Sonya White is a single mother of two. After losing her job with an automotive supply firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she quickly ran through her small savings and accrued serious credit-card debt. The Flint, Michigan native returned home with her children to live with her mother and begin rebuilding her life. In her own words, White tells her story about how she used an Individual Development Account (IDA) as part of her long-term plan to reclaim her financial security.*
“I save more now — and I make less — than I did when I was a production worker. Isn't that ironic?"
“We lost everything. I got into the factory right after graduating from high school and made great money. One morning I arrived at work and the doors were padlocked. The IRS had seized the building and we were all out of a job."
“I had always lived paycheck to paycheck. It took three months to receive unemployment assistance. I cashed in my 401k — and paid big penalties. I survived on credit cards."
|Sonya White behind the wheel of her new vehicle.
“We moved back to Flint to live with my mom. I didn't want to at first, but you have to make some sacrifices if you're going to make things happen for yourself."
“I was reading the help-wanted section of the local paper one night when I saw an ad for free computer training. I called the next day and attended an orientation for Operation Fast Break. It's a computer-assisted, accelerated work preparation program offered through Mott Community College. I trained 40 hours a week for 12 weeks and received my certificate of completion in Microsoft applications."
“Through AmeriCorps, I was selected to serve with the MCC Technology Education Access in Michigan (TEAM) program. Then Mott Community College offered me my current job as facilitator/trainer for Operation Fast Break."
“I think my lowest point after losing my job was when they repossessed my car. I really needed a car. So I made the phone call to GAIN$ and set up an appointment for my interview. I filled out my papers, and I attended a group orientation."
“I promised to save $50 a month, and I did. They made sure that the budget I created allowed me to save. That was Phase I."
“During that time, I attended financial literacy classes. It was tough. Classes started at 5 in the evening twice a week and I worked until 5 — but they worked with me. The financial education was wonderful. I had done some research about how to get myself out of debt, but they made me believe it was really possible."
“I have a plan now. I have goals. I want to go back to school — I'll use my AmeriCorps money for that. I want to buy a house. I want to make some investments."
“I lost my job in 2001 — but I will be debt-free in 2008. It takes a lot of patience, a lot of determination to build everything back up again. And you need help. You have to be willing to accept help. If someone out there can show me a better way to do something, I'll do it."
“I got my car in January. I actually had saved enough for the down payment 10 months ago, but I wanted to keep saving so that I would have enough to cover insurance before I bought the vehicle. I shopped around and got a wonderful deal."
“I've kept on saving that $50 every month. GAIN$ taught me that you have to have some savings just in case."
“Going through GAIN$ offered me the opportunity to do things differently. Going back to school wasn't in my plans, but now it is."
* The April, 2007 issue of Mott Mosaic features an article on IDA services in Genesee County, Michigan.