Local program helps low-income families save

September 10, 2008 7:43:18 PM PDT
With the high cost of living in the Bay Area, many people can't seem to get off the financial treadmill. Living paycheck to paycheck for far too many families is the norm. But there is a program in San Francisco's Mission District working to change that.

The challenge for many low income residents is to build a savings account. Now a new program promises to match their savings dollar for dollar.

Twenty-four-year-old Graciela Gaytan enjoys some mommy time with her 5-month-old son, Jeremiah. Graciela, Jeremiah and Jeremiah's 4-year-old sister live with Graciela's parents and her two siblings.

"Having two kids it's kind of hard just to be able to save because I have to spend my money for things for the kids, and things for me. And all that kind of stuff," said Gaytan.

Her mother works fulltime as a nurse, her father is a chef. Each month, their paychecks go toward their rent, monthly bills and their children's education.

"I had saved money, but at the same time once the money comes, I take it right out," said Carmen Gaytan.

Both Graciela and her mother Carmen recently signed up with the Mission Asset Fund. The program will double any money deposited into a bank account, up to $2,000. It's open to any low income resident in The Mission.

"That money is just an incentive. It's a carrot. It's a carrot so that we can participate in a broader financial training," said Mission Asset Fund Executive Director Jose Quinonez.

As part of the program, Carmen and Graciela are enrolled in three different money management classes, so they can continue to save throughout their entire life. The program also addresses another need: encouraging those who don't have bank accounts to get banked.

It's estimated that 50 percent of people in San Francisco's Mission District don't have bank accounts.

"They come from Latin American countries where they've had issues with their banking systems, where the peso is devalued, or the banks sort of go under," said Quinonez.

Just as importantly, the program encourages the participants to dream big, to dream of someday owning their first home.

Between now and then, the participants take baby steps to reach their goal.

"My goals are for my education, save money, so I can go to school, help me pay for my tuition, help pay for books," said Graciela Gaytan.

"It's an investment that I will make, an investment is something you can count on in case of an emergency that you need to get money from," said Carmen Gaytan.

The program is funded by donations from various foundations, including a $1 million grant from the Levi Strauss Foundation.

Related Link:

  • Mission Asset Fund


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