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REAL Services Offers Financial Coaching To Individuals

REAL Services is dedicated to helping elderly and low-income people become and stay independent for life. If you or someone you love needs help, call REAL Services at 574-233-8205.

By: REAL ServicesHome Comfort Experts

Being financially self-sufficient is a huge part of realizing the American Dream. It allows you to purchase a car, purchase a home, and save for your retirement.

But with rising inflation, rising interest rates, a competitive job market, and decreases in hourly earnings, more and more people are feeling like the American Dream will never be a reality.

REAL Services still believes that financial success can be achieved by anyone, with a little help. The nonprofit’s Individual Development Accounts (IDA) program helps Hoosiers start to save and gain financial literacy.

The program uses a combination of state and federal dollars to help low-moderate income individuals (those who earn up to 200% of poverty guidelines) reach their financial goals through a special savings account. Qualifying participants can earn $3 for every $1 they save. REAL Services helps to administer the program in the counties it serves: Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, La Porte, Marshall, and St. Joseph.

The intent of the program is to help participants learn about personal finance and achieve a financial goal, such as fixing or repairing a home, opening a business, purchasing a car, or earning an education. Participants of the program receive one-on-one training and more than 6 hours of financial education, which REAL Services helps administer through its Community Action Program

“Part of what we do through Individual Development is that we want people to become self-sufficient with an emphasis on becoming financially self-sufficient,” says Maria Thompson, the asset building coordinator at REAL Services. “We start by building a relationship with the individuals we work with so they’re comfortable with who we are and what we’re going to be working on.”

For REAL Services, the ultimate goal of its Community Action Programs is to help folks build housing stability, and the IDA program is one part of that. That can be a real challenge for some.

“Getting off of public assistance is hard — it’s hard for people,” Thompson says. “What they start earning when they get a job often doesn’t compensate for what’s taken away from them financially when they’re off public assistance, especially if they have a large family. That freaks people out.”

Thompson says that it’s important that she and the team understand the individual challenges of participants in the program. Understanding the barriers people face is critical to helping them achieve financial success. Sometimes, that means individuals need to be willing to accept that a change needs to be made.

“If you’re wanting to do different things in your life you have to ask: ‘Am I prepared to do that hard work?’ ” Thompson says. “You have to be prepared to be honest about where you find yourself and how you got there. And then you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to accept the help that’s being offered to you.”

Thompson says that it’s human nature to minimize the fact that we need help and to exaggerate to ourselves that we’re doing a good job on the things we need to be doing to fix the problem.

“You need to be realistic about where you are and that you want to be doing things differently,” she says. “If you can’t do that then it’s hard to make any kind of change because you’re not willing to put in the hard work.”

The IDA program at REAL Services is a nonjudgmental space — Thompson and the others aren’t there to say what individuals should or could have done if things had been different. It’s about where individuals are now and how they want to move forward.

“You have to be ready to make a change in your life. It doesn’t matter what opportunities are presented to you if you have the wrong mindset,” she says. “Budgeting is a lifelong process that you have to learn. You tweak it as you go along and age and learn.”

For more information on the IDA program, or to find out how the Communication Action Programs at REAL Services can help you, call 574-284-2060.

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