Spotlight on Impact: Making Ends Meet with Money Minders
Budgeting. Making and sticking to a budget is something with which too many people struggle. Last year the average U.S. household owed $7,281 in credit card debt. Not student loans, not outstanding mortgage balances, just $7,000+ in consumer debt, while the typical American family earned a yearly income of just $53,657 according to the US Census Bureau.[i] Now those are some sobering budget figures but consider the outlook for someone on a fixed income, with consumer costs rising yearly. These are the financial conditions under which many Maine senior citizens live and which makes the prospect of budgeting—and of making ends meet—wholly overwhelming.
Mostly retired, Betty Snowman is a successful businesswoman who offers a small line of ladies clothing online from her home in Auburn and exhibits at craft shows. In addition to spending time with her children and grandchildren, attending the theater and avidly crafting, Betty gives back to the community by volunteering four or five times a month for the Money Minders Program at SeniorsPlus in Lewiston.
“I had always said when I retired from my day job, I would volunteer for something,” Betty explained. “I had in mind the local community theater. But when I read the article in the newspaper about the Money Minders Program through SeniorsPlus asking for volunteers, I thought it would be a perfect fit. I'm not a certified accountant, but I was doing the accounting for my day job, my own craft business and am the treasurer for the Society of Southern Maine Craftsmen. I like numbers and bank statements and check books don't scare me.”
Money Minders matches skilled volunteers like Betty with people age 60 and older who need assistance getting their monthly bills paid in a timely and accurate manner. Volunteers create a basic budget, help sort mail, prepare (but not sign) checks, and balance the check register to the bank statement. This can help not only reduce overdraft and late-fees but also help reduce debt, and even more importantly, can help prolong seniors living independently in their own homes by helping them manage their financial affairs.
Marcia (name changed), of Franklin country is a Money Minders success story. After experiencing financial exploitation by a family member she was unable to pay her bills; Marcia lost her car, was unable to buy food and medication and eventually received an eviction notice. In developing a trusting relationship with her Money Minder’s volunteer, SeniorsPlus was able to get Marcia the assistance she needed to remain independent, avoid eviction and in collaboration with the local police department, Adult Protective Services and Legal Services for the Elderly, stop the familial exploitation that caused her financial hardship.
The 2015 grant from the Maine Women’s Fund supported the expansion of the Money Minders Program to encourage older women like Marcia to participate. Helping clients maintain or regain financial security and continue to live independently is central to SeniorsPlus’ mission and for Betty, “it was extremely rewarding to be able to watch my first client gain confidence in her ability to handle her finances.” SeniorsPlus, the organization behind the Money Minders Program, has served as the Area Agency on Aging for Western Maine since 1972 offering programs and services like Money Minders, Medicare counseling and Meals on Wheels that address the needs of seniors and adults with disabilities in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin Counties.
Posted 03.07.2016 under News and Resources