant! As I always say to new coaches, it took me about 18 months before I started to feel I knew what I was doing. I mean, I had the basics – but there is so much more to the job, always more to learn and then mortgage loan rules change – it’s a lot to keep up with. Oh, you asked how long I did that, it was about five years.
So, what got you into teaching Financial Fitness?
Well, not what but who. That would be Rachael Gilman. One aspect of Outreach is partnering with employers who are focused on building the financial health of their employees. I offer mini-talks (we sometimes call these Power Hours, or FIT Talks), that cover a topic from our classes. So I had to learn how to “teach”/give talks on Credit, Budgeting, and Qualifying for a Mortgage. Rachael taught me these pieces and as they were portions of our classes – it just sort of grew from there.
How long have you taught Financial Fitness?
It’s been about six years? When I started with Homewise, due to the number of in-person classes we held, we used to have two dedicated Trainers. They were, like me, a dual role – HPA/Trainer. In our Albuquerque office, we had Sandy and here in Santa Fe, it was Rachael. I learned to teach Financial Fitness, more as a backup for them. Then I slowly took it over (by the way I also teach Homebuyer Education).
I took both of the classes online. This is a fairly new option, right?
Before 2020, we had no plans for offering an online class. “In person is just better”, was our motto. And in many ways, I still feel that way. Person-to-person, the ability to ask questions, a live class flows differently. I tailor the information I share to what is of most interest to those in the room, and the questions and stories shared spark unique conversations. But then, of course, all our lives had to make a shift and we filmed the classes to offer them online. Recently we reviewed them and Rachael made some adjustments to the curriculum and earlier this year we filmed a 2.0 version of each class. I guess that makes them 2.0-22 versions.
What would you say is the most beneficial part of taking Financial Fitness?
The Best thing about class? Taking it a second and third time. When I was coaching clients, I would often mention that taking Financial Fitness might be a great next step. Occasionally, I’d have a client say, “Oh, I took that class”. To which I would lower my glasses and with great compassion say, “Well, you may have been in the room – but your bank statement is telling me you need to take the class again”. The class is 9 AM – 2 PM (used to be until 4 PM) – that’s a lot to take in. We can only absorb so much and we truly can only take action on a few goals at a time. That’s the beauty of having the online videos. You can watch the topic you need to work on, focus on, and gain new insights to your behavior.
Perhaps if I had to pick a “most beneficial part”, I’d say you walk away with some new tools and resources to take action on your finances – and leave class feeling empowered to make a change in your life.
Would you say you are an outstanding saver? Have you always been Financially Fit? Were there any things you had to learn to get to this point of expertise?
I mean it is Homewise – thinking I can say, “Am I an outstanding saver?” Hell No! Outstanding at finding things on sale? Yes. A good budgeter, also yes.
“Always Fit? – Nope. However, am I more Financially Fit Today than I was a year ago? Five Years ago? – Yes and YES!
Expertise is a bit fancy. If that old adage is true: Those that can’t Do, Teach (and learn) that’s me. Remember earlier when I mentioned the eighteen months of learning to be a coach? Well, those months were packed with on the job training, reviewing 100s of credit reports, bank statements, pay stubs, and tax returns. Siting with co-workers reviewing rules and regulations, asking realtors and loan officers questions about what they do and things clients ask them. Attending workshops and video trainings. Reading countless articles, newsletters, and books. All this continues to this day – and I’m still learning and growing myself.
Having taught our classes numerous times and in speaking with so many individuals – I hope that those attending my class get a sense that I “know” them. Not better than, I’m someone who has been in their shoes. I understand where they are in their lives and I want to help make a difference.
What is your favorite part of working at Homewise?
People. The people we have as clients, the people in my classes, the people I meet at events in the community, and of course the amazing people I get to work with every day. I know, it sounds corny. That’s the other thing I tell new employees, “Yes, it seems a bit like The Stepford Wives*, at first”. But, it’s true – the people who work at Homewise are committed to the mission and it’s pretty exciting to work here.
*yikes, I’m thinking everyone under 50 will have to Google that reference!
If you had one bit of advice for anyone getting started on building his or her financial well-being what would it be?
Come to class. Call us up, register online – take the class. There are many facets to finances and our class touches upon many topics. Each of us has different needs and desires – some may choose to work on something easy, and others may start on a harder goal. The only true “one piece of advice” that is universal? Start.