Insights from the Ontario Financial Empowerment Champions Project and the Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving Project: How financial empowerment services are helping Ontarians build financial health

In 2016, Prosper Canada partnered with the Ontario government and nine non-profit organizations through the Ontario Financial Empowerment Champions and Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving projects, to pilot delivery of community financial help services for low-income Ontarians.

Third-party evaluations of both projects confirmed that the services provided addressed an unmet need, reduced client financial stress, and improved client financial outcomes. They also confirmed that almost all service users would recommend the services to others.



Financial Coaching Initiative: Results and Lessons Learned

In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched the Financial Coaching Initiative, a pilot program that provided financial coaching services to veterans and economically vulnerable consumers. Professional coaches were embedded into 60 host sites across the country, where they provided free, one-on-one help to consumers to address their personal financial goals. A range of organizations served as host sites, such as one-stop career centers, social services organizations, and legal aid groups.

Over four years, the Financial Coaching Initiative served over 23,000 consumers, demonstrating that financial coaching can be successfully implemented at scale in many different settings for a wide range of consumers.

This report and summary brief describe the basic structure of the Initiative, present data about the program’s results, and summarize key lessons learned for practitioners and organizations interested in coaching. 



Government response to the Countervailing Power: Review of the coordination and funding for financial counselling services across Australia

In 2019, a comprehensive review (The Countervailing Power: Review of the coordination and funding for financial counselling services across Australia) of financial counselling services in Australia was undertaken and recommendations to ensure the long-term viability of the financial counselling sector, including the establishment of a nationally coordinated approach, and industry funding to strengthen the predictability and stability of funding for financial counselling were made.

This document is the Australian Government's response to the review, outlining their response to each of the recommendations, and sets out their commitment to the following:

  • commence work with state and territory governments and relevant stakeholders on a national approach for the funding and coordination of financial counselling (also relevant to the specialist, RFCS and small business financial counselling sector);
  • introduce an industry funding model following consultations with industry and the financial counselling sector that will ensure predictability and stability of funding for generalist financial counselling services into the future.  The Government’s preference is to reach agreement between the relevant industries in relation to an overall funding strategy.  However, if this agreement is not reached, the Government will consider a compulsory mechanism.  Industry contributions would ideally start in 2021-22; and
  • support in principle the establishment of an independent body to be responsible for the national cooperative financial counselling effort, including delivery of funding. 



Countervailing Power: Review of the coordination and funding for financial counselling services across Australia

In 2019, the Australian Government committed to additional actions to improve the financial outcomes of Australians, including undertaking an immediate review of the coordination and funding of financial counselling services that disadvantaged Australians rely on. 

The review noted the benefits of financial counselling to the community, including early intervention and prevention of further financial hardship, advocacy support, and referral to other services for complex issues. The review also highlighted the challenges faced by the financial counselling sector, including increasing demand, fragmented delivery, and the array of complex situations and financial products that can lead to financial hardship. 

The review:

  • Assessed whether existing financial counselling services adequately support clients’ current, emerging or changing needs, including areas such as small business and natural disasters;
  • Explored the most efficient and appropriate way to deliver financial counselling services;
  • Considered how to improve the coordination and consistency of delivery of financial counselling services across all jurisdictions in Australia;
  • Recommended options for improving the predictability and sustainability of funding financial counselling services, including by drawing on successful international funding models and considering options for industry funding; and
  • Considered how the use of data can inform policy, service delivery and demand trends.



Investing in Financial Coaching with a Racial Equity Lens

In this moment, it is pivotal for philanthropy to support communities of color in achieving financial well-being. Combined with systems-change efforts that would create fairer economic opportunities and conditions, financial coaching is a vital component of providing needed support. Through background information, case stories, and key investment considerations, this brief focuses on financial coaching with a racial equity lens as an important strategy for helping people of color achieve equitable outcomes.



Real Money, Real Experts Podcasts

Real Money, Real Experts is a personal finance podcast written and produced by AFCPE (Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education). Their membership community offers a place for financial counsellors and financial fitness coaches to share best practices, solve similar struggles, and access tools and resources.

Recent episodes include the following topics:

  • Economic Self-Sufficiency: How Financial Professionals Support Individuals with Disabilities
  • Empowering Communities after COVID-19
  • Where Race & Gender Intersect: Why the Wealth Gap is Widening and How to Help

 



Roadblock to Recovery: Consumer debt of low- and moderate-income Canadians in the time of COVID-19

Almost half of low-income households and 62 per cent of moderate-income households carry debt, with households on low incomes spending 31 per cent of their income on debt repayments, according to a new report published by national charity, Prosper Canada.

This report analyzes the distribution, amount and composition of non-mortgage debt held by low- and moderate-income Canadian households and explores implications for federal and provincial/territorial policy makers as they develop and implement COVID-19 economic recovery plans and fulfill their respective regulatory roles.



Debt settlement and financial recovery companies: too risky an option?

This report presents a study of the debt settlement and financial recovery industry and examines Canadian consumer issues from these services. 

Data is gathered from company websites and contracts as well as customer surveys and questionnaires completed by governmental and non-governmental organizations. A comparative study of legislation applicable to the industry is also conducted.



Meeting the Emergency Moment: Key Takeaways from Delivering Remote Municipal Financial Counseling Services

Local governments across the United States are working to help their residents weather the health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cities and counties, that means deploying their Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs), which provide professional, one-on-one financial counseling as a public service. Local leaders were able to offer FEC financial counseling as a critical component of their emergency response infrastructure; the fact that this service already existed, and was embedded into the fabric of municipal anti-poverty efforts, meant that it could quickly pivot to meet new COVID-19 needs, including through offering remote financial counseling.

This brief describes how FEC partners identified the right technology; developed skills to deliver counseling remotely; messaged the availability of FEC services as part of their localities’ COVID-19 response; and shared lessons learned with their FEC counterparts around the country.



Building Sustainable Communities

The Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) developed the strategy Building Sustainable Communities to tackle pressing need through an expansive network of Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) in dozens of communities nationwide. FOCs help clients find and maintain good jobs, stick to realistic budgets, improve their credit and save for the future. And they are located in the same neighborhoods where LISC is investing in housing and health, reducing crime, strengthening schools and re-energizing commercial corridors.

The research shows a direct relationship between the number and type of services accessed and the FOC clients’ ability to grow their earnings and secure their finances. For instance, those who spent the most time on all three bundled services offered by the FOCs (employment, coaching and public benefits) had the highest job placement rates and the highest job retention rates. 

 



Client Engagement and Retention—The Secret Ingredient in Successful Financial Capability Programs

Grantmakers and practitioners recognize the importance of financial security for individuals and families, and many organizations therefore offer financial capability programs aimed at strengthening the financial well-being of the people they serve. But good financial capability programs are often high-touch and costly to provide for program administrators, and time consuming for clients to participate in. To benefit fully from such programs’ offerings, clients must actively participate in the program’s coaching, counseling, or other sessions, and engage in related activities to boost their financial health.

Thus, understanding what drives client engagement is critical to helping programs improve program retention and outcomes, and concurrently, helps funders maximize the value of philanthropic dollars and customers’ time. Grantmakers concerned about best practices for funding effective financial capability efforts must therefore understand the vital role of client retention and the strategies for supporting the nonprofit sector to address this challenge.

The brief explains the importance of client retention and engagement for financial capability program success, describes three key barriers to effective program participation, offers strategies to overcome those barriers, and closes with recommendations for philanthropy.



The shared path: First Nations financial wellness

Prosper Canada and AFOA Canada are pleased to collaboratively tell the story of The Shared Path: First Nations Financial Wellness. This work was undertaken in the spirit of reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people in Canada and creating a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between us.

This report defines financial wellness in the context of First Nations Peoples and communities, reviews why it matters, provides a conceptual framework to help clarify the determinants of financial wellness, and identifies barriers, needs, best practices and principles for building the financial wellness of Indigenous individuals, families, and communities together.