Above illustration by Justine Lecouffe
More than seven million American households are unbanked, and more than half of the U.S. population has less than $1,000 saved. The Federal Reserve estimates that borrowers owe $1.7 trillion in student loan debt.
These statistics make clear most Americans are in a precarious financial state. Disparities continue to exist among race and gender as well.
“Everyone strives for financial wellness. Financial issues can affect everyone, no matter your educational background, what kind of career you have or what kind of income you might be making,” said Viva Yang. “Financial education and wellness is the ‘great equalizer.’”
Yang is a senior program and communications manager for LSS Financial Counseling at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS). LSS is a Minnesota-based nonprofit that offers a myriad of services for individuals and families, older adults, youth and young adults and people with disabilities. In the late 1980s, LSS added another service: financial counseling.
LSS Financial Counseling offers individuals and families a holistic approach to financial wellness, including exploring options to pay down debt, saving for a home and understanding student loan repayment options. Yang refers to the service as a “one-stop shop.”
“It’s about providing financial skills and the know-how. We support individuals and families with maintaining or improving their financial wellness,” he said.
According to LSS’ 2021 annual report, the organization supported 16,732 individuals through financial counseling in 2021. The report states that more than $16 million was repaid to local and national creditors through the service.
LSS’ financial counseling services are available to anyone – no matter their income or financial status. LSS also offers Financial Choice, a service for companies and organizations that allows them to offer financial wellness services to employees and community members.
Sunrise Banks is a Financial Choice member. Through the service, Sunrise employees and customers can access up to six free counseling sessions per year.
Yang emphasized LSS Financial Counseling’s comprehensive approach to financial wellness. LSS also provides employment services at its University Avenue location in St. Paul. He said that financial counseling and employment services are often related.
“We’re always trying to help people see that things are interrelated and not existing in silos. Because if you’re working a job and trying to get a second job and earn more, that doesn’t exist separately from paying your bills, managing your funds and saving,” said Yang.
Yang encouraged people to reach out if they need assistance – or if they’re financially stable but have questions about how to best manage their money.
“Managing finances can be stressful. There might be shame attached,” said Yang. “We’re going to meet individuals where they are and offer no judgement.”
Those interested in financial counseling services can learn more here. Anyone who would like to talk to a financial counselor can call to set up a free, confidential, one-to-one appointment at 888.577.2227. Those who want more information on employment services can call LSS’s University Avenue office at 651.771.2566. More information about other LSS services is on its website.