How Rachel uses financial coaching to help women at Vermont Works for Women

Rachel, the Job Developer at Vermont Works for Women, was recently certified as a K.E.E.P. Financial Coach. As part of the economic stability work that she does, Rachel helps women improve their resumes, as well as set and plan for career goals, but recently she was asked to present to a group of women at a domestic violence shelter here in Northern Vermont about money management basics. The women in the group all live together at the shelter and are comfortable and familiar with one another so discussing finances was something they felt able to do together. Rachel decided to use her Financial Coaching skills to help them build skills and learn new tools during her time with them.

For many women domestic abuse and financial abuse often go together. Some of the women in attendance had left difficult circumstances with little or no money because their former partner had emptied their shared bank accounts. Circumstances like these make financial conversations even more difficult because of the strong emotions associated with money.

For the workshop, Rachel set her own goal of sharing some of the basic money-management skills she had learned in becoming a K.E.E.P. Financial Coach:

  • Using a cash-flow spending plan and scheduling bills/expenses to line up with income so you can make it through the month
  • Tracking expenses in order to know where your money is going
  • Saving money for emergencies with a goal of $500
  • Plugging spending leaks, exercising mindfulness around spending, and looking to reduce, not necessarily eliminate, certain spending
  • Making SMART financial goals

Many of the participants had never heard of SMART goal setting. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound and is used in financial coaching to break down a big goal (I want to buy a house) into smaller goals that work toward that end (I want to raise my credit score 50 points by next May).

One participant was hoping to get her own apartment and the group workshopped her goal to help her break it down into smaller SMART goals with deadlines. They determined how much she would need to save each week, how she was going to logistically make sure that the money was saved – would she put cash aside in an envelope? Open a separate savings account? Could she have a portion of her paycheck automatically deposited? Did she have to visit the bank each week? In the end, the woman left with a step-by-step plan that was tailored to her specific needs, habits, and life, and she knew exactly how she was going to save up for an apartment.

Rachel was glad to see the women each considering how the different skills and tools she brought could make a difference in their specific circumstances.

As a coach, Rachel plans to continue to use these tools with the women she sees one-on-one and other small groups that Vermont Works for Women assists.

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How Financial Coaching helps Faye’s clients improve access to healthy food!

Faye works for the Vermont Foodbank as a 3SquaresVT Outreach Coordinator. In her role she assists Vermonters in completing the 3SVT (formerly SNAP/food stamps) application and advocates for them through the process, she also works to ensure Vermonters are receiving the full 3SVT benefit they’re entitled to. Recently the Vermont Foodbank noticed that there were far fewer Vermonters over 60 enrolled in the program than are eligible. Closing this gap is a focus of Faye’s work.

After Faye joined the K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching Program she wondered how to integrate her new coaching and financial skills into her job. While working with a couple who, at first, seemed like they were ineligible for 3SquaresVT, she realized exactly how Financial Coaching could help her clients. Because of her experience with the intricacies of the 3SVT application process, Faye knew that her clients’ out-of-pocket medical expenses made a difference in their eligibility. While her clients had used budgeting for their monthly bills, they did not keep track of their out-of-pocket medical expenses. When she asked, they did not know whether they were spending $35 or more each month on out-of-pocket medical expenses. Faye realized that she could use her Financial Coaching skills to help this couple budget and track these expenses to ensure that they had the information they needed when it was time to apply for 3SVT.

Faye helped them to create a budget and tracking process for their medical expenses. By working with Faye the couple realized that they were spending above the $35 threshold. By tracking their expenses saving the documentation needed to back up their tracking, they were able to apply and become enrolled in 3SquaresVT. Now they receive over $100 per month in food assistance that they would not have been able to receive if Faye had not been a financial coach and used her in-depth knowledge of the 3SVT application process to find a way to help this couple get the additional food they need.

K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching is a Green Mountain United Way program that trains and supports financial coaches who are client-facing staff in nonprofit and community service agencies throughout our region. These coaches work directly with clients on many issues and as coaches can address financial issues to help address the financial instability at the core of many challenges that clients and community members face.

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