SECURE Matched Savings

Leave Your Money Shame at the Door

Christina Marko came to OnTrack with her partner Ally Willner. They signed up for the Manage Your Money class taught by Pete Wrublewski, who begins each class by telling participants to leave that shame at the door. Photo by Michael Oppenheim.

In 2016, OnTrack Financial Education and Counseling piloted a matched savings program, with support from CFWNC, to assist people in building emergency savings. Through the SECURE program, people access a 3:1 savings match while learning how to manage money.

SECURE program participants gain more than a 3:1 match and a savings account; they gain life-long habits that help move them from constant crisis to stability and a sense of control in their lives. This helps people build a foundation from which to make plans and choices that improve their lives. Over time, CFWNC has awarded $553,000 to support and grow the program. Buncombe County awarded a grant to support early childcare education professionals in building savings and skills. Local employers, including AVL Technologies, are partnering with OnTrack to expand the SECURE program.

Christina Marko came to OnTrack with her partner Ally Willner. “I heard about OnTrack from my therapist,” she explained. “Money issues were so much a part of me, and I had so much money shame that I would not even consider discussing it with other people.”

They signed up for the Manage Your Money class taught by Pete Wrublewski, who begins each class by telling participants to leave that shame at the door. “Many of our clients feel guilt around their money issues. I start by acknowledging that factors outside of our control dictate our financial futures - medical bills, your zip code, gender inequality – countless things that have an enormous impact on our money lives that we don’t control. We are not here judging or blaming; we are here to look for solutions.”

“I grew up very differently from Christina, but I still didn’t get tools or skills that helped me talk about and manage money,” said Ally. “We’ve always been a team, and it was frustrating that we couldn’t get ahead. Everything we made went to relieving debt. OnTrack helped us figure out how we could do this another way.”

Christina and Ally signed up for other classes and enrolled in the SECURE program. In November 2019, Christina started saving through SECURE, and then 2020 happened. “Being in lockdown allowed us to save and shifted our perspective on many things. We learned a lot about our community through Black Lives Matter, and it changed us for the better. We realized what iis important to spend our money on,” continued Christina.

“Participants who experienced financial hardships during the pandemic were better equipped to deal with them,” said Peter. “Even those who didn’t were really happy to have the peace of mind that the savings gave them. More than 100 people completed the program during COVID, and we’re looking forward to enrolling more participants who are recovering from financial hardship. Online classes open opportunities to work with clients in rural counties, making the program more accessible.”

“I had not realized how much my financial health was linked to the rest of my wellness,” said Christina. “Debt is just so heavy and hard. I accepted the fact that I needed to do something. I didn’t know what I needed to do, but OnTrack did.”

“SECURE has been so successful and has such an impact on people’s lives,” said Peter. “We’re evolving and improving, but the fundamentals of empowering people to learn money management skills, to take the lead and save their own money, and to be celebrated for this work with a savings match once they meet their goals - that is foundational.”

Learn more about SECURE.

I didn’t know what I needed to do, but OnTrack did.

— Christina Marko