For clients in a Compass FSS program, the work of becoming more financially secure and making progress toward your financial goals can sometimes feel like something you’re doing all on your own. While a financial coach is there to be a consistent voice of encouragement, clarity, and support, it can also make a real difference when clients have the opportunity to support and learn from one another.
Over the past several months, Christine Torres, a financial coach at Bay Meadow Apartments in Springfield, MA, has been trying out a new idea to build community among her clients in the FSS program. At the property – which is owned and managed by our partners at Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) – Christine has hosted quarterly “gatherings” as a space where clients can connect with one another, celebrate their progress, share what they are learning, and explore a specific financial topic together.
For Christine, the gatherings are all about finding new ways to connect clients with the information they’re looking for to guide their financial decisions, and finding ways to help clients more deeply engage with the program. At the first gathering last fall, clients talked about their plans to navigate the holidays. While the holidays can be a special time, they also can bring stress and wreak havoc on even the best laid financial plans – for any family, but particularly for families with low incomes. At this gathering, clients talked about strategies for getting ahead and avoiding the stress and the pressure to spend, and played an online simulation game called “Spent” to see how spending decisions can impact long-term goals.
At the second gathering, in January, clients talked about goal-setting for the new year. Clients created “vision boards” using cut-outs from magazines, as a tool to be able to visualize their goals until they are able to make them a reality. Children and other family members even joined in the fun! While building their boards, clients also began to share with and learn from one another – about their goals and visions for the future, and some of the strategies and techniques that have been most helpful to them in getting to where they are so far in the program.
We spoke with four FSS clients at Bay Meadow who attended one or both of these gatherings. Here is some of what each of them had to say about the experience:
Luz Ramos, who is working toward her goal of owning her own home: “I am so blessed to have Christine on my side. Every time she has a gathering I make sure to go. Not only do we have a good time, but I also get to meet all the residents that are trying to do what I’m doing. This FSS program is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Roslyn Drummer, who is working on improving her credit, saving money, and being able to buy her own home: “Christine throws these gatherings to further us along. Everyone shares about their experience and talks about the goals they’ve been working on. She knows that some people are shy and maybe don’t want to talk about money, but Christine has a lovely personality that brings out things in people. The program really works. I’ve been in it for three years, and evidently it’s working because the majority of us that are there at these gatherings started out together with the FSS program and we’re trying to complete our goals.”
Laconia Fennell, who is working to improve her credit and saving for a house, and who also recently reached her goal of purchasing a car after the transmission went on her old one: “I heard about the gatherings in a meeting with Christine. It was a vision-board workshop. I’m a single mom and I don’t have a babysitter, but I was able to bring my son and he did his vision board while I did mine. It’s good to be around people who are like-minded and want to strive for better and reaching their goals. Putting things on paper, making it visual, really helps get things done.”
Jennifer Alleyne, whose big goal is to buy a house: “Not only do these gatherings bring our community together, but they encouraged all of us even more to make it to the next meeting and our next coaching appointment. Christine’s vision board idea was awesome. I had so many visions on my vision board that I had to get another board. I couldn’t finish everything in one session! Now it’s something I can look at and look forward to on a daily basis, and work toward to reach them.”