As women who knew their way around a balance sheet and a budget, the sisters Nancy Chu and Sharon Pushie were always struck by how many people struggle to save because they aren’t in control of their finances and don’t understand the importance budgeting.
So when they saw that Family Promise of Bergen County was seeking someone to lead workshops for its clients on financial literacy, they stepped forward to volunteer.
Except they don’t call it “financial literacy.’’ Their preferred term is “financial empowerment.’’ That’s because, for homeless working families with children like those helped by Family Promise, knowing about money is a power than can make the difference between self-sufficiency and dependence.
The Bergen County sisters had both worked in New York City as financial analysts at Standard & Poor’s. Since leaving S&P, they’ve started a practice called Aspire Financial Coaching and are working toward becoming certified financial counselors.
For the past two years they’ve led five-session workshops for Family Promise. Topics include making a household budget; using online budgeting tools; setting smart financial goals; and understanding credit scores – how to find out what yours is and how to improve it.
They explain, for instance, what makes a financial goal “smart.’’ A typical goal might be to save $500; a smart goal is to save $50 a month by eating out less often.
But why talk about money to families who don’t have any – who’ve struggled just to keep a roof over their head?
“These families are financially challenged – we understand that and make no judgments,’’ Sharon says. “But this process is something you can start at any time. And the feedback we get is, ‘This makes us want to do more of this.’’’
Nancy agrees: “Hopefully this information will stay with them once they are on their feet and more financially secure. And we know they’re going to get there.’’
Kate Duggan, Family Promise’s executive director, says the workshops work. “They have taken the fear out of money management,’’ she says, “and the families love them.’’