On June 9 five residents of Buchanan Gardens Apartments in Arlington celebrated their completion of the three-month Money Smarts Pay program. All five are native Spanish speakers and are recent immigrants from countries like Guatemala and Bolivia.
Money Smarts Pay is a three-month intensive money management program in which participants attend classes, meet one-on-one with financial coaches, and work on a set of specific action steps to improve their financial well-being. Actions include things like setting short and long-term goals, accessing their credit reports, tracking their spending, establishing a budget, and saving money from their paychecks.
Money Smarts Pay (MSP) was started in August 2014 in cooperation with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and with financial support from the Arlington County Affordable Housing investment Fund. Thus far we have led five MSP programs in English and two in Spanish, with another six planned for fiscal year 2016.
We were prompted to create this hybrid approach to financial education through a desire to achieve lasting results for participants. We felt that an approach that combined coaching with classes could do this better than either service alone. We are encouraged to say that this new model is starting to bear fruit. The first cohort of participants completed their course in November 2014 and we conducted follow-up evaluations with them in May.
- One client has saved $3,000 toward a home purchase, contributes $50/month into a 401(k) and had $1,400 in it as of June 1, paid off $1,500 on a credit card bill, and has savings accounts for her children.
- Another client saved $500 during the course of Money Smarts Pay and has now saved more than $3,000. She will use some of the savings to take her two sons on vacation to Florida this summer.
The most recent group of MSP graduates say that the program helped them be more conscious of how they spend their money, better determine the difference between needs and wants, and helped them commit to specific savings goals. We look forward to continuing the Money Smarts Program and to empowering local low-income residents to take charge of their financial futures.
Many thanks to the Master Financial Education Volunteers who helped with the most recent MSP courses in English and Spanish: Eileen Alicea, Carlos Cueto-Diaz, Ben DuPuis, Starlett Henderson, Katrin Kark, Desiree Kaul, Vanessa Louchart, Courtney Mallow, Jose Olivas, Meggan Orenstein, Phoebe Wilson, and Paul Zee-Cheng.