New research suggests that financial coaching can help low- and middle-income families in a lasting way.
Citi Foundation and NeighborWorks America on Tuesday reported the findings of the Financial Capability Demonstration Project, a $5 million, 2.5-year initiative begun in mid-2010.
The initiative significantly expanded the number of financial capability programs and practitioners that provide low- and moderate-income people with financial education, coaching and planning services needed to allow families nationwide to build savings, pay down debt and better manage their finances throughout their lives.
The report compared clients' financial status at the start of coaching with their status after coaching was under way:
- 97% of participants who didn't understand a credit report gained that knowledge
- 54% of clients who started with no savings had some savings after participation in coaching, resulting in median savings of $668
- 48% of clients with savings at the start of the project increased that amount over time, with a median increase of $938
- 55% of clients who had unsecured debt when they began coaching decreased the amount of that debt, with a median decrease of $3,005
- 47% of clients raised their credit scores over the course of the project, with a mean increase of 59 points
- 67% of participants were women, 51% of whom increased their credit scores while 39% of males did so
- 58% of clients who had 10 or more months in coaching increased their credit scores, while 29% with less than five months were able to do so.
To achieve the project’s goals, NeighborWorks America and the Citi Foundation supported access to training courses for 1,500 practitioners to increase their knowledge in creating and delivering effective financial capability and financial coaching programs.
In addition, over a two-year period, the partners provided grant support and an integrated set of training, technical assistance, peer learning and evaluation services to a learning cohort of 30 nonprofit organizations that were initiating new or scaling existing financial coaching programs.
The report recommended including financial coaching in a broad range of related services to effectively reach and retain clients and build financial security, such as human services, workforce development, foreclosure mitigation programs and individual development accounts.
It also advised strengthening the effect of consumer information mandates by linking information on coaching resources to education materials related to credit reporting, student loan educational materials and other financial issues.
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