Allyson Schmidt is a financial empowerment coach at the Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District (CCS) where she helps clients reach their financial goals by connecting them to helpful resources and services that can help improve their financial well-being. Since April 1st of this year, CCS has helped clients access $1.1 million in benefits through tax filing. They also help clients improve their money management skills and develop savings plans.
CCS provides practical assistance and guidance to people with debt and money management problems in Sault Ste. Marie & District. Allyson believes that, “knowledge is power,” and that her role allows her to, “help educate and give support to clients so that they are not alone.”
One of the initiatives Allyson has recently taken part in at CCS, is a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) sign-up day for families with children in the area, especially Indigenous families with children. Since April 1, 2018, Allyson has opened RESP accounts for 25 children. Band funding for Indigenious children is available, but since it must be shared with the pool of eligible candidates that attend post-secondary school, the more money a family has to contribute to their children's education, there is less worry about competition for education funding. The process of signing up is fairly simple and in order to withdraw the money all the client would need to do is show proof of educational enrolment.
Allyson says that there are two obstacles that often stand in the way of parents signing their children up for RESP’s.
She finds that word of mouth is the most successful method of combatting these obstacles, especially in the remote north, where connections are important in spreading news.
Allyson also believes that increasing RESP take up is best achieved through one-on-one personalized support and by making the process as easy and supportive as possible. She believes in the work she does with RESPs as children are more likely to pursue post-secondary education if they know that there is money set aside.
RESPs give parents hope for a brighter future for their children
One particular client sticks out in Allyson’s mind from CCS's RESP signup day. She recalls a client named Sandra,* a mother with five young children who came in to open RESP accounts for her children. Through the process Sandra learned that her children were eligible to receive a total of $12,500 through the Canada Learning Bond. While talking to Sandra about RESP’s and helping her through the process of signing up, Allyson saw the physical change and relief in Sandra’s demeanor as the realization that her children now have the opportunity to attend post-secondary education became apparent.
Based on the success of their first RESP signup day, CCS is hoping to host another event in the fall, with a goal to double their numbers.
Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District is working in partnership with Sudbury Community Service Centre and Prosper Canada on the Ontario Financial Empowerment Champions project. Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District is a non profit, charitable organization providing practical assistance and guidance to people with debt and money management problems in Sault Ste. Marie & District since 1969.
*Name has been changed to protect client’s identity