Category: Financial Stability

CommunityTHRIVE Offers Spanish Courses

Just a few months ago, United Way for Greater Austin announced the launch of a new initiative within our Financial Stability work called CommunityTHRIVE. CommunityTHRIVE provides financial education classes, coaching and community resources in partnership with the City of Austin Neighborhood Centers and Goodwill. Paola Silvestre-Leveck is Goodwill’s new financial literacy trainer for the CommunityTHRIVE program at the Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center. Thanks to Paola and continued collaboration between UWATX and Goodwill, we are excited to now be able to offer these important classes to Spanish speakers in addition to the already existing English classes. Paola earned her Business Administration degree and previously worked in investment for several years. Before her time at Goodwill, she worked as a legal assistant and business plan consultant for an immigration law firm in Austin. She has worked at Goodwill for three months and has already taught roughly 40 financial classes. Each week at various Goodwill locations, she teaches eight classes and in addition, she works with UWATX to provide three classes for the CommunityTHRIVE program and two for the City of Austin. “People usually have a lot of misconceptions regarding credit reports and credit scores, so majority of the questions surround those two topics,” Paola said. “The challenges are to not only convey financial information, but ensure that the topics are not confusing and that the client does not feel bored throughout the training.” The CommunityTHRIVE classes cover budgeting, savings, credit and financial recovery. In addition, Paola created specific modules that fulfill specific client […]

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Two-Gen Programs Aim to Break Cycle of Poverty

At United Way for Greater Austin, we focus on wrapping our arms around entire families and fighting the root causes of poverty. A family living in poverty rarely struggles with only one factor causing their situation, and therefore cannot rise out of poverty by only receiving one type of aid or only one person in the family receiving help. As an example, let’s say Diane is a single mom of three children. Diane is working fulltime making minimum wage during the day and also has a side job at night to make extra money. She must pay for childcare for her youngest child during the weekdays, and is having trouble making ends meet to pay the rent, put food on the table and clothing on her children’s backs. She has no opportunity for promotion at work as she only speaks Spanish and only has her GED. As a result, she is also struggling with depression and feels she has no support. Her oldest child watches the other two after school, and he is struggling with grades and never has time or help with his homework because of this. If Diane receives one service, such as food stamps, this will help her put food on the table—but the fact remains that the family is still unable to be lifted out of poverty due to the variety of other factors affecting them. This is where two-generation, or “two-gen,” programs come into play. Many programs focus solely on low-income children or low-income adults, […]

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April is Financial Literacy Month

What does financial literacy mean to you? Is it knowing how to do your taxes, budgeting well enough to have extra spending money each month, paying off your loans in a certain time or simply having a bank account? There are many free resources available online on a wide range of financial topics; all you need to do is take the time to look and educate yourself. UWATX has many resources available on our own website including: Bank Locator Tool Answer a few questions to find the perfect bank or credit union for you, complete with locations to help you get started. Financial Toolkits Our toolkit contains tips and worksheets on the following topics: Filing taxes How to repair your credit and manage debt Everything you need to know before you take out a loan How to open a bank account and set up direct deposit Financial Classes Locator Check out free upcoming financial classes near you to improve your skills. Additionally, check out these other great resources to meet your financial literacy goals: 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy 360 Degrees of Financial literacy is a national volunteer effort from America’s Certified Public Accountants to help residents understand their personal finances and develop money management skills. It focuses on financial education as a lifelong endeavor and contains tips dependent on your current situation, whether you’re a college student, young couple, divorced, etc. They have a huge range of topics covered from caring for aging parents, investing basics, sudden wealth, saving for […]

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UWATX Launches CommunityTHRIVE

United Way for Greater Austin recently launched a new initiative within our Financial Stability work called CommunityTHRIVE. CommunityTHRIVE provides financial education classes, coaching and community resources in partnership with the City of Austin Neighborhood Centers and Goodwill. Connie is an engaged community member at the Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center who participated in the first CommunityTHRIVE class series we just wrapped up. She also volunteers at R-Z food distributions and serves on the advisory board at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center next door, advocating for programs and trips for her peers. She is a recent retiree adjusting to living on a fixed income, adding new financial difficulties to her life. CommunityTHRIVE is a four class series on budgets, debt, credit and saving open to community members at the City of Austin’s Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center. Participants are also supported with one-0n-one financial coaching and incentives from the food bank for participation. In partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank, we are able to offer participants completing the CommunityTHRIVE classes a “food scholarship.” Participants earn a certificate in class which they can redeem for an extra basket of fresh food at several local pantries. We asked Connie about her experience in the CommunityTHRIVE classes. What was your experience like with CommunityTHRIVE? What did you learn? “It was a positive experience overall. It gave me a lot of validation. I got lots of tips on how what I’m doing could work better.” Connie really liked the handouts she received in the class, including sample budget sheets, how […]

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Texas Ranks 41st in Assets & Opportunity

The 2016 CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard was recently released. CFED is the Corporation For Enterprise Development, an organization that works to create pathways for financial security and opportunity on a local, state and federal level. The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard ranks each state’s residents on five categories: financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, housing and home ownership, health care and education. Within each category are multiple subcategories, such as banking, net income, unemployment rate, low-wage jobs, foreclosure rates and more. Here are a few highlights from this year’s Texas scorecard; to read rankings, 1st is better in terms of economic opportunities for residents while 51st is worst (District of Columbia included as a state in survey): Financial Assets and Income Unbanked and underbanked households 10.4% of Texas households are unbanked while 27.4% are underbanked. “Unbanked” means a household does not have a checking or savings account, while “underbanked” households may have accounts but still rely on payday loans, pawn shops or money orders to get the money they need when they need it. Nationwide, 7.7% of households are unbanked while 20% are underbanked; this puts Texas ranking 41st in unbanked households and 50th in underbanked households–nearly the worst in the nation. Income poverty rate The income poverty rate is the number of households living below the federal poverty threshold. 15.7% of Texas households live in poverty, putting the state in 37th place. The average in the U.S. is 14.5%. Businesses and Jobs Low-wage jobs The low-wage jobs rating measures the number […]

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Get Tax Prep Help for FREE

It’s the beginning of that time of the year again — tax season. Filing your taxes is not always a fun, but no need to worry, there are tax prep and filling services for qualifying (if you make less than $50,000 a year) individuals and families, available at no cost. United Way for Greater Austin’s vision is to create a thriving community for all, so with the help of Foundation Communities, we have complied a list of FREE tax preparation and filing services around town that can help make filing your taxes less stressful: South Austin Community Financial Center – 2600 West Stassney Lane, Austin, TX 78745 (corner of Stassney and West Gate) – 1st floor. Services available January 14th through April 18th. IDEA Allan – 1701 Vargas Road, Austin, TX 78741. Services available January 26th through April 18th. East Austin Lifeworks East Office – 835 N. Pleasant Valley Rd., Austin, TX 78702 – 1st floor. Services available January 19th through April 18th. Round Rock Round Rock Public Library – 216 E. Main Street, Round Rock, TX 78664 – Computer Lab. Services available January 20th through April 18th. North Austin Community Financial Center – 5900 Airport Blvd., Austin, TX, 78752. Services available January 16th through April 18th. Asian American Resource Center – 8401 Cameron Road, Austin, TX, 78754. Services available January 27th through April 18th. How to schedule an appointment? You will soon be able to schedule an appointment for tax preparation – stay updated by visiting the Foundation Communities tax prep page. […]

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Two-Generation Pilot Project Shows ESL As Biggest Need

Ascend is a policy program of The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization that aims to pass on economic security and educational success from one generation to another. They emphasize a two-generation approach in every thing they do, meaning that they want to create opportunities for both the parent and child living in disadvantaged situations. UWATX received a grant from The Aspen Institute Ascend Fund in order to develop and test a two-gen pilot project of our own. United Way for Greater Austin engaged two researchers from the University of Texas’s Ray Marshall Center to measure impact through an evaluation that used multiple methodologies, including participant focus groups, individual interviews, surveys and pre- and post-skill tests. At the onset of the pilot, UWATX met with community partners to discuss project strategies to test an adult education care model for parents with children already engaged in high-quality early education. With Austin Independent School District (AISD) and Uphaus Early Childhood Center, UWATX developed an outreach plan to reach potential participants. After several weeks of dedicated outreach, UWATX reached over 100 parents and learned some valuable lessons. Over half of respondents cited English as their primary need and interest. Those who were interested, qualified and eligible for job training had diverse interests, making it difficult to form a cohort. At the same time, UWATX learned most of the job training families had reliable transportation and could access the existing training centers, while the Spanish-speaking families struggled with isolation. All of this […]

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Decker Students Learn About Financial Stability with Chase Volunteers

Getting students thinking about making financial decisions at such a young age can be a challenge, but having knowledgeable and friendly volunteers makes it much easier! “Camp Raven” is UWATX’s free summer enrichment program at Decker Middle School, where each week students learn about an issue affecting their community and complete related educational activities with volunteers. Last week, seven Chase volunteers dedicated a total of 27 hours of their time at Camp Raven, where they led financial literacy games and activities for the campers. “ I chose to spend the most on food and healthcare because taking good care of my children is the most important thing to me.” — Kevin, 7th grade student There were two exercises that the children and volunteers participated in, a market simulation exercise and a budgeting exercise. The market simulation exercise was completed using food items such as fruit snacks, mints and juice that had different values. The students were divided into assigned groups and were classified as either buyers or sellers. Sellers had to come up with a price and strategy on how to sell their “products” for the greatest amount of dollars and create ads with the product information. The buyers group made transactions using fake money based on what the advertised prices were. Following the activity, students discussed what they learned in regards to their money making decisions. The budgeting activity taught the children how to budget their candy “money” by allocating them into realistic categories. Each student based their budgeting decisions on the idea […]

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Easy Ways to Save Money During the Summer

With Austin being America’s fastest-growing city, this means more energy consumption occurs, which is why it is crucial that we all work to minimize our household energy usage during the hot summer months. Many of us come home from a long day and immediately lower the thermostat without thinking of the consequences this might have on our bills and environment. Summer can be a very expensive time of the year. According to Austin Energy, air conditioning represents up to 70% of the average home’s summer electricity bill. Air conditioning may be the largest slice of the electricity bill pie, but other components like energy-powered light fixtures and heat-powered appliances, such as washers and dryers, are also important to consider when thinking about your summertime energy consumption and bills. On average, a U.S. household spends $5,550 a year on energy—this is a serious concern considering 21% of Austinites have incomes below $25,000 a year. Knowing how to be energy-efficient not only helps the environment and economy, but will also help save you money. Here are some simple tips to help you save this summer:  78 Is the Magic Number Turning off your thermostat during the summer forces your air conditioning unit to work long and hard when you return. When you are home, you should set your thermostat to 78 degrees. According to Austin Energy, your bill increase by 3 to 4% for each degree lower than 78. If you have a programmable thermostat, you have a bit more flexibility and can store and repeat multiple daily settings, which […]

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