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Compass: Coaching families toward economic mobility

Project Overview

For families to move forward and invest in their future, they need savings and assets. From providing a cushion for unexpected expenses, to opening doors to new opportunities like education and home ownership, assets play a crucial role in the type of futures families can obtain. At the same time, it is extremely challenging for families living in poverty to save money — which creates a situation where they aim to get ahead, and yet are hit with the everyday challenge of making ends meet. In Greater Boston, a lack of assets — combined with the high cost of living expenses — creates an additional barrier for families with low incomes to access life outside of poverty.

Compass Working Capital was formed with the belief that every family deserves the opportunity to invest in their future. Through a program that implements financial coaching and education, as well as direct opportunities to build assets, Compass shows each of its participants that their financial goals are not only valuable, but feasible.

In life, you have to move up the ladder. This program is an opportunity to move forward, and to be able to call the shots in my own life.

Marcia Guity, Compass Client

How it Helps

Compass works with participants like Marcia to build a one-on-one relationship with a financial coach who helps each individual create a realistic action plan customized for their goals, like putting a down payment on a home, starting a small business, or saving for their child’s college education. In their financial coaching sessions, members learn things like how to pay down debt, build a budget that allows them to save money, and assemble a plan that gets them closer to long-term asset development.

Compass also partners with public and affordable housing entities in the greater Boston area to offer the federal Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program to their residents. FSS provides a unique opportunity to build assets. Typically, as participant income increases, so does their rent payment. With FSS, a portion of each participants’ rent increase payment goes directly into an escrow account, which allows not only the opportunity for savings, but building interest. Compass participants — who earn an average of less than $25,000 — have been able to save an average of more than $6,000 through the program. Without Compass, this money would have been put towards a monthly payment and instead becomes an investment in families’ future goals.

Once they have completed their coaching with Compass, families can put these funds toward the goals outlined with their financial coach. By integrating both financial coaching and asset building, Compass helps families with low incomes access greater economic opportunities and move out of poverty.

Foundation Project Lead