Elinas story: Taking a Leadership Role in Her Finances

One worker’s journey of how she took control of her finances for herself and her family

Like many workers, Elina and Antonio were struggling to get out of over $10,000 of debt in collections and needed help establishing Antonio’s credit. Their financial goals didn’t end there, though; they both had dreams of furthering their education and that of their daughter, Sarah, and someday becoming homeowners.

Over the next several years, Antonio worked one-on-one with his Financial Coach, Fitz. Although he managed the family’s finances, Elina always joined him for sessions. Deeply committed to improving their financial situation, they met with Fitz every other month, working together to secure a credit builder loan for Antonio, to stick to a monthly budget, and to address a tax lien and their debt in collections. They also worked through the high school application process for Sarah. In February 2016, they received great news: Sarah had received a full scholarship to a school in Massachusetts.

The financial coaching continued, as did the financial ups and downs for Elina and Antonio. While school tuition was fully covered, extracurricular and living expenses for Sarah quickly mounted. At one point, they lost gas in their building for several weeks, driving up their electricity and food bills. In June 2017, Elina hurt herself and was out of work in order to recover. Undeterred, Elina worked through the resulting medical bills and continued to prioritize the financial action plan that she and Antonio developed with Fitz.

Reflecting on this time, Elina noted that “receiving financial coaching has made me more accountable and motivated me to make the time to take action in my financial and personal life, because I follow up with my coach who asks how it’s going.”

But everything changed for Elina this past year when her husband suddenly passed away. It left Elina reeling both emotionally and financially. Antonio had always been the one to manage their finances, but she knew she needed to take control for herself and her daughter. She leaned on her new Financial Coach, Nathalie, during this difficult time, meeting with her monthly as she worked to secure survivor benefits and adjust to a single income. Elina was able to secure a benefit payment, which she contributed to Sarah’s 529 account and a new money market account for Elina. Over the year, with Nathalie’s support, Elina continued to improve her savings and support her daughter through school.

In her most recent coaching session, Elina was proud to share that she had reduced her $2,400 budget deficit to $500 and had fully paid off her debt — two big financial milestones met in her ongoing journey to remain financially secure.

When asked about which accomplishment she was most proud of over the last year, she said, “For me it hasn’t been about a specific accomplishment. What I am most proud of is how I acknowledged that I had no option but to take the financial lead for me and my teenage daughter after my husband passed away and I accepted that I could no longer hide from my finances and stepped up and took control of our finances.”

Elina remains grateful for the ongoing coaching she receives from Neighborhood Trust and plans to keep coming back as she continues to work towards her personal goals.

“Receiving the coaching from Neighborhood Trust has made me more aware, made me more proactive. I can take on a leadership role in our finances, not only because I have to, but because I am capable of taking the lead.”