Impact NOW Highlights and Key Takeaways

Impact NOW (New Opportunities for Workforce)

Financial security is critical to the success of jobseekers moving through workforce development programs. The Financial Clinic provides support to everyone from customers to practitioners to organizational leadership — we know that by empowering staff to address financial security (for both themselves and those they serve), we create stronger programs and a stronger workforce.

On March 16, 2018, the Clinic was thrilled to present Impact NOW, a free professional development opportunity for financial security and workforce development practitioners, program managers, employers, and stakeholders. We had a jam-packed agenda, covering topics ranging from personal finance, program implementation, systems change, and the future of work and wealth. Take a look!

“When we’re talking about helping you implement financial security into your programs, we do not mean you need to be expert financial coaches, we don’t mean you need to dedicate an hour of your time with every customer to this piece, and we don’t mean you need to be experts in finding funding for this…We have six outcome areas that we work on – goals, banking, assets, credit, debt, and taxes – those are huge topics. What we want to help you do is figure out where the red flags are for your customers.” – Alyssa Keil, The Financial Clinic

The Index Card: Take Control of Your Finances

Impact Now: The Index Card Personal Finance

Alyssa Keil interviewing Helaine Olen and Harold Pollock on The Index Card: Personal Finance

We began the day on page one of personal finance with celebrated authors Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack, interviewed by the Clinic’s Assistant Director of Services, Alyssa Keil. They described their own unlikely paths into the world of finance – Harold admitted to being both carefree and careless about his personal finances until a family emergency led nearly to a financial crises, while Helaine explained knowing little about finances until being offered a unique opportunity to write for the finance column of the Los Angeles Times and scouring the local bookstores to prepare. These paths led them to collaborate on The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated, breaking down personal finance into basics that are easy for anyone to incorporate into their daily habits.

“What are the things that really get you excited? If you can focus on that, that is something someone is much more likely to execute. I’ll give you an example: One thing that people often ask me is should I save for my kid’s college or should I save for my retirement? The mathematical, official answer is really retirement…There’s one problem with that, which is if you’re a single mother and you have your seven year old daughter there, saving for your child’s college is something that people actually feel really great about. And that’s powerful. The best method of saving is the thing that will give you a sense of reward and accomplishment. Finding those things is often much more powerful than explaining to the person mathematically what’s the most optimal thing you should be doing.”
– Harold Pollack

Watch the livestream!

Breakout Sessions

There was something for everyone in our three concurrent breakout workshops:

Impact Now: Breakout Session

Clinic and Support Center Staff leading a breakout session at Impact NOW

1. Integration Options that Work for You. The Clinic’s Zoe Goodman and Alyssa Keil joined WPTI’s Bruce Carmel and Jenny Pierre to demonstrate successful strategies for integrating financial security building into workforce development programs and ways to overcome barriers like staff bandwidth and participant engagement.

2. Leveraging Approaches for Systems Change. The Clinic’s Haidee Cabusora and Darren Liddell joined NYATEP’s Melinda Mack and Seedco’s Alex Breen to discuss strategies for pursuing systems-level change and collaborating with fellow practitioners to maximize impact for those you serve.

3. Leading Your Team to the Next Level. The Clinic’s Jared Marling and Kate Reeves joined Support Center’s Lakimja Mattocks and Keith Timko to examine change management strategies to overcome barriers to financial security implementation, including gaining team buy-in and improving results.

“I work with a reentry population, and for our guys, not knowing this information could be the difference between staying home and going back to prison.” – Workshop participant

The Nexus of Work and Wealth

Impact NOW: Nexus of Work and Wealth

Panelists discussing the nexus of work and wealth

The day ended with a thought-proving panel discussion on the opportunities and advantages for employers to invest in a financially secure workforce, moderated by Ken Adams, Dean of Workforce & Economic Development at Bronx Community College. We’ll let our panelists speak for themselves:

Workforce development perspective – Tara Colton, Executive Director of Seedco
“The elements related to economic empowerment, self sufficiency, financial coaching has always been somewhere between mission central and mission adjacent. We’re founded to build communities and develop economic opportunities, but for so many reasons financial security for both businesses and the employees who we place in those businesses has become more crucial. It’s a critical asset to what we do.”

Employer perspective – Agatha Kulaga, Founder & COO, Ovenly
“Our retention rates have grown tremendously from the partnerships that we have with organizations like Seedco. We closed out a funding round last year, and it was the first time that we attracted a different type of investor. It was success in the sense that we developed relationships with investors that were value aligned with our company. Those are the relationships that really matter and will help us scale our business in a way that will set an example for other businesses.”

Business field perspective – Alexandra Visher, Managing Director for Strategy and Development, JUST Capital
“What we’re hearing from the American public is that workers are top of mind and the three things that consistently come up are workers, customers, and products, and all of these things are core to a business strategy which represents a compelling opportunity for companies to think about how they can do better.”

Philanthropy’s perspective – Leah Mayor, East Coast Program Officer, Asset Funders Network
“Making the business case but also the moral case that this is happening and it’s critical, and it’s the way businesses operate. My own thinking around this is how are we driving change, what are the drivers of change that we want to promote as consumers and as employees and as employers? There’s actually a lot of power there.”

Watch the livestream!

Missed the event but want to learn more? We are pleased to invite you to our complimentary virtual trainings, specialized for workforce development practitioners! Learn how integrating financial security building strategies into your work can boost outcomes: visit the events page for more information on upcoming trainings.

Planning for Today and Tomorrow: 529 Plans

Written by: Andy Collado, Financial Coach, The Financial Clinic

Want to know the secret to financial success for you and your children? Goals. As a financial coach, I have seen countless families turn their finances around simply by focusing on a forward thinking, strengths-based, and most importantly, passionately held financial goal. One of the most common motivators is the desire to provide a better future for our children, a better foundation for their success. The best way to do this is with sound educational planning.

Degrees equal dollars. That statement rings true in two important ways for our children’s futures. Unemployment rates for high school graduates are almost double ( 5.2: 2.7) that of Bachelor’s degree holders, and they make almost half of the median weekly earnings ($692: $1156). Over a lifetime, this difference rings up at a whopping million dollars. These gains come with costs of course: college tuition, room and board, textbooks, and so on. These costs have also risen astronomically faster than both inflation and income in the past 30 years. Suffice to say, higher education is getting more costly and yet more necessary with every passing school year. By using strategic and advantageous savings vehicles such as 529 plans, we can lower our current financial risk while increasing our children’s earning potential.

529 College Savings Plan, named for the associated section of the IRS Tax Code, are tax-advantaged savings plans specifically for educational expenses. Up until 2017, they could only be used for higher education, or college, costs but recent tax code changes have opened up the qualified withdrawals to include tuition and fees for K-12 programs as well.  But why should you choose 529s over other investment or simple savings vehicles? Let’s take a look. The benefits of a 529 include:

  • Your contributions will grow tax-free and withdrawals will be distributed tax-free for any “qualified” expense, which includes tuition, fees, room and board for college students, books and other supplies.
  • 34 states allow for a hefty amount of your contributions to a 529 to be deducted from your taxable income. In New York State, single filers can deduct up to $5,000 and couples filing together can deduct up to $10,000.
  • Contributions in a 529 account can be withdrawn to use at any school regardless of which state the 529 was opened in.

Children with as little as $1 – $499 in savings are three times more likely to attend and four times more likely to graduate college, so even if you don’t consider the amount you can realistically put into a 529 to be substantial, even one or two small deposits can make a huge difference in your child’s life.  Any amount gets them closer to their educational goals, and making regular contributions doesn’t have to mean cutting into every paycheck. Because contributions can come from anyone, not just the account owner, you can also boost the balance of your 529 by allowing friends and family to contribute for special occasions such as a birthday, or by putting a portion of your tax refund directly into the account.

We know that education is important. We also know that it can be expensive. If a 529 account sounds like it might be a good option for you (hint: if you have someone in your family with educational expenses, it most likely is something to consider!) there are few simple things you can do to get started:

  1. Research the 529s available in your state or with financial institutions you trust.
  2. Speak with a financial coach to talk through yours and your children’s goals to figure out the best way to utilize one of these accounts. (If you are in NYC, you can schedule an appointment with one of our free financial coaches, or check to see if we can connect you to a partner in your region you with this link!)

Finally, are you worried that the money will potentially be wasted if for some reason your child decides not to go to college?  Let’s say they become the next Silicon Valley college dropout billionaire, hall of fame basketball player, or they just go out and get themselves a full ride, leaving the contributions in their 529 without purpose; what happens then? Well, another great benefit of 529 plans is the ability to change the beneficiary to anyone, including yourself. So if they are off creating the next new addictive FinTech product or dunking on anyone except the NY Knicks, you can head back to school and take that pottery class you always wanted to take or learn a second language. It’s a win-win, today and tomorrow.