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Building a stronger path to a secure financial future

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Through CONNECT, Suyapa Perez worked with a financial coach to document a budget.

What does it mean to be financially included? It means more than having a credit card or a bank account. It means being able to manage those tools to allow a family to escape poverty and realize their dreams. Functionally, this move can happen when the public, private and non-profit sectors band together to help make a difference.

Suyapa Perez's story is an example of how a public-private partnership has transformed the life of one family in the U.S.

Perez is a 51-year-old mother of three and the wife of, in her words, "an honorable and hard-working man." Perez emigrated with her family from Honduras to the U.S. in 2000, leaving behind a career as a primary school and special education teacher. After arriving in the U.S., she and her husband could only find work in restaurant kitchens and cleaning factory bathrooms.

In April 2013, Perez came to the CONNECT Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) in Boston's Chelsea neighborhood, part of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation's (LISC) national network of FOCs, which help low-income individuals and families become financially stable as measured by positive monthly cash-flow, long-term job retention, quality credit scores and positive net worth.

A $2.25 million MetLife Foundation grant will help support LISC's network of 71 FOCs in 30 cities. This grant is part of MetLife Foundation's $200 million, five-year commitment to financial inclusion.

Through CONNECT, Perez worked with a financial coach to document a budget. Household expenses far exceeded the family's combined income, and Perez and her husband were incurring credit card debt to make ends meet. She also received multiple services, including employment training and financial coaching, that helped her work toward her goals, which included becoming a minister and seeing her children graduate from college in the U.S.

She worked on her finances in the context of her goals, meeting with her financial coach to learn basic money management skills, such as savings, credit building, and even how to write a check. She then passed these skills onto her three children, bringing them to their community bank to open accounts of their own.

Financial Inclusion in Action

The true impact of MetLife Foundation's financial inclusion commitment is best told through the individual stories of those that take what they learn and transform their lives.

Each month, we'll feature an organization that helps advance this mission, and the personal experience of how it's helped someone in need.

With the support of her FOC coaches, Perez worked diligently to achieve her goals. In less than a year, she was ordained as a minister. With the additional household income she now earns, coupled with her husband's income, Perez has also begun to save nearly $300 a month and has reduced her credit card debt significantly. With her current budget, her family plans to be free of credit card debt by the end of 2014.

Perez has said that CONNECT, and the FOC network, "allows you to believe in yourself." The benefits of this confidence has extended to her family as well. Over the past year, her husband started his own small business and two of her three children entered into college programs.

For Perez, this is not the end of her success story: she continues to save and manage her finances on her own everyday, and continues to benefit from the CONNECT FOC through English classes, the Bridges to College program, and computer classes.


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