Building Assets, Building Strength

Photo of elderly woman and child behind a banner reading save

Maryanne wanted to move out on her own, ideally to a home she owned, but the barriers associated with life with a disability were making her goal much more difficult to accomplish. So when she learned that she could draw on the resources at SMD Self-Help Clearinghouse to build her economic strength, she saw an opportunity that would help her goal come true.

SMD Self Help Clearinghouse is a SEED Winnipeg partner in offering Asset Building Programs, which SEED pioneered in 2004. These programs offer participants the opportunity to save for things that will enable them to build economic strength. With the support of Assiniboine Credit Union, participants set up a designated matched savings account. They also complete a financial literacy program based on behavioural economics principles and receive one-to-one support as needed.

In Manitoba, there are several levels of savings programs, each with its own specific goals. The Saving Circle program helps participants save for education, medical expenses, a computer, furniture or other household necessities, with a maximum savings plus match of $1,000. Other programs aim to assist with larger, more defined goals. In the general Individual Development Account (IDA) program, participants can save for a range of future goals, such as education, business start-up costs, disability-related devices or Registered Disability or Registered Education Savings Plan contributions. Newer programs provide the opportunity for owning a home, attending Red River College or obtaining recognition and upgrading for foreign credentials.

Maryanne enrolled first in the Saving Circle program to purchase household items for her future move. She then applied for, and was accepted into, the Inner City Homebuyer IDA program to plan and save for a down payment and closing costs on a house. In the meantime, she completed university and obtained a job that put her in a great position to access a mortgage. As part of the Homebuyer IDA program, she participated in workshops on purchasing and maintaining a property. Everything eventually fell into place, and Maryanne was able to achieve her goal of owning a home and furnishing it with the items she had purchased using her Saving Circle funds.

Over the past six years, SMD Self-Help Clearinghouse has helped over 140 people participate in the Saving Circle and IDA programs. People who once saw themselves as being excluded from the economy are able to realize their place and develop the confidence to speak with banks or financial service providers about achieving their goals. They learn how to keep tabs on their spending, ensuring that their money and aspirations are moving in the same direction. It takes determination, but they learn to organize the funds at their disposal and avoid having small emergencies snowball into crises by learning to manage risks. By building assets, they are also building strength.

Anyone can refer themselves or another person to participate in the Asset Building Programs. Applications are taken three times per year. Qualification to participate is based on income, interest in improving financial management skills and a savings goal that fits into the program guidelines. Contact the SMD Self-Help Clearinghouse at 204-975-3037 or to learn more.