As 2020 began, Roshon was excited for what was coming next in life. In addition to her recent wedding, she had also gotten her dream job as the Director of Early Childhood Programs at an organization in Washington, D.C. and moved from Richmond to Alexandria with her new husband and her teenage daughter. The transition from Richmond to Alexandria, however, proved to be financially challenging for her family. The costs of furnishing their new home and creating a new life quickly added up, compounded by the higher cost of living in Alexandria. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the family also found themselves with a reduced income, as Roshon’s husband’s primary income came from working as a rideshare driver. Roshon and her husband began struggling financially, needing to use credit cards and high interest personal loans to cover the gaps in their finances. When they eventually found themselves behind on rent, Roshon knew it was time to seek out help and support.
In December 2021, while discussing their financial situation with their leasing consultant, Roshon learned of Fairfax County Coordinated Services, which connected her with FFP grantee Britepaths, a northern Virginia nonprofit that helps individuals and families in crisis build toward a more stable future. Initially, Roshon had three financial coaching sessions with a Britepaths’ staff member to address her immediate financial crisis, get a basic budget in place, and implement some strategies to start getting the family finances back on track. She was then recommended for Britepaths’ financial mentorship program, which allows individuals to meet one-on-one with a volunteer CFP® professional for at least 6 months. Roshon was paired with Jessie, a volunteer CFP® professional, and together they began to take a deeper look at how Roshon could improve the family’s finances. (Read about Jessie’s volunteer experience here.)
Roshon and Jessie met twice a month, initially focused on getting to know each other and the family’s finances, and later on debt management strategies to get Roshon’s loans and credit card debt under control. They looked at where income was going, how the family could change their spending so they could pay more than the minimum credit card payments, and figured out what loans could be settled rather than paid in full. With Jessie’s support and guidance, Roshon was able to settle some of her high-interest loans. She then focused on paying off the rest of her debts, taking on side jobs with her husband, changing the family’s mobile service provider to a cheaper option, and no longer ordering take-out. Britepaths also enrolled her in their Food Bridge program, which provides a grocery gift card every two weeks for 6-9 months to help provide healthy food, creating some additional space in her budget to pay down the debt.
Looking at other long-term solutions to help the family stabilize their finances, Jessie and Roshon also discussed the family moving to a less expensive apartment in a different area to decrease overall expenses. At first, it didn’t seem doable with Roshon’s daughter still in high school; they didn’t want to change school districts as she was finishing up her high school education. Thankfully, Jessie found a county program voucher that would allow Roshon’s family to move to another district and still keep her enrolled in the same school until graduation, and helped Roshon apply to the program.
Roshon is grateful for the compassion and lack of judgment that Jessie brings to their sessions, sharing, “It’s hard when you are trying to navigate financial difficulties and wanting to feel like you still have dignity and control over things. My finances were giving me extreme anxiety and it was very emotional for me. Jessie was really good at navigating that with me. If something was too upsetting, she would say, ‘We don’t have to address that right now, we can talk about a different issue today.’ She really helped me talk about my thought process with money and share how I had gotten myself into this bad financial situation. Before this program, I didn’t like asking others for help and didn’t want them to know about my financial situation — but it was so helpful when I finally did. Now, I still have some anxiety around my finances, but I’m not an emotional wreck or overwhelmed. I know that it’s not going to be as bad as I think, and that I have the tools and skills to help myself out of whatever the situation is.”
Today, Roshon and her family are well on their way to a stable financial future. Roshon has paid off most of her credit cards and high-interest loans, is establishing a good payment history through her last two credit lines, and has increased her credit score from the low 500s to high 600s. Roshon and Jessie continue to meet and have started discussing how to plan for the future, like starting an emergency fund through Britepaths and preparing for her daughter’s eventual enrollment in college by utilizing a 529 account. “I’m learning to shift toward a more proactive way of approaching our finances rather than reactive, like planning ahead for college and planning for upcoming expenses, and not just reacting when they happen and having to take on more debt out of need or desperation.” She also has learned to pause and think through financial decisions. “We recently needed another car, and after filling out the paperwork, we were approved for an auto-loan, but then I saw that my interest rate was going to be 37%. In the past, I would have just gone through with it since it was something that we did need, but this time, I paused, thought of Jessie in the moment and what her advice would be – that a loan with such a high interest rate wasn’t a good idea. Ultimately, we didn’t go through with the purchase and explored other options, and ended up finding a car through a family member.”
Roshon is extremely grateful for Britepaths and the opportunity to work with Jessie, sharing “Working with Jessie has been so impactful. It has changed my thinking and really changed my life. It’s comforting to know that I have someone that I can talk through these situations with and they’re going to give me their expert opinion and recommendation, and not be pushy at all.” She hopes that other people in need will utilize the program. “Allows yourself to be transparent and open. Don’t feel like you can’t share everything that’s going on. It’s actually so helpful for them when you lay everything on the table because it helps them know how best to help you. Don’t feel like getting help is anything to be embarrassed about. It took me a few months to share with my husband and family that I was working with a mentor; now, I tell everyone in my life that if they’re having financial struggles it’s okay to seek help and to get a mentor. It really changed my life.”
“Working with Jessie has been so impactful. It has changed my thinking and really changed my life.”
Planner helped client to:
- Pay off most of her debt and significantly increase her credit score.
- Start saving and planning for future expenses.
- Avoid a predatory car loan.
- Shift the way she thinks about money and financial decisions.