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The Road to Independence: Inside Achiezer's Westwood Financial Management Division
January 18, 2017

Part II of a special series highlighting Achiezer's innovative programs which service the community throughout the year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Through the graciousness of Westwood Realty Associates, Achiezer is "helping families help themselves," as Program Coordinator Aliza Wartelsky puts it. Aliza connects families requesting assistance in this area with one of Achiezer's nine volunteer advisors, all of whom have experience in the world of finance..

Why do families approach Achiezer for this kind of help?

There are a myriad of reasons.

When a breadwinner is out of work, he might turn to Achiezer for help with his family's basic needs, as well as guidance with job placement. In meeting with an advisor, he will ascertain his goal in finding an appropriate position, and determine what he really needs to earn in order to make ends meet. In the interim, Achiezer can offer assistance applying for programs or relief with necessities until he is back on his feet.

In many cases, however, clients may be hardworking couples who are doing their best to make ends meet - but the ends just aren't meeting. An advisor will go through their expenses and create a budget based on the information they provide. The next step is to get back to them with suggestions: for example, perhaps they need to examine why their utility bills are unusually high; meet with someone who can consolidate their credit cards; or look at additional possible sources of income. Sometimes the greatest help is simply getting all the income and spending information organized and in one place so that clients can see where the money is actually going. This raises awareness and empowers families to make the necessary changes.

"It's not easy to make that initial call," says Stacey Zrihen, an Achiezer financial advisor. "But I have the greatest respect for the people I meet with. For the most part, these are couples who are really trying to do their best. And it is so rewarding when we get the feedback weeks - or even months - later, that, for example, a couple has paid off their credit card debt or are now able to make their tuition payments."

Another demographic that is benefiting greatly from the Financial Management Program is young families who are just beginning to feel overwhelmed by their growing expenses. Perhaps they have just started paying tuition, and while they're not yet overextended, they are starting to feel financially strapped. "Actually," says Aliza, "this is the best time for a couple to come see us. We can give them the appropriate guidance before they've hit trouble." Advisors have also given families guidance about whether or not they can afford to buy a house - and if they can, how much of a mortgage is responsible to take on.

What is remarkable about the Financial Management Program is that the advisors don't just dispense advice. They hold "their families'" hands and walk them through the process. "That is why it is so important to make the right match between advisor and client," explains Aliza. "In many cases, it becomes a long-term relationship."

Advisors try to be encouraging without becoming discouraging. There are no magic answers; rather, it is a team effort. "We're all in this together," Aliza concludes. "It is this combination of education, sincere concern and resources that lead so many of our families - more than 220 since 2014! - to financial health and independence.

Thanks to Achiezer, the Westwood Financial Management Division is available to the community with just one call. Join Achiezer on February 26, 2017, in supporting a unified goal to always be on call, with just one call.

[Sidebar: The Westwood Financial Management Program includes the following services: Creation of a budget to fit the family's lifestyle

Assistance with job placement

Help with basic necessities through food and clothing vouchers

Assistance applying for programs

Connecting families with debt-negotiation lawyers

Working with tuition committees of local schools]


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