Meet three MPower Money Coaching Program coaches

24 September 2015
Author: Chloe Stanois
This June the Prosper Canada team was excited to launch the MPower Money Coaching Program, a one- year pilot project developed by Prosper Canada and delivered through three City of Toronto Employment Centres. Our program goal is to enable 100 participanting individuals to identify, plan for, and achieve personal financial goals by connecting them with volunteer financial planners trained to provide financial coaching to people with low incomes. Volunteer financial planners will support their clients in money management areas like building a personal budget, reducing debt and improving credit scores. 

Most of the financial planners have met with their clients a number of times,  so we wanted to check in with three of them to hear how things are going. Meet Ann Josephs, Colin Barry, and Sebastien Skupek. 
 
  Ann Josephs
 
Ann Josephs is a financial planner at Sun Life Financial, where she works with many families living on low incomes. Ann was inspired to volunteer for the MPower Money Coaching Program because of her past experience living as a low-income Canadian. “I thought getting involved would be a good way to give back to people whose shoes I have been in before,” she explained. 

Ann is working with a student on OSAP who is supporting her child. After just a few meetings, Ann has already helped her client to take positive steps to improve her financial situation. Ann has helped her client fill out grant forms and review her credit report. “It’s a pleasure to help people who are struggling financially to move forward on their goals.” 

She is also working with a single parent living on social assistance. Ann says it can be challenging keeping her clients motivated. “How do you encourage somebody who took the first step to say, ‘how can I do better’? Each client is different, so it requires different strategies to be able to find the one that works.” 

Ann says her role as a volunteer is rewarding and she believes the program can make a difference to those who are struggling financially. “I would like to be a part of helping to transform the lives of the people I work with. If even one person achieves just one of their goals,  I would consider that a huge success. I think that Prosper Canada and all the partners supporting the MPower Money Coaching Program are on the right path. This program has the potential to have a big impact.” 
 
  
  Colin Barry 

Colin Barry is a Certified Financial Planner at Canfin Financial Group. Colin has worked in the financial services industry for five years and has previous experience providing financial advice to families living on low incomes. 

This experience was what motivated Colin to volunteer for the MPower Money Coaching Program. “This is a good way for me to use my expertise as a finanacial planner, and the financial coaching training I received through the program, to give back to the community. This is why I got into the industry in the first place,” he said. 

Colin is working with two single mothers with young children who are both on social assistance and seeking employment. Through his one-on-one coaching sessions, Colin  is helping both women to set personal financial goals and make headway in meeting them. “The biggest challenge my clients are facing are the limited resources they have to meet their basic needs. It’s not easy saving for their children’s education, making ends meet and paying down debt,” Colin explained. “In one case, I was shocked at the very high interest rate on a particular loan. It’s concerning to see.” 

In the short time Colin has been working with his clients, they have begun making progress toward their goals. “I’m excited to note that both of my clients are now receiving the Universal Child Care Benefit, which has now been extended to parents with children under the age of 18. They were able to use it to pay down debts and for back-to-school items,” he said. 

Colin believes that the MPower Money Coaching Program can make a huge difference to clients living on low incomes, as he is experiencing first hand. “I think the program is beneficial for them because they’re getting financial coaching support and encouragement from a trained professional that they don’t have to pay for.” 
  
  Sebastien Skupek

Sebastien Skupek is a financial planner at Turner Investments, where he helps clients reach their goals by forecasting and building a financial roadmap. Sebastien was interested in the MPower Money Coaching Program as he saw the opportunity to build on his volunteer experience. “Before the MPower Money Coaching program, I hadn’t had a chance to use my professional skills in a volunteer capacity. I wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful way and this program was a perfect fit,” he said. 

Sebastien is providing financial coaching to an undergraduate student and an individual employed part-time, both of whom are working to pay off their debts. He’s found that the financial coaching sessions are helping both clients move closer to where they want to be financially. “After a few financial coaching sessions both clients are already becoming more comfortable with their finances. I believe they are finding the sessions very helpful,” he said. 

Sebastien is working with his clients to help them develop their own financial plans, however, the experience has not been without its challenges. “The biggest hurdle was actually helping them determine what their goals were,” Sebastien explained. “One client is focused on finding a job. If they can’t find a job, it’s hard for them to think about moving forward to tackle their finances.”

With frequent check-in phone calls, emails and a number of advising sessions left, Sebastien is optimistic about helping his clients reach the goals they have set. “My aim is to help my clients feel more comfortable with their finances by the end of our sessions. I feel we’re on track and I’m excited to see their progress in a few months.”

The MPower Money Coaching Program is funded by a consortium of investment companies and industry associations including: AGF, Bridgehouse Asset Managers, Dynamic Funds, Franklin Templeton Investments, IA Clarington Investments Inc., The Investment Funds Institute of Canada, Sun Life Global Investments, and Zavitz Insurance. Volunteers from the financial planning community are being recruited with the assistance of three professional associations – Advocis, the Financial Planning Standards Council, and Independent Financial Brokers of Canada. 

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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