Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From Client Turned Success Coach, the Story of New Century IDA Success Coach Jackie Baldwin

To the single mom, single dad,  the couple, to the young, & the old whom desires to be a homeowner: IDA is the doorway to a new beginning. ~Jackie Baldwin

ESR/IDA Success Coach,
Jackie Baldwin
 Ms. Baldwin was a client of Experiment in Self Reliance’s (ESR) Self Sufficiency Program, and a yearly participant of ESR’s EITC tax program when she gained knowledge of the New Century IDA 1st time Homeowners program, and immediately looked into it and applied. One of her dreams has always been to become a homeowner, but she thought this was something she needed a husband for; dual income. Despite her preconceived notions of needing a husband in order to buy a house, she excitedly applied and in December 2007, she became a proud homeowner. She is now also an employee of ESR’s team as an IDA Success Coach, who helps countless clients achieve their dreams of homeownership.

Jackie has always prided herself in taking care of her household, while raising her three teenage daughters.  Even prior to IDA participation, she believed in paying rent on time and maintaining her credit. She came into the program with minimal debt and no collections. She had the support of IDA, her daughters, and her friends and family to assist in the process of making this dream come true.

When she sets her mind to something, she follows through. “I didn’t talk about it,” said Jackie, rather she “dug heels in, and set the calendar to accommodate the new schedule of  the IDA curriculum, and to soak up all the knowledge and education they were offering.” Even though Jackie already had good credit and was paying her bills on time, she learned a lot about credit and homeownership through the economic literacy classes. She wanted to know not only how to get into a house, but how to stay in it as well. The financial literacy classes and the monthly required meeting with her success coach were the required tools for people in all stages of credit and savings. Simply said, IDA fully equips one for what is needed to know about purchasing a home. For Jackie, each class brought her closer to her dream and her “ears were ringing with excitement.”

Jackie attended Financial Literacy classes and meeting with her success coach, in addition to being a full time mom, full time employee, and attending evening and weekend college courses at Winston-Salem State University. “It was a plateful”, she explained, but this was her and her children’s dream and she was going to accomplish this. She had the determination and peace of mind to persevere and reach her dream of homeownership. When praised for her determination and success, she immediately points out that there are so many people that have done this before her so she knows that she can also obtain her goal as well.

Although she described her journey as exhausting, she was realistic throughout as she incorporated exercising and changing her eating habits to be able to withstand all the tasks at hand. Ms. Baldwin has a strong belief system, and as a believer she also makes time for church and prayer. Her relationship with Christ was and remains her strength. She relied on friends and family heavily to help with her children. She spoke of how she  mothered  her children over the phone, giving advice and listening to a little sibling rivalry in between classes. Fortunately her girls were as focused on schooling as she was. They were great students and were a great encouragement to her as well, challenging her to make Dean’s list as they made honor roll.

Successful graduates of the program time and again share how they involved their children in the home-buying process. Jackie explained that it has a “trickle down” effect within the family.  By including her children in this process, she put the ball in their hands by reminding them that “they” were buying a home and change had to take place with everyone. With her family, they each sacrificed by not eating out, and doing each other’s hair and nails. She asked them, “How are we going to achieve this goal?” They also rented movies instead of going, cut down cable, and got over not having a summer vacation. Instead, everyone had a summer job. Cell phones were not as a necessity as they thought.  There was always the house phone. When they did decide to treat themselves they went to the discount movie theater, and used coupons to eat out. This way she laid the responsibility in their palms- “You want your own room; this is what it’s going to take.” And despite reservations of cutting some of the luxuries which they were accustomed to, such as eating at their favorite restaurants, she learned to cook those favorite meals, and she “Turned out to be a pretty good cook after all.” :)

“If you have a desire to be a homeowner, there is no better way to be a homeowner than to be an educated homeowner.”

She really loved going to class and hearing the presenters- all of the facilitators brought interesting and fresh information to help her better her life. She stayed after class and everyone always had time for her. This experience helped her build new relationships. She could ask questions and get answers, even ones she was hesitant to ask. Everyone involved with the program had an obvious commitment to help each and every one of the clients- Jackie could feel that the staff was just as excited to teach as the students were to learn.

As for classes, she was very impressed with the Psychology of Money; the viewing of money and the reducing debt; learning about debt ratio; and she really enjoyed the Investing for the Future & 401k class. She particularly liked the latter because she has always believed in saving and preparing for the future, and this class was full of helpful info and resources and connected to the way she already lived. She has always had the heart and mind of a saver, and this course helped to further strengthen her skills. The classes supported and fostered her belief that, “It’s very important to not only live for today, but prepare for tomorrow”.

The Economic Literacy classes taught her how to accurately read a credit report. She now understands that everyone has a credit history and you need to have a relationship with your credit because, as she says, “It’s a part of me, who I am on paper.”

Her family has been extremely supportive, and they are all proud of her and her achievements. Everyone has shown their support and congratulate her efforts to stick to her goal of homeownership, staying on task, and teaching them the benefits of saving, budgeting, and the power and purpose of spending. She is passing on what she has learned about the power of controlling your spending habits- first of all to her family and to her clients. This endeavor showed her young daughters that “Yes, you can do this. Dreams can be attained with a little hard work, determination, and putting things into perspective. Your paycheck may not change, but you can change your mind set, behaviors,  and thought process with spending.”

“This is something that has enhanced my life, and helping someone’s dream come true (is my favorite part of working here).”

Her motivation on her job as an IDA Success Coach is collaborating with her peers, and ensuring them that homeownership can be obtained. Her motto is: if you can pay rent, you can pay mortgage if that is your desire, so when they come in they embrace the same motto. Clients gain understanding of setting a goal and doing what it takes to achieve that goal. There is a starting gate and finishing gate, and to get through, they have to go through the ups and downs, behavioral changes, budgeting, couples coming together and agreeing to disagree, and putting their budgets and dreams on paper. Their eagerness inspires her to pour back into them what was poured into her. It gives her the greatest pleasure to attend a closing of a new homeowner; watching the excitement as they sign the papers and retrieve the keys to their new home, and seeing their dreams come true. It is absolutely priceless.

This program falls to first time homeowners who are apprehensive. Because of the economy they need to know there is safety in the IDA program. When these clients come to the lender they are educated, credit ready, and very excited. They have ongoing classes, and becoming a part of the IDA program ensures realtors and lenders ready clients.

Her words of encouragement to those contemplating applying to the IDA program, “Nervous is a good sign! It shows that you know this is a commitment, a lifelong commitment. It’s okay to be nervous. The sad part would be not to give it a try. Sad part would be to put your dream on the back burner.” And that, “A new class is starting in April, if that’s too soon, there are quarterly classes. And if you don’t have the best of credit, it’s our job to help you clean that up and get you ready to secure your first mortgage.”

IDA Programs Help the Entire Community:

Clients are taught financial literacy, resolve their credit issues, and through
homeownership forge a bond with their community. They are provided financial
education that helps break generational poverty

Local government and communities benefit from increased property taxes that goes
towards police, fire departments, and schools; helps in the creation of educated consumers.

Lenders, Real-Estate Agents, and Insurers are given access to a pool of mortgage
ready, and buyer educated clients.

Written by:
Andriana Bicanin
New Century IDA
IDA & Asset Building Collaborative of N.C.
Jackie Baldwin
Success Coach
New Century IDA

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stabilizing Communities

Not everyone knows what an IDA program is, or how it can help their community. IDA stands for Individual Development Account, and they are matched savings accounts that are matched either 2:1 or 6:1. That means, for every $1 the client saves, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 dollars is put into the account. The end result is a downpayment for the clients dream home.

When you hear, "We help working members of our community become first time homeowners", or "matched savings account", what is the first thing that pops in your head?

A few that are at the top of the list are:
1) "What about subprime loans?";
2) "The housing market crashed, how in the world can this help?";
3) "How do IDAs work; is it just money and houses given away?"

Well, here are the answers to all those burning questions:

1) Not a SINGLE person in the history of the New Century IDA has received a subprime loan. Clients sit with the wonderful loan counselor, Bianca Green, and discuss their options. She works with and for the clients, and always has their best interest in mind. Everyone behind the scenes have the clients interest in mind.

2) Yes, the housing market crashed, but right now is the BEST time to buy a house! Builders have built homes, but they aren't selling; there are foreclosed homes that are not bought; and prices are low. If people buy homes now they are buying them at their lowest prices, and when the market is better they have the option to sell at a higher cost.

And how can this help? How does this NOT help? Families are learning the importance of savings through the financial literacy classes. I was taught my entire life, through school, how important it is to save, but that wasn't enough- I also needed to know how to save.

Financial literacy classes teach clients how to save, cut costs, and reach their dreams. When a parent is taught how to save they pass this knowledge on to their child. Their children then use this knowledge at a young age, and they live their lives saving and spending in a responsible, financially educated manner. Even those without children pass this knowledge to family and friends. As a current client said, "The IDA program is people helping people help people".

Communities benefit from the additional taxes homeowners pay that goes to the fire department, school district, police officers, and other publicly funded institutions. Buying a home is also a process. Builders are receiving pay for building homes, lenders are used for acquiring mortgages, and then there is homeowners insurance (insurance agents receive money), and the ability for the client to spend money on their house because of their newly acquired savings knowledge, and ability to responsibly spend.

Since the inception of the New Century IDA in 1999, less than 10 people have defaulted on their mortgages, and over 440 people have successfully bought houses. The default rate is far below the national average, and those who continue to own homes also continue to reinvest in their communities through savings, responsible spending, and paying their taxes.

3) IDA's are not just money and houses given away. Clients spend months going to financial literacy classes; they are required to save $1500 of their own dollars; and they meet with their success coaches on a required, regular basis.

New Century IDA clients are single parents and couples; they are young, old, and may be hesitant to buy a home because of previous credit issues, and what they read on the news about the job and housing markets.

I recently interviewed a client turned success coach. She shared her experience as a single mother who was not only attending financial literacy classes and meeting with her success coach, but she was also attending night classes at a local University- on top of working full time. This is a normal story for New Century clients. New Century IDA clients are workers, parents, couples or single, their commonality is that they are looking to grab their piece of the American Dream, and they are working very hard to do so!

When you support the New Century IDA (and IDA programs in general), you are supporting responsible economics, breaking the cycle of poverty, and empowerment of the individual and community. Everyone walks away a winner.

Click here for more information on the New Century IDA, or peruse through this blog. You can also ‘like’ us on facebook.

Click here for more information on North Carolina IDA and asset building initiatives

Also check out Asset for Independence, and the Center for Economic Development for more information on the assets movement, and how to become a part of this innovative and life changing movement.

Andriana Bicanin
the New Century IDA, Housing Department
the IDA & Asset Building Collaborative of N.C.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

April: A Great Time for Financial Education

Years ago, the Jumpstart Coalition decided to name April as the Financial Literacy for Youth Month. In 2003, the federal government decided to take up the cause, and they put together the Financial Literacy and Education Commission. This commission is chaired by the US Treasury, and is made up of 20 other government agencies. The products of this commission are two documents that they have published: Taking Ownership of the Future: National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2006 and Promoting Financial Success in the United States: National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2011. Please keep in mind that these are only a series of goals, and they have not necessarily been accomplished.

The Commission’s 2006 “Taking Ownership of the Future” publication covered topics such as saving, homeownership, credit, consumer protection, investor protection, and K-12 financial education. It’s written on the premise that consumers must be financially educated in order to “understand how to prevent becoming involved in transactions that are financially destructive, how to avoid becoming victims of fraud, and how to exercise their consumer protection rights” (page 11).  This publication acknowledges the challenges that the public faces when it comes to the topics listed above, and then it states the government’s strategy to overcome those challenges. I find it incredibly ironic that the current economic crisis we now find ourselves in began one year later, in 2007.

The Commission’s 2011 “Promoting Financial Success in the United States” publication makes the great point that the need for financial education is more pressing than ever in this current market. “Indeed, as we have learned, the financial difficulties of individuals and families can dramatically affect the financial health of local communities and regional markets” (page 4). The goals listed in this publication include: increasing awareness of and access to financial education, identifying and improving foundational financial competencies, and sharing effective practices. These goals are very consistent with the goals listed in “Taking Ownership of the Future”.

The history of financial education started out with great intentions and goals. The government desired that all people have access to financial education, education that improved upon itself and its effectiveness. They even went so far as to create an extremely accessible website, Despite this effort on the government’s part, these ideas were (are) ignored. We still live above our means, opting for instant gratification instead of thinking long-term, and failing to read the fine print. The government, Wall Street, and
Main Street
didn’t force us into this; we just continue to choose to be distracted by the shiny things.

But, I think there is still hope, and that hope can only be found in the people. There are numerous tools, agencies, and options at our disposal and most of them are free. You may have to take a couple of years and put some real effort into it, but you can get yourself to a better financial situation. It is my personal belief that if everyone acts responsibly and holds themselves accountable for their actions, we’ll have a great stepping stone to improving our communities, regions, states, and then country. The population of the people will always outnumber those who work in financial institutions and government offices. By my count, if each individual does right, the whole economic situation can’t help but correct itself, and the government seems to agree.

A few resources to help you get started:

a.      Lesson plans for all ages and special needs; All print materials and DVDs are free; Newsletters; Podcasts; Materials Available in English and Spanish    
  1. Federal Reserve Education
a.      Numerous Publications and Resources; Financial Education for all ages; Economic Data       
  1. FDIC Money Smart
a.      Various Resources available; Computer and Classroom Based Instruction for all ages; 'Train the Trainer' program; all resources are free to order; Money Smart Course available in 8 languages.
  1. My Money      
a.      Resources for all ages and special populations (women, caregivers, military, etc); Research on financial education; Materials available in English and Spanish
  1. Corporation for Enterprise Development
a.      Economic Policy and Asset Building Research; Advocates for low-income wealth building    
  1. Real Economic Impact           
a.      From the National Disability Institute; Economic and Asset Building Resources; Public Policy           
  1. Doorways to Dreams 
a.      Numerous Publications and Resources Regarding Savings
  1. Jump$tart Coalition    
a.      Financial literacy for students Pre K to College             
  1. 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy     
a.      Numerous Publications and Resources; Financial Education for all ages; Economic Data
  1. Asset Platform           
a.      Numerous Publications and Resources; Financial Education for all ages         
  1. National Foundation for Credit Counseling   
a.      Numerous Publications and Resources; Primary focus on Credit and Homeownership Counseling
  1. Smart About Money
a.      Numerous Publications and Resources  

Marlissa Cunningham
IDA &Asset Building Collaborative

  1. Practical Money Skills for Life

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clients Share why they Love Financial Literacy

And here are pictures I took at the Wave 28, February Economic Literacy Class. Before class started I asked the clients to write on pieces of paper why financial literacy is important to them, and then asked if I could take pictures of them with their pieces of paper. Several of the clients shared why financial education and homeownership is so important to them and their families.

My words cannot do justice to the emotion they put into their signs, so here are their pictures, faces, and words to speak for them.

-Andriana Bicanin

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Going for the Goal

 Definition of a goal:
1.      The result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end
2.      Intention or aim
3.      Synonyms and related words: aspiration, destination, end, finish, intent, intention object, objective, purpose, reason, target

I have always been a dreamer, someone with their eyes on the prize.  This is not to say that I have followed a  specific path to my dreams (of which I have many). But some things have worked for me – without fail.  Goal-setting is one of those things. Taking time to write goals, refer back to them periodically, and to make adjustments based on my current circumstances has kept me on track over the years. This is not to say that the path I have been on has always been straight or clearly defined.  The details are everchanging, but the overall focus remains the same:  how can I use my life, my work, my skills to assist others in following their dreams?

This thought has been in back of my mind since grade school. Now, back then, I did not phrase the question this way, but somewhere, along the way, a seed was planted to help others.  Helping others has always been a part of THE GOAL. Everything that I have done to date has led me to this moment.  My plan, my life, my work, is about providing people with the skills, tools and support to become financially literate, empowered and self-sufficient.

For the past four years, I have worked as both a financial counselor and a housing counselor for a non-profit organization.  In these roles, I have witnessed the struggles that people have around various aspects of money management. As a result, I have become more and more convinced that a lack of a significant amount of money is not necessarily the cause of finanical problems. My understanding has evolved, not through formal training, but through observation and through my own experiences.  Low self-esteem, addiction, guilt, fear and anger are among the many reasons that people appear stuck in their situations.  Yet, I have seen that with my help and encouragement, some people are able to make small changes toward achieving their goals of financial stability. Small changes go a long way in promoting self-esteem and building confidence. I have found that simply allowing people to talk and offering a safe, and non-judgmental place for them to be heard helps people to weed out the noise (fear, guilt, anger, family etc.) that distracts them from creating or focusing on their personal goals. 

Setting goals is the easy part. Follow-through is the challenge. Do you have goals? What are you going to do start to do today to make your goals a reality?

Tarin Washington
IDA and Asset Building Collaborative of N.C.

Friday, March 4, 2011

AmeriCorps VISTA Presence at the New Century IDA, Forsyth County Department of Housing

Hello all, a few months ago I started writing a blog article series about what is going on with the IDA and Asset Building Collaborative of North Carolina, and how AmeriCorps VISTA members were supporting several IDA programs throughout the state.

As you recall, the interviews were with:

  • Donna Gallagher, the Executive Director of the IDA and Asset Building Collaborative of N.C.. She talked about different asset building projects throughout the state of North Carolina, as well as multi state initiatives.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA Leader Zarak Khan. He talked about his role within the Collaborative, and how he supports the VISTAs with their assignments.
  • Marlissa Cunningham, Community Link of Charlotte, N.C. VISTA, and project organizer extraordinaire.
And our dearly departed (they moved on from VISTA to other projects):
  • Blake Lucas,  who came into Kingdom Community Development Corporation with a plethora of knowledge from his experiences as a Housing Counselor, and nonprofit guru.
  • Trevor Hudspeth, who helped forge bonds between Durham Regional Finance and community organizations.
I came to the realization the other day that even though I posted these interviews a few months ago, I never got around to my own interview! I have been busy supporting this amazing organization that helps people with low and moderate income buy homes for the first time. But they don’t just buy homes, they empower themselves through financial education, success coaching, financial literacy classes, and step by step guidance throughout the home buying process.

So, here you are with the latest blog posting in the IDA and Asset Building Collaborative of N.C. interview series.

New Century IDA VISTA, Andriana Bicanin, placed at the Forsyth County Department of Housing

1st grade picture day.
I realize I am kind of cheating with
the picture thing (other interviewees
have recent pics), but seriously, this
may just be the best picture ever.
The New Century IDA is one of the strongest IDA programs in the country, and boasts over 440 successful homeowners since it's inception in 1999. United Way of Forsyth County (N.C.) research found that the New Century IDA also boasts the most graduates per capita than any other program of it's kind. Although this is a very strong program, and has such a high success rate, it was severely lacking in an online presence, and that is where I stepped in.

As you may have noticed, I (Andriana Bicanin) am the main blogger for the New Century IDA blog. As part of my assignment with AmeriCorps VISTA, I developed a web presence for this most amazing organization, the New Century IDA, through:

And the blog you are currently reading J

I also created a few other outreach tools:

This goes out to community partners, elected officials, IDA programs, philanthropists, realtors, and anyone who would like a look into the New Century IDA, through the facts and figures perspective (report like setting).

This is a paper newsletter that goes out to alumni, current clients, working group members, and partners.

I also recruited my very talented friend, Brent Alexander, to design the logo you see on all of the outreach tools. (The house with hands holding it). And also recruited Chris Zaluski to edit our videos.
My service with AmeriCorps VISTA:

I first became a VISTA right before I was about to graduate from college. I decided to take a break from school and figure out what I wanted to do with life. It was then that I moved to western Washington, and was the volunteer coordinator and fundraiser for a low income elementary schools literacy program, through Community Youth Services/Washington Reading Corps. It was only through my experience with AmeriCorps VISTA that I discovered my love of service, and how to help break the cycle of poverty through education. AmeriCorps VISTA provided the opportunity to empower myself and others.

What drew me to this organization was their mission, and the way in which they help people break out of poverty. Education, outreach, empowerment, and helping working people maintain their dignity while also receiving support and assistance are what makes this, and any organization strong. Every individual deserves the right to build wealth, have stability in their home, and create a strong future for themselves and their families, regardless of their economic background.

I knew nothing of IDA programs before entering this program. All I knew was that they sounded really awesome. With my 6+ months of service which thus far consisted of interviews with current clients, creating outreach videos, attending working group meetings, statewide forums, speaking to members at other IDA sites, speaking to IDA programs nationwide, and immersing myself in this type of nonprofit work, I have seen firsthand the impact asset building and IDA programs have on the quality of life for working members of society.

This really is the greatest form of helping empower and lift people out of poverty, and a whole new way of welfare reform. One of my favorite quotes (ever) comes from a Center for Social Development Research Report:

Each person, regardless of economic circumstance, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at all times.”

This is what IDA programs in the state of N.C. and nationwide do- they treat their clients with the dignity and respect they deserve.

The most moving of my experiences so far has been the interviews with current clients. Married couple, and parents of four children, Gary and Terri, as well as James, a man who has gone from homelessness to rebuilding his life and taking prodcutive steps towards buying a home, have all agreed to allow me to interview them through this very personal journey towards homeownership.

Lisa Wright of Fairway Independent Mortgage sat down with me once and shared her stories with the New Century IDA. Her favorite clients are the ones who go through this program. She says they are all ready when they sit down with her and look at loans, and they are so eager to buy their homes and start a new life for themselves and their children. These clients, she said, are always the most organized, and always have all their paperwork ready. The financial literacy classes, success coaching, and support from all of the staff and working group members truly equip the clients with the tools needed in order to succeed.

A few facts:

There are currently seven VISTAs working at different IDA and economic development sites throughout the state of North Carolina.

These sites are:

  • New Century IDA, at the Experiment in Self Reliance, in Winston Salem
  • New Century IDA, at the Forsyth County Department of Housing, in Winston Salem.
  • Community Link of Charlotte, N.C.
  • Eagle Market Street Development Corporation, in Asheville N.C.
  • Gaston Community Action, in Gaston, N.C.
  • Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA), in
    Rich Square
  • Prosperity Unlimited, Kannapolis, N.C.
So far, these N.C. VISTA members have accomplished:

Community Outreach Presentations conducted: 30

Volunteers recruited: 80

Service Hours performed by Community Volunteers: 667

Cash resources applied for by VISTA members: $301,600

Non-cash resources applied for by VISTA members: $151,600

Non-cash resources developed by VISTA members: $7,635

Amount invested by partner organizations: $114,077

Partnerships created: 25

Community partner meetings convened: 26

A little background on the New Century IDA (if you haven’t read previous posts).

The New Century IDA is an Individual Development Account program, in Forsyth County North Carolina, that helps working members of our community throughout the home buying process. New Century IDA targets are first time home owners, and those who have not purchased a home in three years. A person does NOT have to currently reside in Forsyth County to participate in the program, but they DO have to plan on purchasing their home in Forsyth County.

Individual Development Accounts are matched savings accounts. The accounts are held with Southern Community Bank.

After successful completion of financial literacy classes, meetings with Success Coaches, and after the client has saved their own $1500 in their accounts, their money is either matched 2:1, or up to 6:1. That means, for every $1 a client saved, either $2, $3, $4, $5, or $6 is put into the account. And remember, the client eventually saves $1500 that is going to be matched! This money is not “just given” to the client. The money is given towards the down payment of their home, and they have worked very hard towards this pursuit. The New Century IDA does not hold their hand and give them anything. The New Century educates and supports savers and they work, attend classes, and empower themselves.

So how does someone become a part of a program that helps low and moderate income people save money, and buy a first time home? Well, go to our webpage for that information J