The Moment of (Financial) Empowerment

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting down and working with my first client as a Financial Empowerment Coach. The first thing I noticed when my client sat down was how tired she seemed. Not tired in the “I didn’t get enough sleep last night” sense, but rather tired in the “I’m tired of spinning my wheels and getting nowhere” sense. After having fought an uphill battle with Payday lenders, my client was tired.

As our conversation began, she unloaded some of the things within her financial life that have been causing her stress. And, as she shared some of these stressful factors with me, I could watch her tiredness turning into to determination, determination to not only end the financial troubles that she is currently experiencing, but to work hard to continue to better her financial situation so that she will never have to feel this way again. It was this sign of determination that showed me how willing she was to absorb any advice I could give her, and use any tools that I might provide her with.

That was when our meeting took a turn. No longer was she interested in talking about the past, now she was interested in solutions. As soon as I could pull a worksheet from my toolkit she would begin filling it out. Working out exactly how much she would need to use from each paycheck to pay down her debt. Calculating exactly when each account would be paid in full and how much more she could then pay towards other accounts. Like almost any situation that takes time to get into, repairing our financial situations takes time, and this situation was no different. But, at the end of our meeting, I believe my client was prepared to take the steps to fix her situation. Not only did she leave the meeting determined and hopeful rather than tired, she left with a plan.

The most interesting part of this all to me is that all I did was first listen to the events that have led to her being in this predicament, and next provided the tools she needed to dig herself out. Once I did these two things, she got to work. I am very excited to be able to experience this ‘moment of empowerment’ many more times throughout my service year, and I am even more grateful to be able to help people get their lives back on track and move forward towards their goals.

By: Marshall Averill, AmeriCorps Financial Empowerment Coach at United Way of Washtenaw County

Learn more about our Financial Stability Work at United Way.