The Importance of Financial Independence
This July as America celebrates its freedom and independence, we celebrate our members' efforts to ensure that job seekers are equipped with the right tools in their journey toward financial freedom. The Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN) fosters the creation and growth of community-based organizations that assist individuals to secure and maintain employment. Our members recognize that for their clients, getting the job is the first hurdle. Keeping the job, becoming debt free and ultimately saving for retirement is as important. Member agencies like WHW (Women Helping Women/Men2Work) in California, Career Wardrobe in Philadelphia, Bottomless Closet in New York, among many, all host workshops and events and leverage corporate partnerships to ensure that all clients are financially literate. Financial literacy is another key to breaking the cycle of poverty most of Americans face.
Not an Easy Process
Matthew Frankel of The Motley Fool said that "according to the Federal Reserve nearly half of Americans couldn't cover a $400 emergency expense without borrowing or selling something. More than half have less than one month's worth of income...” Financial literacy classes teach people to make smart financial decisions. Our clients learn to create budgets and to begin saving for emergencies and retirement. This is not by any means an easy process, but Investopedia.com stated that "financial literacy...can lead the way to a global economy that is competitive and strong." We applaud our members’ efforts to ensure that their clients are empowered to make these important financial decisions once a steady paycheck comes in.
Bottomless Closet's Financial Management Series teaches basic money management skills as well as retirement planning, paying for school and most importantly understanding credit/FICO scores. Clients are reimbursed for credit report expenses and then sit with industry professionals to understand their scores and create actionable goals to decrease debt and communicate with creditors. The confidence this gives clients is staggering, they leave the workshops feeling energized and unafraid to work through what for some amounts to very large amounts of debt.
NerdWallet says that "The average U.S. household with debt carries $15,762 in credit card debt and $130,922 in total debt.” At Bottomless Closet clients encourage each other, cheering each other on as they cut up credit cards that are paid off. Many clients are well on their way toward financial freedom. Some have already cleared thousands of dollars in debt. One client, Ala, said she "grew up in a different country, a different culture... [and she] did not understand the relationship between credit cards and credit scores..." With the help of Bottomless Closet's Financial Management Series, Ala became debt free and later purchased her own home. Another client, Annie, was able to save enough money to go from living in a shelter to a one-bedroom apartment. Watch Annie’s story here.
The University of Minnesota urges employers to invest in financial education for employees as well. In the same vein, ACDN members leverage corporate and nonprofit partners to reach their community. WHW is making their services (including their financial literacy workshops) available to their surrounding communities via their WOW (Workshops on Wheels) program. WHW believes that the financial literacy workshops enable those in transition to employment to "assess their current financial situation and identity ways to increase income and decrease and prioritize expenses." They connect with local job developers and nonprofits to travel to their locations to teach their workshops. Read more about their efforts here.
Career Wardrobe works with Clarifi, a non-profit community resource devoted to Lifelong Financial Literacy to equip Career Wardrobe’s clients with the necessary skills like “how to handle their money in the best possible way, how to avoid finance charges and other money sucks, and go over basic budgeting techniques. Clarifi also offers clients a workshop on the psychology of spending and gives clients a free one-on-one financial planning session. This level of community involvement will in fact ensure that all of our members have the resources to support job seekers as they transition to work. Learn more at https://clarifi.org/education.
These workshops help knock hurdles, previously thought as insurmountable, out of the way with adequate training and support. This July join us in celebrating our members and their efforts to ensure that all their clients experience the freedom from financial burdens and achieve self-sufficiency.
In 1999, five nonprofit Executive Directors across the United States decided to leverage their collective knowledge and experience to create The Women’s Alliance (TWA) and provide a greater impact and support for small, independent nonprofits providing work clothes and interview clothes to women seeking economic independence and leaving welfare. In hopes of broadening the work begun 15 years ago, in 2014 TWA became the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN) to include career development organizations that serve men and teens. Today ACDN supports over 23 nonprofits around the country with combined budgets of over $5,000,000. Learn more.
Contributed by Gineyda Diaz, Bottomless Closet Operations Director and ACDN Board Member