Quarter 1 2021, Volume 9 Issue 1

NeighborWorks America’s Focus on Financial Capability

For over 40 years, the HUD-approved intermediary NeighborWorks America has focused its efforts on increasing clients’ financial well-being through the creation of strategies and tools to support housing counseling service delivery. According to the National Industry Standards for Home Ownership Education and Counseling, financial capability is defined as the “capacity, based on knowledge, skills, and access, to manage financial resources prudently and effectively.” To encourage long-term sustainable change in financial decision making, NeighborWorks organizations use an approach that includes education, counseling, coaching, and access to financial products and services.

One example of a program that encourages financial health through a variety of learning modalities is the Financial Capability Learning Lab. This program provided six NeighborWorks organizations with the opportunity to test and launch new strategies to address critical marketplace needs and grow the financial health field from March 2018 to September 2019. Through the Learning Lab, NeighborWorks:

  • Invested in capacity building to help organizations grow their financial capability services and identify scalable solutions.
  • Shared a suite of tools and products leveraging the materials available through the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC).
  • Used MyMoney.gov resources (developed through FLEC) as part of the NeighborWorks Training Institute.

Financial Capability in Action: A Case Study

The Wyoming Housing Network (WHN), a HUD-approved housing counseling agency in NeighborWorks’ network, offers multiple resources within their Financial Capabilities Program to empower clients to enhance their financial knowledge and skills around homeownership.

The program includes the following components:

  • EARN Wyoming is a financial education and coaching program. It helps people achieve the goal of homeownership through education and personalized coaching. The program assists prospective homebuyers with saving for a down payment and closing costs. Counselors help participants establish an account and work with a loan officer to access up to $7,500 in down payment and closing cost assistance through the Federal Home Loan Bank.
  • Financial Foundations is a free 4-week course offered several times a year to help clients develop the financial skills needed to reach their goals. Topics include setting financial goals, budgeting, minimizing debt, saving, and building credit.
  • Financial Coaching helps participants with monthly budgeting, improving credit, developing plans for debt payoff, and saving. Coaching includes online training and individual sessions.

Financial capability resources offered by WHN have helped empower clients to succeed in homeownership. For more information about NeighborWorks America and the Financial Capability Learning Lab, please contact editor@nw.org or 202-760-4000.

Coins on a table with plants growing out of them

What is the Financial Literacy and Education Commission?

FLEC was established under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. FLEC was tasked to develop a national financial education website and a national strategy on financial education. The vision of FLEC is to create sustained financial well-being for all individuals and families in the United States.

Two key resources developed through FLEC can be leveraged by housing counseling agencies when developing financial literacy curricula:

On September 16, 2020, HUD hosted a session on FLEC at its annual Intermediary Conference. The session provided attendees with ways they can partner with FLEC agencies and access resources.