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Females & Finances: Karen Menendez Coller

Karen speaking

For June’s Females and Finances, we turn the spotlight on Karen Menéndez Coller, the executive director of Centro Hispano of Dane County. Karen’s unique journey has led her to her position today, where she makes a positive impact on countless individuals in the Madison community. Keep reading for more of Karen’s story and some of her favorite finance tips!

What does “owning it” mean to you?

Owning it, to me, means feeling comfortable in your own skin! But most importantly feeling comfortable at your core! Not needing acknowledgement but feeling proud regardless of any acknowledgment. I think it's extremely important for women to know who they are – work to find the right networks of support both professionally and personally that nourish them and allow them to grow. This can be challenging, but if the “right” systems are in place, “owning it” becomes even easier I think.


Tell us about your personal and professional journey that helped get you where you are today.

My personal and professional journey was really centered around my family. I owe everything I am to my family – parents who worked hard and gave up their own entire lives in El Salvador for the well-being of me and my siblings in this country. I have always said that my commitment to ensuring thriving families and a thriving Latino community is so strong because of what my family did for me. Since an early age I knew I wanted to make sure my community felt supported, and that I was doing my part to ensure respect and justice for the neighborhood where I came from – I always wanted to gain the necessary professional skills to give back to the community that helped my parents as immigrants in California. Never did I think I'd move to Madison, Wisconsin, and find a similar community here that I feel so devoted to! 


What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about finances?

Finances can't define you! So the real goal is to make sure and find your plan in life and how finances can support that plan for where you want to be. Beyond the material there is a real need for women to understand the big picture – what makes you truly happy in life and how to make sure financial decisions support your happiness and not detract from it.


What resources or strategies help you ensure that you stay on top of your finances?

I really believe in a weekly reflection on your budget – is it helping to meet your goals and expectations for your future? What can you do better, how could things be adjusted? Checking in and making sure your financial plan falls in line with your life journey has really proved to be useful for me. 


If you could have dinner with one person (past or present), who would you choose and why?

My father! When he was alive he believed in the American Dream. He was motivated and driven to try and get us to the U.S., so that my mother, brother, sister and I could have a better life. He always kept that goal at the center of everything that he did, including how he and my mother managed their finances. They were always mindful of their life journey.