How Self Empowerment Is Bringing National Capital Residents Financial Stability

Empowerment. It’s probably not a word most people would normally associate with finance. Especially in light of economic hardship such as a government shutdown or getting laid off from a job. But with nearly 260,000 individuals living “under banked” in the nation’s capital alone, it’s a problem that’s quietly stifling the financial mobility of hundreds of thousands of DC area residents across the spectrum.

When we think about financial problems, we often don’t see them as a human issue. However, the financial habits of people often reveal more about them than just how they spend their money. No one understands that better than Nathan, a financial coach at United Way of the National Capital Area’s Financial Empowerment Center.

As a financial coach, Nathan works firsthand with participants that come to the FEC seeking financial guidance. For Nathan, he views the path towards financial stability as a journey not a destination. “My interactions,” he shares, “have always been to start that person off with envisioning themselves in the best place they can be.”

Self-acceptance and methodical goal setting are two key strategies Nathan uses to help empower his students. By helping his students discover that their financial situation is a process in motion, he enables them to identify and take ownership of the decisions and results that are recurring in their financial problems.

“The reality is that they have to understand where they want to be,” Nathan explains, “just because you may be 6 hours away doesn’t mean you’re not on your way, you’re just on your way.”

Although Nathan encounters a diversified array of financial problems from the people he coaches, the human element to his work never changes. “When you are empowered financially, you live it, you walk it…Everything about you changes.”

The ability to individually address the National Capital Area’s financial stability crisis is one of the many reasons United Way of the National Capital Area continually invests in the expansion of its Financial Empowerment Centers. With now four operational Financial Empowerment Centers in Maryland, D.C and Virginia, United Way NCA is able to help stabilize.

“People have to have a sense of hope and opportunity,” SunTrust Foundation CEO and United Way NCA sponsor Stan Little asserts. “Generational poverty, generational disparity—those things get broken by organizations like the United Way.”

The funding from our partners helps United Way NCA bring the tools and the staff needed to accommodate financial problems—skilled and personable financial coaches, like Nathan—so that the centers can continue to deliver services for no cost to recipients.

“We bring capacity to good work,” declares Little, “the Financial Empowerment Centers are experiencing 90+% success rates… but we want the place to be full until there’s not a need for it.”

The services offered by the Financial Empowerment Centers are designed to empower people through the most rigorous of economic hardships. Through a series of guided workshops and individual financial coaching the FECs will help members of the community learn financial literacy, teach them how to effectively budget, educate them on tax benefits and credits, as well as empower them to set specific, tangible goals for their life. For more information on how you can give, advocate or volunteer please visit uwnca.org/get-involved.