Financial Literacy

When clients come to Cornerstones for help, they almost always have challenges with their finances; whether they can’t afford their rent or utilities, have seemingly insurmountable debt, don’t understand banking, can’t save, or don’t understand their credit scores. They often feel very vulnerable and stressed about their financial situation.

To provide clear, supportive, and in-depth financial guidance to its clients, Cornerstones has partnered with T.M. Wealth Management Group and its Managing Partner, Thomas Seneca, to develop a comprehensive financial literacy program. This program takes the form of monthly classes and one-on-one mentoring with financial advisor volunteers who help the clients organize their financial paperwork, pay off debt, increase savings, and improve their credit scores.

“It is hard to focus on anything else when you are unsure where you will sleep or eat from day to day.  At T.M. Wealth Management our philosophy is that financial issues touch every area of our lives: physical, emotional, relationships, mental, and spiritual. That is why we have been so dedicated to Cornerstones’ financial mentorship program over the past few years. Cornerstones provides some sense of stability for their clients where they can begin to focus on other areas of their lives, namely economic enhancement.

Most financial literacy programs focus on technical aspects like budgeting, debt and credit. While these elements are important they are nothing more than tools to making better financial decisions. In developing the Cornerstones program we focused more on habits, goal setting, and values to help participants develop a desire to improving their financial situation. What we are trying to help them see is that there is light at the end of the tunnel and they can improve themselves.”  Thomas R. Seneca.

In 2013, with support from Citi Foundation, Cornerstones created a Trust Account program through Cardinal Bank in response to a growing need among clients to learn how to save and, particularly, put money aside for future housing needs.  The Trust Account program requires that clients open an account with an initial deposit of $100 and refrain from withdrawing any savings until they leave Cornerstones’ housing. To date, 24 clients have voluntarily deposited over $96,000 into their Trust Accounts by making small, regular payments into these accounts, as well as depositing their annual tax refunds. Mary, one of these clients, is one month from closing on a home she is now able to purchase through the Fairfax County First-time Homebuyers’ program!

The feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence that clients have begun to experience through participation in these programs attest both to the relevance of Cornerstones’ mission to promote self-sufficiency and stability for all in the community and to the value of the strong web of connectedness that Cornerstones weaves between its clients, private and public donors, and skilled and committed volunteers who seek the same vision: a community where all can afford to live.