One year later, financial coaching continues to empower Ava Williams

15 December 2016
Author: Chloe Stanois
Feeling empowered to improve her finances and other areas of her life was an unexpected outcome for Ava Williams after she completed the MPower Money Coaching program in October 2015. She shared with Prosper Canada that, “you go into it thinking it is just about the money, but you come out of it feeling better about yourself and your life.”

The MPower Money Coaching program, offered through Toronto Employment and Social Services, provided free financial coaching to support people on low incomes to achieve their financial goals. 

From July 2015 to October 2015, Ava worked with her financial coach Colin Barry, a Certified Financial Planner at Canfin Financial Group. Colin helped Ava set realistic goals to pay off her OSAP and bank loans, stick to a budget, create an emergency fund and get a job. The support and encouragement she received from Colin helped her make great strides in reaching her goals. “My coach was always there to guide me and talk me through achieving my goals,” she said. After the program, Ava started paying the minimum amount on her OSAP loan, increased the monthly payment amount on her bank loan and successfully stuck to a budget. 

One year after finishing the program, Ava has successfully reached her goals and has achieved additional major accomplishments. “After the program, I got a full-time job and I moved into a new house,” she said. “I’ve also been paying off my OSAP and bank loans, I stick to a monthly budget, I’ve been rebuilding my credit score and I used my emergency fund to move so I had to start building one [an emergency fund] again.”

The financial knowledge Ava gained from Colin empowered her to continue working towards her goals and successfully managing her finances on her own. “Colin taught me how to cut down on my bills and apply for tax credits that I’m eligible for which helped me with my move,” she said. She has even shared her financial knowledge at her job as a residential counsellor at an open custody facility. “I’m helping the residents learn life lessons, so we’ve had great conversations about financial literacy because I think it’s very important.”

Not having someone to talk to is a major challenge that Ava has faced since finishing the program. “I’m in this transition stage where I don’t know what to expect with my new responsibilities and bills from my move,” she said. “It would be nice to have someone to actually talk to. Now it’s almost like I’m talking to myself. The program was only five months so I feel like there’s so much more for me to know.” 

The accomplishment Ava is most proud of is sending her first child to college this past September without taking any loans, which she says she wouldn’t have been able to do without Colin’s coaching support. “Having an RESP account helped me save for my child’s education. My son also received grants and bursaries, which Colin told me to apply for rather than taking out an OSAP loan,” she said. “I used to take things at face value rather than investigate other options, but Colin taught me that there are a lot of resources out there that people don’t know about.”

Saving for her other three children’s education is a long-term goal Ava is continuing to work towards. “Now when my son finishes school, he won’t have debt to pay back,” she said. “Saving for my children’s education is important to me. Paying off debt is one life lesson I don’t want my children to have to learn.” 

The MPower Money Coaching program was funded by a consortium of companies. Although the pilot program ended in August 2016, Prosper Canada believes strongly in the financial coaching model and is exploring ways to build this and other proven financial empowerment solutions into our public, community and financial services so we can help more Canadians to prosper. 

A final report including findings from the program will be released early in the new year. Click to learn more about the MPower Money Coaching program.

Feature photo credit: Chris So/Toronto Star file photo

THE AUTHOR

Chloe Stanois is the Marketing and Communications Officer at Prosper Canada. Chloe is passionate about using storytelling to share Prosper Canada's vision and connect with others. She has a communication studies and sociology degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a corporate communications and public relations post-graduate certificate from Centennial College.

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