Written by Kristi Quinn, Administrative Assistant at JFCS
Last month, Bellarmine University hosted Louisville’s fourth Financial Empowerment Summit. Which brought together local and national speakers, community leaders, service providers, and nonprofits and financial institutions eager to help individuals and families improve their financial well-being. The Summit was presented by Metro United Way and Louisville Metro Community Services. Everyone in attendance overwhelmingly emphasized the need for financial education as the key to overall empowerment. Near the end of the summit, I glanced at the table next to me as a raffle prize was announced and did a double-take. I knew I recognized her face, even though I’d only met her once; it was a former JFCS IDA program participant, Shalonda. I smiled and approached her afterward to say hello. The first thing I asked her was, “How’s the new house?”
I am proud to help administer the Individual Development Account (IDA) program* at JFCS, which is a matched savings program designed to empower lower-income individuals and families by saving towards asset purchases like post-secondary education, a small business, or a first home. A participant’s savings are matched by the federal government and employers or private entities. As part of the program, they are required to participate in financial fitness training. The ability to purchase these assets provides the stepping stones to financial empowerment and wealth-building.
Shalonda learned of the IDA program through the Family Scholar House. She opened her IDA account in 2015 and saved for over a year to meet her goal, depositing money monthly into her account and even putting away some of her tax return (a smart option which not enough Americans take advantage). While saving she participated in financial education classes, where the invaluable information she gained has become part of her lifestyle. She learned how to budget her spending and understood the significant correlation between paying bills on time and increasing her credit score. First-time homebuyer classes also prepared her for her purchase and guided Shalonda through the process from mortgage pre-approval to closing. Even though we had only corresponded by phone and email for many months, when Shalonda came to JFCS a few months ago to complete paperwork, I told her how proud I was and asked her to take some pictures of her new home for us.
Fast-forward a few months later to the Financial Empowerment Summit at Bellarmine. Shalonda had an air of confidence around her; one that comes from achieving a significant accomplishment. She showed me a picture holding her keys at closing, beaming with pride. Afterward, I kept thinking about Shalonda and how inspiring it was to see a participant come full circle. She utilized our services to save in her IDA account, gained financial knowledge through classes, purchased a home. Now, through her job, she was learning about new resources and ideas to help her clients achieve their own financial independence and empowerment.
She is paying it forward. Her advice to those currently participating in the IDA program is to focus on your savings and stick to your goals. Keeping her goals at the front of her mind was a huge factor in completing her savings and making her purchase. Her favorite quote by Conrad Hilton exemplifies what this program is all about: “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
The IDA Program at JFCS is just one way we help members of our community achieve financial empowerment. The education and tools our clients learn will last a lifetime, and the pride that comes with purchasing a home, graduating from college, or starting your own business is unmatched. We wish Shalonda and all of our other IDA participants the best as they embark on their new financial journeys.
*Our IDA program is offered to refugees who have been in the US for less than five years, employees of Norton Healthcare, Trilogy Health Services, and Magnolia Springs, and residents of Family Scholar House. Income and net worth eligibility requirements must also be met. For more information on the IDA program, please contact Kristi Quinn at 502-452-6341 ext. 257 or [email protected].