Did you hear us? We learned how many of our friends and supporters are "early birds" when Innovative Changes was featured on the Marketplace morning report on National Public Radio on June 27th, at 5:55 am! Senior reporter Mitchell Hartman interviewed us and one of our clients as part of his series on the availability of credit for people of low income.
All of us at Innovative Changes are celebrating the exciting win in Salem last week as both houses unanimously passed the Pay it Forward Bill (HB 3472) to pilot a debt free system for higher education in Oregon. So many of our clients are dragged down by unsustainable levels of student debt; we coach them on their options and help them set up income based repayment plans, but what can you say to someone when they tell you their student debt has destroyed their dreams of ever owning a home of their own? The very tool that is suppose to help people move into the middle class, a higher education, has become a barrier for one of the greatest tools for stabilizing the middle class, homeownership. Now in Oregon, that can all change! In what may be as ground breaking as our bottle bill and our beach clean ups, Oregon is once again leading the way to address this national problem. We look forward to the work the task force will undertake in the next year to put a pilot in place by 2015. Tune in at the Working Families Party of Oregon web site for updates.
The Pay it Forward success joins a long list of excellent legislative victories chocked up by the Oregon Housing Alliance and its allies. A huge thank you goes to Neighborhood Partnerships, the Housing Alliance members and our legislators for improvements to our public system that will result in real, positive change for hard working people across Oregon.
A special thank you to Sterling Bank for recently awarding us a grant to support our work. Branch Manager Scott Hartley also volunteers for our financial education classes and accepts "second chance" referrals from us for clients who had a problematic history with banking and now want to get back on track with a bank account.
And finally, we wish all of our Muslim clients, friends and supporters a blessed Ramadan. May you know peace and happiness during this time of renewal.
All the best,
|Change Agent of the Month: Sarah's Story
Sarah attended our winter Financial Household Resiliency workshop series and was hungry for more information. After class she approached one of our facilitators wondering what else she could do to continue tackling her financial issues. She wasn't available during the day, but luckily one of Innovative Changes' newest volunteer financial coaches, Annie Mengis (see interview below) was available in the evening to meet with her. The match was made, and they hit the ground running. Sarah is in a place in her life where she is committed to making changes, so with a supportive and helpful financial coach, she is able to take those changes step by step, day by day. Sarah tells her story much better than us, so we'll leave it to her to explain below!
How did you find your way to Innovative Changes?
I found out about Innovative changes through my job. I do Care Management for two different clinics, one primary care and one critical care, affiliated with a major local hospital system. I have referred patients to Innovative Changes when they have limited financial resources and when stress related to those resources (or lack thereof) was negatively impacting their health.
My life has been a financial nightmare over the last five years or so. I'm a single mom and I have high expenses and a lot of debt. This is due in part to getting in way over my head by making major purchases before I was financially stable - house, vehicles, etc; in part due to an unstable income over that time period - job changes, gains, losses, etc (this finally stabilized at the end of last year); and in part due to being CLUELESS regarding budgeting and living beyond my means. As a result of all this, I've spent the last five years until just recently living in crisis mode. Overdraft fees were the story of my life at one point. I filed for bankruptcy two years ago, my house has been in foreclosure several times - you get the picture. Most importantly, the stress created from all of this made me feel like I couldn't LIVE, except in the moment. My entire life was consumed by putting out fires.
What were the classes like? What stood out to you?
The classes were a good overview of basic budgeting skills, which I have always lacked. I grew up in a house where money was scarce and also overspent - my mother had a habit of impulsive spending and perpetually lived way beyond her means. The classes provided a good foundation on how to rein this tendency in. The bean counting exercise stood out to me - no matter how many times I rearranged them, I was always left missing five or so beans for expenses I consider indispensable. This made me realize my priorities need to shift in some way.
What have you been working on with your financial coach?
Many, many things - budgeting, prioritizing expenses (a tough one for me!), tracking EVERYTHING, coming up with long-term plans and goals, and most important of all, creating a complete financial picture - figuring out what I owe, and to whom, and setting a timeline for payment. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel - it's admittedly a long way off, but it's there. I can even see my path to a day when I will actually be able to SAVE money and create a cushion for myself and my daughter in case of emergencies.
What has been going well? What is a challenge?
I really enjoy planning and tracking expenses; I'm detail-oriented so this type of stuff is fun for me. It's also satisfying because it's working. Being able to see what's flowing in and out has brought my finances under much better control, and it allows me to look ahead and see what I need to plan for. Prioritizing is a challenge - the expression "champagne taste, beer budget" was coined to describe me, I swear. Annie has really helped me in that regard. She helps me see what is and is not important, and opens my eyes to cheaper alternatives I would not have considered. She calls me out for bad habits without ever passing judgment or making me feel like I'm failing. She makes me feel like I can succeed even though I'm not perfect.
What are your goals over the next few years?
I want to take a long vacation in Mexico with my daughter next summer. I desperately need a new computer, which will hopefully happen next spring. I hope to continue sending my daughter to a bilingual private school - she starts kindergarten in the fall, and although I'm getting a lot of help from the school's financial aid department, a significant portion of her tuition still has to be paid so I will need to continue figuring out how I'm going to make that happen by prioritizing it in my budget. I also hope to start my Master's degree in Fall 2014, so I will need to see how a reduction in work hours and the addition of more student loan debt will affect my finances in the future.
Do you have any advice for other people coming to Innovative Changes?
Don't be afraid to air your dirty laundry and/or release any skeletons you may have in your closet. Full disclosure of your financial issues will maximize the help your coach is able to give. Don't worry about being judged.
Annie is THE BOMB. I feel so lucky to have her as my coach. Our relationship has already changed my life and my daughter's life for the better, and will continue to do so.
|Volunteer Spotlight: Annie Mengis
Annie Mengis, a CPA at one of our partner organizations has been volunteering with Innovative Changes since winter 2013. Growing up experiencing financial barriers, she became passionate about helping others to overcome similar barriers. With a mind for numbers and drive to see others succeed, Annie jumped into volunteering with IC$'s financial education programs and was a (and still is) a perfect fit. Annie started off by attending our Financial Household Resiliency workshops as a participant-observer and embodied our model of sharing your knowledge and learning from others in the class. She then went on to be trained as a Financial Coach and got matched up with Sarah (see Sarah's story above). Sarah and Annie have been meeting every two weeks for the past six months, filling out paycheck planners, budgets and coming up with a plan so that Sarah can feel like her financial situation is more stable and she is taking steps to achieve her goals. The two have hit it off and made much progress so far. Simultaneously, Annie has been co-facilitating workshops at IC$ and around town. She brings practical knowledge and enthusiasm to her work and we are lucky to have her as part of our team! Keep reading for more about Annie.
What drew you to volunteering with Innovative Changes?
I found that when you look around at people who are struggling, it's control over finances that keep people stuck in poverty or tough situations. Through a number of experiences I found that many people, while they understand the basic cash in/cash out formula, they don't often look beyond a single month, or paycheck, or sometimes even a single day. I have a pretty solid financial background and was looking for a way I could make a difference in people's lives and I hoped this may be it! I want to help empower people in whatever position they are in, to take control of their finances and their lives and gain an understanding of how it all works together.
What have you learned from coaching or facilitating? What's surprised you?
We really all struggle with the same things. When teaching/guiding my coachee I also get to remind myself to utilize the same strategies. When facilitating workshops, it's surprising how similar our stories are, even when we are at vastly different points in them. Finances and budgeting all come down to the same basic issues.
I really enjoy the work I am doing, and I would love to be able to reach more people. I wish our classes were overflowing every time. I see so many people who need this kind of education as our schools don't teach this, but it seems most people either think they understand it and don't need any help, or have no idea that they could benefit from financial education.
What are you working on now with your coachee? What do you hope to see her achieve in the future?
We are working on transitioning from crisis mode to long term and maintenance planning. I hope to see her gain a solid foundation of understanding cash flow timing, goal setting, and some financial security.
What do you do when you are not volunteering?
I also volunteer at the info desk and on the finance committee of the Portland Farmers Market, the finance committee of Rose CDC, and at the Winter Warming Center during the Winter at the old Eastminster Church on 125th and Halsey. At work I am the housing and housing development accountant for a non-profit, and I do the asset management, consolidation and development accounting for 16 existing properties and two more that are in the pipeline. For fun I like to read, garden and hang out by the river!
Wow, you are busy! Anything else you want to share?
I have a couple quotes that I found:
"Time and money spent in helping men [and women!] to do more for themselves is far better than mere giving" - Henry Ford
"When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognizing the problem and finding the solution for it. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor. Charity appeases our consciences." - Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
Opportunity Loans Leveraging
Our opportunity loan is a small dollar consumer loan and depending upon a borrower's income we can lend from $100 to $1000. So how can a small dollar loan leverage homeownership?
Recently a client was referred to us for an opportunity loan to pay off high cost debt. Jane has been working for five years to buy her first home for her and her daughter. She had taken financial education classes, completed Home Forward's GOALS program and opened an Individual Development Account for first-time homebuyers. She was well on her way, but her only barrier was unpaid debt on her credit report. She had three open accounts in collections and all three were under $600. A majority of her savings were going towards her IDA and to an emergency fund, which was a requirement from the mortgage lender she would be using. She was finding it difficult to save enough to offer a settlement on these old debts. With her matched funds close to expiring, Jane needed a loan to pay off her collection accounts as soon as possible to not risk missing out on her dream of homeownership.
With the help of our opportunity loan, credit coaching and only $150 of her personal savings, Jane was able to negotiate lump sum settlements on all three of the collection accounts to close them out. Now that Jane has the proof that her accounts have been closed, Jane is starting to shop for her first home! This is just one example how the opportunity loan can leverage larger assets for individuals and families.
If you are interested in learning more about our Opportunity Loans, please contact Emmy.
|Financial Education Galore:
Upcoming Financial Household Resiliency (FHR) Workshops:
July Financial Household Resiliency Series
Tuesday, July 16th 5:30-7:30 pm: Hands-On Banking
Tuesday, July 23rd 5:30-7:30 pm: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit
July Morning Financial Household Resiliency Series
Friday, July 12th, 10am-12pm: Making Ends Meet
Friday, July 19th, 10am-12pm: Budgeting and Saving
Friday, July 26th 10am-12pm: Hands-On Banking
Friday, August 2nd 10am-12pm: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit
These classes will be held at our Lloyd Center office on the 3rd floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (between Nordstroms and the food court), 2010 Lloyd Center.The classes can be taken individually or as a series. They are $5 each and $15 for all four classes. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify. Register here or call or email Misha at (503)-249-5205/ email@example.com.
Talleres sobre Estabilidad Financiera
Como Llegar a Fin de Mes, miércoles el 10 de julio de 5:30-7:30pm
Ahorros y Presupuestos, miércoles el 17 de julio de 5:30-7:30pm
Servicios Bancarios, miércoles el 24 de julio de 5:30-7:30pm
Introducción al Sistema de Crédito: Cómo obtenerlo, repararlo y protegerlo, miércoles el 31 de julio de 5:30-7:30pm
Para registrar en contacto Violetta: 503-961-6419 o firstname.lastname@example.org. Las clases serán en la Hacienda en 5136 NE 42nd Ave, Portland.
Teaching Kids About Money
Sunday, July 14th, 3-4pm at the Capitol Hill Library
Tackling Student Loan Debt
Monday, July 15th, 6:30-7:30pm at the Holgate Library
These seminars are free and no registration is required. Visit our website for a description of our seminars.
Upcoming IDA Orientations
We have completed our summer IDA enrollment, but don't fret, we will be enrolling again in the Fall. .
If you are interested in the IDA program, or know someone who may be interested,come to our next orientation which will be:
- - Friday, September 6th from 10-11am at our office in Suite 2010 of the Lloyd Center.
- - Thursday, September 12th from 5:30-6:30pm at our office in Suite 2010 of the Lloyd Center.
Register for an orientation here or call Misha at (503)-249-5205. The IC$ IDA program offers a 3:1 match for those saving to attend an institution of higher education. Savers must put at least $25 into an account every month, complete financial education requirements and plan to go back to school or already be attending school. Savers can save for themselves or a loved one. For more information about the IDA program visit our website .
Referring Partner Orientation
Would you like to become a partner of Innovative Changes? Interested in referring clients for our loans, financial education and individual coaching sessions? Want to learn more about our programs? Attend our Referring Partner Orientation webinar.
The webinar orientation will take place on Thursday, August 22nd from 10:30 am -11:30am. If you or your coworkers are interested in participating please register here.
This orientation is required for anyone who would like to refer clients for Innovative Changes (IC$) loans and a great way to get to know more about IC$. During the webinar we will go through IC$ programs and services, walk you through the process of referring a client and discuss what happens after you make a referral.
You Can Help!
You care about helping people achieve and maintain household stability. Now you can join our efforts at Innovative Changes as we expand our reach to serve more clients. Your generous donation will be put to good use!
Whatever amount you can afford, you can set it up for monthly automatic payments to ease your cash flow. If you have bill pay service with your bank you can set up Innovative Changes to receive regular monthly payments. If you prefer, we can process a monthly ACH transaction on your behalf. Contact us at email@example.com to set up your monthly giving program.
Thank you for your support!
As of 6/7/13
530, averaging $447.68 for a total of $237,397.20
Revolved amount: $188,474.86
Repaid loans: 290
Financial education clients: