Our Stories Prove Determination Makes Anything Possible


“Be patient, have an open-mind, and deal with your past financial mistakes.”

Ernest moved from Texas to help care for his ailing father. He had come with unresolved debt issues from his past that were weighing him down. He took the Rent Well class, participated in a matched savings program, and worked with a financial coach to help address his debt. Now Earnest is back on track, managing a budget, and using his new job to build a savings for the future.


“My goal was to get a job so I could get off and stay off government assistance.”

Alycia has been through a lot in her life. She has been homeless, escaped an abusive relationship, and struggled to keep a consistent job. Along the way, she had racked up credit card debt that’s kept her dependent on government assistance. Instead of taking the easy way out, Alycia worked hard, participated in a Save First IDA program and worked closely with a coach to pay off her debts. She is on the path to financial independence, working part-time and going to school to become a software developer.


“¡Vamos a Save First!”

Originaria de México, Rosa ha vivido en Portland desde 1996. Rosa es madre, abuela y bisabuela. Ella es una persona trabajadora que no tiene intención de jubilarse pronto. Como el sostén económico de su familia, Rosa se reúne con su asesor financiero cada mes para mejorar la administración de su dinero y así poder aumentar sus ahorros para el futuro. Ella tiene la esperanza de que los ahorros adicionales le sirvan para poder trabajar un poco menos. Esto le daría tiempo de tomar clases para mejorar su inglés. Como dice el entrenador de Rosa, "¡es una mujer increíble!"


“Don’t doubt it, just go for it.”

An unexpected health issue meant Denishia had to take extended time-off from work. And without savings to fall back on, she got herself and her family into debt. Her employer offered a program that partners with Save First to assist employees in weathering financial challenges like what Denishia was experiencing. She took a series of financial classes and worked with a coach to pay-off her debt and build-up savings. She’s now exploring starting a business with her son and hopes to create a financial legacy for her family.


“This is not a hand out, it’s financial freedom.”

Vum is a resettled refugee from Burma, who came to the United States alone and without any savings or knowledge of how to manage money. He has worked with a financial coach to get his student loan under control, manage a car payment, and establish an emergency fund. He hopes to increase his credit capacity and save up to buy a home. Vum said, “It’s like cultivating a new culture to learn to live off your own money. Once you create this new habit, it gives you peace-of-mind.”


“Getting past financial problems cleared up so I can buy a home or condo.”

Delores got tangled up in a few payday loans that went awry. By working with a financial coach, she was able to settle her debts and move forward with life. Now she’s improving her credit score and working toward purchasing a home.

Paul Thomas

“Don’t be intimidated. It’s not the end of the world.”

Paul and his wife moved out from the Midwest seven years ago. They came to Portland debt-free, seeking greater opportunity and a place to start a family. Everything was going fine until Paul Thomas was confronted with unexpected medical expenses and turned to a credit card to weather the storm. Having never managed credit cards before, he got behind on payments and eventually ended up in collections. This not only negatively impacted his credit score, but also hindered his ability to get a business or home loan. Paul Thomas worked with a financial coach to resolve his credit issues and establish a savings plan to get his finances back on track.


“Stay organized, it pays off!”

A series of life events and health issues steered Kimberly into debt. Unable to pay rent because of garnished wages, she lost her housing and was forced to rent a room until she was able to get her finances in order. Kimberly took Save First’s Rent Well course and set up an Individual Development Account (IDA), working with a coach to create a plan to save that worked for her. This allowed her to get back into her own apartment--which is where she spends time with her grandchildren.


“Be informed on your credit—keep it healthy.”

Having worn several career hats in life, Lisa is now retired, settling in to life on a fixed income, and preparing for what she calls “financial survival”. Originally seeking guidance from Save First to find affordable housing (taking the RentWell program), Lisa is managing her money to figure out what she can afford—while squirreling away savings for emergencies. Her advice: “They don’t teach you about credit in school—be informed, learn about the 30%.”

Brittany & Aaron

“Stay debt-free forever.”

Following their faith out west, Brittany and Aaron brought their family to Portland five years ago. Their plan was to invest in their education, but wanted to do so without incurring debt. They participated in Save First’s education-focused Individual Development Account (IDA) program to hone their family budgeting and money management skills. And sure enough, they were able to graduate from seminary school debt -free.