An Interview with Derison Puntier, Financial Services Coordinator of Phipps Neighboorhoods
“I help people wrap their arms around their finances. My clients often feel financially backed into a corner and don’t know where to turn. I help them realize a financial counselor is always ready to offer a helping hand.”—Derison Puntier, Financial Services Coordinator, Phipps Neighborhoods.
Grateful barely describes our sentiment toward Derison Puntier. He’s been our partner, a community leader and a support to our staff and customers. For the last seven years, Derison has worked as a Financial Counselor—and now as the Financial Services Coordinator–with Phipps Neighborhoods through their Financial Empowerment Center. He’s provided one-on-one financial counseling services to hundreds of New Yorkers, equipping them with practical tools for overcoming financial challenges and building financial health.
“A lot of the clients I work with are emotionally attached to money. Most react with their emotions. I help them see that with a budget they can detach and learn to manage money. This gives them breathing room,” says Derison.
Derison “accidentally” fell into financial counseling. As a volunteer at his daughter’s Pre-K school, he was asked to support in managing the school’s budget. He quickly realized the importance of financial education for the parents of the school. Not long after, he saw an ad for a financial counselor position at Phipps Neighborhoods. He’s never looked back. Almost immediately, he saw the tangible impact of his work. From securing apartments to getting approved for a first-time mortgage, Derison has seen the lives of his clients change.
“My biggest priority is to help people build their credit. This is number one to me in financial counseling. As you build credit, opportunities open up and new beginnings are possible,” says Derison.
In his recent role of Financial Services Coordinator, Derison is developing financial education pilot programs across the city. He’s most excited about a virtual counseling program and a 6-week afterschool program with third graders. Sojourner Truth House, a shelter for the homeless, will be the first to pilot virtual counseling. A designated computer will be used for clients to meet with a financial counselor for a one-on-one session, using GoToMeeting.
The afterschool program called “Children Economics & Financial Education,” (CEFE) is designed to teach students about money management skills and the financial planning process.
Accion Academy will host the first pilot with a third-grade classroom. The curriculum—designed by Derison—includes teaching kids about money terminology, comparison shopping, saving and how to use money as a tool, even as a young person.
“We need more financial literacy in the schools. If we can teach kids at an early age about the credit and savings, we will see a healthy future for our community,” says Derison.