Under the Shade of a Magnolia Tree

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By Morgan McKinnon, MFF Fellow

Under the shade of a Magnolia Tree sits a worn-down little house now named Magnolia Manor. When walking around the property with some of the Morgan Franklin Fellowship (MFF) team, Mr. Morgan, the organization’s founder, stopped and turned to me, pointing out a gorgeous Magnolia tree. “Magnolia Manor,” he stated. That could be the name of your project.

My name is Morgan McKinnon, and I have the privilege of working as an MFF Fellow on a program to learn how to manage the rehabilitation of a house. This project has been so much more than what I expected, and I have loved every moment. It has been an opportunity for me to really engage with something which has caught my interest and will help provide me with the means to be financially independent.

I have spent my entire life wanting to be an educator. Almost everyone who I speak to about this warns me of the financial burden that often accompanies this occupation and encourages me to not “waste my potential.” MFF, through their online curriculum and years of patient dedication to teaching me about financial literacy, has opened so many doors for me. I no longer am worried about trying to survive off of a teacher’s salary. I was one of the MFF Pioneers and learned to place money in an IRA (which I honestly do not think I would know anything about without the instruction of MFF). I have learned all about making wise and careful investments. Working on this project has been a chance to take all that I have learned and apply it in a practical way. I am beyond thankful for all the care and dedication they have for each of their Fellows. The benefits of being in this program are exponentially beyond being able to recite definitions of financial literacy. MFF is committed to teaching individuals of all ages to wisely invest their money in ways which interest and spark excitement. 

One key lesson which I have learned thus far working on “Magnolia Manor” is the importance of a good advisor. My father is my advisor through MFF, and he has been crucial in teaching me the day-to-day process of managing a project of this size. He has taught me that persistence is key. “While a little ‘southern hospitality’ is nice,” he said, “you must be assertive in what you expect and need.” He taught me that If you come onto the work site not knowing what you want, you will likely be taken advantage of. He has introduced me to many people who have shared lessons of their own along the way, including doing personal “homework” by going online and discovering for yourself a set plan of what your vision for the project is. One contractor told me, “If you have a clear, set target, often you will hit it with amazing accuracy.” He then warned that if you do not, your financial and time expenses raise exceedingly.

I found that if I do not clearly lay out and document a scheduled time to make calls or research, I spend all my time thinking about what I need to do instead of actually doing it. I have also learned the importance of an attentive eye, especially for the seemingly little aspects which are often overlooked. Cleaning out the house before a contractor walks in can drastically change the quote, as they have a clearer idea of what they are working with and don’t have to factor in as many “what if” scenarios. Things like circuit breakers, which meant little to nothing to me before, are now a huge excitement because as the one in this house is new, we saved over $4,000 dollars!

I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to take charge and learn hands-on with the guidance of my advisor and all those at MFF. I believe that with the right attention this will be a wonderful little home for someone, and through working on this project, I will be able to build the skills and knowledge necessary for me to be a better steward of what I have for the rest of my life, and better care for my family down the road. 


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