Penny Forward Transcript: Penny Forward Moving Forward with Chris Peterson


Date and Time



24 hours


This week we have Chris Peterson, CEO of Penny Forward, on to discuss our organization’s evolution and future plans. We recount his personal journeys, the unexpected challenges like surprise babies and the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these led to the creation of Penny Forward. Our organization has developed online courses, a mobile app, and received significant grants. Looking ahead, we aim to partner with state agencies to expand services nationwide, improve content and user experience, and increase the number of accredited financial counselors. We introduce a new initiative, the Tuesday Turning Pages Book Brunch, to encourage proactive financial learning in the community. Penny Forward hopes you will keep moving forward with us for all our new adventures.


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    Pre-episode Intro


    Chris: A lot of people start out by saying, “Well I don’t know if this falls within your scope, or I don’t know if you cover this, but I’ve got a question about finding a job.” Or, “I’ve got a question about paying off my credit cards.” Or “I’ve got a question about social security.” And the answer to all of that is, “Yes.” We do try to help you with all of your questions. So, if, when you find us, you in your mind say, “Oh, that makes me remember that I was wondering about this,” I encourage you to come and ask us, because if, if we can’t help you with it directly, we will try to help you find the resources that you need to get those questions answered.


    Liz: This is the Penny Forward Podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures one penny at a time. I’m Liz Bottner, …


    MOe: I’m MOe Carpenter, …


    Chris: And I’m Chris Peterson.


    Liz: On today’s episode, we have Chris Peterson, who will be talking to us about Penny Forward, and the new goals for the new year. Hello, Chris. Thank you for being here.

    Chris: (with a chuckle:) Thanks for having me. It feels weird to say that, though.


    (Liz chuckles.)


    Liz: Indeed. It feels weird for me on this end as well. So tell us about yourself.


    Chris: So, I am a father of two, and a husband. I am a guide dog user. I am a white belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, and a licensed amateur radio operator, and I am an accredited financial counselor.


    MOe: Can you tell us about Penny Forward, and, kind of how it came to be?


    Chris: I can, and I’m actually going to expand on this throughout the year. I haven’t figured out exactly what the schedule for this is gonna look like, but I’ve already started writing the posts, on, so you’ll get like the whole origin story. But, essentially, what happened was, in 2019, after a few years of kind of feeling like I wanted to make a career change. I had started to think about wanting to work in the personal finance space. And I had gone through a job interview with a company called Thrivent, and they were on the way to, I think, giving me a job as a financial advisor, and I was kind of excited about that career change. And, and then my wife Kelly let me know that we were having another, kind of surprise baby. And that’s a good surprise, it’s a really good surprise, but it’s also really scary to make a career change, and try to raise a brand-new baby, and being up at night, you know, changing diapers and stuff like that. Which, yes I did, and so, I was unsure of where to go next. And I’m sure a lot of you can relate to that. And kind of, the universe provided, and a recruiter from Thrivent reached out to me saying that they had a job opening as a software developer in Minneapolis, and would I be interested in that. And that’s what I’ve been doing since I graduated college in 2003. And I interviewed for that job and was offered it, and took it, and had been working for Thrivent, kind of with the agreement that I wouldn’t be there forever, or if I was gonna be there forever, I would eventually move into a financial advisor role. Unfortunately, they just weren’t sure, and I wasn’t sure of how that transition was going to come about. And shortly after I started there, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and some people left Thrivent that I had been in contact with on the financial side. And uh, one of the pieces of advice, though, that someone gave me was you know, “Why don’t you set up a website or a blog or a podcast or something. those things that you like to do? You don’t have to be a financial advisor to do any of those things and to teach people and it could help you to build your financial advice career later on if you did that.” Well Covid-19 came about in March of 2020 and I had already kind of taken the advice of, uh, “Hey, I’ll set up a website and start blogging and stuff.” And after some disruption of trying to figure out, “Well how long are these lock downs gonna last,” and, uh, “Is this going to affect our lives in any way or anything,” uh. I started to realize that, “Hey, I’ve got a ton of extra time on my hands that I don’t really know what to do with.” And so, I started the Penny Forward podcast. The name Penny Forward just popped into my head one day. Uh, when I had started the website, uh, where I was thinking about the idea of financial guidance for the blind, and uh, I’m a guide dog user, so, suddenly, like, as all great thoughts come, this came to me in the shower. And I thought, “Penny? Forward,” and from there, I came up with this idea, and found a college student who was able to design a logo with a guide dog and the words “Penny Forward” in it, and that is kind of the origin of the name, but really, the podcast started in, in uh, January of 2021 because I realized that I had all this extra time on my hands and I wanted to start really making more of this name that I had come up with, and the web site that I had built, and, uh, stuff. So we started the podcast, we started to interview people, a lot of those people were very curious about what was going to be next for Penny Forward, and they loved the idea of teaching personal finance to the blind community, and enough of them loved it that we were able to pull together a small, founding board, and create a nonprofit organization. And in 2022, we launched our first online course, and our membership platform, and we’ve built four more courses since then, we’ve got two more in production, and I was just talking with someone this morning about an idea for a third. We’ve built a mobile app, and uh, we have received some pretty sizable grant funding from companies like Wells Fargo, and, most recently, from Thrivent, it turns out. And as of 2024, I now have left Thrivent, in order to become the full time CEO of Penny Forward. That is really how far we’ve come. It’s pretty amazing.


    Liz: That’s incredible. It truly, truly is. What is next for Penny Forward?


    Chris: Penny Forward is gonna grow. A lot bigger than it is now. As the CEO of Penny Forward full time, one of the first things that I’m doing, is I’m reaching out to state agencies for the blind, to start working with them, to figure out how to serve their clients. And I’m starting with the state of Minnesota, which is where I live. They’re really interested, actually, they reached out to me at roughly the same time that I was about ready to reach out to them, and uh, so we’re in the process of contract negotiations with them right now, but we’re looking to expand to all fifty states eventually, so that we can serve people in the rehab system. We’re also trying to beef up the programs that we produce, the content, by being a little bit more planful about the content we produce. Trying to tie things together in themes for months and quarters and stuff. Also, to tie those themes together, we have a lot of separate programs that we do, our online courses, our Wednesday Workshops, our financial sense zoom call that’s open to the public and now is back on the ACB Community Events schedule, and also the podcast, and the blog, and so we’re trying to tie those things more closely together. So that we are kind of teaching to the same general set of topic areas throughout our entire month, but in different ways. We’re also looking at improving our mobile app. We’re just about to release the next version. We have discovered some problems with the learning management system that we use to deliver our courses, and so we’re, uh, planning on replacing that to improve the experience, both on the website and on the mobile app, and, uh, we’ve also hired a web master. Who is going to be working on the mobile app. She is really a, a special person and we’re gonna be excited to actually have her on the podcast, in the next episode. But she is a web master who has taken the time to develop some accessibility expertise on top of her web design expertise. And it turns out that she’s also in the process of starting her own nonprofit. Her name is Shawn Satterfield, and we’ll talk to her in the next episode of the podcast about the nonprofit that she is building, but she is helping us to pull the web site together, and make it look a little bit more professional visually, but also to help us to think about how we can improve the user experience to make it easier for our clients to find the stuff that we have out there. We also have, uh, more online courses planned. We plan to produce more of those in 2024, uh, hopefully four online courses. We are working with the Audio Information Network of Colorado. They’ve recently renamed themselves and they’re now called Aftersight, to, uh, distribute our podcast through their platform, which involves streaming, and, uh, also a podcast platform, and uh, they’re the radio reading service for the state of Colorado as well. And that was another thing, uh, that, uh,  we had hoped to do in 2024, was uh, try and get ourselves on to radio reading services throughout the country. So I’m really proud that we have that next step. And we also hope to train more accredited financial counselors. Liz and MOe, you’re both here, and you are in the process of, of studying, and uh, I believe are nearly ready to, to go and take your exams, and you’re working on the experience hours requirement for the AFC, but we want to bring on, uh, maybe uh, one or two other people who want to make the commitment to study for their AFC in 2024, and, and try to get it in maybe 2025 or 2026. And ultimately, our goal there is to expand our team of AFC’S so that we can serve all of these states that we’re going to start working with. We just know that we’re gonna have so many more clients because of this. And we’re gonna need a lot more, uh, accredited financial counselors to serve them. That’s just some of what we’ve got planned, and, and there’s so much more. We’ve actually created three action teams, focused on communications and outreach to the blind community, and to donors, and collaborative partners, content and programs, which is going to help advise us on making sure that we are teaching the right things, and that the content that we produce is relevant to the blind community, and then operations, which is going to help us do fundraising and make sure that we’re staying within budget, and uh, spending our money and our, and using our resources wisely. And anyone, whether you are a Penny Forward member or not, is welcome to, uh, join those action teams. You can just go to

    and let us know that you want to be involved and we’ll make sure that you get plugged into the right thing. We are also launching some uh,

    discussion E-mail lists. We have a, uh,

    email list that anyone is welcome to join, and uh, we hope to be able to interact with the blind community through uh, E-mail, which we know is really a comfortable platform for a lot of people. And of course, we do have still our Facebook group, and stuff, as well. And we’ve recently joined Mastodon and Tiktok. So we’re looking to expand our social media presence and figure out how to make the best use of those platforms as well. I’m sure I’m missing a ton of other stuff, and I’m sure that Liz and MOe, you’ll fill in the things that I might have missed, in fact I’m just remembering one now. MOe, the Tuesday Turning Pages Book Brunch, which is new in 2024.


    MOe: Take that as the baton being tossed to me then. (Laugh.) I’ll go ahead and kind of talk about our Tuesdays Turning Pages Book Brunch. And what this is, is, we started our book discussions last year, and something we really started to notice was, as we do, we like to save things till the last minute, and many were reading right before they were coming into the book discussion. So, the book brunch is us taking a couple chapters a week, and then discussing just those chapters. And then by the end of two months, we will come together and do a book discussion on that last Wednesday. Um, so our first book discussion that will include the entire Penny Forward community will be  in February of this year, on the last Wednesday. Right now we’re doing “You Need A Budget.” But the Tuesday Book Brunches are Tuesday mornings at 10 AM central time, so 11 AM Eastern, and, like I said, we’ll just take little pieces of the books, bite size pieces, so that we can kind of work through and make our financial lives a little better, one page at a time.


    Chris: Thanks, MOe, and I would just add that that is open to our guests, and also to our paid members. So, we’ve really tried to make that accessible to everybody.


    MOe: Right. And the reason that it’s open to those people is so that we can E-mail you the zoom room information. So, guest membership is free, and so it’s easy to be part of the book brunch. Speaking of all that, I know we’ve just recently rebranded our member group chats to Wednesday Workshops, but is there any other things, Chris, that you can think of that we should have asked you about?


    Chris: Oh, this is really hard, because I’m so excited, and my mind is just a blur with all of the things that I’ve been able to tackle, just in the last couple of weeks, since I’ve been able to start working on this full time. So, I’m trying to come up with anything that I might have missed, and uh, I’m really hoping, actually, that I haven’t missed anything. I’m hoping that I covered everything. But I think, I do want to make sure that people understand what Penny Forward is and what Penny Forward does. So, let’s just talk about that briefly. Penny Forward is a nonprofit organization that was founded and led by blind people. And the blind community helped us to decide whether we should become a for profit or nonprofit organization in the first place, so really, from the ground up, we’ve been guided by the wishes of the community as much as we possibly can. We’re an education organization, not an advice organization. So, we offer self-paced, online courses that you can take at your own pace, either through our mobile app or through our web site, and we’re looking at other ways to deliver those as well. We also offer our weekly Wednesday workshops where we talk about a financial topic in more detail. We are working on making those more interactive, and uh, more focused on the topic of the week, and uh, maybe less focused on some things that we had been covering in earlier workshops, like current events. Which, uh, we’ve gotten some feedback that people just aren’t as interested in. And would rather hear about through things like the E-mail newsletter rather than a zoom call. We’re really looking forward to being able to expand our staff. A lot of that is going to depend, though, on the kind of membership numbers we have, so we really need you to think about joining, and it also is gonna depend a lot on the donations that we’re able to pull together. We have a goal to raise a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in 2024. And, uh, if we achieve that goal, we will be bringing on more staff to grow the organization, and really bringing those staff members on. We hope to find viable candidates from within the blind community as much as we possibly can, but, we also hope to be able to hire people that will help us to do the best possible job we can of serving the blind community. And so, letting us know what you want, and what you need, is really helpful. Now I said we don’t provide financial advice, and we really focus on financial education and that’s true, but if you have questions of us, we love it if you ask. One of the things that we have not talked about up until now is our one on one financial counseling. And I’ve been primarily taking the lead on that up until now. I think that that will probably expand on to other people in 2024, or maybe 2025, but I hope that more of you take advantage of that. That’s an offering where you can actually set up an hour long session, and we’ll talk about whatever your concerns are related to making, managing, or growing your money. And a lot of people start out by saying, “Well I don’t know if this falls within your scope, or I don’t know if you cover this, but I’ve got a question about finding a job.” Or, “I’ve got a question about paying off my credit cards.” Or “I’ve got a question about social security.” And the answer to all of that is, “Yes.” We do try to help you with all of your questions. So, if, when you find us, you in your mind say, “Oh, that makes me remember that I was wondering about this,” I encourage you to come and ask us, because if, if we can’t help you with it directly, we will try to help you find the resources that you need to get those questions answered. Especially, especially related to, anything related to making money. Finding a job. Starting a business. Even, you know, something as simple as selling things that you might have, or, uh, learning how to invest, those are all things that we can help you with. If you’re having trouble with relationships and money, I think we can help you with that kind of thing too. If you’re having trouble with your behaviors related to your money, your budgeting or spending, yeah, we can definitely help you with that. There are so many things that we can do with one on one financial counseling. And as a paid member, you get access to two free sessions per year. So if you want to meet with me once every six months, or whoever starts to offer counseling after me, once every six months, you’re welcome to do that. You can also blow up those two sessions right at the beginning of the year if you want. But you can also set up additional sessions with us, and those are fifty dollars an hour. So we try to make them very affordable, and we’re also happy to work with you off line by E-mail, you know, if you want to meet with us once a month because that’s what you can afford, or once every two or three months, but you want to touch base with us by E-mail between times just to, uh, make sure that you’re staying on track, we’re totally open to all of those kinds of things. And that fifty dollars an hour is a starting rate. If when we meet with you, we determine that that is just completely unaffordable to you because of what your circumstances are, we’ll like happy to work with you on a sliding scale. But that’s going to require us to dig into your budgetary habits and your income and your spending quite a bit before we will agree to that, and, uh, that’s really, uh, another good excuse to use those two free sessions, is just to help to establish that relationship with us so that we can decide what is appropriate for your particular situation. And I just want to reiterate this, no matter what, we want to be able to help you. If you’re finding us for any particular reason at all, if there’s something that you just haven’t been able to find the resources for, please, please ask. We will do our best to try and connect you to things that we know about, if we possibly can.


    Liz: Where can people go to find out more?


    Chris: That’s a great question. And it’s a really easy answer. Our web site is at

    That’s spelled P E N N Y F O R W A R D, dot com. And uh, there is a link right near the top of the page that says, “Join Penny Forward,” or “Join Us,” it might say in the near future. So, there, you can set up a, uh, a guest account, if you’re not quite willing to pay our 9 dollar a month, or 99 dollar a year, membership fee yet, or you can go and sign up and pay with your credit card right on line. You can also give us a call if you have questions. Our phone number is 1-888-332-5558. Again, that’s 1-888-332-5558. And you can send us an email to

    pennyforward at

    that’s P E N N Y F O R W A R D at, P E N N y F O R W A R D dot C O M.


    Liz: Thank you, Chris, for being here, and sharing with us about the Penny Forward journey, and how people can get involved. We really appreciate it.


    Chris: Well thank you, Liz, and MOe, for having me on our own podcast.


    Liz: The Penny Forward podcast is produced by Chris Peterson and Liz Bottner, with assistance from MOe Carpenter. Podcast post production is produced by Brynn Lee at

    transcription is provided by Anne Verduin, and music is both composed and performed by Andre Louis. For all of us this week at Penny Forward, I’m Liz Bottner, …


    Chris: I’m Chris Peterson, …


    MOE: I’m MOe Carpenter.


    Liz: Thanks for listening, and have a great week.


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