Over the last three years, many North Texans have struggled to recover financially from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and several years of record inflation. This summer, gas prices have spiked and the cost of food has remained high. Meanwhile, our region has had months of record-setting heat, which means most North Texas families are seeing higher-than-average utility bills.
If you’re one of the many folks in our region who are trying to make ends meet, know that you’re not alone. And in many cases, there are systemic forces at play that prevent North Texans like you from accessing financial stability.
Consider these statistics:
These and other obstacles keep many neighbors from achieving financial security, which can also impact educational opportunities and health.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we’ve identified education, income and health as the building blocks of opportunity that enable all individuals and communities to thrive. That’s why we create, lead and invest in programs that enable North Texans to get and keep better jobs, build savings and hold on to more of what they earn. Our financial stability programs are designed to support individuals and families with free education, resources and guidance.
Here, we count down six steps you can take to improve your financial position:
1. Enroll in a program that will lead you to a higher-paying job.
Through initiatives like Pathways to Work, digital skills training and Women’s Workforce Initiative, United Way makes it easier for hard-working North Texans to earn the education and certification necessary to get a better-paying job.
Pathways to Work provides comprehensive training and employment for displaced and under-employed workers in healthcare, IT, construction, transportation, manufacturing, and business and finance. Last year, our Pathways to Work programs served 21,452 North Texans, leading to 1,656 certifications and 4,118 job placements. Click here to see a current list of available job training and certification programs.
“I wanted to upgrade myself and my computer skills, so this is a golden opportunity for me. My job outlook is going even better. I’ve been to some job fairs, and I’m expecting that phone call any day.” Kay, a Pathways to Work client who enrolled in a program to learn new skills and expand her job opportunities
Our free digital skills training programs offer adults and families an opportunity to learn the basics of Google Suite, financial literacy, job readiness, resume building and online safety. These classes enable you to learn with the support of a team and connect directly with employers upon graduation. Click here to sign up an upcoming class.
“The program has motivated me to be mobile. I want to get into forensics and work in laboratories. I am thinking bigger.” Skyylita, a 34-year-old who completed digital skills training through our partnership with CARDBoard Project and AT&T
Women’s Workforce Initiative is the workforce development component of Southern Dallas Thrives and includes the Women in Construction program. This initiative provides women in Southern Dallas with job training in high-growth industries, while also delivering support services and assisting graduates with industry certifications. As of last year, 67% of Women in Construction participants were employed in the fast-growing field. To learn more and sign up, click here.
If yours is one of the 7.1 million U.S. households that lacks a bank account, it can be difficult to build and maintain financial stability. By establishing a relationship with a bank that you trust, you can access important benefits that allow you to make progress on your finances:
We’ve made it easy to find a bank account that offers low or no fees, no overdraft charges, no minimum deposits and other important benefits. Our Affordable Loans page has a list of trusted banks that offer affordable, easy-to-use checking and savings accounts. Or, visit the FDIC’s website at fdic.gov/GetBanked to learn more about the benefits of getting banked and to view a helpful checklist that will guide you to the best bank account for your individual needs. (All resources on this page are also in Spanish.)
3. Avoid predatory loans.
Every year, thousands of North Texans get trapped in a cycle of debt with predatory loans, and many borrowers end up owing a payday or auto loan business more than the original loan amount. That’s why it’s important to know about alternatives to predatory loans that allow you to borrow money through organizations that are affordable and fair.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we partner with several trusted organizations that offer low-cost loans, allowing borrowers like you to quickly access funds and build credit. For example, our partner Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers Predatory Conversion Loans that are designed to pay off payday and auto title lenders by allowing you to convert to a low-interest, one-year loan of up to $4,000 at 3% interest. Capital Good Fund offers another option, the Credit Builder Loan, that enables you to improve your credit score over 12 months.
For more information and to apply for a loan through one of our partner organizations, visit our Resources page.
4. Take advantage of free financial education and guidance.
Finances can be complicated, which is why it’s so empowering to learn more about things like personal finance, buying a home and saving for retirement.
To get a better understanding of key financial topics, consider signing up for a free financial education class; you might be surprised how helpful the information is for your own financial situation. These organizations offer a variety of free financial education classes and resources:
Then, get free financial guidance from a qualified financial coach, who can help you set and meet your financial goals. To get started, contact one of our partner agencies:
5. If you have children, open a college savings account—today!
A little financial planning can go a long way toward your children’s future. College savings accounts are especially important: With at least $500 saved, your child is three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate. And that has a huge ripple effect throughout their life, putting them on a path to a good-paying job, career advancement and financial security.
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and our partners offer a simple way to save for your child to go to college through a my529 account with Dollars for College. Worried that you don’t have enough to put aside for savings? Even saving a relatively small amount each month for your child’s college fund can add up. For example, putting $100 a month in a 529 savings plan can grow to $43,323 in 18 years.
Click here to open a free account today. (If your child attends Lancaster or Richardson ISD, the district will make an opening deposit of $50 in your child’s account.)
“The Dollars for College program is helping my family prepare for the future. Saving for my son’s college was always something I knew I wanted to do but never made the time to start. This program took all the work out of it and made it easy for me. Plus, the program’s saving incentive savings match creates motivation to keep saving for my son’s future.” Ms. Gonzalez, a parent from Lancaster ISD, who opened a Dollars for College savings account for her son to increase the chances that he earns a higher degree
6. In the spring, get free assistance with your taxes.
For more than 10 years, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has provided North Texans with access to free income tax assistance so working families can receive all eligible tax credits and refunds. With the help of volunteer tax experts, the average filer gets a refund of almost $2,000 and saves an average of $200 in tax prep and filing fees. As a result, the IRS distributes millions of dollars in refunds back into our community every year.
Next year, as tax season begins, be sure to explore your options for free tax services. To get started, visit our Free Tax Prep resources page.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we want to ensure that every North Texan has access to the resources necessary to get and maintain a good-paying job, save money, reduce debt and plan for the future.
We understand that factors like how much you get paid, whether you’re able to save money and your level of debt can have a huge impact on your quality of life, your health, your family and more. Although financial topics can be daunting, community resources like these can put you and your family in a much better position for a lifetime of financial security.