Investing in our Neighbors

On our team, ideas get thrown around a lot. Oftentimes when we get together, one of us will say something following the formula of, "I heard about this place that's doing this cool thing...We should do something like that." It's great to have so many great ideas floating around. The ideas aren't always feasible or timely. But sometimes they are. Such a conversation was the beginning of our decision to begin researching an initiative called Individual Development Accounts. IDAs are an incentivized financial education strategy designed to walk participants through learning to set their own financial goals and, through invested matching funds, equip them to meet those goals.

Here's how it works. Income-qualified participants learn budgeting and saving habits through a financial literacy course. They save for specific, program-approved goals such as continued education, small business growth, or homeownership. When they complete their goal, their savings dollars are matched at least two-to-one. In this way, our neighbors have incentives to develop good financial habits, and we can directly invest in the families of our community.

 

Participants save for college, a house, or a business while attending finance classes and saving up toward their goals.

For over 16 years, IDAs have been used across the country as a strategy to help families build assets. The success of other programs seems to prove the combination of education, concrete goals, and incentives. The economic opportunity organization CFED tracked 831 homebuyers in 17 states who purchased homes using IDAs between 1999 and 2007. Compared to other low-income homebuyers who purchased homes in the same communities and over the same time period, IDA homebuyers both (a) obtained significantly preferable mortgage loan terms, and (b) were two to three times less likely to lose their homes to foreclosure.

CCC is seeking financial partners to help launch this program. We have already begun the work of researching various programs through the nation, visiting with other program coordinators and writing up documents. We don't typically use our blog posts for calls-to-action, but we believe this program can make a tangible difference in the lives of Abilene neighbors. We also believe that our neighborhoods and its families are worth investing in. Through this program, participants will be given more responsibility, dignity and choice. Along with sound financial habits, they will also learn delayed gratification and the satisfaction of having worked toward their own families’ dreams. Meanwhile, donors will feel the satisfaction of having invested in families in a developmental way. If you would like to help make this vision a reality, please contact me for more details.

It is essential to our work to be in relationships with our neighbors, and we want to see our neighbors succeed. Now we are wanting to take a more active role in that success. CCC’s Individual Development Accounts program will utilize donations from generous funders to educate, invest and empower. This asset building strategy enables people to help themselves and to open the gateways of opportunity: education, entrepreneurship, or a first family home – bettering the lives of families and strengthening communities.

For more information on IDAs across the country, see cfed.org/ida.