Thrive Financial Coaching & Literacy

Location

Jewish Family Service, Texas

Focus Area

  • Self-Sufficiency

Partners

Jewish Family Service Houston; Jewish Family Service Austin; Jewish Family Service Dallas; BubbieCare

“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

In 2018, more than 52 million people in the U.S. were age 65 and older. And in Texas, people who are 65+ make up over 12% of the population. Assisted living, independent living, or nursing home facilities aren’t feasible housing options for many of these seniors—either because they can’t afford the cost or because they prefer to live independently for as long as possible. While living at home, many older Texans still need some kind of assistance with managing their health and daily household tasks.

Professional caregivers are a crucial component of a senior’s ability to live in the place they love—home. They can assist with daily routines like preparing and eating meals, and bathing and dressing. They can also provide health monitoring and other clinical services. In the past decade, the home healthcare workforce has doubled in size, and with more and more care shifting from nursing homes to private homes, the nearly 2.3 million current home caregivers in the United States are under more strain to care for our society’s elders. And the need for home caregivers will only continue to grow as America’s Baby Boomer population ages.  

But despite the central part they play in the well-being and independence of their clients, most professional caregivers don’t make a living wage. While the typical home healthcare agency charges a senior’s family $22 to $24 an hour for care, the caregiver providing these essential services only receives an average of $11.52 an hour in pay. A low hourly wage coupled with inconsistent work hours means that caregivers earn only around half of the median personal income reported in the United States--$16,000 per year. For many, this conscripts them to a life of financial uncertainty and struggle.

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.

Nearly half of all professional home health caregivers in the United States live in low-income households, meaning that they may be one emergency away from slipping into poverty. The ever-present stress and uncertainty that this causes impacts every area of life. But if caregivers had more stable and well-paying employment, and the financial know-how to maximize their pay, the quality of their life—including their mental health—may improve. And less financial stress wouldn’t just benefit the caregivers. Their clients would benefit from their increased stability as well, creating a better situation for everyone. Our elderly and the caregivers that play such a critical role in their lives deserve better. And that path starts with self-sufficiency.

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. BubbieCare's model already provides a way for caregivers to earn significantly higher wages than they would working for a traditional home healthcare agency. JFS is supplementing that pathway with financial education and coaching so caregivers are empowered to manage their increased earnings. The program is person-centered, providing caregivers with one-on-one financial coaching in addition to group literacy courses that help them reach financial stability.

Caregivers 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 caregiver in the BubbieCare network who is interested in participating in financial coaching and education is eligible to participate in the study.

Caregivers in the BubbieCare network are contacted by an enrollment specialist from BubbieCare who walks them through the consent process. After consenting to participate in research, individuals will take a baseline survey meant to capture their financial capability and mental health status before services start, as well as demographic information that is not already collected by BubbieCare.

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)

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