Nick Malo admits to having made a series of unwise financial decisions over the past few years, from buying a car he couldn’t afford to switching between three phone providers and three mobile devices in a short amount of time when he could. don’t pay the bills.
Then, earlier this year, the young care professional discovered Money Matters, a program offered by Community Action Pioneer Valley that offers free financial planning advice to eligible low-income residents.
Over the course of two meetings with money affairs coordinator, Rebecca Bannasch, and another co-worker, Malo was able to create a debt-repayment schedule that accounted for his biweekly paychecks. He agreed to set aside the first check of the month for bills, the second for savings; It’s a plan he still follows and references in his meeting notes when preparing his monthly budget.
“Just having a conversation with someone who knew what they were talking about was enough to put me on this track. I didn’t even feel like I had any money issues, it was just like talking to a friend,” Malo said, noting that he wasn’t raised with an understanding of finance, which has contributed to him making a number of unwise financial decisions has met.
Money Matters provides personalized financial advice to low-income individuals living in Franklin County, Hampshire County or North Quabbin. To qualify, participants must meet the following income requirements based on household size: $5,500 for a four-person household, $46,060 for a three-person household, $36,620 for a two-person household, and $27,180 for a one-person household Person.
Bannash herself was once a professional nomad who worked “crazy hours” in a bakery and made costumes for a ballet company before coming to community action through a slow arc of community service. She knows the need for financial advice personally and is a service that she has been offering for years.
Disability, sudden unemployment, the loss of a loved one, the specter of a global pandemic — adversity of all kinds all too often strikes the clueless and unprepared, Bannasch said.
A culture that values self-sufficiency, she added, only buries struggling employees deeper in shame — shame at not having achieved financial security by a certain age, shame at not bouncing back from financial failures on their own , and the remorse have not previously sought financial advice.
Helping her clients restore their self-worth so that their self-image isn’t tarnished by their debt is part of Bannasch’s work, as is technical assistance such as preparing a budget and claiming a tax refund.
“Financial literacy won’t fix poverty, you can’t lift yourself out of poverty financially, but small steps are liberating and always have a big impact when given the time and space to talk about things that people often don’t want to talk about ‘ said Bannasch.
Money Matters provides financial literacy education aimed at cultivating long-term financial independence – on a scale from what Bannasch calls “financial therapy,” which includes tactics to regulate emotions to control impulse buying, to stock market-based wealth management, Money Matters is in the middle.
“We see a lot of different people, people who have recently faced financial upheaval, a lot of older people on a fixed income watching prices go up, people who have had breathing space because of their student loan repayments paused the pandemic — it’s about getting these people in the door,” Bannasch noted.
As long as her advice works, Bannasch doesn’t expect former customers to return to her store. “They find their feet and we don’t hear from them anymore, I take it as a compliment,” she said.
“Some of our clients go back and forth, others we don’t hear from anymore, but it’s a sense of relief for both us and them when they no longer need our advice,” she concluded.
After applying, the selected participants receive an initial telephone call in which they discuss their financial goals with an advisor. This session typically lasts 90 minutes and may include learning about student loan repayments, discussing next steps, completing a credit report, preparing a budget, or simply seeking support and accountability as they address your financial issues.
Money Matters staff are not financial advisors and therefore do not tell participants how to invest their money. They are also not financial therapists and cannot offer direct financial assistance to pay back rent or utilities.
Individuals interested in participating in the Money Matters program may request an appointment at https://www.communityaction.us/money.