New struggles bring new perspective
Approximately 40 community members, representing financial organizations, parishes, and non-profit organizations, gamely left the Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) campus in groups of four to explore financial options in various Fort Worth neighborhoods.
Afterwards, these participants in FinX, an innovative “boots-to-the-ground” workshop, gathered to compare notes from the hectic field experience, discussing firsthand insights into the many challenges faced by those in poverty.
Because many underbanked individuals do not possess the photo identification, minimum amount of funds, or transportation options needed to easily access traditional banks, participants were instructed to attempt to complete several financial tasks in less familiar venues. Tasks included cashing checks, buying general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards, completing domestic and international money transfers, acquiring small personal loans, and visiting pawn shops.
Workshop participants were surprised by the high fees required to cash a check, load and use funds on a GPR, and execute money transfers. “The main take-away from everyone I talked to is that it is expensive and time-consuming to live outside the traditional banking system,” reflected Christopher Plumlee, a CCFW board member.
“People have to make tough decisions — like if they are going to forgo an hour’s worth of wages so they can wait in a long line to cash a check at a place with lower fees before they have to pick up their child from school,” he continued.
The Consumer Financial Experience (FinX) was created by the Chicago-based Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), and hosted by CCFW.
The event is designed to help community members gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of financial consumers’ lives, especially when they are members of what is known as the “underbanked” community — working-class Americans who cannot access mainstream financial services and products, such as credit cards or loans.
President and CEO of CCFW Heather Reynolds explained the significance of the agency’s partnership with CFSI. “For us to truly serve our clients with empathy, we need to know what it is like to deal, as a low-income person, with the financial industry,” she said. “We are always asking ourselves, ‘Is the financial assistance we currently provide to our clients helping to eradicate poverty, or are we just treating the symptoms? Are we sharing best practices and influencing key policy makers?’”
Because many CCFW clients are underbanked, the agency is committed to helping to create services that will help them to achieve financial health, said Reynolds. “Because we at Catholic Charities have the bold goal of ending poverty, we know that it is important to assist our clients in obtaining and using financial tools effectively.”
For more information about CCFW, visit CatholicCharitiesFortWorth.org or call 817-534-0814.