The Goal of United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley’s Income Initiative is to see that disadvantaged families in the Chippewa Valley achieve financial stability and economic independence. To this end, the Income Advisory Council is creating a strategic plan called Financial Stability Partnership that is focusing on financial literacy and gainful employment.
UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUES
Employment is the foundation of financial stability. Families need a steady source of income that covers the cost of basic necessities before they can achieve long-term financial goals. In 2010, 14% of Chippewa Valley households earned less than $15,000, and 27% earned less than $25,000 (this is only 8% above the federal poverty level for a family of four). Although these families, and others who make up to 200% of federal poverty guidelines may qualify for some assistance programs, they still struggle to afford food, rent, childcare, and transportation, and have little (if anything) left over for saving and investing. According to the 2009-2011 American Community Survey, almost 9600 Chippewa Valley families (24%) earned below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Those who seek employment face many obstacles. For example: there is limited support available for the working poor, who make too much money to qualify for government assistance, even though they may still be struggling to make ends meet. Also, there are limited services available to help disadvantaged workers gain the necessary skills and training to obtain employment that pays family-sustaining wages. Understanding and addressing these obstacles is critical to providing people with the skills and supports they need to succeed. These obstacles include:
- Lack of Access and Industry-Specific Skills
- Lack of soft-skills
- critical thinking/problem solving skills
- professionalism and work ethic
- information technology application
- Inadequate academic and workplace competencies
- Lack of Financial Assistance and Other Supports that Facilitate Education, Training and Employment
Basic financial skills are critical to building a stable financial future, but many people lack these skills. A 2012 survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling revealed that a significant number of American adults are spending more, saving less, and carrying credit card debt forward from month-to-month:
- Two in five gave themselves a C, D, or F on their knowledge of personal finance
- 56% admitted that they did not have a budget
- One-third (more than 77 million) did not pay all of their bills on time
- 39% carried credit card debt over from month-to-month
- Two in five indicated that they were saving less than they were one year ago
- 39% did not have any non-retirement savings, and 25% of those indicated that, if they did begin to save, they would keep their savings at home in cash
Early education on financial literacy is critical, and the role of parent to provide guidance and set an example is key. Another report (Charles Schwab’s 2008 “Parents & Money”) reinforces parental concerns related to money management and their children:
- Only about 34% of parents have taught their teen how to balance a checkbook, and less than that has explained how credit card interest and fees work
- 93% of American parents with teenagers report worrying that their children might make financial missteps such as: overspending or living beyond their means
- About 69% of parents admit to feeling less prepared to give their teenager guidance about investing than they do having the ‘sex talk’ with them
Many experts agree that people are suffering because they lack financial literacy skills. Susan C. Keating, President and CEO of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling sums up the above statistic well by saying, “The need for an increase in financial education [is] not only clear, but urgent."
FINANCIAL STABILITY PARTNERSHIP
The Financial Stability Partnership will engage a variety of community organizations to help families meet their basic needs, while gaining the financial capability to achieve their long-term financial goals. This begins by having stable, adequate income and access to other financial supports.
Disadvantaged families in the Chippewa Valley achieve financial stability and economic independence.
The target population for this plan is Chippewa Valley residents, from middle school through approximately age 45. Reasoning:
- Financial literacy and employment-related training for youth and young adults sets them on a path for life-long success.
- Adults through age 45 are most likely to be supporting non-adult children, therefore, their employment benefits the whole family, setting an example for their children and helping bring them out of poverty.
Based on the information collected and reviewed, the Income Advisory Council prioritized the following issues and primary barriers to be addressed in this plan:
- Financial literacy
- Skill assessment and training
- Training and employment opportunities for young people
- Collaboration/coordination between organizations/businesses
Key Barriers to Education, Training and Employment
- Reliable, affordable transportation
- Reliable, affordable child care
- Work ethic, perceptions, and rising cost of living for the younger generation
Disadvantaged families will have:
- A steady source of income, that allows them to meet basic needs and increase disposable income;
- The general education and soft skills needed to obtain gainful employment;
- The job skills needed to further their careers; and
- Effective personal money management skills.