It was an ordinary day for Victoria, a native of Veracruz, Mexico, who immigrated to Los Angeles in 1988. She sat in the waiting room at the Mexican Consulate for a routine appointment. However, a simple act from a YPI staff member, something that happens to us more often than not walking around the City of Los Angeles, altered the rest of Victoria’s life.
She was handed a flyer. The flyer was about the Ventanilla Financiera program (Financial Empowerment Window), which provides free, culturally and linguistically competent financial counseling and education resources. The program is run by YPI and funded by Citi Community Development, which helped bring the program to Los Angeles. Victoria decided to learn more about the services. This was back in 2016 during a difficult time for Victoria and her family. She was experiencing financial hardship and her husband fell ill with a rare disease.
“Everything in my world was falling apart and I was in dire need of financial assistance. When I visited the office, the lady who helped me gave me a good feeling; I felt I could trust her with what I was going through. Thus, I decided to make an appointment to start fixing my credit report. Diana, my financial coach, helped me create a budget. I also asked a lot of questions about savings and options available to help me to save, which I had been struggling with. I learned about the match savings program and opened a savings account with Citi. Finally, we started working on my credit report; I had been denied credit and wanted to improve my credit score so I could refinance my home. My coach suggested that by opening an account with one of their partners, Self-Credit Union, I could start building positive credit history, so I signed up. One of the things I learned during the sessions with my coach was that having different types of credit will help me boost my credit score; thus, I also signed up for the Lending Circles program. This month, my coach and I renegotiated the debt of my mortgage, and I started a plan that will help me bring my account to a positive status by September of this year. Six months after that, I will be able to refinance.”
With the help of Diana, a financial coach with YPI’s Financial Empowerment team, Victoria was able to focus on asset building and create a healthy financial plan with a specified budget to get her back on track. Her previously poor credit score has increased by nearly 200 points and she is now able to save monthly, even paying off a previous collection account.
Victoria has taken the valuable lessons she learned with Diana and has applied them to her daily life.
“I used to buy a lot of food for my family at home. One day I realized that I was spending a lot of money purchasing this food, and there were times my kids would not even eat it. It would end up in the trash can after a few days. One day we had a conversation about what was happening and as a family we decided that we were going to buy less food. My oldest daughter, Sharon, now visits the same financial coach and has started to manage a budget, so now we can be on the same page about not wasting the few resources we have. That has helped both of us; it has helped me save, and it has helped my daughter become more responsible, independent
and aware about her own money and expenses. The money I am saving is for my retirement.
Victoria wants to retire at 62, but she has no intention of resting on her laurels. She plans to invest more time in what is, currently, a side business: producing veils.
“I design and cut the veils at home, and then send them to a different place to put the finishing touches on the garment. Once it is ready, I sell them to a distributer. I have also sold veils to churches in Chicago, Utah, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. And the business continues to grow! My daughter Sharon helps me with this process. She has told me how proud of me because of all the things that I have learned and achieved at this program. My other daughter signed up for the Fresh Start loan program and she is building credit. I have noticed that she is more conscious with her spending that she now visits my financial coach. She is not spending as much as before. Lately, the last member of the family that has enrolled with my financial coach is my grandchild, Kimberly. I want her to start saving and build a credit history, as she’s also a spender! I want her to kick this bad habit the same way we have been able to overcome it.”
By becoming financially literate and responsible, Victoria is no longer struggling in debt and can now enjoy her life more fully.
“I am not stressed out about money like I was when I started the program. I can enjoy what I have and I will be in a much better place very soon. I have savings and my credit is better. I am happy. I am looking forward to retirement. I will continue to work in the business, but I would have retired with my husband, who I care for, and enjoy life. I have a positive outlook for my daughters who I know are learning healthier ways to manage their money. Hopefully, they get to experience a financially secure future where they can give back to us!
But most importantly, I have recently been focused on finishing up details of my daughter’s graduation this May. She is the first one in the family to graduate college and will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cal State LA. I am very proud of her, and that will be a great celebration.”
We would like to express our thanks and gratitude to Citi Community Development for its long-term partnership and support for the Los Angeles Ventanilla Financiera and National Administration of the Ventanilla programs, in addition to its investment in YPI’s Financial Capability and Asset Building Program. It is thanks to Citi’s thought leadership and funding that empower the Latino population and enable individuals like Victoria to achieve financial stability that is essential to long-term asset building and economic security.