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East Palo Alto Woman Channels Family Heartache Into Helping Others

EAST PALO ALTO (KPIX) -- Carina Bustos is fearless when it comes to sharing her life with others. As a young teenager, she weathered a tough family break-up.

But she took that heartache and turned it into a passion for helping others.

"I'm first generation Latina, born and raised in East Palo Alto, California, a red-line community here in Silicon Valley," said Bustos. "At the age of 13, my parents got divorced because money was a constant source of stress and problems at home. And so I learned early on how financial instability really impacts the family because it broke our family apart."

A vulnerable business caused her family's financial struggles. That situation, coupled with lack of access to financial education and opportunity, could have ended Bustos' story.

But it didn't. Instead, the experience inspired Bustos to make financial opportunity available and accessible to all. And now as a corporate financial consultant for Charles Schwab, she advises clients while also leading financial literacy workshops for foster youth, woman of color and Black and Latino high school girls in San Francisco and beyond.

"They loved my drive and my passion," said Bustos. "And my mission for wanting to make an impact in terms of financial empowerment for diverse communities and people from all walks of life."

She loves the work and it's needed. Research shows that around 31% of Black and 28% of Latino households own stock investments, with an average net worth of about $24,000 to $36,000.

That's compared to around 61% of white households whose average net worth hovers around $188,000 dollars. Bustos acknowledges that the numbers can be daunting.

"It can be overwhelming," said Bustos. "So that's why I encourage you know my friends and family and people in the community to reach out to a professional for help."

Bustos' own family remained close despite their early financial losses, and bounced back after the separation. Bustos' mother raised Carina and her siblings as a single parent.

Bustos says she was heartbroken when her mother passed away from cancer in 2017. After her mother's passing, Bustos found herself guiding her family through the probate process, another event that also inspired her to focus on a career in financial services.

Now she's focused on expanding her credentials and being a role model for other Latinas who see themselves in finance careers.

"I was able to get my foot in the door," said Bustos. " So I want to serve as an example for other students of color, people from all walks of life, you know, don't let people put you in a box, and if you have a dream right, follow it!"

Additional information:

Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity

Pew Research Center: More than half of U.S. households have some investment in the stock market

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