Posted by Michael Ibanez

financial literacyThe need for Americans to change financial habits has gained attention in the past decade with the recent consumer credit crunch and "great recession" that left millions in endless uncertainty. In April 2010, President Barack Obama declared the month of April "Financial Literacy Month" and called "upon all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices."

At the JF&CS Center for Family Assistance we see financial literacy as an essential part of our overall, holistic approach to working with clients. When families struggle to overcome emergency financial situations, or seek to improve their financial future, we are able to provide an array of services such as financial grants, interest free loans, assistance in accessing public benefits, and individual financial coaching and group workshops to address each family's unique needs.

For those who are looking to change their financial ways, it can be helpful to have a financial literacy coach. Although addressing a client's desires and needs and creating a plan on paper are crucial first steps, the meaningful work begins when a client transforms their desires on paper into actual changes. Identifying the changes that need to be made and actually making those changes are two very different things. Whether the change involves a client calling his cable provider to simplify his subscription, opening a bank account, applying for public benefits, speaking to a harassing creditor, cutting frivolous expenses from a budget, or other similar actions, the client is creating a platform that will allow for greater changes to come.

To ensure that our clients are provided with the knowledge and resources needed to make a change, I work with them on an ongoing basis. Assisting in creating weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual budgets that have realistic goals, providing additional resources, in addition to the emotional support needed during this process, are all part of my work to continually motivate clients toward success. Success is one of those things that often doesn't occur overnight, but at the same time, with the right support and tools, the sky can be the limit.

Michael IbanezMichael Ibanez is the Financial Literacy Specialist with the JF&CS Center for Family Assistance. Michael came to JF&CS from AmeriCorps Financial Support Services, providing financial coaching primarily for individuals with disabilities. He is currently in his fourth year serving as a volunteer through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and earned a bachelors degree in accounting from UMass Amherst in 2010.