Got A Personal Finance Question? Don't Miss The Bus Marsha Barnes isn't a typical finance coach. To get advice to those who need it most, she has taken her tips to the streets — literally, in a 1988 bus. "Wherever I'm needed, I'm there," she says.
NPR logo

Got A Personal Finance Question? Don't Miss The Bus

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Got A Personal Finance Question? Don't Miss The Bus

Got A Personal Finance Question? Don't Miss The Bus

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARSHA BARNES: My name is Marsha Barnes. During the day, 9 to 5, I'm a corporate trainer. And then, I like to say, 24/7, I'm a finance coach.


But unlike most finance coaches, Marsha doesn't operate out of an office. She takes her show on the road all over her community of Charlotte, N.C., and she does it in 1988 bus.

BARNES: When I purchased the bus, I didn't have a clue of how to drive it.

MARTIN: But she figured it out and is now giving professional personal finance advice to pretty much anyone who asks. She started out charging people $30 for a counseling session. But Marsha recently turned her company into a fully certified 501(c)(3). That means she operates as a nonprofit and now only takes donations.

Tell me about the bus. What does it look like?

BARNES: It's only a little bit shorter than your traditional size school bus. It's a very pretty green. It's not necessarily money green. And inside, I have it outfitted like a mobile office, and I even have a couch. So it's pretty chic (laughter).

MARTIN: So what do you do? Where do you go?

BARNES: I didn't want to leave anyone out. I'm thinking of homeless shelters, women shelters, men shelters - individuals that I know they're not able to come to me. Wherever I'm needed, I'm there.

MARTIN: What kind of questions do you get most often?

BARNES: Why is my credit score so bad? How can I help myself help my credit score? I'm in tons of debt - student loan debt questions. So it's a variety of it. The bus, of course, the name of it is The Finance Bar, and I use the word bar because there's not one specific area that I specialize in. So it's not just a budgeting bar. People can pick off a menu. So if your challenge is that you have a problem with a budget, let's talk about budgets.

If it's you need help with your debt and managing your debt, then there's a session for debt and then so forth and so on. But the question that I get most often is this - why don't I ever see my money? I make the money. I pay my bills on time. But I just don't understand why I'm not able to save better.

MARTIN: Do you ever get overwhelmed? Someone walks into your bus, sits down, maybe shares their life story, maybe they've fallen on hard times, and, I mean, it's a lot of pressure.

BARNES: Yeah, definitely. It's constantly overwhelming because it's not just a finance coach. I often feel like some sort of therapist. But that was the purpose of The Finance Bar. It was a safe place for people to be able to come talk about it without any judgment. And to work through those emotions, you know, the emotions of spending, the emotions of thinking that we need a lot all at one time. But, yeah, definitely becomes overwhelming. I'm overwhelmed now thinking about it.


MARTIN: So is the dream to be able to make The Finance Bar into a full-time gig, or do you think this will all...


MARTIN: Oh, yes, OK (laughter).

BARNES: Yes, definitely it is. And I say that because my passion is in personal finance and it is really in helping my community. Right now I'd like to wake up doing it all the time.

MARTIN: Marsha Barnes is the owner of The Financial Bar in Charlotte, N.C. Thanks so much for talking with us, Marsha.

BARNES: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.