Thrive Financial Coaching & Literacy


  • Jewish Family Service Austin, Texas
  • Jewish Family Service Dallas, Texas
  • Jewish Family Service Houston, Texas

Focus Area

  • Self-Sufficiency

“With this study, we are breaking new ground by building evidence about the impact of financial coaching on financial stability, but also on outcomes like physical and mental health, for which there has never been a randomized controlled study.”

Linda Burger, CEO, Jewish Family Service Houston

The Issue

Financial instability is an issue that inhibits people in poverty from achieving self-sufficiency. Issues of financial instability include the inability to pay for housing, hold a steady job, pay off debt, hold sufficient savings, and keep a healthy credit score. Financial illiteracy is an issue that inhibits individuals from being able to maximize the way in which they save and spend their money. The problems associated with financial literacy are not only detrimental to the amount of money that a person has but also negatively impact mental health (Theodos et al. 2018). Previous studies have indicated that the optimal mode of delivery for these financial services could include a bundle of delivery methods, including financial coaching and classes, which cater to the varying needs of individuals (Clancy and Carroll 2007).

Increasingly, researchers have noted that not knowing how to save, budget, invest, or properly use a credit card can wreak financial havoc, no matter how much money a person makes. 21% of Texans say that they spent more than they earned in the last year, and 48% lack basic savings. 68% don’t have the financial means to obtain self-sufficiency, despite having a job.

Financial education and coaching may be a way to help  low-income workers achieve self-sufficiency. Learning how to budget, plan for the future, pay off debt, and build savings increases one’s chances of moving out of poverty. Previous studies have indicated that the best way to provide these financial services may be by bundling personalized financial coaching and classes in a way that meets a family’s unique needs and goals. Evidence also tells us that the positive benefits of financial coaching outweigh the costs of implementation. In addition, there is room to explore how the impact of financial coaching changes when coupled with financial literacy courses.


The Intervention

The Thrive financial coaching and literacy intervention is a unique collaboration between three Texas-based Jewish Family Service (JFS) agencies in Houston, Dallas, and Austin, and BubbieCare, an organization that matches professional home health caregivers with senior citizens. JFS provides financial education and coaching so clients are empowered to manage their increased earnings. The program is person-centered, providing clients with one-on-one financial coaching in addition to group literacy courses that help them reach financial stability.

Clients who participate in this program are assigned a coach and provided with information for the financial literacy classes. This intervention is based off of the United Way's Thrive financial coaching model. Coaches and participants connect virtually in the first week after they are matched, and continue to communicate bi-weekly--by phone, email, or a virtual meeting platform like Zoom--for the next three months, followed by monthly check-ins for up to twelve months. Concurrent with the personalized coaching sessions, participants also attend a 6-class series of virtual group financial education classes.


Research Question

Do financial literacy courses and personalized coaching improve the financial and mental well-being of those who struggle from financial stress?

Intended Outcomes

  • Caregivers who participate in the Thrive financial coaching and literacy courses will demonstrate improved financial stability over non-participants, including improved credit scores.
  • They will also be report more improved mental health than those who did not participate in the intervention.

Research Study Design

The study of JFS and BubbieCare's Thrive financial education and coaching intervention is a randomized controlled trial. Any individual who comes into JFS seeking other services, such as employment assistance, food pantry, mental health services, etc, is eligible to participate in the study. Additionally, any caregiver in the BubbieCare network who is interested in participating in financial coaching and education is eligible to participate.

JFS and BubbieCare will introduce interested persons either in-person, over the phone, or via other community partners or advertisements. Individuals will consent to research then take a baseline survey meant to capture their financial capability and mental health status before services start, as well as demographic information.

Because the JFS agencies do not have the resources or staff capacity to serve everyone in need of financial coaching, those interested in services enter a lottery for the chance at a spot in the program. Those selected by the lottery to receive one-on-one financial coaching and financial literacy courses become part of the treatment group. Those not selected by the lottery do not receive access to the financial coaching or literacy courses and become part of the control group.

Following the conclusion of the study, LEO researchers will compare changes in financial and mental well-being for both groups. Outcome data will be drawn from credit bureau reports and a follow-up survey.

(Photo credit: Jewish Family Service Dallas)

Learn With Us