“Making many small changes financially can result in great change over time and provide hope.” This is just one of many conclusions that AmeriCorps VISTA Christine Shanklin has arrived at during her VISTA term at Catholic Charities in Portland, Oregon, where she is helping expand their Financial Coaching program.
Christine’s VISTA term has helped extend the coaching program to volunteer financial mentors to the low-income populations that Catholic Charities serves. These volunteer financial coaches meet one-on-one with a client for a minimum of three months to help him or her reach their financial goals.
“Research has shown that building assets is essential for individuals and families to move out of poverty,” said Christine. “Living on a budget can be very difficult, and a coach offers the extra support and accountability a client needs.”
Catholic Charities offers an array of services to working poor, unemployed or underemployed populations, including services handling domestic violence, housing and homeless support, immigration, pregnancy and adoption support, refugee resettlement, and asset development.
Christine sees financial services as being especially important to those living in poverty, since “school systems fall short of educating students about money management, and parents often do not teach their children about money either,” said Christine. “While financial planning has been around for the middle class, financial coaching is an emerging model for low-income populations and I hope it will spread throughout Oregon.”
She was drawn to this project for several reasons, but largely she was motivated by the importance and practicality behind money management, particularly for those who are struggling financially. Now that she is more than halfway through her year, Christine has been able to learn how “people relate to their money differently based on their childhood and personality, the type of financial situations low-income families can struggle with, and how our values can be tied to money.”
With just four more months to go, Christine hopes to apply the knowledge she has earned to a career in direct service or case management after her year with AmeriCorps ends.