Maria Riofrio Named Recipient of 2019 Financial Education Instructor of the Year Award

Each year the National Financial Educators Council honors an outstanding financial educator by presenting him or her with the coveted Financial Education Instructor of the Year Award. The 2019 recipient is Maria Riofrio, whose history of empowering people through financial literacy make her a strong match for the NFEC’s award criteria.

Maria Riofrio was selected because of her dedication to serving people from a variety of backgrounds. Her passion is evident as she even provided financial coaching in Ecuador on a recent trip. She has also shown her commitment to helping people work toward financial wellness by:

  • Teaching financial literacy programs to teenage boys in a correctional facility in North Carolina.
  • Training financial educators on military bases so they can empower others with financial knowledge.
  • Working with teenagers at a transitional home in Roswell, GA.
  • Leading the LiSA financial literacy initiative with First Financial Security, Inc.®
  • Delivering personalized coaching to individuals living in subsidized housing with the goal of becoming financially independent.
  • Playing a significant role in developing the “Train-the-Trainer” program used to launch the WINDS Wealth Building Centers, community-based financial literacy centers designed to empower faith-based ministries with financial education training for members.
  • Working with Cambodian, Laotian and Hmong communities around the country to teach personal finances and training leaders to provide ongoing financial education.
  • Leading financial wellness courses open to all who want to learn at her home base in Norcross, GA.
  • Expanding financial literacy in both English and Spanish.

If asked, Maria would say the reason she has had success as a financial educator is that she connects emotionally with people because of her background and story. While there may initially be language or cultural barriers between her and her students, she quickly establishes mutual trust once her students understand her powerful story of struggling as a new immigrant to the United States 12 years ago. In the coming year, Maria will continue to focus on inspiring minority women to achieve financial security and peace of mind.

The NFEC Financial Education Instructor of the Year award is set aside to recognize a single individual who has made markedly significant contributions to promoting financial wellness over the previous year. The NFEC contends that educators are the single most important influence on participant success; that’s why the council created this award to recognize distinguished financial education instructors for their contributions.

“Maria exemplifies the stellar characteristics represented by the Financial Education Instructor of the Year award. Her passion for helping others work toward greater financial security is evident when she teaches a class and while expanding the program with a network of financial education instructors. This combination is increasing access to financial education programming where it’s needed most and her efforts can continue to help people for many years to come,” commented Vince Shorb, CEO of the NFEC.

Research has demonstrated the significant impact educators make on successful student learning. Distinguished financial education instructors are not merely dispensers of knowledge; they are learning facilitators who can mold and modify participants’ behavior and guide them toward financial wellness.

Maria is the Assistant Director of the LiSA Initiative, a grassroots movement created by First Financial Security, Inc.® to address the financial concerns that women and their families experience every day in the United States. Launched formally in 2015, LiSA brings financial literacy to Americans and the communities where they live and work. LiSA has evolved into First Financial Security’s financial literacy platform. It aims to help all people – women, men, families, communities– who want to take control of their lives and build a better future through financial education. We do this by providing financial literacy curricula, training, mentoring, advocacy and empowerment.

The National Financial Educators Council ( recognizes those industry representatives who have made significant contributions to the financial literacy movement. These awards are designed to encourage others in the financial education space to continue to push boundaries toward promoting financial wellness on an ever-larger scale.