Meet the Team

Hi, I'm Merlin Salamanca (She/Her)

I quit my job at the beginning of the financial crisis!!!

What was I thinking?!

A year after graduating from U.C. Berkeley, I found myself working at a corporate law firm as a records assistant where I felt lost and became depressed. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I quickly learned that any career in corporate law wasn’t it.

Being only the second person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree (the first was my older sister), I felt embarrassed when telling my parents that I needed to leave my work environment. Considering all the sacrifices my parents made to flee from El Salvador to give my sister and me a better life away from violence, I felt as though I had failed to live up to the expectations of working at a great job where I could work up the ladder of success.

I didn’t know what else to do.

Quitting seemed like the best option to gain some peace of mind. When I handed in my notice, I had no idea that we would experience the worst financial situation since the Depression of the 1930s. I applied to many jobs, thinking my degree would save me months of unemployment, with no prospects in sight.

It took one year and finding my purpose to get back on my feet.

While unemployed, I noticed that many of my friends and family were experiencing financial crises of their own. While I was growing up, I was taught that in our Latinx community it is taboo to talk about money, but I could tell that my community was struggling with significant debt that caused a lot of stress.

Many had accepted the debt and the stress as part of our way of life, but I knew that this didn’t have to be true. Before quitting my job, I had just paid off my credit cards and saved $5K to support myself in unemployment, all thanks to the skills I gained from taking a personal finance course in college.

Although I did not feel like an expert, I thought I could help my community by relieving some of the financial stress.

I decided to start sharing what I learned and eventually created plans to support them in tackling the debt. The tips and plans worked so well that I supported my community in paying off more than $20,000 in credit card debt in just 1 year!

Over the last decade, I have become the go-to person in my community for personal finance tips.

I became known as the woman who talks about money.

It has been wonderful to watch many individuals in their transformation from keeping their financial pain in silence to growing by having financial conversations.

Today, I have helped many individuals and families in navigating their financial journey.

My experience with supporting my friends and family to gain financial independence led me to a business analyst role at a non-profit organization for 5 years where I balanced a $3M budget and created personal finance workshops for clients and staff members. From there, I decided to expand my financial knowledge to be of greater service to my community by obtaining an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and becoming a Certified Financial Fitness Coach (FFC) and a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI). In 2021, after seeing a need for financial support among small businesses during the pandemic, I joined SMG Business Services.

It has been exciting to watch people of all backgrounds reach their goals, such as save money, build an emergency fund, and even help their parents to buy a house. I have learned the value of talking about money and that every goal is a financial goal.

Through my work as a personal finance coach, I have had an impact in the lives of many who feel unseen and undervalued by the financial industry.

I am immensely grateful to earn the trust of individuals who may find it difficult to have financial conversations.