Saving for a Better Future
Liane Sanchez with her children Tailiek and Dayonni.
When Liane Sanchez imagines her future, she focuses on her dream — owning her own home. A single mother of two, she has rented an apartment in the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael for the past seven years. She envisions a backyard where her children can play, a garden, separate bedrooms for her son and daughter, and, in general, seeing herself progressing in life, having a more secure future.
Liane's dream is coming closer as a result of her starting to save money under an arrangement known as an Individual Development Account (IDA). Sanchez is taking part in a program of EARN (Earned Assets Resource Network), a nationally recognized California nonprofit that's dedicated to helping low-income families accumulate assets that can lead to home ownership, starting a small business, or a college education.
The Marin Community Foundation is supporting this effort under its Strategic Initiative called Ending the Cycle of Poverty. Its goal is to help low-income families accumulate assets, receive job training, learn about finances, and have access to financial services that can help them thrive.
Under the IDA program, whatever someone saves is matched two-to-one, with the additional money coming from private sources, such as MCF and individual donors (including donors at the Foundation), and a federal program. "The people who take part in this program are already working but need a little bit of hand up along the way," says Jill Sturm, EARN's asset services director. "This provides a long-term chance to build both assets and opportunity."
Sanchez is the ideal candidate for the program. She already works as a customer service rep for a Sausalito company, is studying to become a teacher, and is motivated both to own a home and to improve her family's financial well-being.
By taking part in this program, Sanchez has already attended a series of workshops — held in English and Spanish — on how to save, improve her credit rating, and create and follow a budget. "I've always been frugal," she says, "but everyone spends too much." And she'll continue to be helped by EARN staff members as she takes part in the program.
Sturm explains that EARN is working with local nonprofits in Marin to identify potential participants for the program. The goal is for 500 Marin households to open IDAs over the five years of this initiative.
Sanchez is part of a growing movement that focuses on asset development as a strategy to help low-income families thrive economically. Sturm reports that people have opened around 2,500 IDAs in the Bay Area through EARN, and they're taking off nationally as well. "They are powerful tools to break the cycle of poverty," she says. "And the participants are gaining tools that they can pass on to their children, so this can help build intergenerational wealth as well."
"It was so exciting to put my first deposit into my savings account," says Sanchez, "and to know that that one hundred dollars is now three hundred dollars. I'm realizing that anything worth getting is worth working hard for. You have to fight for your dream."
While Sanchez' children, ages nine and four, may not appreciate the ins and outs of savings, they clearly understand one of the benefits of moving into their own home. Their mother has promised them that their new home will come equipped with a new dog.