Neighborhood Progress launches financial coaching program
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress launches a new one-on-one financial coaching program today.
The goal of Community Financial Centers is to help residents of Cuyahoga County design budgets, build up their savings or mop up financial mistakes with the help of a money coach.
The mobile program is offered at select free nonprofit tax-prep sites and through employers as a workplace benefit. Today's announcement will be at the Cleveland Public Library, which is the first employer to sign up. It employs 450, all of whom will be able to receive financial coaching at no cost to them.
In a financial coaching model, people aren't told what to do with their money as much as they are provided with information about their options so they can make strong choices for themselves.
"It's truly financial empowerment ... giving them a little bit more of the tools they need," said Joe DiRocco, president of Charter One and Citizens Commercial Banking. The Charter One Foundation is picking up much of the tab to offer the program at free tax-prep sites.
"If we have people who make informed financial decisions it will be better for them. It will be better for our entire community," he said.
More than half of Americans say they spend more than they make each month or, at best, break even, according to study released last week by Pew Charitable Trusts. A third have no savings, and close to two-third say they doubt their ability their ability to weather an unexpected expense.
"You don't know what you don't know," said Evelyn Burnett, vice president of economic opportunity for Neighborhood Progress. A new graduate who owes $40,000 in student debt, for example, has to make very different financial decisions than a single mom or someone who's dealing with bad credit- but each may be facing a situation that's new to him or her.
"I would argue that dealing with your finances is as uncomfortable as dealing with your health. It's very personal," she said. That's why the program jettisons the financial literacy classroom model for one-on-one coaching.
"We all need to save. We all need to budget. We all need to address credit" - Evelyn Burnett, Neighborhood Progress
In addition to the workplace program, Community Financial Services offers free coaching to low- to mid-income wage earners who have their taxes done free at select EITC tax sites. (Call 2-1-1 or visit www.refundohio.org for locations, appointments or income criteria.)
Eventually, Burnett said, Neighborhood Progress wants to expand Community Financial Centers so that anyone in Cuyahoga County can obtain one-on-one coaching by paying sliding-scale fees.
Community Financial Centers is modeled after one in New York City, but local partners tweaked it so people can participate regardless of what they earn.
"We all need to save. We all need to budget. We all need to address credit," Burnett said.
Organizations that pulled together to launch the program include Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, the City of Cleveland, Enterprise Community Partners and Cuyahoga Community College.
Funding and other support for the program comes from the Charter One Foundation, the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation, Third Federal Foundation, Woodforest National Bank (the Texas bank that partners with Walmart) and United Way of Greater Cleveland.