Angie Simmons manages an important program at the Clinic, technically called Project Reinvest, but more colloquially known by staff and clients as Financial Counseling. Although her clients come to her from within the Clinic and through various partners, most commonly, they are referred to her after seeking assistance with a Bankruptcy. “To file Bankruptcy, we have to review a lot of your finances, your debts, and credit report,” Angie says. “And my grant actually encourages us to go over someone’s credit with them, talk about some basic questions of how they feel about their money, and start creating a basic budget or spending plan.”
On her office wall hangs a poster with a Dave Ramsey quote that says, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” For Angie, a huge part of what she does is to convince people that they can actually live like that. “My job is showing people their financial reality,” she says. “It’s kind of a pre-goal setting. You might think of it like triage as if you were at a hospital. Let’s see where you are right this moment and where you want to go from there.”
Sometimes, a person is simply in need of a little bit of education regarding their money. “A lot of clients don’t understand that not every expense comes up every month. Or that you have to make more than you spend,” she says. “There are some really basic financial truths that are missing or that people don’t know.”
Unfortunately, Angie says it is not uncommon for clients to feel shame when they realize they need financial counseling. But Angie does not want fear to stop them from getting the help they need. “Part of my job is to meet with someone whose credit score is often below 500 and smile at them and speak words of grace and hope to them, whereas from the world—and even from inside their own mind—there is condemnation.” There is a wide variety of reasons someone might be having trouble managing their finances. Very often, a staggering amount of medical debt is the culprit. Although this is not always the case.
During their meetings, Angie works with clients to set reasonable financial goals, allowing them to decide what they should look like. “Because if the client doesn’t make the goals, they’re not going to do them.” She says that we all need a better understanding of our finances, no matter the income level, which can be a difficult process for everyone. “But the only way to move forward is to acknowledge what happened to get you in this spot,” she says. She recalls one woman being shocked by the amount of money she was spending on cigarettes annually. Her budget gave her the resolve to quit.
Ultimately, Angie hopes that people leave her appointments with their heads held high. “I think it’s really important that they know that even if it’s just within the hour that we’re meeting, someone is on their team,” she says. “Someone believes in them. And is asking God to go with them.”
To learn more about our Financial Counseling, please contact Angie Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.