Majel Hein was recruited to build a program for the Marine Credit Union (MCU) Foundation. As the Director of Financial Education, her job is to connect families to home ownership. “When they enter the program,” Majel explained, “we find a piece inside the person to keep them moving forward. Behavior change is hard. What’s a better carrot than home ownership.”
With almost 10 years of experience as a financial counselor, Majel said she “hangs out” with families for up to 18 months to give them financial counseling to help them achieve changed behaviors and help them to decrease debt and increase credit scores and savings. The program she created, Finding HOME, is guaranteed access to home ownership upon completion of the program.
The meetings begin with an “individualized 90-minute financial review,” Majel explained. “They don’t know what they don’t know,” she added. Currently 71 percent of households reviewed are connected to either Finding HOME or another product or program in their first appointment. The other 29 percent are given a detailed map to homeownership.
“It’s been a blessing,” Majel said about being able to create the home ownership program for the Foundation. “World domination is the plan,” she added with a smile.
Majel is originally from the La Crosse, WI area. She shared she was an honor student in high school, but maybe wasn’t ready for the college life and found herself partaking in “recreational activities” that included drugs and alcohol. She shared that she doesn’t remember parts of her life during that time. Much like those she now serves with Finding HOME, Majel herself experienced being on the verge of eviction and having her utilities turned off. “I’ve been there,” she said. “I worked my way out of it.”
At 24 years-of-age, Majel returned to school and attended Western Technical College. Majel came to realize she had a natural gift for math and one of her math teachers encouraged her to tutor people. “It gave me something to look forward to,” Majel shared. She had found hope.
Majel started working in financial services in debt collecting. “How can I help people move forward,” she asked herself, after the first time helping someone overcome with medical debt. “I broke down and cried,” she recalled. Not long after, Majel found herself working for a consumer credit counseling service. “I fell in love with the job.”
Majel said she is “more passionate” about her work because of her personal experiences. “Some things are out of our control. Some things are in our control,” she said. “I help people dive in” and learns about the past experiences and traumas that those in her program have been through.
Majel explained that statistics from 2017 show that 72 percent of stresses in life area related to money. “Probably more now,” she added.
“Instead of money controlling them; they control the money,” she said of past participants.
She explained that some participants come into the program with a “scarcity mindset.” She said they are “so used to money not being there. They don’t feel normal, so they spend money. Shaming someone is not productive.” Instead, Majel learns what their objectives are, whether that be home ownership or just wanting to be positive in their savings account. She explained that together they “dive in” and “discover” what they are capable of. “It’s amazing to watch,” she said.
Majel has been sober for 11 years in April. She had been tentative to share her story, but she knows it will help others. “My story … I would rather forget parts. But it made me who I am,” Majel shared. “I’m not a traditional banker. I am not a banker at all.”
“One of my favorite quotes is about it not mattering where you’re at right now but what matters most is which way you are walking,” she shared.
Majel is living a good life now with her husband Ben and her “sunshine,” her daughter Althea. “She is my hero,” Majel said of her daughter. “Althea is Greek and means wholesome warrior,” and was given that name even before being born four months early, weighing only 14.8 ounces. They spent 166 days in the neonatal intensive care unit in Rochester. “There were a lot of ups and downs,” Majel shared.
Majel said that she began working remotely at the time of her daughter’s birth and continues to work remotely now due to the pandemic. “I couldn’t be more grateful to MCU and the Foundation for supporting me going through this type of thing,” Majel shared. “You can’t get that kind of support from other employers.”