Creighton Program Gives Single Moms Financial Hope

Managing money as a single mom is overwhelming, but thanks to a particularly successful program at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., there’s hope.

Since 2006, Julie Kalkowski has been teaching single moms how to better manage their money in the Financial Hope Collaborative. The eight-week course offers childcare and dinner while teaching money management to low-income single moms. It helps them develop skills in areas like tracking expenses, saving for emergencies, and understanding and repairing credit reports—and it works. After the program, the women experienced significant reductions in overdrafts, shut off notices, late bills, borrowing money and payday loans.

“Once they know they have choices, that things can get better, they have hope. And once people have hope, they can change their behavior,” says Kalkowski. "And that’s what we are seeing with this program. People are changing their financial behaviors.”

It turns out financial health is good for their waistlines too—a year-long public health study found that participants' waist circumference and cortisol levels also went down, indicating lowered stress. They cut their fast food intake from nine times a month down to six. Minutes of exercise increased for the women, and they lost an average of two pounds (instead of the average gain of two pounds).

The course also helps participants understand psychological and lifestyle factors in financial success, like understanding the “how" and “why” behind their spending habits. Though the focus is on debt repayment and credit, the Financial Hope Collaborative also addresses issues like domestic violence and gambling, which can drastically complicate finances. And while Financial Hope makes suggestions for budgeting and saving, it doesn’t forbid any behavior, such as eating out.

“Austerity doesn’t work,” says Kalkowski, and the moms say they feel can still be a normal family—treating their kids to a toy and going out to eat, for example—while making major financial progress. The course's mantra, "Cash flow is queen," means that the moms can splurge on a meal out, as long as they know they have to cut back somewhere else.

After the eight-week program ends, the moms leave with a financial coach, who will help them set and achieve goals over the next year. They leave with a game plan. And most importantly, they leave with hope.

Source Contact Information

Creighton University
Executive Director, Financial Success Program