A story of compassion with: LOVE Inc. Budget Coaching, Part 2
Oftentimes, our relationships with money, the world, and ourselves grow tangled overtime. We lose focus, get discouraged, or forget to steward our material possessions correctly. In a beautiful effort to work out the knots of these relationships, head of LOVE Inc. Rich Henderson has created a program: budget coaching. By the end of this program, budget coaches Juli and Jack Calderone emerged close friends with their budget mentee, Deborah.
In Part 1 of this LOVE Inc. Budget coaching series, I talked about how the program operated, some of the challenges Jack and Bevery Wong experienced, and how much the program emphasizes our worth before God. Here, in Part 2, the Calderones help reveal another aspect of the program: its key theme of relationship-building, not just with God but with each other.
From the start, the program was designed to develop relationship. With Covid, building and fostering connection is only more difficult, as their cohort only met twice in person before the lockdown back in March. “Normally for this program, for the first twelve weeks you share a meal together beforehand and people really build [relationship],” says Juli. Despite the abnormal conditions of 2020, they were able to see that “people in the class have varying degrees of friendship with their participants but across the board the class is very connected by relationships.” For Jack, Juli, and Deborah, their friendship ultimately dealt with finances and God, and also home-cooked meals and outdoor excursions.
When budget partner assignments first came out, Deborah explains that, “ It was the best thing actually, because I didn’t know who I was going to be coaching with, so when I was assigned to them I was all joy, I felt fine with it.”
She got involved with LOVE Inc as she was “in a hard place” and she says Rich had encouraged her that, “ This is something you’d want to consider looking into because I’m a new- I call myself a baby Christian.” Deborah provides some context for her journey with both the Calderones and finance: “I felt like I was a little kid learning all over again. I kept telling Jack, I’m like, I just do it in my head, however it looks, however it comes out, that’s just how it is. And I had a business. I was a hairstylist for thirty years. And I just made it work, because I didn’t like the finance part of it, even though I needed it.”
Deborah notes how she’s never “had a class that provided the meal that was there plus everything else I was going to be getting out of it.” Not only that, but she explains her realizations going into the class: “I’m gonna be meeting people, so that’s good because I have a little social anxiety. So, being in this class was also going to be helpful for me, being around people that I don’t know, and I can learn from them as well. So I was gaining the best of both worlds— meeting people plus it was going to be helping me too.”
LOVE Inc. uniquely fosters an environment where even if “not everybody necessarily connects quite that much…one of the things that makes this program different than just head knowledge that you could get from watching YouTube videos or something, is that you have friendship with the other people in the class,” says Juli. “The other participants and coaches, we gather around each other and we’re for each other; people can share different amounts of personal information, they don’t have to share more than they’re comfortable with, but somebody actually knows you.” Such a comfort in being known is part of what helped build the Calderones’ friendship with Deborah.
For Jack, he notes that their friendship was not only through coaching but “sort of a[s] cheerleader[s] to help with celebrating victories along the way and helping Deborah if she …gets off track, to help encourage her to get back on track.” Constructive advice or feedback is always easier to swallow against a canvas of friendship, which is helpful since they are “friends for life.”
Juli explains: “In Deborah’s case, she had some really fantastic habits—we learned some things from her!—she already had a lot of really frugal habits in place, but she didn’t necessarily know things like banking or credit cards…[she was] not sure where to go to get some of that information.” It was in those knowledge gaps that Juli and Jack were able to fill in for Deborah.
When Jack was giving a brief overview of the program, he notes that, “The later classes are more spiritually focused, about a lot of the underlying root causes that can manifest in people’s lives as financial issues.” He continues, “ A big part of the program is about not just putting a band-aid on the financial problem, but helping people sort of understand the root causes, and understand the bigger picture of how other finances fit in with the rest of their life.”
This heavy emphasis on understanding comes through an hour-long class discussion before the budget coaching session, “where [they] work with one of the participants.” In the beginning, they were more financially focused, helping her setup a budget, learn how to work spreadsheets—via Zoom!—and answering her financial questions. Eventually though, they worked up to the point that Deborah was debt free! In the pictures throughout, they are photographed celebrating Deborah’s debt-free achievement with ice-creams, balloons, and a beach trip.
Paying off all her debt was “something that I only envisioned but I didn’t actually feel I could succeed [with] it because my income is very low,” says Deborah. “So I was discouraged on a lot of levels…I don’t even have a great income—how am I going to be successful at all of this? I just couldn’t see beyond the road.”
Couple the low income with the fact that she “always did everything up here,” gestures upward, “[and] never did anything on paper,” and Deborah reflects on how huge a milestone this financial success was. She says, “Jack… taught me how to put [managing money] on the paper and really monitor where I was spending, why I was always in red.”
“I had never dreamed— how could this ever happen? They were so great, that they helped me to get out of debt,” Deborah states happily. “Being debt free is like, I can really actually enjoy life on the financial end and the spiritual end. I got the best of both worlds.”
Not only is Deborah now debt free, but she was also able to experience the joy of savings. One of the motivators throughout the program is its savings match for successful graduates. As the budget mentees learn to save, they receive a celebratory, big-bulk matching of the savings they have completed.
For the Calderones, finding relationship and community within the budget program and with Deborah translated into a calibrated lens with which to view Silicon Valley. Jack explains: “I think for us we’re sort of your typical young-in-tech, move-to-the-area for a job [couple…and so] the types of people I interact with at work are a very, very small slice of society. And it’s all people who are pretty similar to me, and pretty similar to us, and because that’s where a lot of our relationships are built around, it kind of gives us a very skewed sense of what the world is like.”
Within and outside of Grace, Jack recognizes, “Being part of a church helps broaden that [sense], and you interact with people who are not just like you, but I think this budget coaching program in particular has helped to significantly expand the types of people that we interact with.” Through their interactions with other coaches and participants, Jack and Juli have appreciated “learning from them and being able to break outside of the bubble of the industry that we work in, or the church that we go to.”
Ultimately, “I think this is just a really great program to cut across all sections of society and enable us to have really good friends who are not like us,” Jack finishes.
Juli expands off of her husband’s words as she says that through this comprehensive transformational ministry, “Even though the people in the class are very different—we’re not that different. And I think that’s a really invaluable thing; superficially, you could say, like, ‘Well, we have some stock, and our participant receives disability.’ That’s the superficial level of things, where it can seem like you have totally different experiences, but this is really about where our identity is, and what we look to for comfort and how to bring our faith to bear on our money and it doesn’t matter what your specific financial situation is—those things apply to all of us.”
In a moment where Deborah says, “San Jose—Silicon Valley…it’s moving too fast,” the budget coaching program provided a place of sweet friendship for her. “I gained friends out of this, not just with Jack and Juli, which is the top of it, but I met all the other people in the class too, that we all connected with.”
Relationship-building takes time, and the 30+ week time commitment is no small amount; but Jack and Juli realize that “Life is about more than work and when you follow Jesus into serving people, you learn more about what He cares about, and you find your life.”