Taking Control of Your Financial Wellness

Crystal Brandow: Hi everyone. Thank you for joining us on today’s webinar,
Taking Control of your Financial Wellness. I am Crystal Brandow, the assistant director
of SAMHSA’s Program to Achieve Wellness and we’re very happy to have all of you on the
line with us today. Before we get started with the webinar, a
quick disclaimer that the views, opinions and content expressed in this presentation
do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or policies of the Center for Mental Health
Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services. So again, today’s webinar is called Taking
Control of your Financial Wellness and we’re very pleased to have three experts on the
line with us, sharing some information on this topic and the connections between financial
wellness and physical health. So we’re joined by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick, who
is a senior consultant for the Program to Achieve Wellness. She also works at Collaborative Support Programs
of New Jersey and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, as well as on many wellness initiatives. We’re also joined by Pat Nemec, who’s an independent
trainer and consultant in the area of psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery. She also works with Peggy Swarbrick at Collaborative
Support Programs of New Jersey on a variety of health and wellness projects. And finally, we’re joined by Oscar Jimenez-Solomon,
who is a mental health researcher and an advocate. He works as a research scientist at the New
York State Psychiatric Institute Columbia University Medical Center, where he leads
a research project to develop a peer supported economic empowerment intervention for people
in recovery. So we have a great team here, talking about
this concept of financial wellness and without any further ado, I’m going to hand this off
to Dr. Swarbrick to get the conversation started. Peggy Swarbrick: Great, thanks Crystal. Thanks everybody. Welcome today to Taking Control of financial
wellness. This is a really exciting, important webinar
that I think that really we’re very pleased to be able to provide this for you. And the learning objectives that we have for
today is really, we’re hoping by the end of the time today, the end of the hour, you’ll
be able to define financial wellness, particularly for people with serious mental illness, to
really get a good handle on the definition of financial wellness. And recognize the connection between poverty
and mental disorders, how the effect of poverty impacts people and really, how we can help
people and start to see the links. And connections between financial and physical
wellness, how they affect each other in ways, and how we can start to, importantly, help
people think about and start to improve these areas. And finally, we’re going to be able to provide
some resources to be able to help support other people’s financial wellness, people
you support. So we’ve really got a full agenda here today
and a lot of objectives to accomplish. And I think we’ve got a great team to talk
about these things. The next slide is to provide you an overview. We give you a little bit of a definition as
we’ve mapped it out in terms of financial wellness. This is about the ability to have enough money
or have money to meet practical needs, have a sense to control over and knowledge of financial
personal finances. So this is an area that I’ve been doing a
quite a bit of work for many, many years. Just personally like all of us, as we’ll see
in a minute, we all, personally, have a connection to this but at my work at Collaborative Support
Programs in New Jersey, we’ve done a lot of work on this area and really, seen some really
important ways of you can help people. Even if they are in poverty, even if people
have limited incomes, we can help people in this area. So that’s the real hopeful news. I’ve done some work at Collaborative Support
Programs. I’ve also worked very closely with my colleague
Oscar at Columbia University, who will talk more about some of the great work. And again, there is some work being done at
Yale. So this is just not a fleeting idea. This is an area that’s been really recognized,
very important of financial wellness and particularly, the connections to physical wellness. When we feel financially stressed by things
like getting debt, more debt, we start to have more emotional stress that may come in
the form of anxiety or depression. Sometimes often, can impact people’s physical
health status, and then what can happen for people is it starts to affect those other
life areas they work or school or the other kind of areas that people identify as valued
roles. We may even start to question our own meaning
and purpose in life, the whole spiritual dimension. When we’re not working the occupational dimension,
we sometimes lose those opportunities to interact with other people, having a connection to
that social connection. And again, it can affect our physical dimension. Again, we may not be able to get the foods
that are really healthy for us or be able to do some of the things physically that can
help us to stay well or get that health care we might need. It may also impact the living situation. So as we look at the wheel of wellness, we
can see the financial dimension touches those areas, and it has that effect on people on
in a way. And it can have that negative end or a positive
as we’re going to talk about it. The next slide we see the connection to health. It affects our physical health in a big way. As I mentioned, we can feel stress. We may feel anxiety. There may be tension that can start to affect
people physiologically in the form of blood pressure, sleep disturbance and probably,
a whole host of other physical health areas. So we may not be helping people become per
se rich or gain more assets direct right in the short term but maybe in the long term,
by helping people to take that charge of their financial wellness and have that control,
even if the budget is small. We’ve seen really empowers people and can
have a positive impact on their well-being. So we’re going to have a really nice conversation
with our colleagues here and go more deep into this. But before we start, because this is really
something that affects people we serve but it also affects us. Whether we are a person in recovery on the
phone or someone who is a peer provider or a provider – whatever role, this concept
of financial wellness affects the soul. So we have polling questions. The first one is going to be, we want you
to take a few minutes to think about, for me financial wellness is either very important,
important, somewhat important or not important. So that’s the first question and the same
polling question’s going to ask you, “I would benefit from education and skills to improve
my financial wellness.” And the answers are yes, I’m sure and no. So we’re going to take a few minutes and that’s
going to help let us look at the results and really take us into the presentation today
to really be able to accomplish our objectives. So just take a minute and answer the questions. Crystal Brandow: … We are closing the poll
right now. Pat Nemec: … Whether this is an area where
people feel confident, one of the things that I’ve heard occasionally from service providers
is that if they don’t feel particularly confident about their own financial wellness or financial
understanding of financial matters, they may not feel confident enough to help other people. So we do have some results in here, not many
people answered the first question. Of the people who answered, most people checked
number three, which was important. So that’s the first question. Number three important. Oh actually, most people picked very important. So that was a pretty high percentage and then
next after that was important. So it looks like well over half the people
picked either important or very important on this item, which is not surprising. On the second polling question, well over
half the people picked yes, I would benefit from education. Several people picked unsure and only three
people picked no as their answer out of all the people, which is almost 200 people on
the call. Also, as I was saying, I think one of the
reasons this doesn’t really get addressed in depth by service providers is that many
service providers themselves feel somewhat unsure about their own knowledge and maybe
don’t really know how to go about supporting people. So let’s talk a little bit about what financial
wellness is. Peggy gave you a nice definition but when
we talk about financial wellness, it’s important to consider both the objective indicators. These are things you can measure, like how
much money you have in the bank, how much money you owe. You can even measure how much people know
about financial products and services, like savings accounts or checking accounts or credit
cards. And then the subjective indicators include
things like how satisfied a person is with their current financial situation, how concerned
or confident they are about their future financial wellness situations, and get to the point
that emotional factors play big cards in someone’s willingness and ability to manage their money. As well as, whether a person feels at all
optimistic about the possibility of financial wellness. So addressing the objective indicators through
knowledge and skill development is one way to go about it in some of the resources we’ll
talk about later, but it’s also important to consider and talk with people about their
subjective measures and how they feel, what their experiences are, what they’ve been through. And this is an area with a peer support may
be most especially useful. There are a lot of things that contribute
to somebody’s financial situations. Some of these are called social determinants. These are the things in somebody’s culture,
their environment, their median environments, their health situations, the state of the
economy that they’re in, the kind of social connections that they have. And these factors occur at all levels, a national
level regional area, your particular community that the person lives in, whether they’re
connected to family or not, where their family’s at in terms of financial wellness. And all these things influence the person’s
ability to feel well financially. And then as Peggy talked about financial wellness
contributes to your physical health, as well as your mental health, how you’re feeling
emotionally. Poverty is connected to psychiatric conditions. We know that it goes in both directions. Persistent poverty makes it difficult for
people to recover. The people who have or at risk of a mental
health condition or substance use conditions and also, having of mental health challenges
of some sort or substance use issues can make it more likely that this person is going to
be living with poverty. SSI and SSDI is, probably most people on the
phone or on the call already know, it’s very difficult to live on. SSDI is not available to everyone either. Publicly funded behavioral health programs
make use a lot of representative payee systems, which takes a lot of the financial control
away from people. And very few programs have plans or ways to
really help people get off rep payeeship, which creates all sorts of challenges and
limits opportunities for people to develop their financial wellness. To give you an idea of poverty and mental
health disorders, an estimated 9.8 million adults in the U.S. has a serious or diagnosed
with a serious mental illness and of those, about 2.5 million were living below the poverty
line. So for people who are experiencing a mental
health condition, many of those people are already living in poverty. And I’m going to switch over to Oscar here. So he’s going to go on to the next slide … I
think Oscar may be on mute. So he’ll be with us in just a sec. Oscar Jiménez Solomon: Okay, can you hear
… Hello, this is Oscar Jiménez-Solomon. I am with the New York State Psychiatric Institute
at Columbia Medical Center. Firstly, I want to thank Crystal and what
SAMHSA’s Program to Achieve Wellness for the invitation to speak to you about financial
wellness and also, applaud SAMHSA’s commitment to financial wellness, which has been long-standing. And glad to also see us move forward here
on this topic that many of us are … like Peggy was saying, I’ve been working on it
for a number of years. Most of what I’ll be sharing with you this
afternoon is part of a work that we’ve been doing here at the New York State Psychiatric
Institute but also, during my time at the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation
Services, NYAPRS. Also, want to acknowledge that much of the
research that we’ve conducted has also been funded by the New York State Office of Mental
Health. And the dream that we’ve been working with
is this idea of having one day, an evidence-based economic empowerment intervention that can
work for people in recovery, and that can be strongly led by peer support specialist,
because we believe that there can be a very strong marriage between the principles of
peer support and also, the needs that people in recovery face to achieve financial wellness. So what I want to do in this slide is talk
a little bit more about probably one of the things that you’re wondering, which is building
a little more of what Pat and Peggy have said, which is what do we mean exactly when we say
financial wellness? And so based on the research and programmatic
experience, of the last decade that is really what informs our work here, we’ve been able
to develop both the definition and a map of the key dimensions of financial wellness. And this is what I wanted to share with you
on this slide. The first one basically in some, we proposed
the financial wellness is the overall ability state of well-being, rather the results from
the ability to one, exercise control of one’s personal finances, which is really key to
self-determination. And we call that financial control, which
is one of the circles that you see on the slide. Two, to earn sufficient income to meet one’s
needs and pursue recovery goals, which is what we call financial stability. Three, the ability to build assets, which
is really key to achieve security and financial security such as savings, property, retirement
accounts, rainy day funds. Four, the ability to live independently from
public benefits that another programs that limits one’s choices. And five, the ability to exercise what we
call this economic rights and fulfill responsibilities as well. So just being a taxpayer, a contributing economic
citizen and etc. So these are what we call the five dimensions
of financial wellness. Again, financial control, financial stability,
financial security, financial autonomy and citizenship and during the last few years,
a number of us have been working on identifying good indicators for each of these. And so far, just to mention a couple of examples,
we see, for example, that key indicators of having control over one’s personal finances
or whether or not someone has a rep payee and to what extent a person participates in
a day-to-day financial decisions. Indicators of financial stability improve
whether or not someone can make ends meet and how burdened they feel by their by debts. Key indicators of financial autonomy is to
what extent a person depends on SSI or SSDI, some main source of income. We know what difference that could make in
someone’s life. Someone else that I want to mention too here
is that all of these dimensions interact with each other, like for example, it’d be hard
for someone to be able to save towards the rainy day fund if he or she cannot make ends
meet today, right? So moving on, we wanted to also comment on
making a little more of the case of what we’ve been hopefully saying so far, which is the
connection between financial wellness and wellness in general. One of the things that we’ve seen through
a research project we’ve been working on during the last few years with Peggy in collaboration
with CSPNJ, the Collaborate Support Programs in New Jersey and two other organizations
in New York State, Baltic Street and the Mental Health Peer Connection. This a study that we’ve conducted with about
215 individuals receiving employment services. It’s a group, a very diverse working age adults,
18 to 65, ethnically diverse. About 50% African Americans and Hispanics,
mostly the low educational levels, mostly single, which is actually a trait that we
find in the population with a very small percentage of people who actually work. In this study, what we found in general is
that it’s high levels of dependency, low levels of control, high levels of instability and
things like, for example, two-thirds of people we find, depend on SSI or SSDI as their main
source of income, which is pretty significant. 80% have incomes below the federal poverty
line, which in 2016 was around less than $12,000, which means that the large proportion of people
receive incomes lower than the federal poverty line. Only about one third of those on SSI or SSDI
have a rep payee, which means that they depend on someone else to make their decisions. About three-fourths, about 75% find it difficult
to make their basic needs, which means financial stress and an inability to make ends meet
and about half feel like they have too much debt. So how to live in like this, in high levels
of dependency, stress and financial and security, and one thing that we see here in this study
that we’re conducting is that the low levels of financial wellness are very much associated
with low levels of emotional and social wellness. And completely, the lower the level of satisfaction
that someone actually has about their current financial situation. For example, the lower that they’re going
to experience emotional wellness such as for example, that let’s hope that they’re going
to feel about their future, that they’re satisfied with their lives and the lower quality of
life that they actually experience and the more negative social experience and shaming
experiences that someone actually feels. Similarly, we also see that financial wellness
is very much connected to the satisfaction in physical wellness, all with physical wellness. What I mean by this is that how satisfied
a person feels about his or her overall health, is significantly and positively correlated
to their ability to make ends meet and others. In other words, what we found so in this study
is that the less able someone is to meet their needs in a typical month, the more burden
somebody feels to buy their debts and the less satisfied they feel about their financial
situation, the less satisfied he or she feels about their overall health. We cannot establish a cultural relationship
but it’s a significant finding and very consistent with what we see in the literature and broader
research. And now I’m actually going pass the control
back to Pat, who’s going to continue with us. Pat Nemec: Okay, Oscar and Peggy have really
made a good case that financial wellness is really critical for many reasons and there
are many components to financial wellness. Also, we’re getting to the question of, “How
do you help people feel better financially?” And as I mentioned before, there are the objective
and subjective components of sort of measuring or looking at financial wellness. And one of the objectives components is whether
people have the knowledge or the skill they need to be able to take care of what money
they have to be able to save money, to be able to avoid risky situations where they’re
going to lose their money. So financial literacy, let me tell you a little
bit about what that is first. Financial literacy means being able to find,
understand, evaluate and apply information to improve your financial wellness. So the first thing is where do you get that
information? Peggy and I are currently working on curricula
to help develop financial wellness that should be coming out later in the spring with the
University of Illinois Chicago folks, Judith Cook and Jessica Jonikas. So keep an eye out for that. It’s going to be six classes where people
are going learn some of the basics but one of the things that I certainly learned in
putting together some of the materials for this curriculum is that there’s so much to
learn, and it can be hard to find the information that you need to be able to make sense out
of your own financial situation. Even for people like New York quite accomplished
at finding information can be a bit of a challenge. So once you find it, can you even understand
the way it’s presented if it’s written or if it’s in a little video on YouTube or something
doesn’t even make sense to you? How do you know that it’s legitimate? I didn’t know that what you’re looking at
is really something that you can trust. That’s the whole question particularly with
the information on the internet. And then if you do find the information and
you understand as you decide it’s reliable and you’re willing to use it, how do you actually
apply it to improve your personal financial wellness? And one of the things we found in our curriculum
development processes, there’s a lot of information out there and a lot of curricula, actually
training materials but they’re not all presented in a way that people actually learn what to
do with the information that they are provided. So financial literacy education includes things
like money management skills, what are the things you need to be able to do, like constructing
a budget, how do you figure out what your income is, how do you plan ahead for the expenses
that are going to be upcoming? It’s not unusual for people. Even people who are very good at money management,
I find myself sometimes being surprised. Even though I know like my car insurance still
is going be coming, it sometimes surprises me when it ends up in the mail and I realized,
oh this is a big once a year payment and I need to be prepared for that. So having those sorts of skills are important. Understanding banking credit and debt banking
is more complicated. Maybe there are a lot of people in the phone
like me who have the same bank account for a long time but when if you’re trying to find
a new bank, how do you choose the bank? How do you decide this bank instead of that
bank? How do you pick a credit card that’s going
to give you the best term? Do you even understand how a credit card works? These are fairly complicated bits of information
that people need to be able to manage their money and plan ahead. And then there’s the whole issue of staying
safe and avoiding scams. How do you know when somebody calls you up
about something or you get something in the mail? How do you know that it really is something
that you can trust that information? Next slide is still talking about building
financial wellness and tasks at the top, financial wellness goals and plans. SO one of the things that I think it’s important
to consider is that people do need with their financial wellness, a lot of goals are very
long-term goals. In a year, I will have paid off my credit
card. In five years, I will have saved so much money. But it’s also important for people that very
short-term goal, like what are you going do in the next month? What are you going do this week? What are you going do tomorrow? What are you going do the day after in order
to move yourself closer to that goal? Many goals not just financial wellness goals
but many life goals and we’re still in the season of New Year’s resolutions, many New
Year’s Resolution type goals fail because people have these very large, very global,
very big goal. So goals need to be very observable, very
measurable and need to include some serious short-term goals or objectives. It’s also really, really important for people
to have goals and plans that help them get off rep payeeship. Any program that acts as a rep payee should
also be helping people work towards achieving financial independence from the rep payee
and eventually, as Oscar was talking about, financial autonomy being off of the benefits. Improving health can also decrease expenses
and decreasing your expenses can also sometimes improve health. And two simple examples are smoking cessation. In case you didn’t have a clue about this,
smoking is an expensive habit and people can save a lot of money by quitting smoking. Walking is good for … It can be fun. It can be a social event if you want with
other people. It’s good for your health and also, can help
you save money on transportation. So there’s a lot of areas where improved health
can also help you in the long run, improve your financial situation and vice versa. So I’m going turn over to Oscar here and he’s
going carry it on from this point for a little while. Oscar Jiménez-Solomon: Thank you, Pat. Yeah, this is very helpful. Very important to hear you describe this,
Pat. We have limited time here and there are so
many strategies that we could talk about to support people in recovery to improve their
financial wellness, whether it is to improve any of those dimensions that we’ve presented. Whether it is to improve their level of control,
whether it is to improve the level of autonomy from public benefits, the level of stability,
reducing the financial stress on a day to day, month to month basis. Or to improve more long-term sense of security,
being able to go to bed knowing that I have a little rainy day fund or that I have something
to tap into in case something happens in my life. So we’re just going to mention a few here
some resources, some strategies that we want to highlight around each of those dimensions. One that I want to emphasize is this idea
of helping people to improve their access to financial products and services. One of the things that we’ve seen in research,
and this is not necessarily with people with mental health conditions but just in general,
is that knowing what to do is not enough. That I can actually have great level of financial
education but if I am not connected to affordable and accessible financial services, asset building,
income increase in supports, it doesn’t matter how much I know how positive my attitudes
are. One of those main areas that we want to comment
on is just something very specific that if there’s one thing that we could start with
is by helping people getting back. Meaning have access to a check-in and a savings
account that we know is very much connected to progress, moving forward financially. What we see in the study that we conducted
is that about half of people in the group that we’ve worked with, do not have access
to a checking account and about 75% don’t have access to savings account, which are
actually very, very low levels of access to basic financial services. And about a quarter report having used a pawnshop
in the last five years and about a third having used a prepaid debit cards, were actually
known to have high fees. That’s actually really important. Something else to mention that we want to
mention here is that employment is important as a strategy. We don’t have the time to focus here on employment
as an economic empowerment but hopefully, that’s a given. But it’s certainly not requirement to be able
to engage people in economic empowerment interventions. Last thing, the next thing that I’ll mention
is these tools that we developed a few years ago. This is actually something that these tools
are available to NYAPRS, the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. You can see the website right there. Links to these resources are going to be sent
by email and also, in the PDF following up is this webinar. Just highlight is that this We Can Save tools,
include both a workbook for people in recovery that want to improve their financial wellness
and also, a guide for providers to promote that. The next I still haven’t mentioned is something
developed by Samsung. It’s actually Creating a Healthier Life handbook. This is a handbook for people to actually
get them some guidance and also, develop specific goals around different areas of wellness,
including physical wellness and financial wellness. Again, the link you’ll be able to access it
through the PDF and also, will be sent by email afterwards. A couple other programs, and I’ll move on
to the next slide for that, that we want to comment is it’s a relatively new program that
now it’s available in many states and over half of states across the country. It’s called Achieving a Better Life Experience,
ABLE, A-B-L-E. This is a very important resource that we’re
trying to actually make sure that people across the country learn about or know about that
this may be available. What it is, is basically a tax exempt. It’s a program that was created. The federal government allowed for the ABLE
act for states to create the savings programs so that individuals with significant disabilities
could save tax exempt up to $14,000 a year and 100,000 in a lifetime. Some states actually have higher limits. And this is the key without affecting eligibility
for public benefits, like SSI, SSDI, Medicaid and others. And also, so that individuals can actually
use this expenses for a wide variety of eligible expenses. The caveat is that at this point, the eligibility
age is one of the criteria for eligibility, is that the individual must show that they
became disabled by the age of 26. This is part of the advocacy work that is
being done. And I want to direct you here to a very important
resources, both in terms of information but also policy advocacy, which is the ABLE National
Resource Center, ablenrc.org. Which actually is a very up-to-date map, provides
a very up-to-date information on each state, what programs are available, where the basic
legibility criteria and the basic descriptions and also information on how to continue the
advocacy, which is something that I’d like to encourage everyone. One of those pieces is to increase the age
of eligibility so that more people with psychiatric conditions can have access to it. I want to move on to a program that it may
also be really important for people to achieve basic financial stability, especially for
those who are actually at the risk of homelessness. SAMHSA has a program called SOAR, S-O-A-R,
in collaboration with Policy Research Associates. And the main purpose of this program is to
increase access to SSI and SSDI in a streamlined fashion, faster to be able to support people
who are risk of homelessness and help them to actually have access to income and prevent
their homelessness. And this is done through training case managers
and providing guidance and technical assistance that you can see there on the slide. The address where you can get more information
about this program, this is also going be sent to you in the email that will follow
up this webinar. Just wanted to change gears here because much
of what we’re really talking about are specific. We’ve been talking about data and research
and also, some of the services but I just want to highlight that there’s a human story
here, right? Each of us has a personal story around money,
around financial pressures or stressors but also, around hopefully, our ability to pursue
dreams. Ultimately, that’s really what people and
the human beings care about is to have a purpose. And the fact that most of us care about improving
our financial wellness, not just have more money or stability but because of what it
allows us to do. And I want to share the story here of Pilot
and Joan who have been generous through the years ensuring their personal story of how
they got to own a home and really build their hope of raising a family and aging with dignity. So I met Pilot and Joan a number of years
ago. They were both people in recovery. This was their dream to actually, one day
be able to buy a home so that they could start a family. Each of them had different challenges and
depended on Social Security benefits, and had a lot of difficulty making ends meet. And also, like many of us, had credit problems
as a result of these financial stressors. So through a number of stars lining up, and
a bit of their own self-empowerment but also some support that were available in the area
where they live, which is in Syracuse, New York, they were really determined to not let
their circumstances define them and what they could and couldn’t achieve. So they approached their credit union and
received financial counseling to set financial goals to work on credit repair, work on saving
money. And they were told about a home buyers program
that could give them a match of four to one, if they saved towards buying a home. Their goal was begin to save about $2,000,
to be matched by another 8,000 to have the beginnings of down payments. When they accomplish this goal, they actually
receive help through grants for closing costs and a couple years later, they were able to
save enough money for a down payment and be able to close on the home of their dreams. And after a while, receiving low-interest
loans to help them make repairs and improvements, the value of their home increased so much
that their equity, meaning how much money the house was worth over what they owed was
over $100,000 in just four years. Which was to them, something that seemed unimaginable
five or 10 years before. And what’s most important after many years
of dreaming and hard work and times of doubt, they were able to adopt a child and start
the family that they always wanted, which is ultimately what motivated them to do this
work. And with that, I just want to put a plug in
for the personal motivations that are so connected to who we are as cultural beings, as men,
women, gay, straight, white, black from a rural area or from an urban area or whatever
other sources of identity, which is what our dreams, what motivates us, what is our purpose? What are the things that give meaning to our
lives? And I would encourage you if you’re a person
in recovery who is interested in this or a provider who is hoping to support others to
engage people in conversation, this is really a key strategy on what those dreams are, what
the motivation start to pursue in wellness because the road is rough. And in that process, knowing that I’m buying
a car, it’s important especially because I want to apply to a better job that I really
want or a career of my dreams, that I want to save some money but it’s because I want
to start a college fund for my kid you know because I want my kids to actually have stability
and security that I didn’t have. And so many other examples that we could think
of. So, with that I’m going to pass the control
back to Pat who actually…Actually, no I think we had a change in plans here, right
Pat? I think I’m going to stay here. Pat Nemec: Yes. Oscar Jiménez-Solomon: Correct? Oscar Jiménez-Solomon: Yeah. What I want to share here are some examples
of financial capabilities, which is actually what ultimately, we hope that we’ll be able
to support individuals, is to basically not only have the increased knowledge, more supportive
attitudes and skills but also, be able to have access to the asset building, financial
products and in many cases, working centers too, that can help people make a difference. And some examples include, for example, be
able to track what I expect, being able to have concrete tools and a habit of tracking
what I spend, understanding better what I owe, what my debts are and what my plan is
to repaying them. In general, being able to have a budget and
develop a budget but also, be able to stick up to a budget to make adjustments that’s
needed to do a compared shopping, and be able to wisely consider the different options that
I have, whether it’s buying in bulk or whether it’s actually comparing prices across different
stores or online. Also, the ability to pay my bills on time,
which we know it’s not just simply the desire to pay my bills on time or knowing that I
have to pay my payment bills on time but also, helping individuals to reduce their stressors
so that they can actually build. And so they can actually pay their bill on
time, and prioritizing the things that really matter in terms of meeting basic needs. And so that just more broadly, probably important
financial capability like I mentioned is the ability to also, know what resources are available,
to know, for example, what working centers I actually may have access to, that I receive
SSDI or SSI and I’m eligible for different type of work incentives that can help me increase
my income and save, accumulate money without affecting my benefits. We know that it is an important area but then
also, other programs that, for example, can help us save and build more security, like
individual development accounts or the ABLE, A-B-L-E, the Achieving a Better Life Experience
program that we just mentioned or even just basic banking services that are essential
for people as an entry point to be able to access financial resources, such as credit
for example. And reducing the likelihood that someone will
be in a trap of a payday loan or having to pawn something that they own. So with that, actually we’ll move on to the
next polling question, which Pat is going to lead us into, correct? Pat Nemec: Yes. Thanks Oscar. I think you brought up a lot of important
points and particularly, when you talk about the dreams, what are your dreams, what is
this thing that you wish for, that you imagined, optimistically might be possible in your life? And we’re curious about which of the areas
that are listed on the slides are really most important to you right now. And we’re saying most important because you
only had the option of picking one of these items here. So we have about one minute to go through
this polling question. So as you’re voting, I’ll explain some of
these options. They certainly all interrelated in many ways,
but each one is going point you in a slightly different of where you would go, what sort
of critical knowledge and skills are important to actually make this sort of change in your
life. So the first one is saving for the future
expense and this could be saving for a concrete thing like a car or to be saving for something
like a vacation or an education program that’s more of an experience. But the idea that putting money away today
is necessary to be able to get what you want later on. The second item, building my money management
skills, we talked about a lot of different skills and knowledge here, including some
of the very complicated knowledge as Oscar was just talking about financial services
and resources. Paying off my debts, I think, as many, many
people have debts. If you read the information about the sort
of current status of people in the U.S., a lot of people are deeply, deeply in debt. And then the last one is improving my credit
rating because there are all sorts of financial resources that you can access if you have
a good credit rating that you’re not able to get if your credit rating is low. So we should have the results of this poll
and it’s just a couple of seconds here. And it would be interesting to see what people
pick. After we get the poll results, we’re going
have a little over 10 minutes for questions. I noticed that some people have already submitted
questions. So we should have some opportunity for discussion
here between now and the time the webinar ends. I’m looking for the results and I don’t see
them yet. So why don’t we go ahead and start taking
some of the questions and then as those results come in, we can talk about them during the
discussion time. So I’m going switch back to Crystal, so she
can organize the … Oh, here we have the results. They just came in. We got, most of the people put paying off
my debts, which is not surprising, given the current number of people in this country who
have significant debt. Saving for the future came in at number two. Building my money management skills came in
number three and improving my credit rating was down there the bottom. Although, it’s likely for people who pay off
their debts and begin to save, they may find that their credit rating improves. So I’m going to turn it over to Crystal and
we’re going to get a sense of what the questions are. And Peggy, Oscar and I are all available to
add comments to the discussion that follows. Crystal Brandow: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Peggy, Pat, Oscar. That was a wonderful presentation and thank
you for going into such detail on this topic. It’s very helpful. We have quite a few questions coming in and
we have about 10 minutes for Q&A. So we’re going to do our best to go through
whatever questions that we can get through in the time remaining. One of the questions that has come up is whether
or not these slides will be available and just to emphasize, yes. We will email all the attendees the slides
from today’s webinar. The recording of the webinar will also be
available on SAMHSA’s YouTube channel for the full presentation with closed captioning. And like Oscar mentioned, in addition to sending
you the slides, we’ll send you links to some of the resources that have been shared as
well. So one of the first questions that we have
here relates to the ABLE program and I’m not sure Oscar if you have this information offhand
but a question has to do with just some of the details of that program, just to go into
a little bit more depth and breadth as far as eligibility and how to use it and how it’s
made accessible to people. Oscar Jiménez-Solomon: Yeah, I mean given
the time, I’ll just mention maybe briefly a couple things that I did not before but
it’s just, I really could not encourage you more to go to the A-B-L-E ablenrc.org website. It really provides state-by-state description
of the specific eligibility criteria for each program who provides it and also, what benefits
it provides because there’s some differences state-by-state. And I don’t want to overstate something that
has some common traits but there’s so many differences across states. Crystal Brandow: Great, thank you
for that and
I did send the link to the website through the chat box. So that is
on there on the screen just in case people missed
it during the slide. Another question, it’s not for anyone in particular
but Peggy, Pat or Oscar, do you have any suggestions on how to really focus on veterans with mental
health diagnoses or serious mental illness to help support their financial wellness? So whoever wants to take that? Peggy Swarbrick: This is Peggy. I think any of the strategies we talked about
could be helpful. They might have different set of circumstances
but I think many of the strategies around is helping people with budgeting and starting
to even just have conversations, and then working individually with people, I think,
is a good place to start. Pat, do you have another thought? Pat Nemec: Well, I was thinking the same thing. I think there are different resources that
are available for people who are veterans. So you need to have some expertise around
those resources but for the most part, financial wellness is financial wellness. I think that the big difference is in resources
but the strategies, the knowledge and the skills that people need and can use are really
across the board for anybody. Crystal Brandow: Great, thank you very much. Another question that we have here says, “Can
you say more about any specific best practices, models, services out there with the mission
of intensive financial planning for low-income individuals to help shift them from living
in a state of poverty into the middle class?” So any specific financial planning programs
you’re aware of? Peggy Swarbrick: Well, there’s probably many
in your local community. So this is a good opportunity where you can
do a scan of where you are out in whatever part of the country. Maybe some parts have it different than others
but there are programs that are out there. And so maybe to just start to do a little
bit of a scan and sometimes, working with like United Ways and even just local banks. They might have some programs. So just start to maybe just check out in your
community to see. And then the big area is just to kind of start
to gage the people you’re working with because many of them may know too, availability of
things that are out there. And the more we cannot duplicate what’s already
out there, the better because like Oscar said, he’s working on a really good evidence-based
model and things and there isn’t really something directly that we know of so far for this population. Though Yale is working on another project,
and we can share the experience of collaborative support programs, which I’d be happy to do
that. Some of our experiences is outlined in the
manual that’s up there from the New York Association Psych Rehab, you’ll see some of our experiences
in there. But yeah, just look into your local community
because this does exist. So it’s just sort of almost like going down
the next street and seeing what’s on the corner. You’d be surprised, you’ll find many more
resources that you realize. Pat Nemec: Yeah, I want to add … Hang on,
I just want to add one other place that people often don’t look is the state’s Cooperative
Extension Service. A lot of people think of that is related to
agricultural program but they do often do work around home economics and they often
have programs particularly, like around eating well in the budget that might be useful resources. Oscar, you want to add something? Oscar Jiménez-Solomon: So really, if you’re
in the business of helping others in this area, we should really all take a role to
learn what’s actually out there and much of that is actually anti-poverty asset building
communities. I agree with United Way but I wanted to put
a plug in for another resource that more recently, there’s a new initiative across the country
to tap into the resources that cities provide. A lot of cities and now most of cities have,
in one way or another, a financial empowerment office. Here in New York City, for example, we have
a pretty significant financial empowerment office, free financial counseling and there’s
a new national initiative to basically train those counselors on how to best support people
with disabilities, including people with psychiatric conditions. But those services are free and available
to any citizen and they’re available across the country. So I would very much encourage you to look
for financial empowerment centers in your city. Crystal Brandow: Thank you so much for that,
Oscar and unfortunately, we are out a time. This is a very salient topic and we have quite
a few other questions sitting in queue that we won’t be able to answer in this one-hour
webinar. So I’d like to thank everyone who joined us
today. Again, the recording will be available on
SAMHSA’s YouTube channel and you’ll all get an email with a slide deck. Thank you to our presenters Dr. Swarbrick,
Oscar Jiménez-Solomon and Dr. Pat Nemec. You have guys had so much valuable information
to share today. It was incredible and again, I wish we could
get to all the questions that we have. However, since we cannot, we do encourage
anyone on the line to contact SAMHSA’s Program to Achieve Wellness. Our email address is on the screen. It’s [email protected] If there are questions that you have about
financial wellness that were not answered today, please reach out to us and we’ll do
our best to help you. And we could also connect you with Oscar,
Pat and Peggy to get those questions answered. So thank you again to our panel. It was a very delightful webinar and thank
you to everyone for joining us today. Oscar Jiménez-Solomon: Thank you Crystal,
and congratulations again to SAMHSA for the effort. Pat Nemec: Yes, thank you very much. I think this is a great topic area and we
look forward to connecting with people around the country around this issue. Thanks a lot. Oscar Jiménez-Solomon: Thank you very much. Have a good day.

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