By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times
Through research, Amber Jones learned 64 percent of Americans have bad credit. Through personal experience, she knew her brother, a former professional football player, was one of them.
“I realized that a lot of pro athletes, [National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA)], have bad credit,” she said.
Jones decided to find a way to help. In 2017, she founded Learning and Improving Financial Education (LIFE) Key Credit in Homewood, where she offers credit education and correction.
“I go around to a lot of schools and churches speaking about credit [and] financial literacy because, … as far as minorities in general, if no one taught [us] … how would [we] know? In my program, I make sure I teach financial literacy first,” she said.
As the CEO and founder of LIFE and a financial consultant, Jones offers knowledge, awareness, and financial education because most Americans have bad credit and many credit reports can contain errors.
“I [often] go into school systems and churches … to teach about financial literacy,” she said, recalling a time she left a church in Hartselle, Ala., in tears because “everyone in there was almost over 50 and … didn’t know [about finances, credit, and financial literacy].”
“I’m like, ‘How did someone not teach them?’ It’s just sad to me.”
Jones also offers business credit and financial help to athletes—because she is one.
Jones, 28, is from Alabama’s Town Creek, between Decatur and Florence. She has three siblings: two sisters, one is 42 and the other is 35; and a brother who is a year older than her. She grew up with them and a cousin who lived next door.
She started playing basketball at age 4, and also played Tee-ball and ran track with her brother, Don Jones, who went on to play in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, and Houston Texans.
“I like the team aspect of [sports],” Jones said. “I’m a team player. I’m a hard worker. It’s just something I’ve always loved to do.”
In 2009, she graduated from Hazlewood High School and received a full athletic and half academic scholarship to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where she studied exercise science.
“All I wanted to do was play basketball. I was getting recruited by all of the big schools, so UAB was not on my radar,” she said. “But I had two knee injuries in high school, two ACL injuries. The last time I got hurt was in my junior year, right at the most important recruiting [time of the year], so all the big schools kind of took back their offers. So, I went to UAB, which was still the best thing ever.”
Jones graduated in 2013 and went to Europe to play for four years before suffering a career-ending foot injury. In 2016, she tore a ligament, which resulted in three surgeries. Then her foot got infected and started leaking.
“When you leave a leaking infection running for so long it gets into your bones and leads to a disease called osteomyelitis, [which basically] starts to eat [away at the] bones,” she said “When it eats at your bone, it makes it less dense.”
That was the end of Jones’s basketball career—and the beginning of her interest and career in finance. She watched her brother’s financial advisors and took classes on taxes, finances, and credit. Because of her injury, she felt like she didn’t have anything else to do, and she ended up enjoying finance.
Then in 2017, Jones started learning from and helping a friend who had been in the credit business for about five years.
“Around the time the doctor told me I couldn’t play basketball anymore [a friend] said, ‘Why don’t we start a business [called Complete Financial Solutions]?’ I was like, ‘OK, I don’t have anything else to do.’ And it ended up taking off,” she said. “I branched out a couple months [afterward] and started my own business.”
Jones’s dream is to be in all athletic programs that have a secure card system: “They make sure we go to class, make sure we do everything else. Why can’t the money we get every month go on a card to build our credit?”
Athletes who don’t make it to the pros often end up with bad credit or don’t know anything about finances.
“That’s why I got into it, that’s why I love it and have a passion for it,” Jones said. “I go around each day trying to teach because it doesn’t take a lot to learn about credit and how it works.”
A Different Path
Making the transition from athlete to financial advisor was tough for Jones.
“When I got hurt, it … was tough mentally because all I loved was basketball,” she said. “But God led me [to my own business], and I feel like this is my passion. … I thought I would love nothing else more than basketball, but I really love helping people on the daily as far as financial literacy.”
Jones’s business also has a nonprofit component that allows her to teach more financial literacy classes and conduct additional events, as well as visit more schools through sponsors.
“When I talk to people, I tell them … we go through things that hurt us. … We think we’re going to go down one path and we go down another,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a basketball player forever [and] coach, … but look at where God took me. If God wouldn’t have taken basketball from me … I wouldn’t be here.”
To schedule an appointment with LIFE Key Financial, visit lifekeycredit.com or call 205-386-3040.