Michelle* was struggling both financially and physically when she came to NeighborImact. A 64-year-old woman battling high blood pressure, anxiety, nervousness, and obesity, Michelle also had $25,000 in credit card debt. When it was all too much to bear, Michelle turned to financial counselor Ann Holloman for direction. Ann’s first focus was on maximizing Michelle’s income, which was almost nonexistent. In her 50s, Michelle had had a good paying job, but as her memory started to fade, she was let go. Ann and Michelle spent several sessions reviewing her resume, searching for jobs, and discussing career options. Shortly afterwards, she was offered a job at Ibex Global.
The next step was to address Michelle’s debt, which proved to be more difficult. Her stress levels were off the charts, and Michelle would find herself crying at work and unable to focus. Despite the stress, she had a very hard time following Ann’s steps for paying the debt off. Instead, she spent about $600 each month on fast food and charged Christmas presents to her credit cards. After three different appointments and three different strategies, Ann realized she needed a new approach. Michelle was in a pit, and even with a lifeline, she couldn’t find a way out. Ann recognized that the logical next step was to suggest that Michelle talk with a bankruptcy attorney.
After Michelle filed bankruptcy, her stress diminished and she gained control of her life again. At Ann’s urging, she requested that her grandson (who lived with her) begin paying rent and chip in for groceries. It seemed that the last step towards financial stability was to address Michelle’s astronomically high car payments. Not wanting to get back into the world of debt, Michelle decided it was time to give up her car.
Letting go of her car marked a clear turning point in Michelle’s financial and physical health. “I saw a completely different person when she came back,” Ann remarked. Without the car, she began riding a bike to work, which reduced her anxiety and helped her lose weight. The bike had another positive side effect: Michelle stopped buying so much fast food. Before, fast food had been a convenience. She could just pull up in her car on her way home from work. Now, it was an inconvenience, since she would have to bike out of the way to get to the McDonalds or Wendy’s. After a few months of biking and cooking for herself, Michelle went off her blood pressure medication. For Michelle, financial stress affected all other aspects of her life, especially her health. Thanks to support from COHC funding, Michelle was able to develop strategies for financial well-being that ultimately allowed her to live a healthier, happier life.
*In order to protect client confidentiality, all client names have been changed for the purposes of this story.