One day last summer Rachell received a letter in the mail from the Ways to Work program at Metropolitan Family Service inviting her to apply for Innovative Changes (IC$) Women’s Borrower Support Group (WBSG). The WBSG, a new program of IC$, convenes a group of women to discuss barriers they face to becoming financially stable, learn from each other’s experiences and hold each other accountable to reaching their goals. They then are trained as mentors to coach other IC$ clients.
Since taking out a car loan from Ways to Work, Rachell had become increasingly motivated to get in control of her finances. As a single mother of three, Rachell says, “I was ready to make a conscious effort to learn some strategies to work on my finances and become more stable. I liked that the group was all women learning together. The opportunity to mentor people also really drew me to it; this is something I’ve always wanted to do because I’ve had a lot of unfortunate mishaps that I’ve learned from and I wanted to share and give back to others.”
From the first night of group meetings, Rachell says, “I felt comfortable and safe in sharing my personal experiences. The women were caring and open to suggestions that group had. I felt freedom to express myself without criticism and that made me able to incorporate the information I learned in the group into my life.”
Tracking spending was one of the main things that Rachell started incorporating into her life. She began using a daily spending tracking worksheet from IC$ and then went on to create her own system: she saves receipts in a special pouch and enters them into a journal at the end of the day. Based off what she saw in her spending habits, she immediately started making changes.
“Prior to the group, I got money, and then it was gone. Once I had a better picture of where I was spending money, I was able to adjust my habits and become more financially independent. Currently, I’m maintaining my own life without any outside aid. It’s not easy but I’m doing it and that is such a huge accomplishment that I am so proud of.”
As Rachell continued to improve her household stability, she remained passionate about passing on her lessons learned to others. IC$ hosted it’s second women’s group in January 2012 and Rachell co-facilitated the group, leading discussions on budgeting, tracking spending and the importance of staying in control of your money. She reflects, “It was empowering to speak to my community and let them know that I had been there and there is a way out. With hard work, doing the right thing does pay off.”
In addition Rachell is coaching an IC$ client who took the Financial Household Resiliency series and became similarly motivated to better her situation. “I love mentoring—different from a group, we work on exactly what the client wants. Right now, we’re looking at making a budget and seeing how can we trim it down, find less expensive options, so eventually she can build her savings.”
When she’s not busy helping others, Rachell has goals of her own that she’s been working hard to achieve. She recently completed in individual development account (IDA)for purchasing a home. She aims to be in a new place by June 1st. She also wants to become clinical social worker , she says, “Mentoring has given me an up close work to see if this is what I want to do and I know it’s right for me.” In addition, she will be starting up another IDA through IC$ to start saving for her oldest daughter’s college education.
IC$ is thankful to have Rachell as such a great resource for our program and wishes her the best of luck in her home search!