Working Families Network of Massachusetts

Everyone knows the stress of paying bills, and for hardworking families who struggle to make ends meet, getting beyond a paycheck to paycheck budget and proactively managing finances can become a “maybe someday” priority. Without a guide, vulnerable families face a difficult future.

Over the last seven years, United Way has transformed the way financial education is delivered. The result is the Working Families Network of Massachusetts, a statewide effort to provide families facing economic hardship with access to vital resources: financial education, job training, tax preparation, and home buying assistance. And the glue that holds them all together: financial coaching.

The Heart of the Network

The Working Families Network consists of 18 nonprofit partners who together provide individualized financial coaching and education to nearly 2,000 families each year. The heart of the network is families setting their own financial goals: buying a home or car, paying off loans, or getting a sustainable career. Financial coaches help people achieve those goals by advising them on how to save for an emergency, improve their credit score, reduce their high-cost debt, or build long-term assets.

United Way and the Network deliver client-driven, goal-centric financial coaching because it works. Each client sets goals they will be motivated to achieve, develops a budget and reviews their credit scores. To best gauge their clients’ progress, staff track metrics including improved client credit scores, increased savings, and decreased debt.

The results so far are positive:

  • On average, families who set the goal of increasing their savings were able to save $3,141 more per year through financial coaching.
  • Across the network, 790 individuals improved their credit score by at least 30 points or achieved a prime score.

building the field of coaches

To ensure the network provides the best quality outcomes for families, United Way launched the Financial Empowerment Learning Institute in 2015 in partnership with Citizens Bank as a learning community for its partners. As a result, there’s now a set of quality standards and a certificate program for coaches so clients can trust they’re receiving the best help possible. There’s also a client database containing a standardized set of metrics that track each client’s progress and financial outcome, enabling us to continuously evaluate and improve the program.

The Network provides Financial Opportunity Centers to serve as anchors for financial opportunity in Boston, Quincy, Chelsea, Lynn, Lawrence, and Lowell. These Financial Opportunity Centers offer a coordinated, holistic access to help so families can maximize their use of resources, set goals, and achieve results. Most sites offer tax preparation services and all provide job placement aligned with the needs of regional employers.